The Commands of Christ (16): Believe Me

What do you think motivated Jesus while he was on earth? Who was he? Do you think he wanted to be popular and become a king, or do you think he had a different agenda? If so, what?! If he were a shyster, wouldn’t he just quit preaching instead of allowing the Jews to have him crucified? Or, do you think he was delusional? If so, how did he maintain such a quiet, unselfish demeanor?

And, what about his teachings? Do you believe his teaching that the greatest commandments concern love? Most people would agree that love is greater than faith and the cornerstone in each of our favorite relationships, but I think it’s also true that believing in someone—trusting their integrity and veracity—is the only sure foundation for a secure relationship. Billions of people, including Jews and Muslims as well as Christians, believe that Jesus was a prophet and a good man. Some would go so far as to say they admire him . . . a few might even say they love him, but  only those who truly believe what he teaches is true are willing to entrust their lives to him. Jesus was asking the woman at the well to believe him, and I think he’s asking us to believe him today. To say that Jesus is a “good” man without acknowledging him as truthful is an oxymoron. Here are few of the monumental claims he made about himself:

* “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

* “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

* “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

* “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26) The question we all have to answer for ourselves is: Do we believe that Jesus was really telling the truth, or do we think he was a liar who deceived the people?As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
On what basis was Jesus asking the Samaritan woman to believe him? Remember, this is the first and only time they’d ever met. She only had one bit of evidence to go on—his wisdom—but that was enough. He knew things about her  humanly impossible to know, and he understood spiritual truth: He spoke with authority about God the Father and how to worship Him.She was convinced, and when the disciples returned with food, she left her water pot and went into the city, urging the men to “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29). Many of the men who went out to the well to talk with Jesus were convinced by his words and responded to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). (Note: Jesus did not deny what the men said; He did claim to be the Savior of the world! And, of course, I believe He is!! 🙂 )

Have you asked Jesus to reveal himself to you? Are you willing to let him tell you what he sees in you? Are you willing to read what he taught in the Bible? Or, do you think he was a lunatic and an evil deceiver, out to trick people into believing lies?

John 18:23 “Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?” Are you smiting Jesus?

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:1-3).

Text for this study: John 4: 19-30; 39-42. “The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him . . . 39And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.41 And many more believed because of his own word;42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

 

Rise Up, My Love (279): How to Enter the Gates of Heaven

Here it is, Palm Sunday! As we think about Jesus’ entrance through the gates of Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago, it makes me think of another set of gates—the gates of heaven—where all who believe in Jesus may also enter in.This Sunday our meditation is on Song of Solomon 8:9. Have you ever wondered if St. Peter really stands at the entrance to heaven to decide who gets to come in? Well, earlier in Revelation 21 it says that the twelve foundation stones of the city have the twelve names of the apostles written on them, and that the twelve gates have twelve angels at them with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel inscribed on them. Figuratively, I believe this may mean that the twelve foundations of the heavenly Jerusalem are Jesus Christ as taught to us by the apostles in the New Testament, and the twelve gates are made of The Pearl of Great Price himself…guarded by the principles taught to us in the Old Testament. That’s not exactly St. Peter standing guard at the gate, but there are gates, and there are requirements for getting through them!

How will we enter in through the gates of heaven? Through fulfilling the righteousness of the Old Testament Law? That’s one way, except nobody can enter in that way, because no one ever perfectly fulfills the Law. Only Christ fulfilled the Law without sin, and in the New Testament we learn that it is only through faith in the finished work of Christ for us that we may gain access into heaven. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

“Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus said, “I am the way the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus Christ is the cornerstone and foundation of heaven, and he is the only way into it. Could you possibly have read this far into The Song of Solomon without understanding his love and sacrifice for you? Have you bowed before him, confessing your sins and asking him to save you and become enthroned in your heart as Lord of your life for ever and ever?

May I urge you to make sure that you have entrusted your life to his care. If you belong to him, will you bow with me in worship and adoration? Lord, thank you for being the one who fills “all in all.” Thank you for filling us. Thank you for crafting us into your masterpieces…into works of grace that can be compared to the new heaven in beauty and perfection. Oh God, we long to become like your Son and be joined as one to him. Thank you for taking us to yourself, and for your promise to bring to completion the work you’ve started in us. We love you, Lord! Help us to become like beautiful walls of jasper, clear as crystal, built upon the foundation of the New Testament expression of Christ, gated with the Pearl of Great Price himself, who is the way into our eternal, heavenly home. Oh, Lord, how we love you! Thank you for being more than we can imagine. How we long to see you face to face! Amen, and amen.

The Romantic River Seine is Raging

Notre Dame Gargoyle overlooking The Seine RiverThis morning’s Daily Mail from the UK reported this chilling bit of news: River Seine flooding. Daily Mail Photo*18 people have died across Europe as a result of last week’s torrential rains, City View of The Seine Riverand “its warned River Seine could swell to 21 feet above its normal level.” Daily Mail photo of River Seine Flooding*Last night, the flood was 6.10 meters (20 feet) high. Trees lining The Seine River(Compare the above picture to this picture I took a few weeks ago.)Entree du port de la Rochelle. Paul SignacI can’t imagine this is happening, but it is. Eiffel Tower along Seine RiverI’d been working on a post about the romantic Seine, but now it’s on a rampage. Louvre Museum. ParisThe Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, where we visited under blue skies last month, The Musée d'Orsayare shut down and dozens of volunteers are scrambling to save Portrait de l'artiste. Vincent Van Gogh. 1889some 38,000 works of art by transporting them to higher floors. The Pantheon along the River SeineThe Grand Palais exhibition center, two National Libraries, Paris by Night from Eiffel Towerand some of the subways have also shut down. The Seine River and the Eiffel TowerJPGWhat was so life-giving and peaceful has become deadly! Walking along the River SeingBut, let me back up and tell you about my experience of the River Seine in May
and then bring us back to today.  River Seine winds through FranceThe River Seine winds like a silver snake from Source-Seine for 777 km Seine empties into English ChannelJPGthrough Paris and out to the English Channel at La Havre. Flying Across English Channel to France at SunsetWhen we flew across the channel from London,
River Seine from the airit was the striking focal point of my enraptured gaze (since I mustn’t stare at the sun); I sat transfixed, watching it shimmer in the sunset. The Seine River along fertile farmlandThe Seine River nourishes all the fertile farmland of the Paris Basin, The Seine River, like a silver snakeand from time immemorial it’s been France’s major commercial shipping artery. River Seine as seen from the airThe Lower Seine is dredged, so it’s navigable by ocean-going vessels to Rouen, The Seine River is widewhich is 75 miles inland from the English Channel. River Seine BoatsSmaller vessels can ply the river’s waterways past Rouen, through Paris,
and much beyond.Painter painting The Seine RiverThe River Seine is a celebrated destination for painters and lovers alikeVincent Van Gough La Nuit étoilé "The Starry Night" 1888because it symbolizes all that is romance and beauty in Paris! Aerial view of River SeineThis magnificent river cuts through the heart of Paris, Seine as seen from the airroughly dividing the city in half, with the “Left Bank” being the southern half,
or the “left” bank if you’re looking downstream (although this view is upstream). River Seine wide and deepHistorically, the Left Bank was the Latin Quarter, dwelling place of artists, Standing on Bridge overlooking The Seine Riverwriters, poets, philosophers and students…the creative dreamers and thinkers. Chimera overlooking The Seine RiverThe Right Bank is alive with commerce and business. Paris from the AirBut, just like the “right brain” and “left brain” myths have been debunked, The Seine River flowing through the heart of Paristhe Left Bank and Right Bank have succumbed to the “East” and “West,” Sidewalk lined with artwork along The Seine Riverand although there are still distinct flavors to each side, The Seine River at Nightthe city is brimming with life, business, and feasting late into the night
on both sides of the River Seine. Rue des Lombards at NightWe stayed on rue des Lombards almost under the shadow of Notre Dame
on the Right Bank, but I dare say the streets were still overflowing at midnight! 37 Bridges along River Seine in ParisWithin the city of Paris, there are 37 bridges across the Seine, Pont Neuf Bridge in Paristhe oldest being Pont Neuf, dating back to 1607. River Seine WalkWhen we visited in May, we stayed in the heart of the city and walked along the Seine every day to reach our destinations, most of which were near the river! Taking picture of The Seine RiverIt never once crossed my mind to fear the river. Tour Boat plying The Seine RiverIt was beautiful, nurturing…full of vitality and life! Road along The Seine RiverIn some ways, that reminds me of how I feel about Jesus,
who is “the way, the truth, and the life”  (John 14:6). Cars driving along The Seine RiverHowever, there’s a second half to John 14:6, and that says,
“No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” Bridge across The Seine RiverThose who trust in Him can go safely to the Father in peace. Spire of Notre Dame overlooking The Seine RiverBut, God will reject those who refuse his Son, Chestnut trees along The Seine Riverand at the end of the world, there will be torrential downpour of judgment more deadly than the River Seine when it rages.
But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24)  

River Seine and Paris from airAnd the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:  For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17)   La Seine a Herblay. Maximilien LuceAnd I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” (Revelation 20: 11-12;15)  Boats along the River SeineThen said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him [Jesus] whom he [God] hath sent.” (John 6:28-29)

(*The two photos labeled AFP images and Golf Photos are from today’s Daily Mail, June 30, 2016, found here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3625100/Paris-drowning-Workers-build-makeshift-bridges-swollen-River-Seine-reach-stricken-areas-France-suffers-worst-floods-100-years-forcing-city-total-shutdown.html The rest are from our trip to France in May, 2016.)

Risen: Are You Celebrating this Good Friday?

Risen. Seeking                              On this “Good Friday,” are you celebrating? Risen. Christ on cross“Good Friday” sounds happy, but for most of the Christian world, it’s a very sober day of commemorating the vicarious death of Christ for us. Jesus came to earth, died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins, and offers redemption and eternal life to “whosoever will!” Risen. The serach for Christ's BodyThis amazing gift of mercy and hope is available to anyone who will believe in Christ and turn to him for salvation. So, what’s the catch? If I offered you million dollars, wouldn’t you take it? If I knew how you could get a free pass into heaven and an eternal life of joy, wouldn’t you want to go? I think most people would. Risen. Speaking to Jewish leadersThen, why doesn’t everyone become a Christian? I think it’s because they don’t believe the “good news” is really true. risenIf you’re one of those people who wishes you could believe, please consider watching the newly released movie, Risen. Risen. Market SceneRisen is set in 33 AD during the first 40 days following the crucifixion of Christ, when Jerusalem was abuzz with rumors that Christ had arisen from the dead. Risen. SearchingA Roman tribune and his military aide are commissioned to find the missing body of Christ and thereby quell the rising tide of belief that Christ truly is the long-promised Messiah who predicted his own death and resurrection. Risen. Tibune on horsebackIf they can find Christ’s body, they can prove that he did not rise again, discrediting his claim of being “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) and “the way, the truth, and the life” that alone leads us to God (John 14:6). Risen. Looking for Christ's BodyHowever, as the Roman soldiers become frustrated when no amount of wits or force can produce the body…and as they encounter those who knew Christ… they begin asking not only where he is, but who he is.  Risen. War and strifeHave you ever wondered what happened to the body of Christ? Does it seem logical that all the apostles would rather die than expose a hoax, if Christ’s death had really just been a trick? What changed them from cowering fearfully behind closed doors to preaching and teaching publicly despite terrible persecution? Risen. The ascension of ChristCould it have been anything other than a rock solid faith that Jesus really had risen from the dead? And, why is the resurrection so foundational for Christians? Risen. Examining grave clothesBecause, if Christ really is risen, then he truly is who he claimed to be—the Son of God—and he can in fact save us and resurrect us after we die. That’s why Christians can celebrate on “Good Friday.” Are you celebrating?!
Risen. Tribune and Aide“And ye shall seek me, and find me,
when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13)