He is not here!

The song is “All Hail the Glorious Christ”

I see a huge container, like a bucket and God is pouring out of it – LOVE – His love – He is pouring it out over me – it is washing over me, completely soaking me- “My love is boundless – I am continually pouring out my love on you – the reason you are not always aware of it is because you become distracted by things in your life. Some of them that you love and that hold your attention and some merely those things life is all about. Remember also that My love should be seen against the backdrop of My judgement, righteousness and holiness – that is where I am taking you in My love. I have rescued you from judgement and now seek to form you into the beloved son you are to Me.”

My reading today is Luke 24:1-12. The beginning of the aftermath of the crucifixion, describing the first discovery of the empty tomb. So familiar, what will Jesus say to me from this passage?

Firstly maybe the surprising often overlooked fact that Jesus had warned them repeatedly that He would rise again. More recently Luke had described how he had sent two disciples ahead of him as He arrived at Jerusalem and told them they would find a young donkey – and it was exactly as He had said. Then before the Passover meal He had sent two disciples to find a room for them to meet in and He told them they would meet a man carrying a jar of water that would take them to the room and it was so. Yet the women were on their way to embalm Him. And Peter could not believe what they had said. These were the very people who had known Him intimately over three years! So I stop and think how much of all the promises God has made to me do I really believe? I mean when the chips are down. If He returned today would I be just as nonplussed. Do I really believe all those songs of His faithfulness, His protection, His forgiveness? I mean at the deepest level, when they are challenged? I must meditate on that.

The fact that the first witnesses were women. In Israel at that time women had no standing in society and their witness would be regarded as worthless. The fact that God deliberately chose them to be the first, flies in the face of any effort to fabricate this story. If it were a fabrication then the chosen witnesses would have been ‘reliable men’. So this is once again a timely reminder to me that in God’s dispensation everyone is equal. Young, old, male, female, well-known and gifted, highly qualified and the poor widow/wer living alone. All are equal and I need to remember that at the deepest leve as I view and treat people. Phil 2:3.

Then the phrase in vs 5 b strikes me. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” I am reminded of Ephesians 1:18-21. “I pray also that the eyes of your heart will be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength which He exerted in Christ Jesus, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at the right hand in the heavenly realms …….”

I am reminded of the atmosphere of quiet joy alongside the mourning at Theo, my friend’s funeral/ memorial service this past week. What a huge privilege we have as Christians to be able stand at this golden portal!

The Cross – the Greatest Sign of God’s Love.

The word “rationalize” keeps coming into my mind as I wait on the Lord. I’m not even sure I know exactly what it means.

“I am interested, not only in your mind or your body or your heart or your soul, I am drawing you to me, to love me, with all those things combined – the whole you – I want you to fall head over heels in love with Me again and again and again. I want you to take Me as your entire Source – so don’t be too analytical and try and figure this all out, just come to Me and give Me yourself and I will do the rest.”

That was a major part of my message yesterday, today was linked. “Now remember what I said yesterday, I want you to fall in love with Me with your whole being – not separate parts, again. Now be sure as you speak on Sunday that My love comes through in the message clearly – because I want each one sitting there to fall in love with me again – to be sure”.

Luke 18:40 – 49. It is indeed a challenge to read a passage like this, which is so central to our faith and so well-known and yet wait upon the Lord to speak to you afresh, even as you read it. It is so natural to rehash what you know as the words rise out of the paper. So as I read, a few things struck me (again).

The darkness: I tried to imagine the scene. The wailing women, the rest of the bedraggled crowd, mingled with the armed centurions, the dust and the smell of unwashed bodies and of fear and the waves of intense agony emanating from those on the cross. And suddenly pitch darkness! Wow, they must have been dumbstruck! Easy to speak it away – “sign of God’s judgement”. But what an intense sign of the absolute comprehensiveness and seriousness of His judgement on every person in the world. That is what was on Jesus, that is what we have escaped because of His death because He took the full effect of God’s judgement on Himself, on our behalf!

Curtain torn – who came to bring that astounding news? A curtain 4 inches thick, laced with metal, torn from top to bottom. Stop and think. That curtain represented the absolute separation from God that man had experienced since Eden. A high priest and sacrifices, mere symbols of reaching past the curtain for His presence. But now. Access! Wait, do I realize the immense privilege we have in being able to meet with the absolutely holy Creator of the whole universe through Jesus and this sacrifice? It is so easy to become “used to” just talking to our Father, without being reminded of what it took Him and His Son to win that back for us.

“Into your hands I commit my Spirit”. The Triune God, once again reconciled. Way beyond my understanding. “Don’t rationalize and try and work it out”.

For me, as I soak all this in: A profound reminder of the significance of Jesus death by crucifixion. Everything of importance – yes everything of importance in the whole world revolves around and flows out from this happening. That is the basis for the deepest and most total change and affects every moment , thought and action.

PRAISE YOU LORD JESUS – MESSIAH, KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS, LION OF JUDAH. I invite you to join in that and to ask God to open your heart and let you fall completely in love with Him again today, and tomorrow and….

All Evidence Points to King Jesus.

Thank you to everyone for your prayers and words of encouragement. It has often been my experience in the past that when I have felt the strongest attack from Satan it, precedes an event in which the Spirit is going to do something great. On Sunday, as I preached, I was so aware of the powerful working of God’s Spirit, as the congregation sat, almost mesmerised, staring at me, waiting for my next word, not a pin dropped, no coughs or sneezes, everyone in the hands of Jesus. Extremely humbling and indeed dangerous to me, as I may take the merit for what was happening.

This morning, listening to the song “Turn your eyes upon Jesus – look full in his wonderful face” – I see a face, with a crown of thorns – with the brightest light shining behind – lighting it up brighter and brighter – even as I watch the broken bleeding and wounded face, it starts to change into that of a lion “The Lion of Judah”.

The word I hear: “Ian, seek first My kingdom and My righteousness and all these things will be added unto you – I want to give to you, but first your attitude must be right – as you preached yesterday – an attitude of no merit – just being receptive to what I want to give you. You can relax and let the whole week slide onto me and I will let it flow – I will feed you every day with my Daily Bread – just allow your mind, heart, body and soul to adore and love Me – don’t hold back.

“I will cleanse your thoughts and lack of forgiveness and your indignation when and as you confess. I am righteous and just and I promise that – even as I have given Jesus as your Advocate, who speaks on your behalf. TRUST ME, TRUST ME IAN – that’s the purpose of all this – to grow your faith, when the lesson is learned the problem will be solved”.

My reading today is Luke 22:62 – 23:25.There is much of importance but here are three things that spoke to me. Firstly: in vs 70 the priests ask Jesus “Are you the Son of God”? He replied “You are right in saying I am.” In Luke 23:3, Pilot asks “Are you the King of the Jews?” And Jesus answers “yes it as you say”. Now remember what the main theme of Luke is “Who is this man?” There has been much evidence up to now and even in all that is happening at this climactic time. But these are a written, absolute confirmation of His identity. Startling, mind-blowing, let everyone sit up and take notice!

Secondly: Pilot in 23:4, “I find no basis for this charge”! again in 23:14, “I find no basis for your charge against Him”. 23:9 Herod plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The solemn verdict of the trial: in great big capital letters “INNOCENT”.

Lastly from 23:23 Pilot wants to release Him, but the crowd prevails by shouting louder and louder, Luke sums it up “and he surrendered Jesus to their will”. Immediately my mind flashes back to another scene, one in a garden with a Man bowed and sweating great drops of blood saying “…..yet not my will, but yours be done”. God’s will, being carried out by an unruly rioting crowd. The Lord’s prayer comes to mind: Let thy will be done! Can we so surrender to God’s will that we are maybe even able to detect His will in the midst of hardship and opposition? Can I do that?

Innocent! Yet He displayed no indignation. Philippians 2:6, “Jesus being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped”. Innocent! He had to be innocent to take our sins upon Himself and suffer the punishment, unrighteously for them on our behalf. Innocent! Have you ever felt like calling that out when you are faced with hardship, a difficult situation, or any suffering? The really Good news is that having experienced this unfair treatment, He is able to understand when we experience anything like that He is the perfect High Priest, who can minister to us in all such situations.

The title for my sermon next week: “The Eye of the Needle”. Please keep praying for the pure Word from God’s Spirit for me, as I prepare.

Satan seeks to sift us.

In Luke 22:31 Jesus utters these chilling words: “Simon, Simon, Satan seeks to sift you like wheat”. Chilling? Yes because it brings home the reality we face in this world that, although Jesus has overcome Satan on the cross, the battle still rages as the wounded foe seeks to derail the great plan of salvation. The interesting and encouraging thing to note is that Satan, just as he did in Job, has to come to Jesus for permission.

This has come home to me on two levels in the last few days. The bizarre attack from my neighbour has escalated. A completely unreasonable, unprovoked attack, launched for a second time trying to hide behind my daughter Leslie while I have been out playing golf. Having been exposed to bullying at school I recognize that this is exactly what she is trying to do to me. I spent a sleepless night with my mind swinging between feelings of indignation, retaliation etc with wild conversations running through my head. The clear light of day brought me feelings of some calm and a decision not to fight and raise the heat of the conflict, but rather to ignore as one does with a typical bully.

Of course in the forefront of my mind is the knowledge and expectation that I have experienced before, when I have been actively preparing for and preaching or otherwise involved on the Christian frontier, that Satan tries to throw me off balance through various avenues of attack, direct or indirect. The passage from Luke however did prepare me, especially with the thought of, 1. the identity of the real foe and 2. that he would only be allowed to operate as far as Jesus allows.

This morning God seemed to say to me: “Ian I have shown you in so many ways that I am with you – Psalm 23, Romans 8:32 and many others – I have invited you to come to Me with your burdens and promised you My peace – peace in Me – not as the world gives. Now the onus is on you to believe – actively throw your burdens onto me 1 Peter 5:7. Toss them off yourself onto Me – I have given you the task of ministering to the church at Kilberry and will protect you and give you wisdom – you just need to fix your thoughts on things above”.

In addition to this He gave me several scriptures which I will not type out completely but which were totally relevant: 1 Peter 5:10, II Chronicles 20:15, and II Corinthians 10:4.5.

Now to today’s reading; Luke 22:47-62.

The verse 53b gives the backdrop to the events. “But this is your hour – when darkness reigns”. Addressed to the chief priests and the elders, but actually addressed to Satan.

Here we have two types of betrayal: firstly there is Judas. One of the inner circle, where Luke describes who is behind him in 22:3:- “Satan entered Judas” and at the last supper “but the hand of the one who is going to betray me is with mine on the table” (so close, part of the inner fellowship). This was the ultimate betrayal, nevertheless part of God’s plan as we see in Acts 2:23, so therefore allowed by Him as being the way to the ultimate victory on the cross for all mankind.

Secondly there is the betrayal by all the other disciples. Peter’s betrayal is well-known and predicted by Jesus, yet Jesus completely restores him and he even starts his prediction of that betrayal with the words in vs 32 “and when you have turned, strengthen your brothers”. Of course Jesus warned them of the fact that they would be tempted, in the garden, tempted to leave Him, so they needed to be alert and pray. Despite the many sermons preached against Peter he, at least, still hung around, the rest all run away back to Galilee.

This betrayal and desertion must have been one of the most painful things for Jesus to bear, yet Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the perfect high priest: “Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted”. Some of the most hurtful times in my life have been when I have been betrayed or deserted by someone close to me and I am sure most of you can relate to that as well. The comforting knowledge is that Jesus knows, experientially what that is like and can therefore comfort us at such times.

For me today as I listen to Jesus: I realize I am involved in this kingdom battle – but the battle is the Lord’s (2 Chron) – My part? I must believe and trust and in His power to be obedient – casting all my burdens on Him and taking every thought captive – How? in His strength and wisdom. And show my dependence by actively continuing to pray for deliverance from temptation.

Remembering.

“Speak to me Lord please”. I see in my mind’s eye a jug. A jug? I try and put it out of my mind, this can’t be from the Lord. But nothing else comes except the jug. So I listen to Jesus “Yes – look at this jug – I fill it with pure water at the beginning of the week to wash you – wash you with water and the Word – then I fill it with wine – the wine of the Holy Spirit which signifies the power I am giving you to go through this week, to do all the things you perceive are stacked up ahead of you – It may seem like there is a rocky crag there ahead of you (in my mind’s eye I had seen a steep and difficult rocky cliff in my way), but there is a path and I am going to take you by the hand and lead you along the narrow path which may seem at times to lead nowhere.”

Luke 22:1-23 I notice this section is bracketed by Judas’ betrayal, vv,3,4;21 (complementing the antagonism of the religious establishment). Central in the story is also Jesus’ repeated statement of fulfilment vv 16,18. As usual Luke is using stark contrast to highlight his teaching. So the plans of the chief priests and teachers of the law and Judas, including the entering into Judas by Satan are all part of God’s fulfilment in establishment of His kingdom. Mmmm – so often we look at catastrophes which seem to be derailing all the carefully laid plans of the Christian establishment and even our own path. We look at Covid and maybe feel God is running around trying to mop up the damage. Yet everything, yes everything is in His control and part of His plan.

I have been reminded in an earlier reading, for instance, concerning Covid that this pandemic and likewise other huge pestilences during history are a pointer to the reality of the return of Jesus, (cf Luke 21:11.)

The other reminder I found was in the words of Jesus in vs 19b: Do this in remembrance of me. You see as we look at the whole passage we see how carefully God has planned this event from the time of the Exodus. There, after the escape from Egypt a strong emphasis is laid on reminder, lasting ordinance, commemorating etc (Exod 12-14), so that the Israelites would keep this festival annually as a reminder of their release from captivity in Egypt. But it was also a preparation then already looking forward over time, to the great Exodus which was to come through the Lamb of God which would be slain. The communion meal is still to this day a sign of how easily we forget this central point of our Christian faith. Not mentally forget, but somehow lose the intense reality of what happened at that time. That reality which changed everything for all time.

For me? The renewed assurance of being part of God’s plan and the promise of His guidance on the way. It was a small confirmation of God’s promise of guidance to me when I read of the disciples having to find a man carrying a jar (jug) of water who would lead them to the upper room. (vs10), and it just gave me a warm smile.

Then, forgetting really lies at the basis of our uncertainties and fears. We “know” but we don’t allow the knowledge to be part of our DNA. But God knows this so He instituted the communion meal.

Pleasant remembering then.