Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Staking Claim


“The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”” (John 12:12-15) The reality is that Jesus was now the commander of the Lord’s army. He was ushering in the host of heaven to win the day and establish the Kingdom of God. Jesus was taking over, staking his claim over all of life.

He had staked his claim over THE PHYSICAL REALM of life. Through the fall of Adam, humans lost dominion over the earth. Jesus reclaimed it. At his command the wind stopped, the storms ceased, water became wine, fish appeared where there had been none, and five loaves and two fish fed over 5,000 people; lame people walked, blind people gained sight, deaf people started to hear. Jesus was ushering in a new Kingdom, preparing for a new heaven and a new earth of which He would be the source of life and light.

Jesus had also staked His claim over THE MORAL REALM. There was the day He was teaching in the middle of a house when four men, desperate to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus, sawed a hole in the roof of the house and lowered the man on his stretcher so Jesus would have to deal with him.

“Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” (Mark 2:5-12) (2) Jesus was emphatically saying, “Let this visible miracle be proof that I have authority over the invisible realm. I have authority over the moral realm.” So Jesus had authority to preach “Be perfect, therefore, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

And Jesus had staked claim to the SPIRITUAL REALM. Joshua met the commander of the army of the Lord, the heavenly host. Jacob saw this host when he returned from exile. Elisha’s servant saw this host surrounding God’s people just prior to battle. Jesus spoke of the host when, leaving Gethsemane, He indicated He could have called twelve legions of angels who were at His disposal; but He did not. Jesus knew that through His death on the cross, He would reclaim the spiritual realm. One day He would even send His Spirit to fill His followers, which led John to write “…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) Jesus was staking His claim and taking over.

Additionally Jesus had staked His claim over the ETERNAL REALM. On several occasions, he brought dead people back to life. The most dramatic occurrence had been calling Lazarus forth from his tomb. He did this just after proclaiming “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) Jesus gave proof to His claim that He was the Resurrection and the Life. He had firmly staked his claim to the eternal realm. (3)

Fast forward 40-50 years to the Island of Patmos, to an old man banished into exile because of his preaching about Jesus. It’s John. While there, God lifted him up in the Spirit and shared with him what was yet to come. He was reminded that JESUS HAD STAKED HIS CLAIM AND HE IS IN CHARGE. “Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” (Revelation 19:11-16 New Living Translation) Jesus is the Lord of life and death, the only Sovereign King and ruler of all of life. He is Christ the Victor. Jesus has staked His claim and He is in charge. He alone reigns forever – the eternal King of kings and Lord of lords!

An old parable goes like this:

“The donkey (4) awakened, his mind still savoring the afterglow of the most exciting day of his life. Never before had he felt such a rush of pleasure and pride. He walked into town and found a group of people by the well. “I’ll show myself to them,” he thought. But they didn’t notice him. They went on drawing their water and paid him no mind. “Throw your garments down,” he said crossly. “Don’t yyou know who I am?” They just looked at him in amazement. Someone slapped him across the tail and ordered him to move. “Miserable heathens!” he muttered to himself. “I’ll just go to the market where the good people are. They will remember me.” But the same thing happened. No one paid any attention to the donkey as he strutted down the main street in front of the market- place. “The palm branches! Where are the palm branches!” he shouted. “Yesterday, you threw palm branches!” Hurt and confused, the donkey returned home to his mother. “Foolish child,” she said gently. “Don’t you realize that without him, you are just an ordinary donkey?” (5)

Just like the donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem, when we lift up Jesus Christ we are no longer ordinary people; then we are key players in God’s plan to redeem the world. The game plan is before us. Let’s get busy!

(1) Picture from LOGOS
(2) Ibid
(3) Ibid
(4) Photo by Andre Iv on Unsplash
(5) Jim Benedict, “Not what we had in mind,” Union Bridge Church of the Brethren website, April 1, 2012. cob-net.org.

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ yet!

In the late 1800’s a little boy who lived in the country reached the age of twelve. He had never seen a circus. So when a poster went up at school announcing that the circus was coming to town, he ran home and asked, “Daddy, can I go?” The family was poor but the father knew how important this was so he said, “If you do your Saturday chores ahead of time I’ll see to it that you have the money to go.” On Saturday the chores were quickly done and the boy dressed in his Sunday best. The father gave the boy a dollar bill and cautioned him to be careful. The boy was so excited his feet barely touched the ground as he headed for the village. (1)

As he came near to the village he saw people lining up along the streets – they were preparing to watch the circus parade into town. So the boy joined the crowd and this was the grandest thing he’d ever seen. Caged animals snarled, bands played loudly, midgets performed acrobatics, and the clowns brought up the rear. As one of the clowns passed by the little boy reached into his pocket, took out his dollar bill, and handed it to the clown. With that he turned and went home. As far as he knew, he had seen all there was to see of the circus – but he had only seen the parade. Things are not always what they seem!

What do you see as you look at your life? Are you settling for only what you know, or are experiencing at the moment? Are you content with second best, ready to settle for the parade passing by? Read on. God wants you to know that no matter what you think you see – “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Psalm 126 is a jubilant psalm in which we discover, among other truths, that God transforms despondency into expectancy and tears of sorrow into songs of joy: “he who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” The Israelites were celebrating their deliverance from Babylon; their long 400 year captivity was over. The impossible had happened – a pagan king had released them. The unbelievable had occurred – they were going home! For so long they had barely dared to hope for this moment. So when it did happen they “Were like men who dreamed. (Their) mouths were filled with laughter, and (their) tongues with songs of joy.” It felt like a dream.

Perhaps you know the feeling of “too good to be true,” of pinching yourself to make sure something is really happening. It happens to the bride who is finally walking down the aisle – to the new president at his inauguration – to the members of the team when they receive the championship trophy – to the wrongly accused prisoner when he’s freed – to the infertile couple who’ve just had a baby. It happened to the disciples when the resurrected Jesus stood before them: “…he showed them his hands and his feet! And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement…” (Lk. 24:41) It happened to Peter when the angel miraculously led him out of prison (Acts 12:29): “Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.” It’s always like a dream when God works! But He does.

It’s just that God works in his time. And we are not in His time zone! Over time God transforms despondency into expectancy and tears of sorrow into songs of joy. So it was with these Israelites – their captivity had been great but their deliverance was even greater. They went from exile to ecstasy, from banishment to bliss. In His time, that’s always what God does for His people.

Remember Jesus talking with his disciples the night before his crucifixion? They were deeply concerned about his ‘going away.’ (John 16:19-22): “Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this,

so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, `In a little while you will see me

no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (2)

So maybe you’re tired and teary because your life is making no progress, you have all you can do to stay even – let alone get ahead; maybe your life is bearing no fruit; or you’re worried about your children; or you’re wrestling with unanswered prayers; you’re grieving those who are no longer with you. Believe this: God will work in His time; He will transform despondency into expectancy and tears of sorrow into songs of joy.

How can we be sure? Because by doing so God is honored. “Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’” As John Milton penned, “Let us with a gladsome mind, Praise the Lord, for he is kind; For his mercies aye endure, Ever faithful, ever sure.” God will turn people’s thoughts away from self to Himself. And one of the surest ways to do it is for God to transform despondency into expectancy and tears of sorrow into songs of joy – in His time. Whatever the parade you’re watching today, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

(1) http://clownalley.blogspot.com/2009/07/keith-crary-great-circus-parade-2009.html
(2) www.Storyblocks.com

The Truth From Calvin Revisited

Okay all you good Calvinists! Now that I have your attention…This is not about John Calvin – nor Calvin College. It’s about Calvin, as in “Calvin and Hobbes”. I enjoy and appreciate this great comic strip – not only for its humor but also for its wisdom and observations of life. One of my favorites is truly profound. Calvin’s mother says, ‘C’mon, Calvin. We’re going to the store.’ Calvin asks, ‘Can Hobbes come?’ ‘No, just leave him here’, mother replies. Shouts Calvin, ‘BUT I WANT HIM TO COME WITH US!’ As Calvin and Hobbes walk out the door together Hobbes observes, ‘If you can’t win by reason, go for volume.’

“Go for volume.”

Is this not a slogan and philosophy for many today? I wrote the original version of this blog 10 years ago – I suggested it was an appropriate theme for that time in history. Little did I know or could I comprehend how much more fitting it would be 10 years later.

There are so many loud voices today. It appears to me that many of the loudest voices (culturally, politically, religiously) are those of persons who are less concerned with the logic, reasonableness or truth of what they say than with the volume with which they say it. So they say it loud. The skill of and desire for true debate is rare. People seldom truly debate with each other anymore – they shout at each other instead. This past summer we witnessed this degradation in the so called political debates. I say ‘so called’ because they bore little resemblance to formal debates. I can only imagine what high school and college debate coaches must have thought. Certainly what they heard played out in these shouting matches bore little resemblance to what they taught and coached. Logic, reasonableness and truth gave way to volume, personal attack, and quotable tag lines. It should not surprise us that society at large has followed the lead. Perhaps Calvin was right – ‘If you can’t win by reason, go for volume.’

What a contrast to Jesus who was “oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

Since He had, and indeed was truth, Jesus didn’t need to shout. (Read the Gospel of John where ‘truth’ is mentioned at least 50 times!) And without shouting He proved to be the truth that has set us free! If we know this truth, there’s no need to worry about volume! Just speak and live the truth – and that truth will speak for itself.

(Jesus carrying cross from: &copy; Gracel21 | Dreamstime.com – <a href=”https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-jesus-carries-cross-christ-carrying-up-calvary-image39086448#res13162905″>Jesus carries cross</a>)

A Shady Life

I admit – I live a shady life.

But it’s not what you think. I’m not dishonest, crooked, underhanded or shifty. Rather I’m shaded and sheltered. Here’s what I mean.

A desire for being in the shade and shadows brings to mind the time we took our 3 boys to Washington DC. It was hot. No – it was scorching hot. It was so scorching hot that the front page of the news showed a row of parked motorcycles all tipped over laying on their sides. In the intense heat the blacktop had softened so the kickstands sank, tilting the cycles until they all fell. Now that’s hot!

I vividly remember the sweat and fatigue. We planned our walking routes so we could get periodic spots of shade – it was the only relief and rest available outdoors. And even the air conditioned buildings seemed muggy and stifling. Perhaps that’s why I identify so easily with the Psalmist who prayed “…hide me in the shadow of your wings…” (Psalm 17:8) The wings are another image of and symbol for the cloud. What we would have given for some shadowing clouds on that day! (1)

The Psalmist uses the imagery again: “The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, or the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.” (Psalm 121: 5-7) The Lord is a shadow for all the distresses and threats we encounter – any time, day or night.

How can we be sure? Jesus points to Himself as the wings of God. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” (Matthew 23:37) What a picture! When her babies are in danger Mama Hen spreads her wings to protect them. Pretty much what human mothers do for their children!

The issue is whether or not we will plan our routes to go under His wings.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Underlining mine) The shady spots are available – sometimes God’s wings and shade are right where we are – but oftentimes we need to go to the shade – like the hens need to go to Mama. The Psalmist knew it – he made it clear: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91: 1-4). Curry’s Paraphrase: When we dwell under His wings we will have rest during the heat and storms of life.

One final image – Jesus hangs on the cross with His arms outstretched. His wings are spread. He’s offering the refuge of a shady life for all who come to Him.

The words of William Cushing say it eloquently: “Under His wings I am safely abiding, Though the night deepens and tempests are wild, Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me, He has redeemed me, and I am His child. Under His wings, under His wings, Who from His love can sever? Under His wings my soul shall abide, Safely abide forever.” (2)

(1) See my three previous posts: Life in the Cloud, More Life in the Clouds, Living in Glory

(2 Under His Wings, William O. Cushing