“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) . . . but why? Knowing that Lazarus was going to live again and that both the Father and He would be given credit for this amazing miracle Jesus wept because those he loved were completely immersed in their broken, temporary existence. They couldn’t grasp the reality that this mortal life ends and that those who believe in Him immediately begin to transition into the real life of the Kingdom. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The ones who believe in me will live even though they still must face e death.” As we face mortality in the form of a fear and death inducing virus, a fear and death inducing period of protest, and a fear and death inducing culture of hate and cancellation, let me encourage you to emulate the love and hospitality of Lazarus’ family while placing your hope and faith in Jesus. He is still resurrection and life.
Five to ten years following the resurrection of Jesus, the church was still a struggling sect of the Jewish religion calling themselves The Way. A visionary man named Cornelius, a Centurion of the elite Italian Regiment, had a vision of an angel who told him to find a man by the name of Peter who himself had a vision telling him to go and explain the gospel to those he considered unclean. Peter didn’t go eagerly. He didn’t go with a great sermon or with a strategy for changing the world. He went with a very small amount of faith and God changed the world. Our world is a mess right now and people want leaders to have a plan, but the truth is that what is needed is really just enough faith to do what Jesus says do, and go when Jesus says go. Mountains move when God wants them moved and when we take our little faith and obey.
Earning a good reputation isn’t easy, and being able to understand the pitfalls of your own reputation requires social insight and humility. Jesus affirms and wants to be known by people who see their own reputations and make efforts to be better than society expects them to be. Sometimes this means functioning honorably despite obvious limitations, and other times this means humbly caring for those society would allow you to ignore. Three men of notable reputations saw past their own status and had their spiritual eyes opened to Jesus, who valued and affirmed them as individuals independent of their social status.
It has never been easy for men and women to understand and support one another, but in our days of preheated outrage and words without meaning, it seems especially easy to jump to conclusions about people’s character and motives. This has happened to Mary from the town of Magdala. An independent and noble woman of means with a spiritual curiosity, Mary is often presumed to have ulterior motives and perhaps questionable character. But, when Jesus calls her by name she responds from the depths of her soul, “Rabboni”, teacher, and in a moment sees the Lord and her own true identity. If only we could all, like Mary, hear Jesus speak our name and in that moment know Him and ourselves for the white stone identity that He has for each of us. The freedom that love purchased for us at the cross is not simply the freedom from sin and its wages, but the freedom to discover and live into our white stone identity; a precious identity that is just between us and our beloved Creator.
It is common to hear people refer to God’s love as being a distinct kind of love that the Greek language called agape. Unfortunately our English gets confused when it comes to discussing love because we apparently can love all kinds of things; a good movie, a pet, a spouse, a foot rub or a member of the church. God’s love expressed through the self-sacrifice of Jesus transformed John from a son of thunder to a beloved disciple. He wrote at length of God’s love displayed through Jesus and then also how we are have that same love for one another and for God. This kind of love requires our devotion and loyalty first to God and then to others because He first loved us. Agape is not confused with bowing to the popular demands or fear that comes from men, because this perfect love drives out fear.
“God created us. Sin broke us. Jesus chose us, and we must choose Him. When we do we will grow to be like Him, and eventually we will go to be with Him.” This frame work of the Good News of Jesus Christ was started in part 1 with clarification of who we meant by God, the dangerous trust He place in us with free choice and His image, the damage done to us by choosing sin, and the early attempts to establish covenants that would fix humanity’s problem of being broken by sin. In part 2 we talk about the cross that Jesus chose and the new covenant that His blood opened for all who choose to put their faith/trust in Him. This New Covenant that we enter by faith makes it possible for us to be transformed and grow as new lives filled with the Holy Spirit. Heaven is our eternal hope when this life is over, but there is plenty of adventure to face, difficulty to overcome, and abundance to enjoy until that day comes.
There is nothing like a health and economy threatening virus to make people ask about the meaning of life, God, and what happens after this. In short, understanding the Gospel seems more important at times like these. We think it is important for you to understand the Gospel all the time and to be able to explain why it is good news when people are asking their important questions. This is part one of a two part lesson.
We want to encourage everyone to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ well enough to share it with others. To assist in this ability we have developed a small DIY booklet that you can download, print, fold, staple and cut for yourself, or stop by the church building to acquire some we have already made. Instructions: 1. Download the .pdf and print on both sides of one page (flip on short edge). 2. Fold the longest edge in the middle, keeping the CCM logo (front page) on the outside. Do this three times. 3. Staple the middle of the final fold to bind your booklet. 4. Use a knife or letter opener to cut all the outer folds, separating the pages. Done.
The back has a simple color-coded statement to help organize your thoughts (or share the gospel with someone in imminent great peril). The middle has an expanded version of that statement that might work as an “elevator speech”. The other pages expand those ideas further for guidance on an actual conversation (in case your elevator gets stuck between floors for several hours).