April 3rd 33 A.D.

LORD – it is 11:59 on Friday, April 3rd 33 A.D. The sun is hot, but your body is so dehydrated that you no longer sweat. Your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth and every nerve in your body is on fire. Your muscles are near the point of total exhaustion. You’ve had to straighten your legs and lift yourself up for three hours to simply take a breath. Every time has been literally excruciating as you have to push off feet that have large spikes driven through them, nailed to your cross. Large sections of skin are ripped off your body, the result of a merciless and brutal flogging that would have killed lesser men. Your mind is in a fog, your eyes swollen shut, and the GOD of heaven and earth has forsaken you for the first time since eternity past. You have already cried out to Him, “ Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani” “My GOD, my GOD why have you forsaken me!?!” But you received no answer.
Death is near. You can feel it. You only have seconds left until you will suffocate, unable to lift your body up any longer to breathe. And at that moment, in that split second, in your mind’s eye you see me. And while your body has failed you, your will has not. You will breathe your last for only one reason. To save me from a place were you have said “there is only weeping and gnashing of teeth; and the worm does not die.” You take your last breath and cry out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Your heart stops , and you die. You have just saved the entire human race from hell, but only a tiny minority will accept your gift. LORD – it’s nearly 2,000 years later, it was noon on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018 – and for the most part, the world has moved on. And, in some ways I have moved on. On this most special of days, have I found a quiet place to sit with your Spirit? To quietly reflect and meditate on your sacrifice? Am I in corner somewhere, on my knees, pouring out my love to you in prayer? No, I am on vacation during “Spring Break” in a land that has discarded Easter. I am by the pool sipping a Mint Julep and my conscious is oblivious to it all.
LORD – As I write this, I wonder why I have not spent every breath of my entire life thanking you, and worshipping you for what you did for me. If I had, I would only be giving You, Your due?

To Live is Christ

Paul got it. He got it when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Gal 2:20 (NIV).  In another letter Paul writes, “To live is Christ…” Php 1:19 (NKJV). “To live is Christ.” Those words begin to haunt me. I can’t get them out of my head. What does that mean? “To live is Christ”? Does my life looks like what it means? Business, business, and more business? Does “to live is Christ” mean spending the vast majority of my day ignoring You, forgetting about You? Paul says to “Take every thought captive” to the obedience of Christ. 2 Co 10:5 (NASB). He says to “Pray without ceasing…” 1 Th 5:17 (NASB). Even You declared in Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You.” Fix my mind on You LORD! Fix my mind on you!
The devil whispers, “You can’t do that?”
“Yes we can!” Your Spirit shouts in my mind.
LORD – I remember after I had met Katie. I couldn’t get her out of my head. I thought of her every moment of every day. Was she “the one?” She looked just like the vision you had given me years earlier. She was so kind, and loving, and pure. Was she for real?”
It is easy and natural to think of someone you have just fallen in love with. In fact, you can’t stop thinking about them. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” – Dt 6:5 (NIV). I heard one man paraphrase this to “Love the LORD your GOD with every fiber of your being!” Do I do that LORD? If I did, what would my life look like? What would my evenings look like? Would there be as much Netflix, NFL Channel, and HGTV?
Help me LORD! Help me! Help me neverever – take you for granted – ever! Help me never forget you, never ignore you! How is it even possible for this tiny speck of a speck of a speck in this boundless, colossal, unmeasurable universe to “forget” or ignore GOD. The One who knew me and loved me before He banged the Big Bang. Before He said, “Let there be light!” The One who foreordained the day of my birth. The One who knit me together in my mother’s womb. The One who keeps me alive to this very moment – every heartbeat, every breath, a gift from GOD. The One who made a way when there was no way.
And now, I think of this. I had “zero-chance” of escaping hell – zero! There was nothing I could ever do to escape it – nothing. I was doomed. As the Bible says, “An enemy of GOD, without hope, and without GOD in the world.”
Who else but Paul puts it so well:
2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, (Can a dead man rescue himself LORD? Can a dead man help himself, LORD? I don’t think so.”) 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air… gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved… 12 remember… you were separate from Christ… without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:1–6, 12,13) NIV.
Yes, now there is a way! Now there is a way! A way of escape. And His name is Jesus. Now I have access to GOD. COME ON!!! No stinkin’ way! I have access to GOD? Is that even possible? Well, maybe, through GOD’s own blood. Yes, that could make a way – GOD’s very blood.

GOD’s Kid

And as I read Your love letter called the New Testament, I read: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 Jn 3:1,2 (NIV).  What in the world is that? I could see myself as a sewage worker in GOD’s kingdom. Off in some distant corner of Heaven. But to be GOD’s kid – GOD’s child – a “co-heir” with Christ. That smacks of blasphemy! But GOD’s very blood pops into my head again. Yes, GOD’s own blood could make that mockery of justice – righteous and holy.
And so now I am Yours, and You are mine. And in my heart we dance. We run. We laugh. You!?! You are my GOD!?! GOD’s blood. GOD’s very blood. That could do it.  Now, I can talk to You, and hear Your “small still voice.” I can thank You, and I can actually live in Your presence – where You will never leave me. And when I do, there is peace, indescribable, undefinable peace.
(Oh GOD, help me do this – help me! Please LORD, please… help me!)
Now, this is my life: 1) to live in Your presence every moment, every day for the rest of my life; 2) And to be used by You to draw others into that same presence.  For the first time I realize the Gospel at its simplest is, “Now there is a way.” “Now there is access to Abba-GOD.” “Now there is a way out.”

Come and See

How about I do what Philip and Andrew did, and simply introduce people to You LORD. That worked for them.

John 1
35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them. They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. 41 Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”). 42 Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”). 43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown. 45 Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied. 49 Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”Andrew finds Simon, Philip finds Nathanael, and they bring them to You! Even the Samaritan women said, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” – John 4:29 (NLT) Maybe I should do that.
Maybe instead of giving a sales pitch and convincing myself I am “making disciples of all nations” I should simply invite people to come and see Jesus. “Come meet the One who knows everything about me!”
You know LORD – I’ve come to the conclusion that all I want to be in my life is a Sycamore-Fig Tree. I’m tired of giving an American sales pitch – claiming it’s the Gospel – and then finagling people to pray A 30 second prayer. You will find nothing like that in the New Testament. That is simply an American invention. What made us think we could give a 2 minute marketing presentation and finagle a 30 second prayer and we were “going and making disciples of all nations?” (Mat 28:19)
Yeah, I just want to be Your’ sycamore-fig tree, LORD. You see that was all You needed to get Zaccheus saved.

Your Sycamore-Fig Tree

Luke 19
Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. 2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. 3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” 6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. 7 But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. 8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” 9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
Can I be a sycamore-fig tree for you Jesus? Can you use me to help raise people above the din of the crowd. Can you use me to give people a good look at You? There are two things that I would have to do to accomplish that LORD. First, I’d need to live in Your presence every moment of every day for the rest of my life. If I do that, I will become more and more like You. And then they will see You in me. The second thing I’d need to do is to share Your teachings with them – the words in red.

The Words in Red

The first words from your lips in Mathew are: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” “The kingdom of heaven has come near?”
What does that mean? It obviously doesn’t mean the “kingdom of heaven” we see in Revelation – a kind of a physical insertion of GOD’s throne room on earth. Does the “kingdom coming near” mean You have come near? Is that the GOSPEL? GOD has come near. There is now access to GOD? There is a way now?
The first words from your lips in Luke are: Luke 4:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
“Good news for the poor?”
“Freedom for the imprisoned?”
“Sight for the blind?”
“Release for the oppressed?”
“The year of the LORD’S favor?”
All that is possible because the Spirit of the LORD has anointed You, the GOD-man. Maybe that’s the kingdom of heaven come near?
In Mark your first words are very similar to what is recorded in Mathew: 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15 (NIV) There’s more urgency here. “The time has come!” You say. As if all of creation has waited in baited breath for those days. And as I read Your words over and over again, I become convinced that this proclamation is the Gospel, (unlike the marketing pitch put together by a controversial Baptist pastor in the 1940s. What made us ever think a four point sales presentation was the Gospel?)
In fact, You Yourself declare in Your proclamation what the “good news” – or what the Gospel is: 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near.” – Mk 1:15 (NIV)
Now, that makes sense! Your proclamation of a new era – a new spiritual reality encompassing the universe.  “The wait is over! It has come! GOD Himself and His spiritual kingdom have come near.” There is a way now! There is access! Your first words in John were different… but kind of the same:
“When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” you replied, “and you will see.” John 1:37-39 (NIV).
When the two disciples ask where you are staying, in that culture they would in essence be asking, “Do you have anywhere to stay? Do you want to stay with us tonight.” Your reply, “Come and see,” could be transliterated to say, “I’ve got a place to stay tonight. Why don’t you come hang out with Me.” Isn’t that in essence the same message you’ve proclaimed in the other three Gospels. Is that the Gospel? The simple invitation of the Messiah, “Be with me.”
Please let that be the Gospel LORD! Please! Because, by Your grace and Your mercy you have put that desire, that compulsion, in my heart. Can a believer have an all-consuming, holy, loving obsession with Jesus? Because by Your grace and mercy that’s all I want – that’s it: To be with You. Yes, in heaven, but here now too! You said you would not leave us as orphans! You said you would not forsake us. You said you’d be with us to the end of the age. You said whenever two or more gather in your Name you would be with us! Be with me Jesus!
Please LORD, have mercy! Have mercy! Be with me!
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