The Knowable Mystery

When we think of great people in the Bible, we are all going to have our favorites.  Characters that appeal to us, that speak to us, that mean something to us.  Moses, Noah, David, Ruth, Ester, Mary, so many names of people that may speak to us.

But one of the names that is one many of our lists is Paul.  Paul has a dramatic conversion story, travels the world preaching, and wrote many books that make up the New Testament.

Paul is one of the most important figures in the Bible and in world history.  He was the first to take the Gospel into Europe.  He started churches across the world.  He brought the Good News to Gentiles.  Through His love of devotion to Jesus, he literally changed the world.  Look at what he says, though, in 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5, is important to him:

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

21818_433630803383117_578966460_n.jpgYesterday Erin Hicks, our Associate Pastor here at St. Matthew’s shared a quote from John Wesley that this passage reminded me of.  Wesley said this -. “If we could once bring all our preachers, itinerant and local, uniformly to and steadily to insist on those two points, ‘Christ dying for us’ and ‘Christ reigning in us,’ we should shake the trembling gates of hell.”  That is the truth of the Gospel.  Jesus dying for us (and being raised for us) and reigning in us every day, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  That is what truly counts, that is what is all about.

And that is what Paul preached over and over again.  As he says in this text – I decided to know (or preach) nothing Jesus crucified.

Paul says, I didn’t worry about the mysteries or these lofty words.  Jesus.  Crucified.  Resurrected.  Returning.  As we as part of our communion liturgy -as we proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

And this mystery, it is a knowable mystery.  We don’t “understand” it, who can really understand the power of resurrection and the cross.  But we can know it.  Because it is true.  And this truth sets us free.

In other words, all of this is to say what matters most.  Not mysteries that none but God truly know.  Not opinions, no matter how well thought out.  Not preferences or likes or dislikes.  Not the worry and fears of this world.  Paul didn’t focus on any this.

He focused on Jesus.  He loves us.  He died for us.  He will return for us.  That’s the truth of the Gospel.

The folks all around us, their need is not really the answers to all the mysteries of the world.  Their need is Jesus.  Christ, and Christ alone.  That’s our hope, and the hope for the world.

Today, may we know Jesus, and Him crucified. And may we know that nothing compares to that.

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Day Fifty-Nine with Mark: Mark 15:21-32

Today we look at the crucifixion of Jesus in Mark 15:21-32:

21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

There are so, so many things that we could look at in this passage, so many different things of great import here, things that changed the course of human history.

We see here Simon of Cyrene, being forced to carry the cross.  He was just standing there, when this was thrust upon him.  We never know when life may come to us in ways that we don’t understand and that we are not ready for.

We see them dividing Jesus’ clothes, taking what would have been considered His only real possession of value and picking over it.

We see Jesus being mocked, one last insult.

But to me, and this is something I learned from my trips to the Holy Land, the thing that speaks so much to be me, is the place where Jesus is crucified.  Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.

Why was it called “the place of the skull?”  I always thought it must have looked like a skull.  I may have been taught that some point in my life. But I always believed that it was a reference to the appearance of the place.

12466137_10156386423985043_7373605738327891786_oThat’s not true.  I wanted to share with you  a picture of from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  This is the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.  This mural shows Jesus on the cross, but look what you see beneath the cross.  You see a skull.

Golgotha, in Jewish tradition and legend, was the burial place for Adam.  So, within tradition, when the earthquake came and the earth was split open, the blood of the second Adam (Jesus) washed over the skull of the first Adam.

Now, this is just legend, there’s no proof that any of this happened. But here’s the deal. That’s exactly what happened. Paul writes about it in his letters.  Through Adam, all died.  Through Jesus, all live (1 Corinthians 15:22).  Through Adam, all of us are fallen.  His sin, his betryal of God, it is passed down to all of us.

You, me, all of us. We are all broken. We all choose wrong.  We all rebel. We all push against God, we all blow it.  Each of us. We all stand in need.

Through Adam, all die.

And through Jesus, all can live.  Jesus died for the world.  His blood washes away the affects of fall.  As we sing in “O For a Thousand Tounges” – He breaks the power of canceled sin!

Just as through Adam, all suffer and die, through Jesus, all live.  Through Jesus, all are forgiven.

All are forgiven.

You are forgiven.

Through Jesus.


The blood of Christ washes away the effects of the Fall. Through Jesus Christ you are forgiven.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 15:33-41.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

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Day Fifty-Eight with Mark: Mark 15:21-32

Today in Mark, we look at Jesus being abused and mocked, as found in Mark 15:16-20:

16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters; and they called together the whole cohort. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

12513776_10156386421290043_2022810508822942294_oThe image to your left is one that I took while we were in the Holy Land a few weeks back.  It was taken at the Lithostrotos.  That was the site of the Roman fortress in Jesus’ day.  Anyway the picture you are looking at is something carved into the street, or what was the street in Jesus’ day.  It’s a game that the soldiers played called Game of the King.

This game was pure torture.  The soldiers more or less rolled dice and where ever it landed was the abuse that they would deal out upon the prisoner.  They would mock, beat, abuse and in many times, killed the prisoners before they could be formally excused.

One of the things that I always take away from going to the Holy Land is seeing that these things, they actually happened.  This isn’t pretend. This isn’t a fairy tale.  These things, they happened.

Wow.  Read that text again, seeing what happened.  And know it is fact, not pretend.

One of things that is most striking to me about the crucifixion was the abuse that Jesus took.  He suffered so much, not just physical, but suffered mockery, abandonment, betrayal, He suffered so much.

And He never complained.  He never said that He was wronged.  He never protested His innocence.

Would you or I have done that?

Yet He did. Because He was driven by His love.  His love for me and you.  His love for all the world.  His love even for those that were mocking and abusing Him.

He laid down His life out of love, to save the world.  Oh, the love that that He has for us.

Today, may we not take that love for granted.

And may we not forget all that Jesus endured for our sake.

May we remember.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 15:21-32.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

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Day Thirty-Four with Mark: Mark 8:27-38

Today we’ll finish out Mark 8 with verses 27-38:

Peter’s Declaration about Jesus
27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.”  30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Today Jesus gives His disciples and His followers perhaps His greatest teaching on what it means to be the Messiah.  As we talked about yesterday, people had in their minds what it would be to be the Messiah.  So, today starts off with Jesus asking the disciples two HUGE questions.

First, who to do people say that I am?  This is important, but not the most important question.  What are others saying about Him.

carrying-the-crossThe important one is this.  Who do you say that I am?  That’s the key question to really all of life.  I mean, everything comes down to the answer of that question.  Who do you say that I am?  Who am I to you?

And in our lives, that really is that key question.  Not what do your parents, your friends, your spouse, your children, your neighbors, your church, not what any of these think of Jesus, but what do you think of Jesus?

Who is He to you?

Friends, that truly is the question that matters more than anything else in all of life, because how we answer that question determines everything else.

Well, Peter answers right.  He says you are the Messiah.  And then Jesus begins to teach about what it meant to be the Messiah.  And it wasn’t what Peter was expecting.  It wasn’t about being an earthly king.  It wasn’t about power or might.  But to be the Messiah was about Jesus laying down His life for the sake and for the sins of the world.  It was about the perfect Lamb of God, the sinless Son of God, redeeming us.

It wasn’t about power, it was sacrifice.  And after the sacrifice, the power of life and resurrection triumph.  But to get the triumph, to get to the empty grave, we had to go through the cross.

Well Peter hears this and says, no.  That’s not right. That’s not what it means.  That can’t be right.

And Jesus rebukes Him.  He says – Peter, you are focused on earthly thoughts, not heavenly ones.  For to follow Jesus is not the way of power, but of sacrifice.  Because true life is not found in receiving, true life is found in giving.  The world tells us to receive and receive and receive and receive.  Jesus tells us to give.  And in giving, we find life.

In laying down our life, we find our lives.

To be a Christian means to follow Jesus.  And that’s the path that Jesus walked.  And that’s the path He calls us to walk.

It is a path of life. Seriously.  It’s the path that gives us life.  Loving.  Serving.  Giving.  There is life.  It’s what our Lord taught us.  May we follow!

Friday we’ll look at Mark 9:1-8.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

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Being Family

There are a lot of things in life that can divide us. There are allegiances to certain college football teams. There are the different Christian denominations.  There are worship styles. There are so many things that can divide us.  In fact, the things that divide us can often seem to be so much more numerous than the things that unite us, even as Christians.

So, what happens is we focus on those things, we become more embittered, move divided, more at war with each other.

It’s easy to do. It’s what the world does, and what the world does to us as Christians.

But listen to what John tell us today in John 1: 1-5:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Silhouette of a cross

Silhouette of a cross

Read again what it says in 4-5 – In Him (Jesus) was life and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

He is the light that brings us together and the darkness did not overcome it.  He is what matters.  He is the foundation, the rock, the cornerstone, the all in all, the everything.

It’s Him.  It’s not the things that divide us.  It’s not our different churches or theologies or those things.  It’s Jesus.

One of my favorite quotes is one attributed to John Wesley – “If your heart has been warmed as my heart has, then give me your hand.”  In other words, if you know Jesus like I do, then we can work together.  In fact, we must work together.  Because even though we may disagree on some stuff, we are family.

Because we have the Father in Heaven, we are saved by the same Son Jesus Christ, and we are empowered by the same Holy Spirit.

We are family. We are. Today, through Jesus, we are family.  Let’s live like.  Let’s serve like it.  Let’s love like it.

And I know it, I just know it, if we do that, if we live with that life, we will change the world, through Jesus.

Today, let’s be family.

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Who is God?

First, some housekeeping.  I send these reflections out each day as an email.  I’m changing the way that I send them out.  If you’d like to join my new email list, click here.  There were some technical problems last week that I think I should have worked out, all should be good now. Now, on to today’s reflection.

Today’s reading is just one of my favorites in the entire Bible.  I know I say that a lot. But really. This one is.  This is one of those passages that just unlocks everything for us.  Just listen to what it says in Colossians 1: 15-20:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

w8xb3kidzuon5szabbepiflyvnlBoom.  There you go.  That’s it.  Really.  That’s it.  This is one of those passages that is so key.


It tells us who God is.  Wait, what?  Yep.  This passage tells us who God is.  It says this.  Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  If you want to know God, look to Jesus.

Now, we believe in a God that is Three in One.  Trinity.  Triune.  By the way, here’s a link to a great book I’m reading that does as good a job of unpacking the Trinity as anything I’ve ever read.

But, there is something special about Jesus.  In Jesus, we see God’s heart.  We see the love of God.  The mercy of God.  The acceptance of God.  We really see in a special why who God is.  Jesus shows us who God is.

But also, we see this.  We don’t believe in just sort of a “spiritual” God.  Our culture talks a lot about God, but who is this God?  It is the God as shown to us in Jesus.

A God that forgives, but calls us to be holy.  A good that seeks the broken, and calls us all to follow Him.  A God that died for our sins, shows us the depth of His love, and rose from the dead.

A God of the cross.  Of the empty grave.  Of resurrection.  Of the destruction of sin, death, and the grave.

Jesus shows us God’s heart.  But He also shows us exactly who God is.

That’s why I love this passage.  And that’s why it matters.

It answers the question of who is God?

Jesus.  The answer is Jesus.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

The Calm Before the Storm

This week we’ve been walking through what Jesus did each day of Holy Week.  From the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday, Cleansing the Temple on Monday, and then teaching on Tuesday, it’s been a dramatic week.  And so with that, we’d think that Wednesday would be much along the same lines, right?

But, strangely, it’s not.

What happens today?  Silence.

calmb4stormIt’s the calm before the storm.  Some Biblical scholars think that Jesus spent the day with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  It is also thought that today is the day that Judas agrees to betray Jesus.  So, things are happening. Life continues.  But, there is silence.

There is calm.

Because the storm is coming.

The next few days, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, these days are the most important days in the history of the world.  That’s not hyperbole. That’s not just a preacher talking.  That’s truth. What happened the rest of Holy Week changes forever this world, this life, and eternity.  It all changes, starting tomorrow.

But today, silence.  Calm.  The storm is coming.

So, what do we do today, then?  We rest.  We pray.  We reflect.  In a world that is so busy.  So busy with work and play and kids and school and family and responsibility and everything spinning, always spinning, today, we stop.

And reflect.  We remember what He has taught us.  Love.  Pray.  Seek out the lost.  Serve the needy.  Repent.  Follow.  Be salt and light.

And look ahead to what He has done for our sake.

Sometimes, being busy is easy.  We don’t have to think.  Today, take some time to still yourself.  To remember.  To look ahead.  To walk with our God.  And realize, starting tomorrow, everything changes.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

Don’t Admit Defeat!

I’ve heard it said before that there are no coincidences with God. I really believe that. Today is one of those small little moments that make me smile.

At Asbury in my Wednesday night Bible Study, we’ve been walking together through Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It’s been a lot of fun; we take our time; we chase rabbits, we laugh, we enjoy it.

Anyway, we finished chapter 6 last night an I spent a lot of time talking about verse 14. And lo and behold, what is our reading for today, out the Asbury bulletin? Romans 6: 12-14. Pretty cool. Listen to what it says:

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

defeat2For sin will have no dominion over you. That’s a powerful phrase. That’s a powerful thought. Sometimes, most times, we feel as through we are helpless against our sin.

We are going to sin, we are going to fall down, we are going to fail. So why fight it? Why push back? Why try? I mean, it’s going to happen.

That’s what we think. We build in excuses for our failure. We are going to blow it. It’s what we do. We are human. It’s going to happen.

And yes, there is truth to that. We do make mistakes. We blow it. We do fail. But.. . . we don’t need to admit defeat before we start.

I had a friend tell me this, and it’s always stuck with me. Yes, sin is powerful. It is. But, is it more powerful than the blood that was shed upon the cross? Is it more powerful than the resurrection and the empty grave?

No. It’s not. As powerful as your sin is, it’s not more powerful than the power of God. It’s simply not.

You don’t have live under the power of sin anymore. Yes, you will make mistakes. But hear this. Sin doesn’t have to control you anymore. It doesn’t. The power of God is great than the power of sin.

As believers, we can live with no more excuses. We can live in the power of God. Not in the power of sin. We will blow it sure. It happens. But have the power, through the Holy Spirit, to resist.

To fight back. To overcome.

Today, you don’t have to be defeated. You don’t. You can live under the power of God. You can.

Today we can be free.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!