“When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer.”
I needed that service last night. Good Friday. Simply remembering, no big show, just recounting the passion story. Every time the story is read and you are made to ponder, Jesus’ greatness overwhelms you.
One thing that really caught my attention last night is how Jesus doesn’t suffer fools. He didn’t come to perform for or try to please the silly curiosities of game players like Herod.
Herod was a pompous man. He was wealthy, corrupt and he was a religious poser. He had John the Baptist’s head cut off for a promise he made after a drunken dance.
When Jesus was brought to him he wanted to see a show, some miraculous sign. Jesus was a curiosity for him.
I’ll bet if Jesus would have performed he would of been set free. Jesus could have had Herod eating out of his hand, he could have healed a cripple, made the sky rain specks of gold dust, knocked everyone down with Holy Spirit power - - a first century Pentecostal revival.
But no. Jesus came for a serious purpose. He came to die so we would have peace with God. He did not come to entertain and impress the mockers, give them a good time.
Never did Jesus throw his pearls before swine. And never did Jesus veer off course from his Father’s will just so people would like him.
He was about the business of important things. He procured forgiveness for us all. He came to conquer death.
Why didn’t Jesus wait 2,000 more years when technology could have transmitted his miracles and messages via YouTube? He could have been a rockstar, writing songs that packed large auditoriums? He could have won The Voice or American Idol and then the world would have really been impressed?
He didn’t do those things because he is not a game player. He doesn’t need fame, riches or popularity. He doesn’t even need smiling Joel Osteen to promote him.
You are the one who needs him. You need his substitutionary payment, you need to be saved from hell even if The Pope doesn’t believe in it anymore. There are far more important things than being happy, entertained and impressed. There is eternity at stake.
When he comes back the real show will begin. The one we have all been waiting for. The pomp and circumstances of his Kingdom will arrive. The brightness of his glory will overtake and dispel all the shadows of the earth. Sin will be abolished and obliterated.
But until that day comes we as the church need to quit playing games, trying to impress the world by their standards. When we are mocked by fools we need to remain quiet. When they want a bigger and better show we need to stop trying so hard.
We need to tell people the simple gospel message through relationships. Person to person. We need to help people find peace with a holy God.
I find the more sincere we are the more people will listen. We should quit trying to compete just to impress the important. Let’s love small people again!
The one person who did nothing wrong, paid for all of my wrongs. And there are too many to count. I should be better at so much: A husband, a father, a pastor, a brother, a son. I am all of these and I fail.
As a husband I haven’t loved my wife enough. Said the wrong things at the wrong times. Sat on the couch too much and too long. Demanded many things in simmering anger.
As a father I have been lazy and lax. I haven’t taught and trained like I should. I have gotten mad when I should have listened. I can't get the years back.
As a pastor I definitely don’t pray nearly enough. I preach at times to perform. I like to be liked.
As a brother I don’t keep in contact. I slip in, wave, hug and slip out.
As a son...the list is too long.
And then I read in Psalm 69:4 one line that stops my heart. I am overwhelmed everytime I read it. It makes no sense:
“What I (Jesus) did not steal must I (Jesus) now restore?”
This is the cross. A payment for my failure. At every point I have stumbled, fell, rebelled and willfully sinned, Jesus paid for it.
It makes no sense.
Why would he do this? Why did he let me go free? I failed. I keep failing, and I always will.
The only thing I can figure is John 14:3, “I (Jesus) will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Jesus wants to be with me.
And the cross was the only way.
It makes no sense, but I accept.
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” (C. S. Lewis)
There are some thoughts that are so sublime, so lofty in scope and substance, we must keep reaching toward them in wonder. If we can grasp just a speck, a sliver of true understanding, we will be far better people for it. This particular quote by C.S. Lewis from “The Weight of Glory” is just the kind of vaunted ideal that set my heart aflame the first time I read and considered it.
Glory, what is it really? I think the best definition I have heard is that Glory is God’s beautiful heaviness that will be shared with us; we are the hidden immortals.
Immortals, kept from decay and deterioration, we will one day be shining like a star in the sky. When Jesus gave Peter, James and John a quick peek of his Glory on the mount of transfiguration it is said by Luke in 9:29, “his appearance was like a bolt of lightning.” Think on that. Stop, ponder it...we will share in it. That is why Lewis says, “There are no ordinary people...we joke with, work with, marry, snub everlasting splendors.” This is what he means - - the average Joe is not nor ever will be just average. He will be a person arrayed in lightning.
If that same average Joe was to reject the Gospel his immortality is to become a “horror.” Isaiah 66:24 says of him, “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
The greatness of Glory is juxtaposed against the ravages of condemnation. They both are possible states of existence maintained eternally for every individual who presently walks the earth.
As it is now, we see through a glass darkly.
If you are destined for Glory, someday you will walk upon this earth as a god. Both invincible, heavy, and beautiful. Charles Spurgeon once taught that when you have the strength of an immortal, you will be able to rip a tree from the soil, trunk and roots in all. If I saw you now as eternally you will be then I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes off you. I would be held spellbound marveling at your splendor. However, if you are destined for wrath, and you could be seen today as you will be, my heart would be ripped apart in pity over your loathsome condition. Twisted and broken, an object of scorn.
If this is to be true, which the holy scriptures confirm, Lewis is right when he says we need to take each other much more seriously than we presently do. People in general, don’t seem to matter to each other. We casually cast each other off as either a nuisance or use them as a distraction to pass the boredom of the day. People have become to us irritants or play things. We fail to consider the enormity of what future possibilities we encounter daily with each person we meet.
But let heaven in and look with eyes opened to new possibilities. Daily we are given the unique opportunity to affect the future radiance of an immortal. Or maybe through kindness and care we can help a monster heading for the terrors of hell to awaken and be rescued from himself?
Do you believe Glory will really be this heavy? Or are you wasting precious time playing around with trivial matters that mean relatively nothing? Do you really believe you are walking among gods and monsters? Or just ordinary humans?
I heard the craziest thing from a pastor two weeks ago, he said the reason we stop and look at mirrors and play with selfies is because we want to catch a glimmer of the Glory that we will be. I think he’s right. My sister would accuse me of looking at my reflection in the car window, and she was right. Each time I look at me I see something more that can be, will be. An immortal. More than just a chiseled jaw, flawless skin, I see eternal possibilities. I love how 2 Corinthians 4:16 puts it, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”
That inner self is the germ of immortality. Just a seed. That soon will die, sown perishable but raised imperishable, sown mortal but raised in immortality! I can’t wait. More than ordinary.
Will the real Zombies please stand up?
The bell-curve for zombie interest is trending on the downward slope. People have had their fill of watching these mindless monsters wander aimlessly through tv show after tv show and movie after movie with no purpose and no clear direction. It’s becoming boring. We all know the script, zombies are stupid and ravenously hungry for human flesh, biting down on a nice juicy tender muscle, licking spilled blood on a metal fence, because they need it and want nothing else in order to live - - no thinking at all, they exist to eat. Like cows in a green field, they offer no compelling reason to watch.
But for some reason, zombies still fascinate me. It isn’t the blood and gore that draws me in, it is the power of the zombie mob. Which human will keep their right mind and survive the mounting flood of the dead? The beauty of the apocalypse is that it brings out the best and worst in people, and it is always a tragedy when a kind thinking rational soul is bitten, joining forever the soulless zombie horde.
This same storyline is also playing out in the fabric of everyday life.
Look around, unthinking and persuasive mob-rule is everywhere. Like zombies, the popular consensus wants to stifle free thought. Daily the zombies encircle the regular guy, trying to convince them to join them, give up independence and personal convictions that are obtained through rational thinking, and follow the mindless crowd. Zombies never stop.
Even I once was part of the zombie mob. I was reminded of this last Saturday because St. Patrick’s Day weekend was in full swing - - it is one of those times when zombies come out in full force. Green beer is flowing and drunken kisses are expected to be shared in every major city and on many college campuses. After drinking one or two plastic cups of the Irish brew, every color of the racial spectrum miraculously turns kelly green. I know when I was in college, I was convinced that the blood of shamrocks and leprechauns flowed through me too. Join in, drink up, and have fun.
Some readers may call me a killjoy, telling me to lighten up, let us have our beer and enjoy. I have no problem if you want to party, drink and the kiss complete strangers, don’t get me wrong...all I am saying is that St. Patrick Day celebration is one of the clearest examples of how mob rule is at work. The man with face painted green and pint of Guinness in hand wonders, “Why wouldn’t everyone want to join us? I wish the whole world was Irish? Cheers!” There is this incredulous wonder at the person who does not want to join in, the zombie actually believes it is not rational for failure to join in with the virus of Irish intoxication.
It works the same way with political correctness. Last week my kids felt enormous pressure to leave their high school class with the rest of the students on March 14th to march against the proliferation of guns and the supposed negative influence of the NRA. Just because some Florida students are being used by our click-bait media circus to demand legislative action concerning complicated discussions on assault rifles, my kids are now expected to join in the unfettered emotion of the unthinking mob too. I know of one student who joined the march just to be nice and show support without having any idea what was actually being debated.
It doesn’t end, zombies will demand you join in with every cool cultural trend, every public LGBTQX, Black Lives Matter, and intersectional issue that floats down the river of tolerance. Zombies love thinking they are unique and courageous for standing on the popular bandwagon so they have decided to give each other awards, medals and pats on the back when they all begin thinking alike. And if you dare swim against the current, you are to be silenced and shamed. And God forbid if you ever say one nice thing about Donald Trump, that is clear cause for you to have your head and arm and leg bitten off. Zombies will bite! And they bite hard.
The greatest hoax of mob rule is when they sneer at authentic Christianity and Christians claiming that most adherents to "backward traditional religion" are “brainwashed and dangerous xenophobes who can’t think for themselves.” Cool trendy leaders who have left the Christian fold are the quickest to be bit by zombie-think. They believe they are the only ones who are actually “thinking for themselves” when in truth, they are once again following the undead horde. Zombies are always calling the kettle black.
Who are the real zombies wandering the earth, without purpose and clear direction? Who cannot tolerate non-compliance? Who wants to force people to think and behave just like them?
It isn’t the person with faith. It isn’t the man or women working hard and just wants to be left alone. It isn’t the mom who is trying to raise young kids at home. It is those who want you to join them in mindless social change...and if you don’t look out - - CHOMP!
One year ago I was invited by my brother Don to come to his church in West Virginny and be the preacher for "Revival Week". I never preached at a revival before, especially at an old baptist church that was nestled on the brown river banks of Little Fudge Creek. I was a city slicker, so in fear and trepidation I did my best to study up on a culture I really knew nothing about. I had nightmares for weeks about handling snakes!
So to get ready I researched every topic I could find on "How to have Revival." Revival by definition means to be restored to full strength, to be awakened and brought back to life. In church lingo, revival can mean many different things to many differenct denominations and traditions:
* Pentecostal Churches see revival as a unique miraculous outpouring work of the Holy Spirit. Tongues, healings and new prophetic messages are signs of great works of God happening in the midst of the congregation. So enthusiasm, emotion and "Holy Rolling" are sought after and hunted for. And if you can get gold specks to fall from the sky, revival has arrived!
* Evangelical Churches see revival as the supernatural spread of the gospel to the lost. An evangelist, like Billy Graham or Luis Palau, comes to town and declares the gospel seeking for new converts to Christ. Revival is when large numbers of the lost are persuaded to come into the fold of God. Revival work is both a work of God and the orchastrated and advertised work of man.
* Holiness and more contemplative churches see revival as the deepening of inner spirituality, where prayer and mystical union with Christ takes a more prominent role in the life of a Christian. Estatic experiences, visions, complete denial of the flesh are sought after, "New Light" shines upon the soul of a believer, and the beauty of God fills the heart and mind. Revival happens when people think about nothing else but God. It is a very individualistic experience. This type of revival was prominant in the early history of American Christianity. After preachers, like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards would speak, people would swoon and be caught up in heavinly trances for days, weeks and sometimes months. This kind of personal mystical union was a normal way of seeing a revived faith. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes his wife, "She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure. . . . She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have some one invisible always conversing with her." Sadly, New England territories who were the first to swoon after these experiences where also the first leave Christianity altogether.
* Market-Driven, Mega-Church, Prosperity Christianity sees revival as having "Your Best Life Now", as Joel Osteen would say. If you can "Name It and Claim It" and then have it come true for you, revival has occurred. Want a new house, a new car, a new job, a new spouse? Walk forward in confident faith believing and you will receive, and then be excited to rejoice in God's material blessing being showered upon you. Now that is my kind of revival! Too bad I live in Kent City, must mean I don't have enough faith?
So, after studying and thinking and praying on all these possiblities, I still was a little fuzzy about what revival actually was. I value authenticity and not contrived religion (That is why Joel Osteen and his plastic smile often find the bottom of my circular file in my office). I hate it when people try to conjure, like a magician, an experience just to feel something that is nothing more than shifting shadows and tingling skin. I have seen too many actors in my day who cry at church and then swear at home. Or fraternity brothers who took communion during mass on Sunday and got drunk and partied Monday through Saturday. What would real revival look like for them?
What does the Bible say about it?
Well, there is no direct mention of a large church revival or a list of definate evidences we must check for in the life of a community to definately say "God is at work!" The truth is, God works in a myriad of ways. Psalm 85:6 uses the word "revive" to describe a new condition of the soul, but it has more to do with God no longer being angry than it does the person experiencing some fresh exciting outworking of God's miraculous power.
But there is something I found in my study of 1 Peter that may offer one more insight on those who are seeking answers on how God revives a soul. I am not sure you will like it, in fact I find that very that few ever talk about. Listen to 1 Peter 4:12-13:
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you."
Did you listen closely to that language? You can receive God's blessing, where his glory comes to rest upon you and will be revealed in you! Now that sounds like revival to me. But what needs to happen for that to occur? Herein lies the problem, you won't like it:
- fiery trial
- sharing in Christ's sufferings
- being insulted for Christ's name
I hate that list! You mean if I am going to be blessed I need to suffer? Wait, hold on, stop the religious presses...this will not sell. No one will sign up for this. Fiery trial? You have got to be kidding me?
No, I don't think God is.
I was talking with a friend that will remain nameless, and he put it like this "Why are some people so on fire in their walk with Jesus? Because they have walked through the fire and found Jesus walking with them." If you look at all the other lists trying to describe what a revival is, much of it is based on contrived emotional experiences. And we all know how long emotions last? As long as the sun is shining - - but once the cloud comes - -the smile turns to a frown and we believe God has somehow left us.
But Peter says it is precisely in the cloud where we meet God.
When I look back on my life I have found over and over again it was suffering that revealed that which was genuine. Murry Potes, an elder at our church, died last year as he battled some of the worst cancer I ever saw a person battle. He said in the middle of his struggle, "I have never loved Jesus so much." My dad really came to Christ when he lost his job for acting Christian. The strongest married couples in our church are often the couples who almost got divorced and asked God to save them.
When I turned 40 I bought a journal to track my relationship with God. Hey, I figured that when a person turns 40 it means life is now heading downhill so I better figure this thing called life out. So in my quest for God I wrote this in the first few pages of my journal, "I want to know what it really, really means to have a relationship with you. It is a very nice thing to talk about; but to experience - - that is what I want." In other words I wanted revival.
Two pages later I have this written, "My dearest Father died."
A year later on my 41st birthday my entry reads, "You have carried me through the tough obstacles, the impossible obstacles - - and God, you have made me better for it. I know I am a desperately needy man. I know I don't pray like I should, nor do I serve others the way I should. My bible time is lacking. I watch far too much television, my joy isn't reflexisively turned toward you. And yet, there you are!"
What is revival? I am not sure I want to tell you. You wont like me for it. So have a good day.