Archive | February, 2012

Bet Shean

20 Feb

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. (Romans 1:16a KJV)

   A group of tourists follow their guide up a long trail to the top of a hill. As they walk, they see remnants of a Roman road which led to Nazareth and pieces of pottery – all signs of a civilization from long ago. Some wonder if this is all they will see. Others anticipate more to come. The top of the hill is reached, and below the group is an impressive archaeological find – an ancient Roman city known as Bet Shean.

   Tourists to this site can see columns, an amphitheatre, homes, all sorts of buildings being unearthed and painstakingly pieced back together. Many of the places discovered are examples of the perversion that permeated the Roman culture, a culture that had self-indulgence at the core of its being. Here was a city that, because of its location in Israel, was influencing all who passed through it as well as those who lived there. Bet Shean, “The House Somewhere There,” was a place where one could engage in the worldly pleasures of the city, then hypocritically return to his/her Jewish customs, or choose to take a stand and live solely for God.

   No place is this clearer in the excavations than in a bathhouse that was used for selfish pleasure. A special niche in a wall has been uncovered. On this niche a faded red cross was discovered. It is surmised that possibly a Christian slave under Roman captivity painted this cross on the wall as a silent witness to the Lord Jesus and the power that enables one to live for Him even in the midst of such decadence.

   Bet Shean stands today as a reminder of the influence of the world on Christians. The choices are still the same – a life for self or for God, empowered by self or by El-Shaddai.

   As a singer stands on the stage of the amphitheatre below the tour group, The Lord’s Prayer is sung and heard by those seated as well as by some of the groups touring the other buildings. The singer’s voice gives words to this silent witness of a slave’s painted cross:

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen (Matthew 6:13b KJV)

   The singer and the slave have joined to testify that the only kingdom that will not crumble, will not be full of self, will not have to be pieced back together – the only kingdom worth living for – is the kingdom of El-Shaddai, the One who is our all-powerful God.

EXILED!

7 Feb

Ezekiel was exiled in Babylon. He was a priest, a minister, yet because of the sin of King Jehoaichin and the rebellion of the Israelites, he was sent away with them to Babylon – exiled until further notice.

 

The purpose of an exile is to bring shame on the person or persons for their actions, to separate them from the life they’ve known, to make them captives. Not a pleasant experience to be in by any stretch of the imagination.

 

When you feel shame, you usually don’t want to be around people. You want to hide. When you’ve been separated from the only life you’ve known, you tend to want to go back to your old life, discontent with your current lot. When you’re captive, you can’t do anything but stay where you are…trapped, seemingly forgotten, apparently useless to those you once served, enslaved to your new ruler.

 

But Ezekiel did not let himself be a victim of his circumstances. He was still a priest, though his location changed. And while he was being a priest in exile, four incredible things happened to him.

 

  1. He saw God (Ezekiel 1:1);
  2. God spoke expressly to him (vs.3);
  3. God’s power, strength, and assistance were available to Ezekiel, even in exile (vs.3)
  4. God sent Him as a prophet to the Israelites (2:3)

 

This encourages me. Too often I will see my circumstances of what I consider “exile” as a sentence to be put on the shelf, forgotten, never to hear His voice or experience His power again, never to be used by the Lord again. But circumstances do not have to keep me from fellowship with Him or ministering to people. He can still reach me where I am. He can still speak to me. He can still empower me to live for Him where I am. And He can send me out or keep me there with a new focus for what He wants me to do.

 

In exile? Don’t be a victim. Continue to spend time with the Lord and serving others where you are. You might be surprised at what you learn of Him and where He directs you.

Breathtaking

1 Feb

It all started with one breathtaking statement. John the Baptist is with two of his disciples. He sees Jesus walking by and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:35). In all likelihood, these same disciples had heard him make the same proclamation earlier regarding Jesus, but adding the astounding qualifier, “…Who takes away the sin of the world” (vs.29).

  • When John spoke the word “behold,” it was as if he was breathless from what he knew of Jesus. He had literally seen the Spirit of God descend from heaven and rest on Jesus – his cousin! That event and family tie in and of themselves would be breathtaking!
  • But he also knew that Jesus’ life was spotless, just like the sacrificial lamb was to be for the atonement of sin (vs.30-34). He was declaring that this blameless Son of God was going to die for sin! Breathtaking!
  • Not only was He going to die, but His death would take away the sin of the world! One sacrifice for all people for all time. No need for yearly sacrifices of atonement. A blow your mind, take your breath away statement!

So amazed by this statement were John’s disciples that they started to follow Jesus. He turned around and asked them what they wanted. “Where are You staying?” They wanted to know where He lived, where He lived life, HOW He lived life. Jesus gave the invitation, “Come, and see.” Simply breathtaking!

After a day of being in His presence, Andrew (one of the two) wanted to find his brother to tell him about Jesus. He declared Jesus to be the Messiah, the Anointed One, the King to his brother Simon. Andrew had put two and two together. The Lamb of God John had pointed out, was the Son of God, who was the Messiah! He had spent the day with the Messiah! He had to share it. This was breathtaking news.

Simon came with Andrew to meet Jesus. With one look, Jesus changed Simon’s life forever. Simon was now going to be called Cephas (Peter). Jesus saw in Peter that he could be a rock, a stabilizer, a foundation-builder. Though he was not there yet, Jesus knew that in Him (Jesus) and by the Spirit of God, Peter would become such a man. He gave Peter new purpose for living. I can only imagine that Peter left Jesus that day with breathtaking excitement over what his future would be.

But it all started with one breathtaking statement: “Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!”

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