The fourth chapter of Luke describes a scene infamously used by preachers everywhere. Jesus came to the temple in Nazareth as was His habit. He came to speak and was handed the scroll containing Isaiah 61:1-2:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
He said that the scripture was being fulfilled at that very moment. The text announces the mission of the Messiah and by reading it in their hearing, he implied that he was Messiah. They were not inclined to believe that was true. He knew they were looking for miraculous signs like he performed in Capernaum. Then they attempted to become familiar with Him.
Jesus quoted an old proverb: “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
“Truly I tell you,” He continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
This truth remains inviolate and I reflect on it often. I sometimes wonder if my fortune would have been different if I had departed from my home town.
Jesus went on to share historic truth declaring that though there were many widows in Israel, Elijah was sent to a gentile woman. And though there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha but only Naaman the Syrian was cleansed. The implication was that this crowd in Nazareth would miss a blessing because they are out-of-sync with the move of God.
This infuriated the crowd. They forced him out of town and soon reached a cliff where they would have thrown him to his death, but he slipped through the crowd and left. They led him out of town, if they didn’t carry him, but he eluded them all and walked away. I frequently re-tell this story to young people as a way of illustrating the sheer power and restraint [read mercy] of our Lord.
Dear reader, I have encountered many scrapes, fiery interactions and insults but, I’ve never been taken captive by a crowd for the purpose of being violently lynched. If I had, I would be hard pressed to continue with my ministry under that kind of duress.
This is not the worst, nor would it be the last time people would show extreme malice to our Savior. Yet, in spite of all of this, he continued steadfast to die for us. He didn’t quit or return evil for evil.
The last few years have been pivotal as we have seen extraordinary upheaval as a result of the COVID pandemic. So many have experienced so much isolation creating so much desperation and chaos. We must show the kind of resolve that Christ showed even as we plead with the Holy Spirit to assist us
No matter where you look, it seems that the civility, the finesse the restraint that used to characterize public interactions is gone missing. Stuck with so much controversy and angst, I ran across Matthew 18:3
3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
As I look at people in 2022, I begin to wonder whether anyone is interested in humbling themselves. We have arrived at a stage where the notion of people treating each other with grace and civility seems remote. This is said in the backdrop of the pandemic when our bottled up and sequestered crazy birthed in us litters of new crazy, crying and squealing for soothing.
One needs only to catch the news to see the seething anger and contempt across the world. As foretold, nation against nation, brother against brother. Nevertheless, we need not lose hope.
We, the kingdom citizens must again use the mantra that brought about the advent of the dispensation of grace: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Repent means change your thinking and we have been lulled into a conformist mindset with the world. And we, Kingdom Citizens are as angry and resentful as anyone else.
We call ourselves Christian, but do we hold contempt in our hearts for abortionists and/or rights advocates? For the LGBTQ+ community? For the gun toters and militia men? Repent! Change your mind! Our constitution forbids avarice & contempt (see I Cor. 13)
The spirit that allows puffed-up haughtiness and arrogance is not humbled. The word humble derived from the Latin “humus” meaning the ground i.e. clear footing on the ground to understand one’s stature. Jesus insists that we must be brought down to a child’s lowliness that is not pretentious or conformist with the world.
The church must rid itself of pride. If we don’t do it, the next shaking, whether it be COVID or World War will drive carnal Christians out of hiding. Narcissistic, superior, prideful people need not apply. Declarations of people that cannot or will not forgive others who have offended them; your pride, ruthlessness and avarice will be your downfall.
I am learning to deny my flesh its satisfaction, its revenge, its bloodlust. That becomes the price of admission to the Kingdom (Jesus paid it all). Until I rid myself of all of it, I cannot even see the Kingdom. We are called to love mercy in awe of the Divine love that granted us mercy, so undeserved. We are to show mercy wherever in our power to do so. This cannot be done in pride, God gives grace to the humble.
The Word of God is alive, mystic and illustrative. The Holy Spirit inspired it all and through Saint Paul gave us these verses:
Therefore, since we have been justified [that is, acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God] by faith, [let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God [and the joy of reconciliation with Him] through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed). 2 Through Him we also have access by faith into this [remarkable state of] grace in which we [firmly and safely and securely] stand. Let us rejoice in our [a]hope and the confident assurance of [experiencing and enjoying] the glory of [our great] God [the manifestation of His excellence and power]. 3 And not only this, but [with joy] let us exult in our sufferings and rejoice in our hardships, knowing that hardship (distress, pressure, trouble) produces patient endurance; 4 and endurance, proven character (spiritual maturity); and proven character, hope and confident assurance [of eternal salvation]. 5 Such hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.From <https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%205&version=KJV,AMP>
We learn to rejoice in problems and trials and while we learn that it is a process but it is not so enjoyable on its face. We also know that these problems teach us how to wait [without complaint, to quiet our wants and selfish motives ⥤ focus on things outside ourselves]
This tedious patience ≳
this waiting on the Lord≳
This refusal to give up ⥤
This is the aim and goal of character building He employs for our benefit. These tense periods are so difficult that He personally mediates how long they last. His good pleasure is to give us the Kingdom.
All of this brings about experience→ Nothing compares to experience↡ as a change agent
Experience informs pain, tolerance
renders time meaningless
Experience is the difference between fathers, young men and children [I John 2:13]
This is the victory; not strength, nor stamina
Experience provides the ability for patience to flourish; patience begins to wane without reinforcement.
Experience always re-assures that “God is in control”
Experience takes us to the future where hope abides
We dare not lose hope or faith, two invaluable footholds as we make the climb . . .
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. [2 Corinthians 4:8-10]
We praise and thank you for your Almighty power and Omniscient grace that allowed us to see this day . . .
This day when rescuers search for survivors in a South Florida building collapse
This day when several states in the west are experiencing severe heat and desperately need your rain
This day when Derek Chauvin is sentenced – we do not celebrate his guilt or his punishment. We wait in hope that those guilty of similar deeds are convicted by your Spirit and forbidden from doing similar deeds.
This day when political and cultural leaders are in conflict with no real relief in sight.
Lord, let your Spirit move on our country to calm us, and let us see your arm working to work our your will.
This day when there is war, famine and disaster across the world – we beg your mercy and grace in the Name of Jesus. For you mercy endures forever!!
With all the coverage about the Corona Virus, there must be people cowering in fear in China, Italy and various places in between. They like the rest of the world need prayer. Prayer for the knowledge to get past this, prayer for those suffering, prayer for those who are helping and prayer for the anxious.
The disciples asked Jesus “What will be the signs of your return? He told them several signs of his pending return.
|See Luke 21:25-26|
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
Note carefully that previously in verse 21, He said: ‘In your patience possess ye your souls‘ [KJV]. Even with the worldwide audience anxious about the Corona virus, the household of faith cannot allow itself to be thrown off balance by signs in the sky or sea. We are not to be anxious about anything. [Phil. 4:6] as God has made exceedingly great and precious promises for us to hold on to. For such a moment as this, I place before you dear reader, Psalm 91: verses 1-10 from The Passion Translation:
1 When you sit enthroned under the shadow of Shaddai, you are hidden in the strength of God Most High.
2 He’s the hope that holds me and the Stronghold to shelter me the only God for me, and my great confidence.
3 He will rescue you from every hidden trap of the enemy, and he will protect you from false accusation and any deadly curse.
4 His massive arms are wrapped around you, protecting you. You can run under his covering of majesty and hide. His arms of faithfulness are a shield keeping you from harm.
5 You will never worry about an attack of demonic forces at night nor have to fear a spirit of darkness coming against you.
6 Don’t fear a thing! Whether by night or by day, demonic danger will not trouble you, nor will the powers of evil launched against you.
7 Even in a time of disaster, with thousands and thousands being killed, you will remain unscathed and unharmed.
8 you will be a spectator as the wicked perish in judgment, for they will be paid back for what they have done!
9–10 When we live our lives within the shadow of God Most High, our secret hiding place, we will always be shielded from harm. How then could evil prevail against us or disease infect us?
And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people. Exodus 13:20-21
Some programs illustrate life in the desert where heat from the sun poses parching and dehydrating danger to all life. In my imagination, I see the great cloud of His presence, several miles long and miles high creating shadow for the entire lot of Israelites. They doubted him several times while escaping from Egypt, including when they were thirsty, in front of the Red Sea, yet His visible presence, the cloud shone above them, protecting them from the sun. As we near the end of the book of Exodus, we see the glory [Shekinah] descending on the Tabernacle.
In all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey on until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel. Exodus 40:38-40.
There must have been days and times when the travelers thought their journey was taking too long (how long, how long?). Believers have been saying ‘Maranatha’ since the first century A.D. – but when will He return? There must have been distraction in the camp: weapon salesmen, manna burgers, luxury tent sales, waterhole gossip – the resemblance to life today is ironic, so much talk in so many directions that are not forward. Much like that bait ball of fish or the herd of Wildebeest, everyone needs to get in their place for safety. The fish follow the pattern and move in synchrony with the currents in spite of incursions by predators. In fact, when sharks attack, the fish get even tighter!
Sidebar: Christs’ prediction of the end times says “People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken” [Lk 21:26 NLT]. Don’t get distracted and/or fall prey to winds of doctrine.
What the fish don’t do is get frustrated and swim their own separate direction! The cloud lifting is the signal to join in lockstep with the move of God. As the cloud was lifting, there must have been the sound of a horn in the camp signaling people to start folding the tents, gather the livestock, find the children, all preparations must come together. When the cloud lifts . . .
21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: 22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
We are fortunate to live in a time when there is a great deal of nature programming available that showcases the wonder and beauty of creation in all immense glory and meticulous detail. One can imagine what it was like when there were fewer people and larger swaths of unspoiled wilderness. One feature showed an enormous school of anchovies swimming in what is known as a bait bell, swirling as does a storm. The swirl is huge and as predators look to attack, all they can see is the huge swirl of fish bodies. The fish swim within the swirl where they are protected by reason of sheer number. This is the similar behavior of herds of wildebeest. As long as they are in the flow of the movement, they are following their destiny. Psalm 91 is rich with promises and provisions given to believers. Verse 1 provides one of the main conditions under which the ensuing promises are met. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty”; that is, as one remains in His presence – presumably close enough to be in His shadow, all of the conditions for the promises will be met.
Clouds are symbolic of several things in scripture as Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains: https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/cloud they are so amazing and beautiful that we must continue this study soon.