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Singing with the King 2.1 – The Lost Art of Selah

I had a professor who had a great saying: “Let the music sing you.” In other words, let the art move you, speak through you. There is no need for you to bring meaning, it already has its own.

Even though we don’k know the actual meaning of Selah, it is safe to assume it is a musical term, since it is only found within lyrics. The New Living Translation takes a bold step by translating it as Interlude. So buried within the Psalms, David and the other Psalmists ask us to pause a moment from the words and let the music carry you.

Unfortunately we live in a time when letting the music carry us is usually obliterated by a worship leader or praise team singer inserting an unrelated phrase like “Thank You Jesus,” or “Praise You Jesus.” Now there is nothing wrong with praising Jesus or thanking Jesus, but is that what the song was saying? Is that what the song wants us to ponder? Probably not, but people standing before the congregation just can’t let an instrumental interlude slip by without inserting some sort of vocal interruption.

Now I can hear the objections; “But the Spirit was moving me to sing there.” But what if He wanted you to listen, to ponder. Let’s face it, few of us are not very good at “Being still.” Especially in the middle of a song. But isn’t stillness part of worship? Cannot God speak in ways other than words?

There are 74 occurrences of the this word in the OT, 71 of them in the Psalms and 3 in Habakkuk—who knew, Habakkuk! (Well, I didn’t know.) I would encourage you to look up an occurrence of the word, and examine the context. Where does the interlude fall within the song? What preceded it? Is there something there we need to be still and ponder?

Psalm 3 is brief, but there are three occurrences of Selah in eight verses. What is God saying between the words? Think about it.

Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lordand he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude

I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side. Arise, O Lord Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! Victory comes from you, O LordMay you bless your people. Interlude

Singing with the King 2.0

When I started this blog a few years back, it pretty much was the recipient of all my theological-faith-writing-chops. Then a couple of years into it and I became an interim pastor at a Church in town, which morphed into a part-time-every-week-teaching pastor thing.

Needless to say, working on a sermon every week has taken over my theological-faith-writing-chops. And for those of you who to whom I have failed to deliver, I apologize. Hence Singing with the King 2.0.

It will be a lot shorter, there will be no fancy artwork or germane music to tie it all together. Sometimes finding the right picture, or the right song. took as much time as the writing. So for the time being, you’re stuck with just my musings, meditations, and meanderings, as we seek to worship the King.

What I write will be what the Lord brought into my path that day. So for this Sunday, it’s Psalm 62:1-2.

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Have you ever tried to wait in silence for God alone?

Waiting in silence is just one word in the Hebrew and it can mean both silence and rest. Now I gotta admit that waiting in silence does not play to my strengths. I have an over-active imagination, random thoughts just pop into my brain, distractions abound, and many other aspects of my life overwhelm me and keep me from waiting in silence. And focusing ONLY on Him, there’s a whole ‘nother challenge.

But when you look at what David was in the middle of when he wrote this, I am seriously put to shame:

How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. (3-4)

Attack, batter, thrust down, speaking lies and cursing. All in a day in the life of a king. So what’s my excuse? Mine’s more drama than trauma.

We learn from David that waiting in silence for God alone has nothing to do with the conflict with his enemies, and everything to do with his commitment to his Lord. His love for God was more important that his personal safety. And we are reminded that the battle belongs to the Lord, as does our salvation.

Father, each me to “Be still and know that you are God.” Amen.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 43

spilled wine43. Wine & Myrrh

Then they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it. (Mark 15:22)

Much of the crucifixion narrative is not recorded here in Mark. So to get the entire landscape of what went on, it is necessary to walk through all the Gospels. But here, just before Christ is nailed to the cross, they offer Him a drink of wine mixed with myrrh.

Apparently this concoction was used to dull the senses. But Christ chose not to drink this. He chose to be fully aware of all the sins of the world that were clinging to Him. He would be conscious of each and every sin ever committed by mankind. He would feel the pain and heartache of everyone of those sins.

Do you understand why it was necessary for the Son of God to die?  No one else could fathom the length, breadth and depth of these accumulated and concentrated sins; and no one else could identify them individually—the sins and the sinners. He knows your sins—each sin, every sin—so when He stood before His Father in heaven He could say: I died for his sins. I died for her sins. He died for your sin.

Now the question is: Are we fully conscious of our own sins? Or is there some sort of variation of the wine and myrrh that is a regular part of our diet? Is there something clouding your understanding Who Christ is?

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 46

46. Cursed and Redeemed

freeChrist redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Gal 3:13-14)

Christ redeemed us. There are only four occurrences of this particular Greek word. The three other passages are:

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)

So, we were redeemed from the curse of the Law to receive blessing and promise; we were redeemed unto adoption; we are to redeem our time; and we are redeem opportunities to witness to those around us. The Greek word for redeemed is exagorazo, which means to be bought out of the marketplace. When Christ redeems us, it is not simply a purchase or a ransom; rather, it is to purchase you and me for something (a blessing and promise, and being adopted); and when we redeem time—or an opportunity—we are being a good steward and a good witness.

But let’s stick to the context of the Greek her in this verse. Christ has obviously redeemed us from the marketplace of sin. We were slaves on the sales block—He bought us and made us sons and daughters.

But what about the marketplace from which we redeem time? What marketplace is that? Maybe it’s just the marketplace of life. We run through life at breakneck speeds, moving from one emergency to another. How often to we make time for the truly important things? Our Father knows we are busy—too busy.

That’s why He has given to us these two priorities:

  • The first is rather general, and therefore we need to rely on the wisdom He has given us: to redeem the things of life. And here’s where the Intentional Living verse comes in handy: Figure out what pleases Christ, then do it. There’s the answer for the Ephesians 5 passage; the answer to how we are to redeem our time.
  • The second is more specific. We are to redeem the opportunity to share Christ with others. Remember,  those who are lost are still slaves—as you once were—in the marketplace of sin, and you have an opportunity to show them how to be set free.

As Jesus Himself said: So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36) Free to redeem our days, and free to proclaim Christ’s redemption to those who are lost.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 42

42. Whose Law?

Jesus and Pilate5

So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.”  (John 19:6)

Pilate knew the Jews wanted His death, now he knew how much: to crucify Him. Crucify is found only in the New Testament, and it was first used by Christ to prophecy the kind of death He would die. The next time the words appear was when the chief priests and crew cried out for His crucifixion.

As far as these court proceedings, Pilate had determined His rightful innocence and saw no reason for His death, at least under Roman law. This Gentile, although unable to stick to his conviction and ruling, did what the Jewish court could not. He pronounced Christ innocent. He did not see Jesus as a threat to his authority, nor to the authority of Rome. This was some sort of religious squabble within the Jewish community.

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” (John 19:7)

Note: the charge had changed, the other shoe had dropped. We learn specifically in Luke that Christ was first accused by the Jews for sedition. And for that Pilate had made his ruling: not guilty. So then came their real reason, their real motivation for coming to Pilate. Christ had claimed to be the Son of God; and that was interpreted by the Jews as blasphemy. Not knowing if the accusation was true or not, Pilate opened himself up to be maneuvered into sentencing Christ the way the Jews wanted.

It was no longer about Roman law, it was about Jewish law—Jewish religious law. From a cultural perspective, Pilate would have no expertise from which to make such a ruling. But from a political perspective, He had to make a ruling. But the question here is: Why would he have to? It should have been irrelevant. One could easily make more room in the Roman Pantheon of god’s for this minor Hebrew God. But it was a much bigger deal for the Jews.

Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid; and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:8-11)

Pilate’s fear grew. He was running out of options, and his commitment to do the right thing was overwhelmed by the commitment of the Jews to get rid of Christ once and for all.

The Greek word for fear is phobeos and has to do with getting out of Dodge—or rather, Jerusalem. Pilate wanted to flee, to fly away; but he could not.

His authority obviously held no sway over the convictions of the Jews—his not guilty sentence was ignored.

His political maneuvering obviously didn’t work either—the Jews chose Barabbas over Jesus.

His wife’s warning didn’t work.

Nor did further political negotiations work.

As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12)

As we had seen earlier, Pilate was the one who had given Christ the title of “King of the Jews”. What he heard from the lips of Christ and His “otherworldly kingdom” posed little threat to Rome. The Jewish leaders, on the other hand, took this as a threat and forced it into a Roman context.

“If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar”. I find it interesting that this politico-religious body way outside the Roman culture should know just who is and who is not a friend to Caesar. But just the reference was enough to drag Pilate back to the Jew’s version of reality.

Everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar. The Jews would not let this rest. Pilate picked the name King of the Jews, and the Pharisees picked the fight; and they made sure this was a fight they would win.

Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. (John 19:13-16)

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 41

41. Check Your Hearing

Child listeningJesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37-38)

Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.

The question that must be asked: Do you hear His voice? If you do, then you are of the Truth. If not, then you are not of the Truth. And with Christ using the word everyone, this is a sweeping statement and stands as an insurmountable wall, which separates those who hear from those who do not; those who are of the truth from those who are of the lie.

We’ve seen the Greek word for everyone before; and it is most often translated as all. So one could just as easily say: All who are of the truth; and we find that the inclusive nature of Christ’s statement continues to stand.

Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice, is a proclamation made by the Living Christ, the Son of God, that we must grapple with. He does not leave us any wiggle room. There’s no way you can say this declaration does not apply to you. You either hear, or you don’t hear.

Hear in Greek is not just the physical ability to audibly hear; it also has within its meanings understanding, perceiving, to consider, and to learn. But we cannot allow this to be merely a simple hearing test or an intellectual exercise. The proof of the hearing is in the doing:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. ( Matthew 7:21)

But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. (Luke 8:15)

But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:21)

So what is it we hear? His voice. Do you understand, do you realize what an awesome blessing and privilege you’ve been given to hear His voice?

There is probably not a more beautiful sound than the voice of our Savior. And its beauty is two-fold: the actual sound of His voice, and what He is saying.

Think of the most beautiful song that you know. Is it beautiful because of the music? The one singing it? Or the words? Such is the voice of our Lord. The Person, the performance and the point, all come together to fill our need and satisfy our soul.

But when we hear Him now, in this place, before Pontius Pilate, I should think the sorrow in the song is overwhelming. Our hearts will be broken, to the point where it is almost too great to hear or bear. And yet in the midst of His sorrow, His suffering, His sacrifice, His separation, His torment, His torture, and being crushed by the sins of the world, He speaks to you.

There is a warning in Hebrews which appears over and over: Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. (Hebrews 3:7, 15; 4:7) So the question is: when you heard His voice, did you also hear with your heart? Or did you harden your heart against it.

And finally, note the incredible work that has been accomplished in your life: Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. (John 5:25) Hearing and responding to the Truth has brought you from death to life. What else did Jesus say about the Truth? It will set you free!

What God Gave Up for Lent Day – 45 (Good Friday)

And divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take. (Mark 15:24)

casting lots

The last of the worldly possessions of Christ, and they conduct a raffle.

Lots. Something as simple as a game of chance. Rolling the dice. Who would win the robe of Christ. Once again we miss the point. We get distracted. Here is The One Who can give to us eternal life; and we’re playing games of chance. At the foot of the cross, they’re casting lots to see who’s going to win some stained and worn out garments; failing to recognize that we can be clothed in something that will last forever!

For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:2-4)

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27)

Rolling dice—or casting lots—is not a wise thing to do when your eternal soul hangs in the balance. Do not place your eternal welfare into the hands of chance. Be intentional. Choose Christ.

I never knew until today the phrase, “My lot in life”, comes out of the practice of casting lots. Now there are examples of godly Jews and Christians practicing this, but the outcome was in the hands of the LORD.

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. ( Prov 16:33)

Thus Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. Then he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the Matrite family was taken. And Saul the son of Kish was taken; but when they looked for him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired further of the LORD, “Has the man come here yet?” So the LORD said, “Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage.” So they ran and took him from there, and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king! (1 Sam 10:20-24)

So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:23-26)

The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. (Psalm 16:5) Another way to read this is: You hold my lot.

Now the problem with these guys casting lots at the foot of the cross is common with every false worshiper: it is a practice for which they have seen godly people perform, but for them, it provides the opportunity to cast off blame (e.g.- the decision was made by the gods). Now we all have our reasons, our justifications, and our excuses for what we do, and we can even claim ignorance at times, but none of these hollow rationalizations will stand before The One True God.

But back to the soldiers casting lots; it was actually the fulfillment of prophecy, as found in Psalm 22:18. They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.

The Greek word for casting has several definitions. Most are what you would expect—like the physical act of throwing something. But another translations has to do with lying sick or lying paralyzed. This is an appropriate description for those who are playing games at the foot of the cross. How many of us could come to Christ for healing, but we don’t even know that we are sick?

So what’s the outcome of this passage? One soldier won some raggedy, bloody clothes. Now I suppose they would have had great value in the indulgence market; but like indulgences, they are only a distraction. They all walked away from The One Who could clothe them with new life.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. ( Gal 3:27)

Don’t play games. Don’t walk away. Embrace The One Who can give you eternal life.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 40

40. God’s Truth

light reveals1Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37-38)

Say correctly is just one word in the Greek. Most of the time it is translated as some form of say. But this is not speaking for the sake of being heard; rather it is an affirmation and exhortation; and one that is done aloud. It is not just a nodding of the head, nor is it words without a point. It is a declaration of your position. And what Pilate affirmed was that Christ was a king.

Jesus gives the reason why He was born. It is not to be King; rather it is to testify to the Truth. Boy if that isn’t counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, I don’t know what is. See the statement again: “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.” Even though being the King of kings is His birthright as the Son of God, it was not His purpose as the Son of Man, at least not yet. He is King, He shall be King, but why was he born in a manger in Bethlehem? To testify to the Truth.

For this I have been born. Literally, He became flesh, He was born of Mary. Metaphorically, the word for being born in the Jewish mindset has to do with converting. It also has to do with us becoming His sons through faith in Christ (i.e.—being born again).

For this I have come into the world. Come has to do with making an appearance; to be public. But it also has to do with arriving, and Jesus’ arrival was truly from heaven to earth. This is huge.

For those among us who are more driven and intentional, we can say that we were born for this or that. You were born to lead. You were born to be a musician. You were born to be a doctor. You were born to be a missionary. And on you could go. But, none of us can say for this we have come into the world. Our existence has solely been in this world. When we were conceived we were in this world. One day, for those who love Jesus, we will no longer be in this world. Indeed we can say this world is not our home; we are citizens of heaven. But now, today, we have known nothing other than this world.

But Jesus has come outside this world. He came from Heaven to earth. He came from the perfect to the fallen. He stepped from eternity into time and space. He moved from creator to created; from Son of God to Son of Man; from ever-present and all-powerful to finite flesh and bones.

To testify to the truth. Testify could just as easily be translated as witness. And it is where we get our word martyr. We must not miss this. Christ died for the proclaiming this inconvenient (and absolute) truth.

The history behind the word truth is revealing (pun intended). In the Greek is has the prefix a- (which is negative, as it is in English) and the root word is lanthano which means to be hidden or escape notice. So with the negative prefix it then means not to be hidden and not to escape notice. Christ has come to reveal the hidden, and to ensure that it does not escape notice. Also more attributes are exposed in its use: it speaks to its objectivity, its certitude, and its universal application. Certainly a far cry from what truth has become in our culture.

That’s the danger of religion. It buries the truth in tradition and dilutes it so that it is no longer relevant, submerging it in ritual.

But it’s also the danger of the unregenerate life. Truth is merely a personal tool, to be used when convenient, but then to cast off for another, when what’s new fits one’s current worldview better. The world needs to have truth hidden and to escape its notice, because only then can personally manufactured truth stand.

How important is truth to God?

Christ has just spent the whole night in a mockery of a trial, where there was no truth offered, none was heard; and when they finally and only heard the Truth from Christ’s own lips, they called it blasphemy. And that’s how they were able to protect their turf—turning the Truth into blasphemy. Truth obviously wasn’t important to the Jews. But it was at one point, for being a false witness and providing false testimony was a big deal to God.

The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. ( Deuteronomy 19:18-21)

A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever. ( Proverbs 21:28)

The Greek word for blasphemy is from two root words: blapto, and pheme. The former is to hurt, to harm, to injure, to stop, make lame and cripple. The latter is news, or fame, or a report. Isn’t our very misuse of truth by definition blasphemy? We may not be able to completely annihilate it, but we certainly can cripple and injure it. We can make it so disfigured that few will find any appeal in it.

And let us not forget this is why Christ  was born, why He had come into the world: to testify to the truth. If this was Christ’s purpose, than it was God the Father’s purpose as well.

This is one of the greatest battles we are in—the battle for Truth. Without truth, there is no commonality, there can be no consensus, nor is there a point of reference. Is there any doubt why we are so fractured, isolated, and defensive. If all we have is our own personal point of view, our own manufactured truth, then a great deal of our time is spent defending and reconstructing. So what happens when we avoid the truth?

For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. ( Romans 1:25)

Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12)

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. ( 2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Father, may your Truth break through in my life. Amen.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 39

39. An Interesting Question

Jesus and Pilate2

Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  (John 18:33)

I wonder how Jesus felt having to be dragged into the Praetorium? Unlike the Pharisees, it probably didn’t even enter His mind. So battered and manhandled was He. And He knew more was coming. Could He feel the sins of the world gathering together to crush Him? Or was He thinking: Uh, no, no guys. I can’t go in there. I’ll become unclean! The magnitude of Him becoming the sacrifice for our sin precluded such thinking; and coming up with an excuse like the Pharisees would have never entered His mind.

Anyway, Jesus is summoned into the Praetorium, a place where no self-respecting Pharisee would be caught. But wasn’t that the hallmark of Christ’s life? Going where no self-righteous legalistic person would ever go? Hanging out with and consorting with tax collectors and sinners? But I ask: If Christ did not go into such places, how would the prisoners be set free? He did not need to be summoned; He would have willingly walked in, because that is where He found you and me!

It’s an interesting question, Are You the King of the Jews?  Only two people have used this term: King of the Jews; Pilate and one of the Magi. It’s a title and a question that spans the human lifetime of Christ, from birth to death.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. ( Matt 2:1-3)

We find more than merely earnest seekers asking the question of Herod. These Magi had traveled hundreds of miles, following a star based on prophecies left behind by Daniel and Jewish elders generations earlier, and they were the ones ordained to be at the right place and the right time, asking the right question.

It’s interesting to note this name is used only by foreigners. Have we become so ingrown and myopic that we need to be reminded from the outside just Who this Jesus is?

king of the jews

Father, whatever it takes, may I know the One and Only, True Son of God. The king of the Jews, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and the King of my life. And knowing Him, may I serve my King with the all the love and obedience I can give. Amen.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 38

38. Ritual Distraction

do not enter Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. (John 18:28)

Did you get the irony? The Jews were willing to conduct a mock court, seek to commit murder and reject the True Son of God, One Who is sinless, faultless, perfect and blameless; but they are unwilling to become unclean so as not to miss Passover? They already missed the Lamb of God, the very One they were waiting for.That’s what legalism will do to you: it seals off your heart while you cling to the rule of the Law, and you miss the Intent of the Law Giver. When you can’t see and feel the heart behind the Law, if your heart is not included in your obedience, the heart will wither and die while you blindly cling to the rules and regulations that your mind has accepted and your hands so willing do—yet without love, without the heart. And that’s what makes it so easy to move from the Sanhedrin to the unclean pagan courts.

The word defiled literally means stained. We are all stained by sin. The questions that arise are: Who defines the stain? Who recognizes the stain? Is there a stain of sin in your life which you are unaware because you believe your ritual has made you safe and secure? Is there some outward practice that has inoculated you against realizing that your sins killed the Christ? Is there some sacrament you perform which you think has removed the stain when it has only whitewashed it?

“Although you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your iniquity is before Me,” declares the Lord GOD. ( Jeremiah 2:22)

So then, what removes the stain? Only the blood of the very One Who was crucified. Do you remember the old Gospel hymn? What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

“And a certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing near said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very time I looked up at him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’” (Acts 22:12-16)

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)

For years when I would read this verse it always struck me that someone would actually think he has no sin. Now I suppose there are some committed atheists who do not acknowledge their sins because they do not believe sin exists. But there are others who do acknowledge the existence of sin but say they have no sin. Are they claiming some sort of immunity? Or are they claiming some sort of fix?

It is the latter which I believe they are claiming. They trust in a system of ritual and rules to place them into what they believe is a condition of forgiveness. They may not be claiming sinless perfection; rather they believe they are protected because of their ritual practice—which although was once rooted in truth, has had the very life squeezed out of it.

Finally, there’s an attitude problem. The Jews were essentially saying: Lets get this annoyance over with and out of the way so we can get to the important stuff: Passover. After all, Jesus has only been around causing problems and stirring up the people for a couple of years; but we have been celebrating Passover for centuries. What’s a crucifixion compared to such a long standing ritual? And, Passover started out while we were in a foreign country under foreign rule, and here we are again under foreign domination. Could they have thought that Passover would provide another deliverance, this time from the Romans? Regardless, they missed the deliverance that would be accomplished by the Lamb of God, the Son of God.

For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:7)

So, are there rules and regulations, rituals and traditions that are keeping you from seeing Jesus, your Deliverer? Or maybe it’s nothing as elaborate as that. Maybe it’s self-deception; or a counterfeit worldview. Such things are utterly devoid of grace; and grace is the only answer for deliverance from our sin.

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. (Galatians 2:21)

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)