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Joseph of Arimathea Was Courageous In the End

“After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.” (John 19:38)

In spite of his role in the crucifixion story, we don’t know much about Joseph of Arimathea. The Bible has very little to say about him. But what it does record is a story of a miraculous transformation.

We do know that he was extremely wealthy, so much so that he already had a tomb waiting for him upon his death. But even though he was known by John and the other three writers of the Gospels as a disciple of Jesus, he apparently did not want anyone else to know. Perhaps his wealth would be at stake; or maybe it was the fact that he held a high position as a member in the Sanhedrin, a governing body of the Jews, which would be jeopardized if he were to have taken a more visible role in the Jesus’ ministry. In short, apparently, he had too much to lose by standing up for his beliefs.

But Jesus’ death on the cross visibly changed Joseph inside and out. He boldly went to Pilate to plead for the body so that Jesus could have a fitting burial. I am sure other disciples were surprised to hear that it was Joseph of Arimathea who approached Pilate. Pilate consented and the Bible records that it was Joseph who showed up at the cross to take the body of Jesus.

Imagine that moment when Joseph took Jesus from the Cross. Once a man afraid to admit any relationship with Christ, now willing to physically drape him over his shoulder and carry him to his grave. One of my favorite songwriters said it this way:

He took the lifeless body down from Calvary
Struggled to stand just beneath the load.
Blood spilled on his hands and on his clothing
Still Joseph sang as he stumbled down the road.

I’ll carry him upon my shoulder
I’ll bear the marks endure the shame.
I’ll serve my friend til life is over
And that is when the world will see He’ll carry me.

For I too have walked beneath a heavy burden
Stumbled down a dark and lonely road.
Trying hard not to be discouraged
Knowing victory awaits when I reach home.

He’ll carry me when he calls me from my sleeping
He’ll carry me toward the land of perfect day.
Across the golden vale into the glory
Where He’ll set me safely down inside the gate.

Until I’ll strive to walk and not grow weary
I’ll gladly bear my cross for all the world to see.
I’ll count it joy to carry Christ my savior
For very soon He’ll carry me.

Joseph of Arimathea played a vital role in the Gospel story. But his story is told in the Gospels for another reason, too. A lot of Christians, just like Joseph, secretly worship Jesus. We’re too afraid to stand up and be counted. We, too, think we have too much to risk. When I hear how Jesus feels about such shame, it makes me shutter: “For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).

Joseph had time to change and to show his world that his faith in Jesus mattered. There is still time for us to change, too, and show how much Jesus has transformed our lives.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - September 19, 2017 at 7:00 am

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Where Did You Get Your Picture of Jesus?

“There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.” (Isaiah 53:2)

With the exception of the above verse, the Bible tells us very little about how Jesus looked. If that’s the case, then where did we get that picture of Jesus that hangs over some of our mantles?

While there is no biblical support for the picture that our minds conjure up when we think about Jesus, some theologians claim that it came from eyewitness accounts.

In his book, The Resurrection Tomb, E. Raymond Capt quotes from a letter written by Publius Lentrelus, a resident of Judea during Jesus’ time. It first appeared in the writings of Saint Anselm of Canterbury during the 11th Century. It reads in part:

“He is a tall man, well-shaped, and of an amiable and reverend aspect; his hair of a color that can hardly be matched, falling into graceful curls, waving about and very agreeable, crouching upon his shoulders, parted on the crown of the head, running as a stream to the front after fashion of the Nazarites. His forehead high, large and imposing; his cheeks without spot or wrinkle, beautiful with a lovely red; his nose and mouth formed with exquisite symmetry; his beard, and of a color suitable to his hair, reaching below his chin and parted in the middle like a fork; his eyes bright blue, clear and serene.”

There is also a letter that some theologians purport to have been written by Pontius Pilate to his ruler, Tiberias Caesar. Again, the description reminds me of the picture I remember seeing in my Granny’s house:

“A young man appeared in Galilee preaching with humble unction, a new law in the name of the God that sent him. At first, I was apprehensive that his design was to stir up the people against the Romans, but my fears were soon dispelled. Jesus of Nazareth spoke rather as a friend of the Romans than of the Jews.

One day I observed in the midst of a group of people a young man who was leaning against a tree, calmly addressing the multitude. I was told it was Jesus. This I could easily suspected so great was the difference between him and those who were listening to him. His golden-colored hair and beard gave to his appearance a celestial aspect. He appeared to be about 30 years of age.

Never have I seen a more sweeter or more serene countenance. What a contrast between him and his bearers with their black beards and tawny complexions.

Unwilling to interrupt him by my presence, I continued my walk but signified to my secretary to join the group and listen. Later, my secretary reported that never had he seen in the works of all the philosophers anything that compared to the teachings of Jesus. He told me that Jesus was neither seditious nor rebellious, so we extended to him our protection. He was at liberty to act, to speak, to assemble and to address the people. This unlimited freedom provoked the Jews-not the poor but the rich and powerful!”

I certainly can’t vouch for the authenticity of these so-called letters. But you know what? It really doesn’t matter what Jesus looked like. God has never been concerned with what’s on the outside. He looks at the heart. And his expectations for us are the very same that they were for his son. He expects us to allow his Glory to shine on our faces. And when we allow His “Sonshine” to show up in our lives, then we all look a little more like Jesus.

Is it any wonder why Jesus said to His Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”? (John 17:4)

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - September 10, 2017 at 7:28 am

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Life’s Mistakes Help Us To Understand God’s Mercy

“I said, ‘O Lord, have mercy on me, heal me, for I have sinned against you’.” (Psalms 41:4)

The next time you are surfing the internet, I invite you to visit my website at www.devotions.com. It’s getting around 750,000 hits a year and features every column I’ve ever written – over 1,000 of them.

One of the points I stress to my readers is that no problem is too difficult for the Christian who is willing to reach out in faith and trust Christ. As you already know, I often use personal experiences of my own or others that have been shared with me to examine biblical truths. The stories may change, but the bottom line is always the same: When we stand on God’s promises and apply biblical principles to the problems that everyday living brings, nothing can defeat us.

Several years ago, for example, I learned an unforgettable biblical truth about mercy. It came from an elderly man who thought he was just offering a word of encouragement. Little did he know that God was also using him to help me understand that mercy is all about getting something we don’t deserve.

As we chatted, he confessed that he had been a recovering alcoholic for almost 50 years. I was shocked. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that he would remotely understand the destruction that alcoholism brings. Yet, I saw in his eyes that strange combination of pain and joy that so often frequents the lives of born-again Christians who have been delivered from addictions.

Even though it was in 1950, he recounted his story as if it were yesterday. He put his daughter in the tub for her evening bath. She loved playing in the tub, so it came as no surprise to him for her to ask for a few more minutes of playtime. He agreed she could play longer. He decided to pour himself another drink while he waited. Unfortunately, he lost track of time and dosed off.

When he awoke, he remembered that she was still in the bathtub. He rushed to the bathroom. She was no longer playing. There she lay on her back in the tub – lifeless and under water – except for a small area around her mouth.

He screamed, “O Lord, please let her be living”. Well God obliged and managed to get his attention, too. “After that night”, he told me, “I promised myself that I would never drink again and I’ve kept that promise for 46 years”.

When he walked away, I asked God: “What are you trying to tell me here, Lord”? I finally realized during one of my daily walks what I think God wanted me to understand from that near tragic moment. It was that things don’t always go wrong because his daughter’s life was saved, he was saved, and his life was not ruined from that experience. God used that act of mercy to convince him to quit drinking and change the direction that his life was taking him. That one act of mercy brought him to an understanding of what “joy unspeakable” means.

The Bible is full of stories about how God’s mercy can change us. In fact, the Apostle Paul is perhaps the best example. He was by anyone’s standard as an arrogant and hateful man before he came to know Jesus. However, he changed when he met his Savior on the road to Damascus. If God can change Paul, there’s hope for anyone.

As I was reading from one of Paul’s letters to Timothy, I began to understand the meaning of my friend’s story. “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief”. (1 Timothy 1:13) I realized that my friend, like Paul, was also ignorant and an unbeliever. But, he, too, had been forgiven for the ignorance and poor judgment that he used.

We don’t get what we really deserve. Paul knew it. My friend knows it, and I know it, too. In fact, there isn’t a Christian who hasn’t walked away from the cross who doesn’t have a life-changing story about the mercy of God.

The prophet Daniel was right: “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him”. (Daniel 9:9)

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - September 3, 2017 at 7:15 am

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Three Fools In The Bible And Still Around Today

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.” (Proverbs 26:4)

The Book of Proverbs is all about how to distinguish the wise from the foolish. We’ve all been foolish from time to time, but there is a difference between a fool and foolishness. In fact, the Bible is full of stories about man and his folly, but very few of those whose foolishness is portrayed in God’s Word are fools. In most cases, they are folks just like you and me, but who on occasion do some pretty stupid things.

But there are fools in this world, too, that live in continuous folly. In fact, the Bible describes three types of fools that can still be found today.

1. First is the Simple Fool. That’s not my term. The Bible actually describes them as simple. They are easy to spot. These are the ones who live and work with us. They are gullible and seem to lack common sense. They believe and fall for just about anything. But before we condemn them, many of us need to remember that we were once just like them. That’s because we often see this quality in our young people, although there are some who never seem to grow out of it. Solomon puts it this way at Proverbs 7:6-7: “I was looking out the window of my house one day and saw a simpleminded young man who lacked common sense”.

As many of us already know, life normally matures us. Many of us who may have once been described as “simple” are no longer the fools we once appeared to be. The point is there is hope for the simple fool. He can be taught and trained to avoid being easily influenced into making poor choices. Solomon referred to it as “giving prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion”. (Proverbs 1:4)

2. The second type of fool is far more likely to suffer greatly in life. He is not young or naïve, but is a Hardened Fool. Allen Ross in Expositors’ Bible Commentary said of this fool: “Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, and he is not going to be persuaded by reason or collective wisdom. The hardened fool has developed his character by a series of foolish decisions – a life of folly. He will continue in his foolishness because changing would be too difficult. He hates instruction, is quick to be angry and contentious, can be explosive, is the center of controversy, has loose lips, and associates with evil.” He is described repeatedly in Proverbs but none better than at Proverbs 10:23, which says of him, “Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool”.

You have seen these fools in your community. They never seem to learn. The Apostle Paul says that we should avoid these fools at all cost. “Do not be deceived,” he once said. “Evil company corrupts good habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

3. Finally, there is the Arrogant Fool. The Bible refers to him as a scoffer. In fact, Proverbs 21:24 puts it this way: “A proud and haughty man – ‘Scoffer’ is his name; he acts with arrogant pride.” John Patterson in The Wisdom of Israel said of the arrogant fool: “They were past masters in the art of heckling and they rejoiced with malicious joy to disrupt a meeting. Again, we should avoid them. “Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; yes, strife and reproach will cease.” (Proverbs 22:10)

So why write about fools? Because we need to recognize them for what they are. With the exception of the simple fool, we should stay away from them whenever possible. The truth is fools are in a select group of people that God has instructed us to avoid. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found life to be much easier when I follow His advice.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - August 27, 2017 at 7:30 am

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