Who is Jesus?

For those who have been visiting this blog regularly already know I have been working my way through the devotional book titled "The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story". This book was written by Whitney T. Kuniholm who is the president of Scripture Union USA. He is also the author of "The Essential Bible Guide". As the title suggests this book is a collection of 100 readings from Old & New Testament scripture, selected to answer a simple question. Who is Jesus?

I highly recommend this book for giving some structure to your devotional time. It is a well organized with short very clear 2 to 3 paragraph reflections on each passage. The 100 passage readings are organized into 4 parts:
Part 1: Who is Jesus?
Part 2: Old Testament
Part 3: New Testament
Part 4: Who is Jesus ... to You?

The readings are also grouped into sets of five. An introduction to each set points out a few themes that will be developed in the individual scriptural passages and the sets end with a few questions about the 5 passages. Here are some of the titles to these sets:
The Need for a Savior
Previews of a Savior
Psalms About a Savior
Prophecies About a Savior
The Birth of Jesus
The Beginning Ministry of Jesus
The Sermons of Jesus
The Parables of Jesus
The Miracles of Jesus
The Prayers of Jesus
The Hard Sayings of Jesus
The Crucifixion of Jesus
The Resurrection of Jesus
The Early Church of Jesus
The Second Coming of Jesus

I will be writing out my thoughts for a post next week on the 30th devotion from the book titled "Mission Statement". The passage reading is Chapter 61 of Isaiah in the Old Testament. It is the last reading from Part 2 of the book and the last one from the Old Testament.

Essential to God's Master Plan

After spending several months on these 30 passages it is striking to me, in a new way, that God gave his people such a glimpse of the future, the Messiah, Jesus, in scripture so long before he would actually live here on this earth. Hundreds of years before. The detail which is reveled in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah is simply stunning. Perhaps this has had less of an impact on me in the past since most of my life I have been familiar with the overall account of Jesus' life. In one sense knowing about Jesus from the New Testament gives you fresh eyes in reading the Old Testament, but it can also allow you to read too easily through the detail about the Messiah without connecting it to the time line of history and absorbing it as you would new information. So much detail was well known about the Messiah hundreds of years before Jesus lived on this earth.

In many ways the future can be fearful. The future is a big unknown in our life. We humans like to know things before they happen, even though, through life experience we realize we can not really know things before they actually happen. We can plan, but we have all had those well thought out plans that go amiss on just one simple small detail about the future that we did not know.

All through history God has given us detailed glimpses of his master plan. Depending on where we are at, our life experiences, our focus, we may not understand the things written about in scripture concerning the future, but God gives us glimpses. Our view of scripture is clouded by our human nature, our sin, and prevents us from reading it clearly and understanding it more clearly, but it is there in black and white, none the less. God has laid out his plans. To me this is the Grace of God. In his loving mercy God has given his people all through history the master plan. His master plan is perfect because God is not limited by time. God can see everything, the past, the present, and the future all at once. God is eternal. His planning is perfect. No detail is unknown to our creator. Everything has been taken into consideration by God. There is comfort in this fact. There is a peace in that for me today.

As I continue to work through these 100 passages in the coming year the one thing that I know, the one thing that is very clear to me, is that Jesus is the essential key to understanding God's master plan. I do not know how all the details come together, especially concerning the future, but I do know that at the center of everything that matters to my Creator, my God, is Jesus. My strong desire today is to know Him more.

I encourage you to join me on this journey in learning more about Jesus. A journey through 100 Bible passages focusing on him. To learn more about the 100 passages including a list of the journal entries or posts I have written so far on each of the passages visit my Essential Jesus page.

| More on the Essential Jesus journey. |

Photo Credit: Trippin' again! by pHil____, on Flickr.

Here are the posts corresponding to each of the 100 passage readings I have completed to date.

Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:8-14)
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. (Romans 5:1-2)
Christmas is about finding grace & peace ...

Merry Christmas!

029 | Punished by God

"... yet we considered him punished by God ..." (Isaiah 53:4)
Who considered the Messiah, Jesus, punished by God? Given all we know today about Jesus, no one would say this or even think it. Would they? But we have the benefit of the whole of Scripture. One of the techniques I like to use when I am contemplating a verse from the Bible is to pretend I only know what was known at the time or for the time the verse is speaking. It is actually not as easy as it may sound.

Here in Isaiah this verse is part of what is known as the "Suffering Servant" songs. It was a prophecy or preview of the suffering of the coming Messiah: the Servant of God. Jesus the Messiah. Some have referred to Isaiah 53 as the "Gospel in the Old Testament" because it presents the heart of the Gospel or the "good news" about Jesus the Messiah as clearly as is presented in the New Testament. In fact Isaiah is quoted many times in the New Testament.

Remember the book of Isaiah was written more than 700 years before Jesus lived on this earth. So Isaiah is giving us a preview of what people will think about the Messiah while he was living on this earth. As they watch him suffer they will see it as a punishment from God. It was not an uncommon view of Jesus' day. Most people viewed diseases and tragedies as punishment for a person or their parents' sin. Just read the Book of Job in the Old Testament or read what people thought about a blind beggar (John 9:1) in the New Testament. They would see the horrible suffering of Jesus culminating at the cross as the justice of God. They would have assumed that Jesus must have sinned. The inaccuracy of this thought is immediately given in the very next verse. I find it rather amazing that God gives Isaiah and his people a preview of how they will view the Messiah's suffering and before any of it would even happen God also corrects this mistaken view. This is the grace and mercy of God!
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
In the very scripture they read while Jesus walked this earth they had the answer to their questions about what Jesus had done to deserve such a painful death. In the scrolls read to them in the Synagogue the corrective words from God were clearly given. Jesus didn't deserve a horrible torturous death, they did, we do. Jesus took their punishment, our punishment, to bring peace and healing.

If he fulfilled not justice, I must: if he underwent not wrath, I must to eternity." (John Owen)

| More on the Essential Jesus journey. |

The Cross | What Jesus Did was uploaded by Ricketts Fish to flickr.com on March 15, 2008.

Bible on Twitter | Jesus on Twitter

Like a swallow, like a crane, so I twitter; I moan like a dove; My eyes look wistfully to the heights; O Lord, I am oppressed, be my security. | Isaiah 38:14. NASB
Do you twitter?

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary the verb twitter is defined as "to utter successive chirping noise". I don't know about you but I don't think I have ever really used this word before. I knew what it meant just never had an occasion to use it in a sentence. Until now ...

I am twittering!

So for those who have no idea what I am talking about (and that would have been me a few months ago) Twitter is an online social networking service based on simple text. Twitter users can send and read other users' updates or "tweets". The tweets are text only posts of up to 140 characters in length. It is a micro-blogging community that forces people to keep thoughts short. These tweets are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. Twitter users can receive updates from those they are following via the Twitter website, SMS on a cell phone, RSS, email, or Facebook. It is a fast growing community of people communicating with each other in short thoughts all over the world.

Here is how Twitter describes their service:
"Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?" (from FAQ at Twitter)

Check out the YouTube Video titled Twitter in Plain English to learn more.

Ok, it is time for some "Bible Twitter" or "Scripture Twitter", and "Jesus Twitter". I never would have thought that I would be putting those words together. Anyway, I have two Twitter accounts:


Devotional will be short thoughts about God. My own thoughts or ones I have read or heard recently. Sometimes they will be phrases or a verse right from the Bible. They will be tweets from and about the Word of God that hopefully encourage, challenge, or excite you. They may move you to look up the verse or passage to understand it more, but I pray that these thoughts or tweets will bless you.

Red_letters will simply be the very words of Jesus from the Bible straight to you in the form of a tweet. I will reference the verse so you can look it up if you are so led.

So all you have to do is sign up for Twitter if you have not already and become a follower of one or both of these twitters. Just click on the links in this post and then click on "follow" to become a follower. Please feel free to respond to the tweets with replies to the thought or words of Jesus.

P.S. I am looking for creative ways to spread the word about these Tweeters. Any ideas?

Give Water this Christmas

450 billion dollars are spent on Christmas in America every year.

It is estimated that 10 billion just once would provide everyone in this world access to clean water.

Last year during advent at Valley View Community Church I was introduced to something called the Advent Conspiracy. Since then I have been Rethinking Christmas. Rethinking how I celebrate the birth of Christ. When I look around as objectively as I can at how I, my family, others, and our society celebrate Christmas I am struck at how un-Christlike it has become. I love Christmas. I love celebrating. The birth of Jesus changed the world. God putting on skin, leaving his throne, and coming to live with us changed everything. It has changed everything for me. So how should I celebrate this change? One idea that I have is to change the kind of gifts I give. Encouraged by the "Advent Conspiracy" I plan to spend less and contribute what I didn't spend towards something that can have an impact on those Jesus has called us to help. (Matthew 25:35-46) I plan to give water. Clean water.

Watch this video "The Story of the Thirsty".

Spend less this Christmas and give more. Give access to water. Help me raise $1000 for Living Water International. | GIVE HERE

Water is foundational to lives.

Water. It is at the heart of a daily crisis faced by a billion of the world’s most vulnerable people—a crisis that threatens life and destroys livelihoods on a devastating scale.

Unlike war and terrorism, the global water crisis does not make media headlines, despite the fact that it claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns. Unlike natural disasters, it does not rally concerted international action, despite the fact that more people die each year from drinking dirty water than from the world’s hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, and
earthquakes combined. This is a silent crisis experienced by the poor, and tolerated by those with the resources, technology, and the political power to end it. Yet this is a crisis that is holding back human progress, consigning large segments of humanity to lives of poverty, vulnerability, and insecurity.

Living Water International is addressing this most basic of needs by helping deprived communities acquire safe, clean water. Its goal is to substantially ease the global water crisis while addressing root causes such as injustice, oppression, and abject poverty. As this happens, communities and worldviews are transformed—both among those in desperate physical need, and among those who have been blessed with much.

Living Water International exists to demonstrate the love of God by helping communities acquire desperately needed clean water, and to experience “living water”—the gospel of Jesus Christ—which alone satisfies the deepest thirst. (Living Water International Info. Kit)

Water satisfies the need of our body. Jesus satisfies the need of our soul. (John 4:1-26)
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." (1 Timothy 6:17-18)

Join me in rethinking Christmas and consider passing this message on via email (Save & Share) or if you have a blog please consider re-blogging this article.

He put on Skin

"He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion." (A portion of Philippians 2:5-8 from "The Message" by Eugene H. Peterson)

Jesus went from the highest place in the universe, in Heaven, to the lowest place on earth, the grave. He let go of his status and privileges as God and put on skin. Human skin. He became a man, lived as a servant, was executed like a criminal on a cross, and buried in a tomb like any other man would be. Our God was buried! For us!

Jesus climbed down the ladder of status, privilege, and success in this world to purchase freedom for us from sin, punishment, and death.

Which way are you climbing in society, in your relationships with others?

In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

028 | Greatest Preview Ever Produced


I am on a journey through the Bible. A journey focused on a single question. Who exactly is Jesus? I mean who is he really? I am questioning some of my perceptions of who I think Jesus is. I have definitely been carrying around misconceptions. The purpose of this journey is to put my current understanding of who he is under the microscope of the Word of God. For me this journey has been and is a time to reexamine what the Bible says about Jesus. To reexamine his life, his actions, his words as recorded in the scriptures.

So far the biggest thing that has struck me as I have been on this journey is that the Old testament is the Greatest Preview ever produced of the Greatest Story ever told: the account of Jesus Christ. ... the Gospel ... the Good News.

Nearly 2,800 years ago a man named Isaiah lived. He was known as a prophet. He lived on this earth over 700 years before Jesus was even born, yet he describes Jesus perfectly. How is this possible? It is possible because Isaiah was just passing on the words and facts given to him. God was communicating to his people through Isaiah. In chapter 42 of the book of Isaiah we read in part what God was telling his people during this time.
"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope." (Isaiah 42:1-4)
Sometimes I find it helpful when I am studying a passage from the Bible to just simply spell out the facts. Here is what I learned about Christ from this passage in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. I have included related verses from the New Testament in parenthesis. Just mouse over them to read the verse in a quick pop up or click to read with the larger context of the passage.
  • Jesus is a servant. (Philippians 2:7)
  • He is the Chosen One of God. (Matthew 12:18)
  • God the Father is greatly pleased with him. (Matthew 12:18)
  • The Spirit of God is on him. (Matthew 12:18)
  • He brings justice to this world. (Romans 3:25-26)
  • He is gentle and tender to those who are weak, oppressed, and just trying to hang on. (Matthew 5:1-4)
  • He will not give up until justice is established on earth. (Acts 17:30-31)
  • His teachings will bring hope to people all over the world. (Matthew 12:21)
Just remember these facts among many others were given to a group of people living 700 years before Jesus was born. A few verses later the Lord says this.
See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you." (Isaiah 42:9)
God gave so much detail about Jesus, the Messiah, many many years before he came to earth. This is just a small portion of the detail we can learn about Jesus written in the scriptures long before he actually came into this world. As I have said before I have been journaling through the book titled The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story written by Whitney T. Kuniholm. In reading the passages Kuniholm has outlined in this book I have been amazed at the quantity and level of detail concerning the Messiah and how it describes Jesus perfectly. I am on the 28th passage of the 100 and there are two more from the Old Testament scriptures that further describe Jesus. After that the next 70 passages will be from the New Testament. Thirty passages of words spoken and written down about a coming Messiah a very long time before Jesus was born. Thirty passages that have given me a great preview of who Jesus is. I very much look forward to continuing this essential journey into the New Testament.

| More on the Essential Jesus journey. |

Photo credit: The photo in this post is titled "Isaiah". It was uploaded to flickr.com by mikeyphotog on May 29 2008 with this caption. "A rabbi examines the portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls that make up the Book of Isaiah. At the Israel Museum."

Upside-down Christmas

Stressmas Impersonalmas Checklistmas Consumermas Trafficjamas Gota-buy-everyone-a-gift-even-if-they-don't-want-it-mas

Rethinking Christmas

"The story of Christ's birth is a subversive story of an upside-down kingdom. It's a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love that is still changing the world to this day. So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling that we somehow missed its purpose.

Is this what we really want out of Christmas?

What if Christmas became a world-changing event again by turning our focus back to the birth of Christ? What could happen to your family if this focus was celebrated in loud, bold and totally unexpected ways? What if you could actually trade your season of stress for a season celebration and unbelievable memories with your friends and family? What if all of this could save a life at the same time? It can." | Advent Conspiracy

Join me in rethinking Christmas and consider passing this message on via email (Save & Share) or if you have a blog please consider re-bloging this article.


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027 | Nevertheless

photo credit: Pain by Rickydavid, on Flickr.com.

I am journaling through the book titled The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story written by Whitney T. Kuniholm. In reflecting on this passage Kuniholm writes "In these verses Isaiah gives God's people a message of hope."

Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. (Isaiah 8:21-22)
Distressed, hungry, weary, hard-pressed, pain, roaming, famished, enraged, darkness, trouble, anguish, fear, and gloom... Have you been there? Can you relate? Do some or all of these words describe you and where you're at? Have you been worn out and distressed by this world? Are you upset about life? Is trouble all around? Do you feel beat-up? Do you feel like you are just roaming around with no purpose? Are you satisfied? Are you angry? Do you look around and only see pain and distress? Have you cursed God for your situation for the ugliness you see all around? Do you feel like this is where you are right now?

I have one word for you. Actually God has one word for you: nevertheless.
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan— (Isaiah 9:1)
In spite of where you are right now, how you feel about life, God can change everything - God has changed everything.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)
No more gloom, the dawn is here, a great light come, gladness, happiness, joy, celebration, rejoicing, and glory ...
You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as soldiers rejoice when dividing the plunder. (Isaiah 9:3)
Here in Isaiah "nevertheless" points to Christ. It is the truth about our situation. It is the reality of where we can be. It is God's grace. It is mercy. Even at the very moment we are overwhelmed by gloom and distress God has provided hope. There is hope in the "nevertheless".
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Jesus is why there is a "nevertheless".

Sun's Rays and a Gate
photo credit: Sun's Rays and a Gate by -terry-, on Flickr.com

| More on the Essential Jesus journey. |

The Problem is Me

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1)
Psalm 51 is a favorite of many, me included. It is a poem written by King David sometime after this guy, Nathan (known as a prophet) came to King David and called him out on his adultery with Bathsheba. I have written 2 other posts this year on this situation. I pointed out that this psalm is simply a heart felt confession by David acknowledging that he has sinned Against God. In Not Religion I point out that God is not looking for perfect people. He is not looking for religious people. He is looking for honest people. Honest in our view of God and our view of ourselves.

I am reading a new little book on Psalm 51 titled Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy. This book, written by Paul Tripp, takes you on a journey through this Psalm. It is a small book of about 160 pages that is broken down into 52 short meditations that are clear and beautifully written.

I was really caught by his reflection on Psalm 51:1. I would encourage you to read the whole meditation. It is the first one in the book and only 2 pages (21 & 22). It is available in a free preview of the book here online.

Here is how he concludes his meditation on verse 1 in this book.

What’s actually true is that when I come to the Lord after I’ve blown it, I’ve only one argument to make. It’s not the argument of the difficulty of the environment that I am in. It’s not the argument of the difficult people that I’m near. It’s not the argument of good intentions that were thwarted in some way. No, I only have one argument. It’s right there in the first verse of Psalm 51, as David confesses his sin with Bathsheba. I come to the Lord with only one appeal; his mercy. I’ve no other defense. I’ve no other standing. I’ve no other hope. I can’t escape the reality of my biggest problem; me! So I appeal to the one thing in my life that’s sure and will never fail. I appeal to the one thing that guaranteed not only my acceptance with God, but the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts. I appeal on the basis of the greatest gift I ever have or ever will be given. I leave the courtroom of my own defense, I come out of hiding and I admit who I am. But I’m not afraid, because I’ve been personally and eternally blessed. Because of what Jesus has done, God looks on me with mercy. It’s my only appeal, it’s the source of my hope, it’s my life. Mercy, mercy me!

I admit it. I am my own biggest problem. But God is merciful and has blessed me in Christ. Jesus is my only appeal before God!

You might also be interested in this Whiter Than Snow Interview Video.

026 | More Convinced Less Afraid

And HE shall be Called

Isaiah says that a virgin will give birth to a son who will be called Immanuel, which literally means "God with us" (v. 14) The New Testament makes clear this prophecy was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:18-25)."

This quote is from the book I am journaling through. The book is titled The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story and written by Whitney T. Kuniholm.

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, "Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights." (Isaiah 7:10-11)
Ahaz was the king of Judah, the southern kingdom of God's people at this point in history. Remember Israel, God's people, had been divided into two rival kingdoms. One in the south called Judah and one in the north called Israel. Jerusalem was the capital of the southern kingdom. Here in Isaiah chapter 7 Israel, the northern kingdom, has teamed up to attack Judah at Jerusalem saying "Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves" (Isaiah 7:4). This threat brought fear to King Ahaz and the people of Jerusalem. It shook them to the core. Through Isaiah God tells Ahaz to stay calm and don't be afraid, "It will not take place, it will not happen" (Isaiah 7:7). Not only does God reassure King Ahaz that this attack will not happen but God gives permission to Ahaz to request a miraculous sign or signal that Jerusalem will not be destroyed by these two kings. God tells him this sign can be anything, go for it, anything you can come up with. Ahaz refuses.

God provides a sign anyway and what a sign it was.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. (Isaiah 7:14-16)
It is important to point out as with many of the Old Testament prophecies that what was written here may play out on two different levels. The obvious level to us in hindsight and importance is the birth of Christ, hundreds of years after this prophecy was made known. But it is also likely that this sign was fulfilled shortly after it was made. During the time this was written the reference to a virgin women could also be understood to be a young women. So it is likely that a son was born to a young women (possibly even a virgin) in Jerusalem not long after King Ahaz was given this sign and she gave him the name Immanuel. By the time this son was of an age that he knew right from wrong the two kings and kingdoms that were a threat to Jerusalem would be gone.

In taking this one step further this sign God gave Ahaz suggests that this threat may have hung over them for quite a period of time. Perhaps something like 12 years, since that would be about the age of a young person before he would be considered an adult knowing the difference between right and wrong. King Ahaz and his people in Jerusalem lived with a mortal threat hanging over them for some years. They lived in fear.

King Ahaz refused to be convinced of the truth he is given by God through the prophet Isaiah. He refused to believe God and trust His word. He and his people lived in fear of being destroyed when they didn't have to. God was offering them the truth of His protection. He was offering them hope. He gave them a sign to confirm the hope, protection, and deliverance he was offering them.

How often do we refuse to be convinced of the truth God has provided us in the Word, in Jesus? Truly convinced? Way to often I must admit. My own human reasoning and intellect so often builds a wall between my heart, my soul, and the miraculous signs God has laid out in the books, poems, and letters of the Holy Bible. I let the views of this world and my culture get in the way of simply looking at and understanding these signals and signs pointing to God's Son, Jesus. The more I understand these signs, the more I look at Jesus, the more I am convinced of God's truth. The more I am convinced the less I fear.

| More on the Essential Jesus journey. |
Photo credit:  The photo in this post is titled "And HE shall be Called". It was uploaded to flickr.com on January 15, 2006 by Kris Kros.

025 | Pierced & Impact


"Our passage also contains several of the "future clues" that make the prophetic books so relevant. One is Zechariah's reference to "the one they have pierced" (v. 10). In his Gospel account, John linked this verse to Jesus' death on the cross (John 19:36-37). It was the event that provided the cleansing from sin that Zechariah anticipated (Zechariah 13:1)."

I am journaling through the book titled The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story written by Whitney T. Kuniholm. The above quote is from this book.

"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great ... "On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. (Zechariah 12:10-11, 13:1)
This is an oracle and the Lord is speaking. Take notice of the flow and order of things here in this portion. Starting with grace being poured out by God on his people. Then the people will look at the Lord, who they have pierced, and mourn. Grief and weeping will overwhelm them. Then they will be cleansed from sin.

Notice the order and flow? Pouring out of grace ... seeing the Lord pierced ... mourning and weeping ... cleansing from sin.

Charles Spurgeon points out that there is a common perspective out there that any 'good' person has "a degree of tenderness of conscience, and of hatred of sin, which they ... obtain somehow" and then they are "permitted and authorized to look to Jesus Christ." This perspective claims that our own human conscience and the good in us will lead us to the truth of our sin and cause us to hate evil. Then, and only then, we can go before Christ. But this is not the pattern we see in scripture. In this passage in Zechariah we learn that people need to, according to Spurgeon, "first look upon him whom they have pierced, and then, but not till then, they mourn for their sin." The cleansing from sin (Zechariah 13:1) takes place after we look at the Son of God pierced for our rebellion, our sin, and understand the extent of the corruption in us to the point of grief.

It is a beautiful remark of an old divine, that eyes are made for two things at least; first, to look with, and next, to weep with. The eye which looks to the pierced One is the eye which weeps for him." (Spurgeon)

Jesus pierced changes us. It changes our understanding of sin. Jesus pierced as a result of human sin, our sin, changes how we look at sin. It shows us the absolute extend of sin. The injustice of the mock trial and the horrible, gruesome, tortuous execution of Jesus on a cross gives us a true and very ugly view of our sin. Knowing and understanding that he was pierced because of our sin will bring us to a point of grief that can be a life changing experience. Our own sin and rebellion will grieve us just as it grieves God.

But at the very same time the very same cross gives us a very beautiful view of the love of God. A love that forgives. A love that heals. A love that saves.

| More on the Essential Jesus journey. |

Photo credit:  The photo in this post is titled "Impact". It was uploaded to flickr.com on August 25, 2005 by darkmatter.

024 | Dress to Impress?

"Zechariah ... looks forward to the coming of a very special king." Whitney T. Kuniholm wrote this in his book titled The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story. I am journaling through this book.

...See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
My Bible titled this section "The Coming of Zion's King" (9:9-13) and "The Lord Will Appear" (9:14-17). What do we learn here from Zechariah Chapter 9 about this King?

This King will be righteous and victorious, yet lowly & humble (9:9). In fact he will ride on a donkey instead of a horse (9:9). This King will bring peace (9:10) and restoration (9:12) into the world and his realm will be everywhere across the earth (9:10). Freedom from death and hell will be available through this King because of a covenant sealed with blood (9:11).

This preview or prophecy of the coming King in Zechariah was fulfilled 500 years later by Jesus. Kuniholm explains by writing the following.

Jesus was humble - he entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11)l; he was the epitome of a servant leader (John 13:1-17). Jesus bought freedom - by dying on the cross, he freed people from the prison of sin and enabled them to have a relationship with God once again (Ephesians 1:7). Jesus will bring peace - someday in the future Jesus will come again to establish an everlasting peace for those who believe in him (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)."

We rely on formalities and external 'things' to give ourselves beauty, stature, importance, and power before others. We use things like clothing, cars, houses, careers, trophies, and titles to raise ourselves up above others. We use these external things to help create or reinforce our importance. Many times these external things are used to create only a perception of importance and power without any reality.

How strong is our desire to impress people? My experience is that most of us can figure out relatively quickly how to impress others. I have also noticed as I get older that the ways I used when I was younger don't always work as I get older. One can go from the top to the bottom in a flash. Just look at the life of most celebrities. Very few spend their whole life held in high regard by the masses. Most fall out of popularity as things change. Let's face it with this world, with humans, things change. Perceptions change. Impressions change. People change. Change is inevitable here on earth.

Do we want to spend all of our time and effort trying to impress people and create a perception of importance before others that is only temporary? Or do we want to make an impression that will not change? Not necessarily before others but before our Creator. Before God.

Jesus IS important. He is in fact above all. Jesus is the very Son of God, the center of God's entire story of all of human history and eternity. Anything external used to give him importance before man would have just simply paled in comparison with the absolute reality and truth of the fact the Jesus is fully God.

The King of Kings entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey instead of a white horse as any earthly king would have chosen at this point in history. Jesus was not focused on making an impression on people to bring importance to himself, on his own glory before man, but bringing glory and honor to God the Father.
"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
How often do I rely on external things to give myself importance before others when Jesus through his incredible humble act at the cross has already given me importance before God. He has bought me at a very high price and placed the Holy Spirit inside me. My value does not have to be determined by some external thing that is subject to change but something internal that will never change - God.

| More on the Essential Jesus journey. |

Photo credit:  Photo titled "The Donkey & The White Horse". Uploaded to flickr.com on July 5, 2008 by Thierry Hermann

023 | Ruler from Bethlehem

The Savior would come from the little town of Bethlehem (v.2). At the time of Jesus' birth, this was the commonly held understanding (Matthew 2:3-6). It was such an unlikely place, and yet God orchestrated an incredible chain of events - a census of the Roman empire, a late-night trip by a pregnant woman and her fiance, and a birth in a stable - to make it happen (Luke 2:1-7). Jesus fulfilled this very specific prophecy made centuries before his birth."

Whitney T. Kuniholm wrote this about verse 2 in Chapter 5 of the Old Testament book Micah in his book titled The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story.

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)
Here we read in the Old Testament that the Messiah will come from a small town named Bethlehem. This was written about 700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. It is one of many facts about the Messiah given to God's people before Christ came. Here is a partial list of other facts about the Messiah previewed in the Old Testament:
  • Born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14)
  • Honored by great kings (Psalms 72:10, 15, Isaiah 60:3)
  • Worshiped by shepherds (Psalms 72:9)
  • The Son of God (Psalms 2:7)
  • A healer (Isaiah 29:18, Isaiah 35:5-6)
  • Rejected, even by his own people (Isaiah 53:3, Isaiah 8:14, Isaiah 28:16, Psalms 118:22)
  • Enter Jerusalem triumphantly on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)
  • Silent before his accusers (Isaiah 53:7)
  • Pierced through hands and feet (Psalms 22:16)
  • No bones broken (Psalms 34:20)
  • Resurrected from the dead (Psalms 16:10, Psalms 30:3, Psalms 118:17)
  • Ascension to God's right hand (Psalms 68:18, Psalms 110:1)
During the time of Jesus many of these facts in scripture about the Messiah were common knowledge among the leaders and people of Israel. It was well known as we read in the gospel of Matthew (Matthew 2:1-8) that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. Even with the vivid description of the coming Messiah King laid out in the scriptures most struggled and ultimately missed how different the Kingdom he would rule would be compared to the earthly kingdoms all around them. Most of them were looking for a Messiah who would come as a powerful king blowing away all of their enemies and freeing them from serving the current political kingdom of Rome. They viewed God's Kingdom as a political and national kingdom ruled by a Messiah King who would make Israel great again. A political kingdom of power, security, and peace for all of God's people here on earth under the earthly leadership of the Son of God, the Messiah, the King.

As we see played out in the historical record of the gospels, written by four different people, even the closest friends and followers of Jesus struggled with how he described the Kingdom he was bringing to the world. In many ways the disciples, before Jesus was executed, resisted the uniqueness of the Kingdom Jesus was telling the world about. There is evidence that they knew Jesus was King, but they just didn't understand why the King, the ruler had to die. They just didn't understand HOW different this new Kingdom was.
Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst." (Luke 17:20-21)

Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place." (John 18:36)
This new Kingdom would be just as unique and radical as they and everyone who came in contact with Jesus discovered him to be. A kingdom that was completely different, completely unique, and could not be seen in the same way as earthly kingdoms could be seen. This new Kingdom would have a different kind of power, different priorities, and a different purpose. It would not be ruled by riches and violence, but by love and grace. It would not begin with an army taking over a large population of people. It would begin with a humble King laying down his own life for all people everywhere. It would start with a few unimportant people who believe in this radically unique King. It would not grow by a large takeover or great force, but one person at a time freely accepting the King and his ways. It would be nothing like the kingdoms man established. It would be a vast kingdom without end, set apart from the kingdoms of this world, with a beginning in a smelly stable in a small unimportant town. It would begin as a baby.

The God who came to earth came not in a raging whirlwind, nor in a devouring fire. Unimaginably, the Maker of all things shrank, down, down, down, so small as to become an ovum, a single fertilized egg barely visible to the naked eye, an egg that would divide and re-divide until a fetus took shape, enlarging cell by cell inside a nervous teenager." (Philip Yancey in his book "The Jesus I Never Knew")

What a God! What a beginning! What a Kingdom! What a ruler! What a King!

| More on the Essential Jesus journey. |

Photo credit:  Photo titled "Tiny Flowers". Uploaded to flickr.com on June 9, 2008 by *cora*

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