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Friday, April 18, 2014

The Father who never abandoned His Son

(WARNING:  Following images are graphic.
  Taken from Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ")


"Be strong and courageous. 
Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
 for the Lord your God goes with you; 
he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
[Deuteronomy 31:6(NIV)]


"No one will be able to stand against you 
all the days of your life.
 As I was with Moses, 
so I will be with you;
 I will never leave you nor forsake you." 
[Joshua 1:5(NIV)]


Jesus grew up reading the Torah.  Jesus had read the words that both Moses and Joshua heard before the nation of Israel crossed over the Jordan into Caanan.  Jesus read these words, even wrote them down as he transcribed his own Torah. 

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Jesus, the Son that eternally dwelt with his Father before his time on Earth.  Jesus, the Son who was there when his Father spoke those words to Moses and then again to Joshua.  

Those words that the Father gave Moses and Joshua, would He not also have given them to His Son?  The Son that was to lay down his Heavenly Glory to come to Earth.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

 It was Jesus who told Phillip:

“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves."
[John 14:10-11(NIV)]

SO MY QUESTION IS... IN LIGHT OF THIS EVIDENCE IN SCRIPTURE, DO YOU STILL BELIEVE THAT JESUS WAS ABANDONED AT THE CROSS BY HIS FATHER?  



That thought that just popped into your mind.
  Does it go something like this?  

What about “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani”? 
Weren’t those Jesus’ very words on the cross.
"My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?" 

Here’s the thing.  How many times have people taken one verse in scripture and written doctrine, laws and “truth” around it.  I don’t have that many fingers, toes and minutes in my life to count that high. Some humans have a gift of embellishing  a verse or two of scripture to match their own theology. And personally, I don’t believe that gift is from the Author.  

I used to buy into the abandonment doctrine for years.  It's what I was taught and I didn't dare dispute it... until now. 

 God, the Father turned away from His Son in that moment that the sin of the world was placed on Jesus, because He couldn’t look on our sin.


 And then a book came across my path... “The Shack”  

The author dared portray a picture of Papa (God the Father) with nail scars in his wrists. If you haven’t read the book.  I highly recommend it.  If you have the book... the reference to this is in the “A Piece of π” chapter.  

From the words of Papa  (“The Shack” by W. Paul Young  ) 

“Don’t ever think that what my son chose to do didn’t cost us dearly.  Love always leaves a significant mark... we were there together...  You misunderstand the mystery there.  Regardless of what he felt at that moment. I never left him”

That started me thinking about the words Moses and Joshua heard. 

God promised Moses and Joshua that He wouldn't leave them or forsake them.  So why would He forsake and leave His own Son?

" Because God can't look on sin." is what I have heard at a lot of pulpits.  Well... according to Jesus own words...The Father abandoning His Son isn't even possible. 

"I pray that they will all be one, just as You and I are one - as You are in Me, Father and I am in You. And may they be in Us so that the world will believe You sent me."
[John 17:21 ( NLT)]

Put this picture in your mind.
Jesus on the cross


The Father wasn't looking at His Son...
 He was IN his Son.
 He was IN His Son as the ugliness of sin rained down on him. 

Don't believe me yet?  The Apostle Paul saw it.  He saw the same picture and this is what he wrote to the believers in Corinth. 

 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
(2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (NIV))



It was also Paul Young that shared this when he was at Breakforth Conference a few years ago. 

Where was God reconciling the world?  It was at the cross.  And it was at the cross and on the cross where He... God the Father was IN HIS SON reconciling the world to himself.  

I hope you're getting the picture.  King David did.  He was the first one in the record of scripture to cry out to God with the same words Jesus cried on the cross. David also felt abandoned by God... but as most people know, feelings rarely paint the truth. 

 I read Psalm 22 and posted it here for you to read.  He opens up the psalm with --

"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?  But if you read on, he comes to a much different conclusion.  

And I'm also believing that Jesus did to.  His Father wasn't looking away in his most painful moment.  He was right where He has always been. 

 
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.

 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises.
 In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
 To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

 But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
 All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “Let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”

 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
 From birth I was cast on you;
    from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

 Many bulls surround me;
    strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
 Roaring lions that tear their prey
    open their mouths wide against me

I am poured out like water, 
and all my bones are out of joint. 
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me. 

My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death


Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.

 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
    You are my strength; come quickly to help me.

 Deliver me from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dogs.

 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
    save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

 I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
 For He has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;

He has not hidden His face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.

 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.

 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever

All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,

 for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.

 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.

Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.

 They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!

Psalm 22 (NIV) 

 (crucifixion pictures taken from...) 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

REMEMBERING JESUS: The Original Story


 The Day of Unleavened Bread came, the day the Passover lamb was butchered. Jesus sent Peter and John off, saying, "Go prepare the Passover for us so we can eat it together."
 They said, "Where do you want us to do this?"
 He said, "Keep your eyes open as you enter the city. A man carrying a water jug will meet you. Follow him home. Then speak with the owner of the house: The Teacher wants to know, ’Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’  He will show you a spacious second-story room, swept and ready. Prepare the meal there."
 They left, found everything just as he told them, and prepared the Passover meal.

When it was time, he sat down, all the apostles with him, and said, "You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It’s the last one I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God."

 Taking the cup, he blessed it, then said, "Take this and pass it among you.  As for me, I’ll not drink wine again until the kingdom of God arrives."
 Taking bread, he blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, given for you. Eat it in my memory."
He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant written in my blood, blood poured out for you.
LUKE 22:7-20


It all started with this picture.  Jesus and his disciples celebrating Passover the night he was arrested.  It was intimate -- Jesus and the twelve men that he spent the last three years with.  


Passover was an annual event in the life of a Jew in Israel.  It was the time when they remembered how God delivered their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. Jesus had eaten at many Passover feasts during the thirty years of his earthly life.  He had eaten the unleavened bread and gazed upon the Elijah cup that no one was supposed to drink.  Every year he would look at that cup.  What went through his mind?


This time would be different.  It was the last Passover meal for Jesus.  This time he didn't just look at the cup.  This time he picked it up.  Was he looking at the Elijah cup that he had looked at for thirty some years... or was he looking at the cup that he wanted to pass up in the Garden later that evening?

Jesus looked around the table at the men that were with him.  The pictures that must have gone through his head in that moment.  The memories of their time together over the last three years had flooded into his thoughts.  Jesus knew what was coming.  He knew this was the last meal he would share with his disciples before he was taken away from them.  


He remembered the bread and fish that the boy brought to Peter and Andrew.  He remembered the look on their faces when the five loaves and two fish were blessed and given to the masses.


His memory took him back to a wedding in Cana.  He remembered the look on the faces of his new found followers when the host tasted what they thought was water and commented on the perfection of the wine.


Jesus looked again at the cup and at the bread in front of him.  They would remember this.  This would remind them of him.  Even through the darkness of what was to come... they would remember. He wanted them to remember.

"This is my body..."

For three years I have walked with you, eaten with you, fished with you, laughed with you... for three years I have been beside you.  Soon I will be IN you.  I want give you a picture of what that will be like.  Me with you... always.  In everything you do, In everything you say... I will be there. 



"This is my blood..."

Blood... the life force of the body.  You will soon see mine drained from my very body.  But that which was my life force will become your life force.  

"Eat this and remember me..."

(and Jesus whispers to us now...

But don't just remember me as history... remember that I am IN you... Not just with you, not just a part of you... I am wholly, with all of who I AM... IN you.   Not just bread and not just wine.. but the Almighty God has become One with you as He desired from the beginning of time and creation.  



 I’m praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in Me because of them and their witness about Me.  The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind- Just as you, Father, are in Me and I in You, So they might be one heart and mind with Us. Then the world might believe that You, in fact, sent Me.  The same glory You gave Me, I gave them, So they’ll be as unified and together as We are -  I in them and You in Me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That You’ve sent me and loved them in the same way You’ve loved Me.
John 17:20-23 (The Message)

Jesus pictures in this post are from ...


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Remembering Jesus: A Collage of Comments



In researching the subject of communion, I asked some people for some feedback on their thoughts, convictions and experiences on "Remembering Jesus".  This is what came in.  The first response that I got, actually has the five questions that I asked. 



1. What has been your most memorable Communion experience?

My most memorable experiences celebrating Communion have been potluck dinner party's from house to house with family and friends. -- Acts 20:20 

2. What has been the most unique Communion experience you have had?

We (GJ forum old timers) calculated the different time zones, met on-line at the same time, celebrated Communion and shared encouragement, Scripture, Youtube Praise Songs and inspirational pictures. 

3. What are your personal absolute musts when it comes to observing Communion. (Remember, I am looking for personal observances, not denominational doctrine) 

My personal absolute musts for a Communion celebration includes a dinner party with family and friends in a home with everyone sharing in joyful songs, 
encouraging Scriptures, and uplifting prayers focused on Jesus. 

4. What does the observance of Communion mean to you, personally? 

It is the heart and soul of where two or more are gathered in His name (focused on Him), He (Jesus) is there with them! What could be better than that?

5. Do you have a special scripture verse that you can share to go along with your comments?

"And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there." 
Matthew 18:20 (The Message)


“He (Jesus) gave to his Church - the Holy Eucharist, where the bread and wine become His body and blood, soul and divinity in us. To us, He is the Living Bread coming down from heaven like manna. By eating his body, blood, soul and divinity we become one with Him and in Him.


“ I had been taking part in a seminar for prayer ministry.  We were invited to ask the Lord to give us a special place to meet with Him.  I closed my  eyes and because I am a visual person, I right away saw myself in a green pasture laying on the back of my favourite horse just enjoying the summer sun.   Then they asked,  ‘Where is Jesus in your favourite place.’  Then I saw Him on a colourful picnic blanket, lunch ready with the invitation to join him for bread and wine.
Communion has never been quite the same since, and if I ever feel communion is getting too routine, I remember the intimacy of that communion, and know that each communion holds all that potential if I seek it.”


For me, Communion is simple. It can be celebrated anywhere by anyone at anytime! I like simple.


When thinking of communion I think of Mat 18:20. "For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them." (NLT)

In a more formal sense, it is where we come together to remember Jesus and the new covenant he gave us so we can now go to God directly. We are now the temple, a temple what used to be a place where animal sacrifices were made to connect with God. 

But most of all, it is where Life and Love (Jesus) conquered and defeated sin and death so that we could be free, really free.

1. One of the most memorable experiences celebrating Communion was at a Messianic Seder Dinner. (Messianic Haggadah) 
http://www.messianicseder.com/messianic_haggadah.html

2. One of the most unique Communion experiences was in a basketball gym!

3. My personal absolute musts when it comes to observing Communion would be the focus on Jesus and the preeminence of Jesus. 

4. The observance of Communion means remembering Jesus’ love for us all. 

5. My special Scripture verses would be:

"For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.”  In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord's death until he comes again."
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26 New Living Translation)


When I receive the bread and grape juice, I reflect on my background and think of what we prayed individually.

" I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the Word, and I shall be healed."

 A very beautiful and humble prayer and I do truly think that healing does take place in our hearts and perhaps our body as well on some level. 



 But because it was my background, it still is important and special for me to participate in the ceremony at least once a month. At my church, I find communion very slow and somewhat long, but it supposed to be a time of prayer and reflection as well. 



 I am of the opinion that communion is for US.  Communion is a chance to remember.  A chance for us to celebrate the body and blood of Christ.  It allows me to remember, to consider the others and to remember the One who made it possible.

I'm not too concerned about how it is done, where it is done, or with whom.  My interest would be remembering with others and being impacted in our hearts.



There are so many things I can say about Jesus. What I remember the most is His love of all people. This has been a real passion of mine in the last little while. Jesus spent time with the "sinners and tax collectors". It is the sick that need a healer not the well. If Jesus were in flesh today, he would be sitting with the prostitutes, drug addicts, alcoholics, and all other types of "sinners" in our day and age. Why can't we accept them in our church? Why can't we love them the way Jesus loved us first? Oh yeah, cause I am a proud, hypocritical Christian - as are many of us if we really look at ourselves. Jesus loves ALL, Jesus died for ALL!"



(names are changed for the purpose of anonymity )

 The most powerful picture I treasure of Communion was when my cousin's daughter was diagnosed with cancer of the liver at the young age of six weeks.  I had the privilege to fly down to the hospital  with several people and the pastor to the baptism of Susan.  She was not expected to live.  So there we were in the hospital chapel, Susan was attached to an IV on wheels and all of us standing around a basin of water.  Before the baptism we had communion together and the pastor dipped his finger into the challis of wine and one drop hung on the end of his finger as he moved it to Susan's little rose petal lips.  
    
In my hotel room that morning I had spent time searching for answers in my devotions.  I should have kept a diary because the verses that came were full of promise.  One was about the power of the blood of Jesus.  At that time it was not common to give a child communion, but in Susan's case it just seemed so natural because most of us did not expect her to live... 
 They said that this cancer was very aggressive and that if it had not been detected early it would have been very difficult to treat.   So  both mother and daughter had chemo and both have had no reoccurrence.  That was well over 20 years ago.  I believe the power of the blood of Jesus did it's work in that way that day. 



I give thanks to Jehovah for letting the sinners take part in His meal.


One Easter, a few years ago, I asked the Lord to give me a personal Easter moment with Him. I wanted to feel what He felt, as He sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion. I wanted to feel what He felt, when He hung on the cross in my place. I wanted that Easter to be a memorable one. I had no idea what was in store for me.
It was Maundy Thursday and as we had our usual service at the church, communion was a part of that. I knelt at the chancel, hearing those familiar words as the bread was placed in my open hands, “Christ’s body given for you.”  I put the communion wafer in my mouth and let it melt there. I heard the words as the cup was passed to the person beside me, “Christ’s blood, shed for you.” I was next in line to receive the precious cup – to hear those precious words spoken over me… but then the unimaginable happened. The person who was giving the cup turned around and went back to the altar, placing the lid on the rest of the cups. I had been missed. I felt tears sting my cheeks as I got up and went back to sing the next song. At that moment I felt forsaken and separated from God’s grace and love. I was heartbroken. 
Then something amazing happened. It was as if Christ whispered in my ear, “You asked me to show you how I felt”, and suddenly I knew that my prayer had been answered. As He knelt in the garden - as He hung on the cross, He felt forsaken and abandoned by His Father. By His grace and mercy, I only felt a fraction of what He felt, and for that I’m truly grateful because it was horrible…. and yet beautiful at the same time.  
I can honestly say that I found beauty in communion that day, and I will never take it lightly or forgranted again. Every time I eat of the bread and drink the cup, I am reminded of that Easter moment. It was in that moment that I realized not only what Christ suffered for me, but also how much communion means to me. 

May God bless and keep you this Easter. 



I want to thank everyone for their submissions for this blog post. I asked quite a few people and got a some awesome responses.  As I read over the comments one more time before posting, I can see so many differences in perspective and practice, but I also can see a common heart for Jesus.  And that, my friends, is what excites and inspires me. And that is why I did this.  

Don't forget:"Remembering Jesus: The Original Story" Post date: April 17th. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Remembering Jesus 1: A Poet's Perspective

I AM SO NOT GOING TO GET THIS RIGHT!

  
There, I said it. 
 That's my disclaimer. 
 But I'm a poet... 
I've gotten away with creative licence many times before.

 So this is "Remembering Jesus" My first post of three.  




In preparing this series of blog posts on "Remembering Jesus", this post is the most difficult to write and to publish.  It seems odd that, in my years of blogging, I would have a hard time expressing my thoughts on a subject.  But this time it's true.

It is the weekend before Good Friday/Easter. I am scheduled to publish this on Sunday.  My other two posts are pretty much ready to publish. They are:



  To be honest... I still fear offending people.  Thus the initial disclaimer. Communion is very sacred for a lot of people.  There are so many different beliefs and practices and every one in every expression of faith has a different one.  I oughta know...


  There is so much denominational baggage in my life. By denominational baggage, I mean there are years of different traditions and doctrines that have collected themselves in my memory and mind.  Lutheran, Mennonite, Baptist, Pentecostal, House Church, No church... I can hardly keep them all straight anymore.  I didn't just dabble in all these denominations from time to time... there were years invested in each one.  YEARS of learning new ways to read and interpret scripture; YEARS  of unlearning old doctrine and embracing new beliefs; and yes.. YEARS of doing communion.


Sometimes I envy people who have grown up in one tradition and have stuck with it.  There is much less confusion.  They believe what they have been raised with and have way more convictions than doubts.  Maybe, if one tradition was all I knew...


I asked people to share some unique and special experiences with Communion.  Those stories I'll be sharing in the next post:"Remembering Jesus: A Collage of Comments"

I have a story.  



It was around the year 2000.  I was a part of the drama troupe in Calgary.  We went on a weekend camping trip of which most of the details are really foggy (that was fourteen years ago).  But what I do remember was Sunday and it was right before we were going to leave.  Blaine (our drama director) had the idea that a good conclusion for the weekend would be to have a time of communion.   We scouted around for some communion elements and all we came up with was some orange juice and sun-dried tomato bagels.  If anything was going to fly in the face of communion tradition, drinking OJ and eating a tomato bagel would definitely raised a few eyebrows.

We all gathered together and what Blaine shared with us next is what stuck in my memory.  He told us that what we ate or what we drank wasn't as important as who we were remembering:  Jesus and what Jesus had done for us.  It's not about the elements.. it's about Him!

So then we shared OJ and a bagel and remembered Jesus and His sacrifice and His redemption.

I will never forget that.  And it's that memory and that message that gives me my conclusion and conviction.

Jesus took wine and unleavened bread because that's what He had before him.  They were part of the Passover meal.  He shared these with His disciples and gave them something to remember Him by.

And I ask.. Does the rest really matter?  Not to me.  If I can take what I have in front of me and remember Jesus and what He did for me, wouldn't that be as intimate?


I found an animated Youtube illustration that will end off this post.  Sometimes things can be a whole lot simpler than we've made them.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Someone else's Father

(poem written April 2, 2014 by Ruby Neumann)

(Bruno O. )

You're someone else's father
Someone else's dad
Someone else is crying today
Cause they lost the love they had

I lost my own father already
So I understand some
Of the pain they may be feeling
Of the loss that makes them numb

My pain left years ago
But the sadness still remains
At the loss of the man I've known all my life
Whose memory still stains

I look at your picture and who you are
Is not my dad or my pain
But at your loss and dying
I am reminded all over again

I loved you but right now
All you are is a reminder of him
And I look in her eyes and can see again
What a daughter feels within

How do I tell your baby girl
That her tears are there to stay
That every grave she sees from now on
Will only bring her back to today

You're someone else's father
Someone else's dad
I would cry for you and your loss that I feel
But because of him, I can't

My parents... January 2008
(and the last picture I have of my dad) 

This is where I get real.. I wrote this poem yesterday, I wanted to write it a month ago... on March 3rd, the day of Bruno's funeral.  I had the title, but I was stuck on the content until this week. 

It wasn't just Bruno I was thinking about, it was Norman, it was Myron, it was Conrad.  Four other men, whose funerals I have attended since my own dad died (Jan 28, 08) . 
 All of them... were someone else's father.