The priority of Jesus’ solitude and silence is everywhere in the Gospels. It’s how he began his ministry. It’s how he made important decisions. It’s how he dealt with troubling emotions like grief. It’s how he dealt with the constant demands of his ministry and cared for his soul. It’s how he taught his disciples. It’s how he prepared for important ministry events. It’s how he prepared for his death on the cross.
Jesus’ solitude is how he went deeper in his love-relationship with the God he knew as “Abba”.* Won’t you take a chronological journey through the Gospel of Mark and see where He stopped for silence & solitude?
What is God like? God’s characteristics are described for us throughout the Bible. It is important for us to understand as much as we can about what the Bible says about God. Read each passage below and write out what you find out about God from the Bible verses.
To make it easy for you, each one listed is hyper-linked to Bible Gateway*:
Note: This list is an excerpt from Lesson 1 of a full beginners study on the Bible called From Genesis to Jesus. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but a simple and comprehensive list of key characteristics of God for someone new to the Bible and the faith of Christians.
“The human race does in fact crave the experience of awe and wonder. And there is no reality more breathtaking than Jesus Christ. He is not safe, but He is stunning.” -John Piper The Dangerous Duty of Delight pg. 8
This morning, I just typed “thank*” into my Bible’s search engine and began to scroll through 100+ places where the word is used. One in particular made me take pause. Here are some lyrics of a song which was written to praise our God:
“All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.
They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power;
To make known to the children of men Your mighty acts
And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.”
We see that it is good to thank and speak praises about our God to others. Not only is it good for us, but all of creation will thank Him (yes, that is what “all of Your works means”)!
Sometimes we think it is enough to just be thankful in our minds and hearts. I tend to be in that place and continue to have my faith be deep, but muted. This Psalm really challenged me to open my mouth and speak aloud about the greatness of our God and His Kingdom!
Won’t you take the opportunity this weekend to “speak of the glory of God’s Kingdom” or “talk of God’s power” or “make known to children God’s mighty acts”? That is what blesses our God!
In short, when Joshua was leading the Israelite people into the land God had promised them, they had come to a point where they needed to cross the Jordan River in its flood stage. The Ark of the Covenant, the key item that symbolized the presence of God, was carried by the priests into the river and the water stopped flowing so that all of the people could cross on dry land. Incredible.
The lesson of this story? Amazing things happen in the river. Not on the ledge, not with toes in the water, but when you’ve jumped in. We often think, “God, hey, you do something awesome to prove you’re in this, and then I’ll get involved.” That is not faith, and God very rarely operates this way. God would say, “Have faith in me – jump in – and I will show up in powerful ways. You have to jump in to see what’s amazing.”
We see it over and over again. “Noah, build an ark.” “Moses, approach the most powerful leader on the planet and give him the what for.” “Joshua, walk around this city for 7 days.” “Gideon, take less guys and grab some jars.” “David, yeah you – the teenager – go grab 5 stones.” “Daniel, pray even when it’s illegal.” “Peter, leave your nets and livelihood behind and follow me.” And EVERYTIME, God did what He promised. He shows up. He delivers. He takes care of business. He transforms the lives of those involved and of those impacted.
We need to get our toes out of the water. Did God intend for us to just be slightly better versions of humankind? Did He intend for us to just be more civilized? To do the same thing year after year, after year, after year…
Or did God intend for us to be a part of something supernatural? Of something impossible, awesome, and dream-worthy? If this is it, then He calls us to jump in the river. Otherwise, we’ll “miss it” and faith will be boring. It will be same old vanilla day-to-day, and we’ll call it “walking with Jesus.” Of course, in reading the scriptures, it doesn’t seem like walking with Jesus was very boring. It seemed, well, impossible, awesome, dream-worthy, and supernatural. Why should we expect much different?
How do we jump in? Get involved in the inner-city. I don’t mean look for a semi-annual project, I mean jump in and get involved. Watch a kid’s life change because you and Jesus connect with them consistently over the next months and years really loving them. Invest in the lives of those around you that are exploring Jesus or those that are completely lost. Check out the roundtable discussions coming soon on how we can work together in ministering to the homeless and those locked into human trafficking nightmares. Start believing Jesus’ words that “where your treasure is, your heart is also” and give to his kingdom work – the church, local partnerships, or missions.
Break the staleness of normalcy, and jump in. Your best years are NOT behind you.
Today I was reading Keith Minier’s blog and realized their church family @GracePick is just starting a series on the Shocking Statements of Jesus.
A while back I did a series on that, but just pulled statements from the Gospel of Matthew. In a quick tour of the first half of Matthew, we outlined a list the Top 10 Shocking Statements by Jesus. Then we continued in a second week with the second half of the book and did 10 more…so we ended up with a Top 20.
Here’s my list:
Shocking Statement #1: And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” bible.us/Matt4.19.NASB
Shocking Statement #2: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but... bible.us/Matt7.21.NASB
Shocking Statement #3: “So that you may know that the Son has authority on earth to forgive sins…Get up, pick up your mat…bible.us/Matt9.6.NASB
Shocking Statement #4: “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.”bible.us/Matt9.12.NASB
Shocking Statement #5: Do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you…bible.us/Matt10.19.NASB
Then I was scrolling through my email and came across a forward article about our nation from a patriot in our @LosAltosGrace Church family. The title of the email article was “We Are Not Coming Back.” It caught my attention because it was written by a Rabbi…
It was written originally in the days following the 2012 Presidential Election (Read it on his blog here). It certainly talked about politics and was very insightful. The part that grabbed me was this paragraph:
Obama also knows that the electorate has changed – that whites will soon be a minority in America (they’re already a minority in California) and that the new immigrants to the US are primarily from the Third World and do not share the traditional American values that attracted immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a different world, and a different America . Obama is part of that different America , knows it, and knows how to tap into it. That is why he won.
The bigger question for me is not how the elections will go in this different and new America, but how can we see the Gospel and disciples of Jesus penetrate this different…and new America. This “new America” has long been rooted in our urban areas. I saw it for 8 years as I lived in downtown Columbus, Ohio. And now I’m living in one of the largest urban areas in the world…I’m still praying and wrestling with what is it gonna take?
This different or “new America” provides us with great challenges and opportunities for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s take our energy, prayers and creativity and leverage them toward seeing our Jesus draw many to Himself!
Many prayers in the next 24 hours will be made for “revival” and I’m in favor of that. But what about our prayers for the thousands of people in our country who have never had a “__vival”; that is a “first life with Christ”, been “born again” nor even known about Jesus. We must pray for these and for the church and Jesus’ disciples to sow the Good News!
We see the fields white for harvest. Isn’t that what we should see in this different and new America? God is bringing the world to us and let’s see Jesus bring the world to Himself through US.
The mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, respectfully approached Jesus. She had a small request for Jesus. “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom” (Matt. 20:21). It sounds like a typical Jewish mother’s request (“My boys are good boys!”). She wasn’t asking much, only that one could be the assistant Savior and the other the associate Lord. Jesus must have thought that he had heard it all now.
Jesus replied in a straightforward fashion, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” James and John chime in, “We can” (v. 22). Their response proves they are pretty clueless.
The other ten disciples get wind that mama has been politicking for the “Sons of Thunder.” The disciples start to make some noise of their own. “When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers”—probably because they also wanted those positions (v. 24). Pride and vanity have a tendency to bring to the surface more pride and vanity. So we see the picture—all the disciples jockeying for position, working one-upmanship. They were a pretty ratty bunch.
The First Shall Be Last and the Last Shall Be First
Talk about a teachable moment. Jesus, the master teacher, was not going to miss this opportunity. But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave” (v. 25-27, NLT).
What a paradigm change! I wish I had been there to see the look on their faces. He had just described to them an upside-down leadership style. If you want to be a leader, become a servant; do what others are not willing to do. If you want to be first among the leaders, become a slave (a bond servant), not embraced with a legalistic obligation, but born of a free choice motivated by love. In this commitment there was no free agency; it was a lifetime of voluntary indentured service.
Remember, the Pharisees, the religious leadership of the day, modeled a different kind of leadership. They loved the best place in the synagogue. They loved to be noticed in the market place and for others to recognize them and say, “Hello, Rabbi.” The disciples must have been tempted to think that when their movement succeeds, it would be nice to occupy the best seats and to be noticed by the people. But after this little discourse by Jesus, they might have been thinking, Maybe I should rethink this leadership thing.
Finally, Jesus reveals to them the hinge that would support this radical service. That hinge would be the willingness to give up their lives. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 28). At the core of all authentic service is a relinquishment. No, for most of us it will not be our physical lives, but in true service there is always the aspect of giving up what we want in order to do what he wants. How did this teaching go over with his disciples? Let’s fast-forward to the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth to answer this question.
The Secret Weapon
The scene is the last Passover meal that Jesus would share with the men he had picked to carry on his work here on earth. He knows their hearts and understands that they have a long way to go to apply his truth to their lives. He needed an object lesson that would demonstrate the leadership principles previously outlined. His disciples had been with him three and a half years. They had watched him raise people from the dead. He had touched people’s mouths and the mute spoke. Ears were opened and the deaf began to hear. They were amazed as the seas obeyed him. Yet, it hadn’t brought the change in their lives the Lord had sought. He needed a secret weapon that would not only change them, but also be a tool to reach the world. This was the last interaction with his disciples to etch upon their minds the image by which he was to be remembered. What would it be?
“Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him” (John 13:1-5).
Jesus takes a common towel and washes the disciples’ feet. That night he must have shaken Hell. Demons must have shuddered when they pondered what would happen if this mindset replaced the mentality of the world—this system of the world that is under the “control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), which says you are important according to position, possessions, or posture in life. Jesus blew a hole right in the center of this mentality by the most valuable taking the role of the least valuable.
A Footwasher to the Footwashers
I worked with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) for 17 years, 8 of those in Kona, Hawaii, where Loren and Darlene Cunningham, co-founders of YWAM, lived. On several occasions I heard Darlene say that God had called her to be a “footwasher to the footwashers.” When Loren needed to be away to take care of the vast responsibilities God had given him, Darlene was home taking care of the children, always with a positive attitude. I watched her spend untold hours counseling and encouraging those of us who were called to minister. We needed encouragement. Being logistical workers and not directly reaching the lost, we sometimes viewed ourselves as second-class missionaries. Darlene encouraged us by speaking worth and value into our lives both in relation to who we were and what we did. Through her life and example, she helped us esteem the high position of service to which God had called us. Like Jesus, she was willing to humble herself to lift others up.
I think we might be a bit surprised when God gives out rewards for our earthly deeds (Matt. 16:27). We might find high on his list of tasks, child-rearing responsibilities, washing socks, or championing others even though it placed us out of the glow of the limelight. I would not be the least bit surprised if on that day we have some shocked people when they finally realize that in serving God, it is not the height of the task or even its breadth that impresses God. It is the depth of our love for Christ—the motivation for our service—which catches the eye of our Father.
“It has been a crazy, crazy week in Jerusalem,” the man explained to his other two companions. “Just a week ago there was an impromptu parade. It was an amazing moment. Many of us were gathered along the road and were buzzing with excitement. Riding up into the city on a donkey was a man who certainly was a prophet.”
“Over the last several years, his reputation had grown and grown. The stuff he taught was truly inspiring and not like our boring rabbi’s teaching. He hung out with anyone…even those who drank too much and who slept around. Cleo and I always enjoyed being with him at the table as he would smile, laugh and ask such thoughtful questions. He was always genuine whether he was talking just to you or to the large crowds that had begun to follow him around from place to place. He could bring to light the truth of the Scriptures in ways that even baffled the temple leaders.”
“On top of all that, Jesus of Nazareth did so many extraordinary things. He helped some of our fisherman friends get their largest catch ever. He took a young boy’s sack lunch and multiplied it to feed thousands of people. He helped a paralyzed man walk again, and a blind man to see and even relieved several people from evil spirits. Through his amazing healing power, a 12 year-old girl was saved from dying. Just a few weeks ago, we heard from Mary and Martha that their brother and one of Jesus’ own friends was brought back to life after having died from sickness. Wow…what a guy!”
“Even though Jesus did so many amazing things and was such an amazing man of God, he and his influence threatened our religious leaders. Our leaders handed him over to the Roman government for treason, as one who claimed to be a king. Jesus was sentenced to death and executed immediately after being sentenced. It all happened so quickly. It all started on Thursday late in the evening and Jesus was dead on Friday. It was a brutal death, by crucifixion, unfair and uncivil in so many ways.”
“Both Cleo and I had hoped that Jesus was the One—the Messiah—that has been promised for years and years to our Jewish ancestors. So much of what he did matches what the Messiah would be like. We were hoping that Jesus would be the One, but that hope was dashed by his death on Friday.”
“Our hope has continued to evaporate over these three days. There is something strange going on though. A few of our friends went to the grave early this morning but didn’t find his body. These women then came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the grave as well and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
“Sir, I’m sorry to overwhelm you with all of this, but Cleo and I have been really depressed as we have been processing all of this as we are walking back to our village. You did ask us, ‘What things were going on?’ as you joined our conversation on the road.”
The man who had just recently joined them on their walk toward the village, challenged them boldly:
“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
“Remember back to what the prophet Micah said ‘But you, city of Bethlehem, 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.’ Wasn’t this Jesus of Nazareth actually born in the modest town of Bethlehem?”
“Didn’t Yahweh, our God actually tell our forefather Moses these words, ‘I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.’ Moses received God’s forecast of the Messiah being like Moses and being a common man—a countryman if you will, but with all of the word of God.”
“And the prophet Isaiah spoke many things about the Messiah parallel the life of Jesus.
Isaiah wrote that the Messiah: ‘He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.’ Does this sound like what happened to Jesus?
Isaiah went on:
‘Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by 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.’
“This sounds like the Messiah would suffer! Isaiah goes on by saying, ‘We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’
“Don’t you see that the Messiah would deliver you and he had to suffer to actually fulfill what the prophets said?!”
Cleo and his friend were listening intently to all that this very learned man was saying. It was like he had inside information on how all of this stuff for the Messiah fit together. He had to be some sort of a rabbi or teacher they assumed.
This conversation carried on as they walked together. Soon they were approaching their village and it was getting to be late in the afternoon. Cleo and his friend invited the man to have dinner with them. It seemed like the teacher was heading further passed the village, but Cleo convinced him to join us finally by joking with him that “You gotta eat somewhere before you can keep going farther.”
The three strolled into the village of Emmaus and then up to Cleo’s house. Relieved from walking in the heat, they washed up from their journey and sat down to recoup their energy at dinner.
At the table, Cleo said to the teacher, “Would you bless this meal in prayer for us?” and the teacher graciously did. After they prayed the teacher picked up the basket of bread and started to pass it around the table. Cleo and his friend were looking intently at the teacher and all of a sudden they recognized the teacher actually looked JUST LIKE Jesus. They turned and looked at each other with excitement and said, “That’s Jesus!” Looking back toward where the teacher was seated, they saw him no longer there.
They jumped up from the table and scurried around to find him. They checked the house and then ran out to the street yelling his name trying to call him back to the table. Jesus was no where to be found! He had vanished!
“Cleo, that was Jesus! As we were walking side-by-side down the road, I guess I never looked at him very closely. I don’t know how I didn’t recognize him, but that was Him! Who else could explain the Scriptures like that! We’ve got to get back to the rest of the disciples in Jerusalem and tell them that we’ve seen Jesus too!”
Cleo joked back, “Well, we were at the table, and we gotta eat before we can go again!”
They quickly shoved some sustenance in their mouths and headed quickly back to Jerusalem to tell the others they had seen Jesus.
[The rest of the story continues in Luke 24:33 and following]
“I simply argue that the cross should be raised at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town’s garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew and Latin and Greek … at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where He died. And that is what He died for. And that is what He died about. That is where church-men ought to be and what church-men ought to be about.”
George Macleod, founder of the Iona Community in Scotland
Joshua has stepped into being “strong and courageous” as he was exhorted by the Lord and his people. He is full of courage as the Lord parted the Jordan River and his people walked across a dry riverbed striking terror into the hearts of their enemies in the Promised Land.
The Lord asks Joshua to lead the people of Israel in marking themselves out separate unto God through the ancient practice of circumcision. This was a painful process for the warriors, but an important step in showing their obedience to the LORD.
After a time of healing, Joshua is on a reconnaissance walk making plans for the impending battle with Jericho.
“Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and
Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?”
He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.”
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?”
The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.”
— Joshua 5:13-15 NASB
Most believe that this “captain” was Jesus appearing to Joshua. Well actually the Son of God, because He didn’t become Jesus until He was born as a baby years later!
You can imagine that Joshua was VERY confident about leading the battle against Jericho. God had them shaking in fear, and its likely Joshua was puffing up with pride. In this exchange, Joshua is humbled and brought back to a proper position of servitude and reliance upon the LORD.
When Jesus shows up in our lives, He often has the same message– don’t rely on yourself, rely on me! Jesus is certainly worth our full faith and trust! The Captain of the Heavens is on our team!
“As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.” – 2 John v.6
Jesus lived His life walking in love. He actually had to learn to walk—as all toddlers do. He loved his parents and his mentors in the temple. He walked into religious places and loved them. He loved the outcasts by enjoying dinners and drinks with them. He loved the children and brought them into the middle of His circle. He even walked on water.
He healed the chronically ill, the blind and loved Lazarus enough to raise him back to life. He loved those “Gentile dogs”—the non-Jews who He welcomed into His Kingdom. He stooped onto the ground with a basin of water, towel wrapped around his waist, and washed His disciples’ feet showing them the full extent of His love. He walked up a hill after a beating, with a crown of thorns and a cross. He escorted the man hanging next to Him on the cross—a mocker and thief—into paradise. He died, was buried and walked out of the tomb indicating His loving victory over sin and death. He walked through the walls into a locked room to be with His beloved disciples after His resurrection.
Jesus walked on this planet in love and as He departed, he lovingly shared with his disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to all creation.”
Jesus’ love moved Him on mission to our world–from a baby through the ascension. As we walk in His love, it will move us to mission as well. Won’t you consider how you can “Walk in Love”?!?!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” – John 3:16
Almost every time I speak about unreached people groups, I hear a comment like, “We’ve got plenty of unreached people right here where we live, without worrying about groups halfway across the world.” And that’s true. There are more individuals living within already “reached” people groups, than there are in all the unreached people groups of the world. However, there is one major difference. Most people in the West have great access to the message of Christ through media, local churches, and believers. For 300 million people in the unengaged, unreached people groups of the world, there is no way, outside of divine revelation, to hear the message of Christ. There is no church, no missionary, and not one verse of Scripture translated into their language. How much longer will we wait until we go to these groups, and put them on our priority list for funding and manpower?