Blessed, happy…

The hillside that looks down to the Sea of Galilee from the Mount called the Mount of Beatitudes, or Mt. Eremos in Israel.

 

We started the day at the top of Mt. Arbel. The Master had taken us up the night before. At daybreak, we watched a gorgeous sunrise over the Sea!  Mt. Arbel is His favorite “get away from it all” spot. You can get a view of the whole lake from there.

We had spent much of the past few weeks all around this northern part of the Galilee. He had chosen 12 of us to be His closest followers, His talmudim. Many of us grew up around here, working the sea for fish and the land for grain.

As we journeyed down towards the shore, He warned us about the expected crowds today. There was something in His heart that He needed to tell the people… If people were going to receive any kind of physical healing from Him, they were going to hear why He healed first.  He told us of the story when He taught in the synagogue in Nazareth… when the reading from the Prophets for that day was from Isaiah. He affirmed the reason He had come… to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind… to set the oppressed free.

And now today, today would be the day when the Teacher revealed His yoke, His perspective, His views on the Law. And today, he would set the whole tone for the next year and a half of ministry…

As He began to teach, He did so just like He was in a synagogue. He sat down on a rock. And He preached with such authority.

“Blessed, happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven,” He began.

“Blessed, happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

“Blessed, happy are those who are meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 6:3-5).

With each blessing, more and more people made their way to the field below Him. He continued…

“Blessed, happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed, happy are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed, happy are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 6:6-8).

His voice echoed off the hillside and fisherman pulled their boats onto the shore to hear more.

“Blessed, happy are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed, happy are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 6:9-12).

The Master spoke for quite some time… I looked around as the crowd continued to increase. People elbowed each other to see His face. They wiped their brows as the warmth of the day increased. “Who was this?” I heard them murmur to each other.

He watched as fishermen on the shore began to pack their catch in salt to preserve it. “You are the salt of the earth,” He assured us. “But if the salt loses it saltiness, how can it be salty again?” (Matthew 6:13).

He looked east toward Hippos across the sea and proclaimed, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:14-16).

He then began to illustrate His views on Torah, His yoke, by noting what other teachers of the Law have to say… He would start by saying, “You have heard it said… “ and then He would add, “but I say to you…” It was His way of bringing grace and life to the Laws of Moses. For example, He said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:43-45).

Some in the growing crowd were mesmerized by these teachings. Others were puzzled as this man appeared to be a learned rabbi, but was questioning much of everything we all knew of the Law.

He taught on murder, adultery, divorce, prayer and fasting. He summed up the Law and the Prophets with this straightforward statement: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12).

The topic that spoke most to my heart? Anxiety. I will admit, I’m a worrier. And yet, as He looked at the flowers in bloom on this very hillside, and saw the birds flying through the treetops, the Master urged us:

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34).

 As He concluded this powerful, yet simple message, the crowd was amazed. I looked at the others with a smile, humbled that He had chosen us to be His disciples… and wondering what else we might learn in the days and weeks to come as we followed our rabbi.

Some of the thoughts, perhaps, of one of the 12, as he remembered that day where Yeshua first spoke those words.

_____

There are so many amazing teachings in this, the first of Jesus’ public teachings. As we see often, Jesus flips many of the norms and teachings of old on their heads. You are blessed when you are poor in spirit. It’s okay to mourn. Be hungry for righteousness not the Law. Be a peacemaker. Don’t worry when you are persecuted, or when you are hungry or naked. Seek first the Kingdom. Be salt. Be light. Treat others as you want to be treated. This is how you are to pray.

He was going “on the record” … establishing His yoke, His ways, His views on Torah. And ultimately, Matthew 11:30: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

So, say “Yes!” to the Law. But, more importantly, say “Yes!” to Grace. Say “Yes!” to the way of Yeshua. He spoke with the bold and loving authority of God.  This message is for everyone. Jew and Gentile alike. Believer and unbeliever. For those who heard it first-hand on a hillside along the banks of the Sea of Galilee as He spoke it – Matthew says in 7:28 that the crowds were amazed!”

AND the timeless message is for us today. Can we be amazed again? I hope so!

 

[1] Friedrich Hauck, “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” as cited in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, by Kenneth E. Bailey, © 2008, p. 68.

 

(c) 2019 Rich Ronald.

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Where to find Living Water? Jesus.

Living in the Overflow… Jesus says, “Come to me and drink.”

This city is such a madhouse. I love coming up to Jerusalem for the feasts, but Sukkot is always crazy! Not only does all of Israel make pilgrimage, but then we are commanded to build booths to live in for the eight days of the festival. It reminds our people of the years of wandering in the desert, and how Jehovah provided for our every need then… And we trust that He will be our Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, for us today and in the New Year.

The already crowded and narrow streets are packed with people, animals and sukkahs. The weather has turned cooler the past couple of days and so each little hut also has a small fire going, so smoke fills the air. The smell of animals, coal fires and people crammed together is, let’s just say, unique at this season! Each year, my wife and three children make the five day journey from The Galilee to the City of David. It is a time of rejoicing, for sure! We celebrate the fall crops of grapes and olives. And we begin our prayers in earnest for the grain we have just planted and that our One True God would bring rain to the land. Each day as part of this celebration of Tabernacles, the priest will walk from the Temple to the Pool of Siloam with a golden pitcher. It takes several hours of the day as the journey is about a mile. He retrieves Mayim Chayim, living water, from this spring-fed pool to pour out on the altar with the sacrifices. The amount of water is minimal. But its significance is everything! We are trusting that God will provide rain and good weather for the kernels of wheat and barley tucked under the soil on each family’s small plot of Promised Land. There’s nothing further we can do for the grain. The rest is up to YHWH.

On the Final Day of the Feast, the priest makes eight trips to the Pool. Along the voyage those of us in the crowd shout the Psalms of Ascent from King David. Hour after hour, it’s a raucous time of joyful celebration. The priest works the crowd as we all shout “Hosanna — God Save Us!” The higher the pitcher over his head, the louder we cheer. The lower the pitcher, the softer the crowd murmurs our “Hosanna’s!” It was during one of those quiet moments… the priest had lowered the pitcher of life giving water, the crowd was quietly singing “Hosanna…” Suddenly in a loud voice someone among the people shouts “SH’MA! Listen!” We all turned towards the commanding speaker, stunned to realize that it was not a priest, but it was the new rabbi Yeshua, from our hometown.

His words still reverberate off my heart: “Sh’ma! Listen… Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them!” We turned one to each other nodding our approval. Who wouldn’t want Mayim Chayim, living water, every day?! I heard some near me say He must be a prophet,likely thinking of the prophesy from Ezekiel that says living water will flow from the Temple deep enough to swim in. Others said He must be the Messiah.

I’m still undecided… I knew Yeshua as a boy. We grew up together. I heard Him at our synagogue in the Galilee recently… I want to believe, but the priests there chased him out.

But I keep wondering, what would it be like for me, for my family, to have living water flow from my heart… to overflowing… Is it possible? Is it really possible?

 

Some of the words, actions, thoughts perhaps, of a bystander at the Feast of Tabernacles from John 7.

Are you thirsty? We all have seasons of weariness, don’t we? Where we find our hearts so conflicted or broken. Or we are sitting on anger or unresolved hurt. Or we are so busy with life that we are brittle and about to crack. Would you let the living water of Jesus fill you up?

 On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted, “If you are thirsty, come to me and drink!  Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say.”  Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone that had faith in him. John 7:37-38 (CEV)

Some might say this is the most important part of the story. This is a promise for “everyone that has faith in Him.” Look at who the Holy Spirit is:

The Father… will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you. John 14:16 (LB)

The Spirit will show you what is true. John 14:17 (CEV)

God’s Spirit doesn’t make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control. 1 Timothy 1:7 (CEV)

It is the Holy Spirit who is our comforter, who gives us hope when we see no way out. It is the Spirit who gives us boldness to proclaim the hope of the Gospel to a friend at work or our neighbor. It is the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth, and gives us wisdom to make right decisions.

Drink. Everyone! From the Life-giving springs of Jesus.

The invitation is from Jesus to you and to me. This is not just a once a year thing like the Feast of Tabernacles. I believe we need to empty ourselves of our self everyday. What does that mean? To wake up each morning and say as Jesus did in Luke 22: “Lord, not my will, but your will be done.”  John Eldredge says to ask God this prayer everyday: “What is the life You want me to live?”

Be eager to drink from the springs of living water everyday. And then, let His love, joy, hope and peace overflow through you to others all around you.

 

(c) 2019 Rich Ronald.

The Power of The Holy Spirit!

Do the clouds have to move, or does the wind have to blow, in order for us to know the Holy Spirit is moving in our lives? I hope not.

I’m an entertainer. A showman. I love being the center of attention. I love dazzling the people with illusions and tricks and sleight of hand. I wear only the finest silks. I love to pretend that I am a really important person, even though I’m just a common Samaritan. They call me Simon, the Great Wizard! And everywhere I go, people are in awe. But what’s really ironic, is that I’m not at all powerful. It’s just an act.

This man Philip, a follower of the Nazarene, came to town recently. He gathered such a large crowd as he preached that the people began to forget about me. He took my audiences away from the town square to the river where he was baptizing people in the name of Jesus. I was fascinated at his ability to inspire and was so touched by his words, that I too, decided to become a follower of Jesus and was baptized. You wouldn’t believe all the things that Philip could do. He would put his hands on a person, say a quick prayer and they would be healed in the name of Jesus!  And let me tell you… Philip’s power was real! Not like my illusions.

One day, some others they called “disciples” also came to town. Peter and John were two that walked with Jesus in Jerusalem and were considered in His inner circle when He was alive. They also drew large crowds here in Samaria and they said that not only did new followers of Jesus need to be baptized, but they might also receive the power of the Holy Spirit. I watched in wonder as they laid their hands on people, prayed for them and then, they received the Holy Spirit.

I thought how amazing it would be, how amazing I would be, if I had that power, too! So, I decided right then and there that no amount of money would be too much to pay for me to have that kind of power! I approached the one they called Peter after he healed a man with a deformed arm. I pulled him aside and asked “How much? Please show me how you did that! Name your price! I’ll pay anything if you show me your secret!”

Peter, who up until that moment was filled with laughter and great joy, suddenly turned very angry! “May you and your money perish for thinking that God’s gift can be bought!” he said! “You can have no part in what we are doing if your heart is not right before God. Turn from your wicked ways, Simon, for you are jealous and there is sin in your heart!”

He was right! I wanted to follow Jesus. But I also wanted the power to dazzle and thrill audiences. I fell to my knees right then and there. My heart broke with fear and with awe at who God was and what Jesus had done for me. “Pray for me, for my soul, Peter!” I cried out through my tears…“I only want to know Jesus, the power of His resurrection and the joy of truly following Him,” I thought to myself.

Peter and John returned to Jerusalem after that… Philip left too… Those of us who remained in Samaria saw the power of God continue to change hearts… even mine!

 

The words, actions and thoughts, perhaps of Simon the Sorcerer, as it is recorded in Acts 8… with the hopeful conclusion that Simon’s heart was changed too!

How about you? Do you embrace the fullness of the Holy Spirit? God gives us the gifts of the Holy Spirit for His glory and our joy… not for our glory!  Simon the Sorcerer was attracted to the gifts he saw in Philip… confidence, boldness, compassion and joy. And Simon saw those things and wanted them… but he was interested in making his own name famous and thought the power of the Holy Spirit could be bought for a price. The Apostle Peter called him out on it! Peter told him to repent, and we see that the wizard asked Peter to pray for him. We can be hopeful that he was truly repentant.

We need not fear the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  If we know what gifts God has given us through His Holy Spirit, when we know how we are wired, we can serve Him in our sweet spot and can grow deeper and deeper in our faith and dependence of Him. That’s where God wants us. That’s where I want to be.

The list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be found in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4. The fruit, or confirmation, of the Holy Spirit in our lives is shown in Galatians 5.

But don’t focus on the gifts. Focus on the Giver. Don’t focus on signs and wonders. Focus on the wonder of God instead!

I recently watched the TV series AD, Kingdom and Empire, on Netflix. It’s the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, up to about Acts 9. An amazing thing happens every time there is a miracle, or work of the Holy Spirit… whether it is by Peter or one of the other followers of the Nazarene… the wind blows, the music swells, the clouds move. As I watched I thought, “why doesn’t that happen to me?” And, I honestly believe it is because God wants us to see that using our gifts everyday is as miraculous as when people are healed instantly or something supernatural happens. Can we get to that place where we don’t need to see the wind blow, the clouds move or the music swell to know the Holy Spirit is real?

 

 

 

(c) 2018. Rich Ronald.

I Am That I Am

ReceiveTheHolySpiritIt was an ordinary day. The sky was blue with beautiful white puffy clouds. The air was typically hot. I was tending sheep at the base of the mountain. It was a simple, anonymous life in the country.  It’s what I needed. I was a fugitive. I had killed a man back in Egypt because of the way he treated one of my own. And each day I wrestled with the guilt – the guilt of the murder, the guilt of my people breaking their necks as slaves of Pharaoh, the guilt of growing up in the privilege of the Palace. None of it was right. It didn’t seem fair. The desert air and the mundane nature of my responsibilities was all I needed.

It was just after noon, the heat of the day. The sheep were nibbling at little patches of tall grass. The thoughts in my mind were 1000 miles away. I looked up to my right and beyond a mound of prickly pears, I saw smoke rising from a fire. As I approached I realized it was a bush fully ablaze… but it was not burning up. I thought to myself “how strange?” and approached to consider it further.  Just a few steps from the fire I heard a voice call my name. Again, “how strange,” right? Who in this desert knows my name? “Yes?” I replied with a quiver in my voice and began to take another step forward.

“Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You are standing on holy ground.” At this I knew in my heart it was Yahweh. Quickly, I dug my bare feet into the sand and fell to my knees and hid my face in my hands. Then He said, “I am … I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”

He continued to share His heart with me… Together we felt the pain for my people, our people… and He told me that He would answer the prayers of His people to deliver them from Pharaoh’s evil ways and bring the children of Israel to a land flowing with milk and honey… wide open spaces where they would be free and no longer slaves!

This was very encouraging news! And as I wondered about God’s plan He stunned me with these words: “I am sending you, Moses! Go to the Pharaoh. Lead the people of Israel out of Egypt.”

“What? Meeeee?” I stuttered.  “Why me? Who am I? I’m a fugitive. I’m on the run! Pharaoh will never listen to me!”

And God assured me that He would always be with me. And for proof, He told me that one day, I would worship Him again, right here in this same spot.

“Just one more question…” I asked with a crazy, unknown confidence. “If I take this assignment, if I go to the people of Israel… who should I tell them sent me? What is his name?”

God said to me… “YHWH… Yahweh …” It sounded like He was breathing deep, life giving breaths. “Tell the people of Israel, I Am That I Am sent me to you.”

I protested a bit further, but, I knew it was in vain. The very presence of YHWH was going with me. So, I took my wife and sons that very day, and with my Father in law’s blessing, began the return trip to Egypt.

And was YHWH with me? Oh yeah… oh yeah!

Some of the words, actions and thoughts, perhaps of Moses at the burning bush, as revealed to us in Exodus 3 and 4. This is from the opening of a sermon entitled, “What We Believe: God.” You can watch it here: What We Believe: God

I think it’s significant that when Moses asked God what His name was that God didn’t reply in Aramaic. He didn’t reply in Hebrew. Nor Greek. Nor English. God’s name is the sound of breathing… the sound of life itself!

God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit… all together in one function, breathing life into mankind, from Adam, to the disciples, to you and me.

The sound of breathing… is the name of God. In Hebrew YHWH is translated “I Am.”

God’s name.  I Am.

It is our very life – our created life.

Our life for a set period of years – our living life.

And our life forever — our eternal life!

I am that I am.

I am everything.

I am the Alpha and the Omega. The first and the last. I was before there was anything.

I am the smallest of microscopic strands of DNA. I am the largest galaxy in the farthest distance.

And because of that, God is everything, God is the only thing, you need.

He is not just the sound of breathing, His breath is life itself!

And He offers that life to you!

Think about it! When the “I AM” offers you life? Can I say it? You’d be crazy not to accept it… not to accept Him.

Like Moses at the burning bush… God is holy. He’s waiting for you to approach Him. And at the same time God is with us by way of the Holy Spirit. He goes before us, as Jesus did, to conquer sin and death once and for all. The Bible says He is opportunity. He is healing and love. He is our protector and guide. He is gracious and kind and jealous and righteous. He is the Most High. He is perfection and truth. He is glorious and beautiful. He is our Redeemer and Savior. He is Immortal and Invisible. He is. Period.

And here’s the most amazing thing… because of Jesus, God is accessible to you and me. He loves you. Look at the 23rd Psalm.  He longs to be your Shepherd. You lack nothing. He longs to take you to green pastures and quiet waters where you can find rest for your soul.

Will you let Him?

 

 

(c) 2018 Rich Ronald.

You can defeat the enemy, the Devil… the same way Jesus did!

 

The Israeli desert can be brutal. Satan tried to use it to his advantage. To no avail!

I am known as a tempter, a deceiver and schemer. My goal is to take anything good and wreck it. I have had many, many successes. Eve is the earliest. I was able to confuse her. Oh she had it so good there in the garden… By manipulating the truth just a bit I totally wrecked her life, her relationship with Adam and with God.

I also messed with Abraham, Moses, Saul, David, Solomon, even Peter. The list is endless. And, I’m sure I’ve messed with you.

So the day Jesus entered the wilderness I was poised for another great victory. I watched as he spent 40 long days in solitude.  I waited until he was at his weakest… he was lonely, hungry, and he was likely preparing for his next move. At just the right moment, I pounced!

The Israeli desert is rocky, dry and dirty. Loose stones the size of fists cover the landscape. Just walking can be a chore. And finding a spot to kneel and pray is impossible. With just the right amount of prompting, and the early morning light just so, I knew that Jesus was famished, I figured I may be able to convince him to see small loaves of bread where the path was covered with rocks. This was going to be easier than Eve.  He hadn’t eaten in 40 days. Appealing to his flesh and his position, I said: “If you really are the Son of God, and since you are hungry, why not turn these stones into bread… satisfy your hunger. Can’t you taste a fresh baked loaf, Jesus? Mmmmm.”

Even though he was famished and his body weak, his mind was sharp. He quoted Torah and said: “No one can live on bread alone. People need every word that God has spoken. The word is life. The word is my sustenance, Satan.”

He was stronger than I thought he’d be after 40 days without food.

We walked along for awhile together.  I took him to the City.  The air was hot, not a cloud in the sky. Although no one could see us, we went to the top of Solomon’s great temple. We looked down from the height above and saw people going about their day… the women to the markets and the men to their work. Bright colored awnings peppered the walkway below. I pretended to push him off and challenged his ego. If this is about words supporting him, how about these words from Scripture: “God will give his angels orders about you, Jesus. They will catch you in their arms. Jump, Jesus, Jump!”

He replied by quoting other words from God: “Don’t try to test the Lord!”

I schemed again how I might tempt him… I knew that God has given me the power over this earth, so I used that authority as a bargaining chip… I would gladly give that up if I could get Jesus to merely bow to me!  I’m still angry at God… It was supposed to be me on that throne in heaven! So we went north to Mt. Hermon, the highest elevation in all of the Promised Land. He was still physically weak. Surely I could get him to yield.  “Look to the mountains in the east and the great sea to the west.  This can all be yours, Jesus… all you have to do is bow before me. Think of it… you can bring your people your kind of peace, for all time… think of the wealth of this land, the bounty and riches of the fertile crescent, the many palaces of King Herod… I’ll see to it that it is all yours to do with as you wish… merely worship me.”

This time, he didn’t bow, he bellowed: “Go away, Satan!” Again he quoted the Word of God: “Worship the Lord, the One True God and serve only Him.”

Others were so much easier to cripple… I will continue to press on this one, the Son of God… but for now, I will leave him. I will leave him. But I will be back!

 

The words, actions and thoughts, perhaps, of Satan during temptation of Jesus in Matthew, Chapter 4.

 

Do you know you have the power to defeat the enemy? Use the words of God and the truth of the scriptures. Use the authority Jesus gives to all of us. Most important, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NIV).

 

Original sermon video is found here.

Photo by Matthew J. Parker. More info here.
(c) 2017. Rich Ronald.

A Baptism on the Side of the Road

Look! Here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?

Ah, to worship in Jerusalem. Yes, I’m one who will travel 700 miles, by caravan, just to spend time with the Lord in the city of David. I love the One True God. At least once each year I’m allowed leave to travel from the land of Cush to the Land flowing with milk and honey. It takes about a month to get there. I stay for a few weeks and then travel another 30 days back home.

My name is Zenabi and I am a eunuch. Because I work for the Queen, I’m permitted to take a full entourage for my annual pilgrimage. I’m thankful for that. We were heading back home to Meroe. It was a pleasant Spring afternoon, the third day since we left the city. My scribe had procured a copy of the Septuagint and I was reading as we traveled along.

Since it is preferred to read the Text out loud, that’s what I was doing. So, imagine this… the noise of my carriage along the rocky road, chains and wheels clanking, along with the animals ridden by my escorts — harnesses and leather straps, snorts and braying, I was reading at the top of my lungs; honestly not understanding much of anything.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a young man jogging alongside of the chariot. This was a strange site in the middle of the day, here on this desert road. He heard me reading and shouted: “Kind sir, do you understand what you are studying?” “How can I?” I replied back. “I have no one to explain it to me!”

The stranger asked if he might join me and I nodded in affirmation. He jumped onto the landing and made himself comfortable as we bumped along.

The section of God’s Word that had me puzzled was from the prophet Isaiah:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he does not open his mouth.”

Now, what did that mean? Who was this lamb?

My new friend, whose name was Philip, explained the lamb was Jesus, the Nazarene. The Messiah. He is the One whom Isaiah said was pierced for my sins, and by his stripes we are all healed.  He was condemned to die recently and he offered no defense at his trial. He was brutally crucified. Philip said Jesus had risen from the dead — he had seen the Messiah alive! There were new followers all throughout the Land.

My teacher also noted the author spoke of the flood waters of Noah and God’s great love for His children. And he talked about the baptism of the earth, and the baptism of man. Philip suggested that baptism was like being buried with Jesus and rising again like Jesus.

At that moment, we crossed over Lakhish Stream. I said to him, “Look, here is water. What prevents me from being baptized?”

Philip laughed with delight. He told me he had baptized many people just recently in Samaria.

I ordered the caravan to stop. We climbed down from the chariot and entered the cool water. The sun reflecting off the surface caused me to squint my eyes quite a bit.  He asked me if I believed with all my heart. “Yes!” I jubilantly replied. “I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.”

And with my confession of faith, Philip lowered me into the water. And I rose up out of the river as Jesus came out of the tomb! I’ve never been so full of great joy as I was that sunny day.

My friend Philip disappeared. I never saw him again.

My entourage continued on back to Ethiopia. I told many friends, and even the Queen, of my new faith in Jesus. And following Philip’s example, I had the privilege of baptizing many others in Africa who began to follow the ways of the Messiah as well.

Some of the words, actions and thoughts perhaps, of the Ethiopian and Philip from Acts Chapter 8.

I have to confess, this story for me has always been about the Ethiopian and the baptism. Only recently did I really see that this is more a story about the Evangelist Philip.

When the Upper Story assignment to reach the continent of Africa comes up, God chooses Philip. He’s the one who gets the call to head out to the desert road. He’s the one who obediently shares the Gospel. He’s the one who brings to faith the Ethiopian eunuch. He’s the one who gets to share in the joy of baptism!

 

 

(c) 2017 Rich Ronald.

When You Meet Jesus, Your Heart Will Change. 

Walking along the Road to Emmaus when suddenly…

It truly was the saddest season of my life. Everything had come crashing down. We had believed in Jesus. We had followed Jesus. We loved him! We knew that He would bring peace to Jerusalem and to our people. And yet, he died. He was brutally murdered.

My name is Cleopas. My friend Thadeous and I had just left Jerusalem for Emmaus. We were talking about the past seven days.  Last Sunday we were cheering and rejoicing over the Nazarene as he rode into the city on the back of a donkey. A week later, with the afternoon sun casting long shadows along the rocky path, we argued back and forth about a very bleak future without Jesus. Our shoulders were slumped. Our gait was slow. We kicked up the dust as we shuffled along.

A stranger approached us as we walked west among the rolling foothills. He asked what we were talking about. I looked at my friend Thadeous as if this man was crazy. He encouraged me with his eyes and so I queried the outsider: “Are you the only man alive in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what just happened?” His blank stare in reply prompted a nervous babbling. “Surely you know,” I stammered.  “About Jesus. The prophet. He did many miracles. With great power. We believed he would free Israel. But our leaders handed him over to be killed. And now it’s the third day…”

“Calm down,” he motioned to me with his hands. Then starting with Moses and all the prophets, this very ordinary looking man patiently explained everything ever written in the Ancient Text about the Messiah and how he must suffer.

We invited the man home for supper. He asked if He might offer the blessing. He lifted his eyes to heaven, broke the bread and began to pray. “Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.” Praised are you, Lord God, King of the universe, who brings froth bread from the earth.

We took a piece. And at that very moment we realized it was the Master. Jesus!  The loaf fell to the table as he vanished.

Oh, how our hearts burned inside us as He explained the scriptures. He was so graceful, so patient. It showed His great love for us.

The Story IS true. It has happened indeed, just as it was written in the Canticles of old.

Some of the words, actions and thoughts perhaps of Cleopas and Jesus, from Luke 24.

Corrie ten Boom used to say, “When the train goes through a tunnel and the world gets dark, do you jump out? Of course not. You sit still and trust the engineer to get you through.” Why did Jesus tell the story to Cleopas and his friend? So they’d know the Word is true. They could trust that God is in control. He says: “I’ve got you.”

You can trust Him, too.

Once they realized it was Jesus, the two ran back to Jerusalem. Knowing the story changed everything!  Knowing that Jesus was alive, just as He said, meant every other promise in the Word is true! They lifted up those slumping shoulders and their slow gait became a sprint.

How about you?

Whenever you meet Jesus, your heart will change.

 

(c) 2017 Rich Ronald.