Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Window of Significance: The Centurion

"When the centurion and those with I'm who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely, he was the Son of God!"  Matthew 27:54

The Window of Significance chapter took me a little longer than the previous chapters to "get".  I'm not sure if it's because I have so many different things going on that I wasn't reading with a clear head or if everyone experienced this as well.  However, after reading it twice, it hit me and it hit me hard.

The centurion was in charge of a large group of men who were keeping guard over Jesus when he died on the cross  The centurion experienced first hand the power of the cross.  You see, the centurion was one of the first to be changed by the power of the cross, to believe and be saved by professing his belief.  At first, I was saddened that this centurion didn't "get it" before Jesus died.  However, then I realized he was one of the lucky ones to "get" the significance of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins just moments after it happened.

It's amazing to me that God was able, in the horrible moment of Jesus hanging on the cross, to grab ahold of the centurion's heart.  The centurion, a very powerful soldier in charge of one hundred soldiers.  They followed him.  Imagine the impact the centurion's new belief in Jesus made on these men.  I'm sure after seeing their centurion's change of heart a lot of the soldiers were able to find Jesus as well.  The centurion and the other soldiers had been through war, tough times, and their hearts were hardened.  The most wonderful thing about this is that God was able to soften them for eternity.

For me, The Window of Significance represents the power and significance of the cross and how truly remarkable our God is.  God can take the toughest situations and help us through them all.  We just have to give him our hearts, no matter what kind of battle we are going through, and believe in the significance and power of Jesus dying for our sins.

This is the time of the year when many people think more about your sacrifice you made for us.  This is the time of the year when many people who are lost find you and believe.  Lord, we pray that you soften all of our hearts to remembering the sacrifice you made for us so that we will continue to live our lives for you and not ourselves.

*  Please join us next week as we conclude this study of The Windows of Easter.  Our goal is to briefly talk about the remaining three windows:  The Window of Sorrow, The Window of Strength and the Window of Scripture.  We would love to finish this study before Easter.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Next Week's Reading

Please join us on Wednesday March 28th to discuss Windows on Easter...The Window of Significance: The Centurion.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Window of Sin: Judas Iscariot

"But Jesus said unto him, "Judas, betrays thou the Son of man with a kiss?"  Luke 22:48

I can't believe Judas betrayed Jesus like that!  How could he just turn him in and turn his back on Jesus after everything he's done with Jesus.  The healings, the teachings, the time Jesus spent with Judas.  How could he betray him?  I would never have done that.

Or would I?  The answer to this question for all of us is yes.  You see, to betray Jesus requires sin and we are all guilty of sinning.  Whether it's worrying, stealing, lying, walking away from our relationship with Jesus...we are all guilty of having a little Judas in us.  You see, in a sense, Judas' fall came from his sin.  He sinned against Jesus.  This can happen to us as well.  

We can learn a lot from Judas.  He had a pretty good life with Jesus.  He was part of "the crowd".  Judas was part of the healings.  Can you imagine witnessing these healings?  Why did he betray Jesus?  Greed.  Think of how often greed can cause us to betray Jesus as well.  Sin can overtake any of us at any part of the day, any time of our lives.  We can look like we are living the Christian life.  We go to church, we pray at every meal, we even partake in an online Bible study.  We can play the role.  Sin can build a huge wall between us and Jesus.  Sin can destroy our relationships with Jesus.  We need to make sure we are constantly confessing our sins, no matter how big or how small, to Jesus and then ask him for forgiveness.  After this, we move on.  We continue to build our relationship with Jesus and get closer to him.

My favorite thing that Bill Crowder, author of Windows on Easter, included in this chapter was the story of the artist:

The story is told of an artist who was commissioned to paint a Sicilian cathedral with a mural depicting the life of Jesus.  He discovered a twelve-year-old boy whose radiant innocence made a perfect model for the Christ child.  Years later, it was Passion Week, and the artist had completed all the major figures except Judas.  One day, a man who face showed the results of years of alcohol abuse staggered into a tavern where the artist was sitting.  Immediately the artist chose him to be the model for Judas.  Leading the man to the cathedral, he pointed to the bare space on the wall and asked him to pose as Judas.  The derelict broke down into sobs, "Don't you remember me?"  Pointing to the Christ child, the man explained, "Many years ago, I was your model for Him."

You see, it's very easy for us to point fingers and say "how could Judas betray Jesus?"  It's very easy for us to claim "I would never do that!"  We need to realize that it's also very easy for us to become like Judas.  All it takes is for Satan to grab hold of our hearts, even just a little bit, and he can have us in a downward spiral as well.  

As we continue to grow in our spiritual walk with Christ by attending church, praying, joining Bible studies, and much more, let's also make sure our relationship is continuously growing strong with Christ.  Therefore, when Satan tempts us with sin (which he definitely will), then we can rejoice in knowing that our relationship with Christ is stronger than the sin we are tempted with, no matter how big or how small.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Window of Surprise: Malchus

I am very excited to begin our study on The Window On Easter by Bill Crowder.  During this study, we will study the time leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus through the eyes of the people he touched.  We begin with Malchus.

Malchus?  This was the first time I'm learning of a man named Malchus.  I remember hearing the story of Peter cutting off a slave's right ear and Jesus healing him.  However, the name I couldn't place.  Then, to try to view the death and resurrection of Jesus through the eyes of Malchus was very moving to me.

Quick summary on Malchus.  Malchus, the servant of the high priest, was one of the men coming to arrest Jesus.  Peter cut off Malchus' right ear.  Jesus, with one touch, immediately healed his right ear.  Malchus moved forward with participating in the arrest.

Imagine being Malchus, a servant.  He was told how horrible of a man Jesus was and they needed to arrest him.  He believed them I'm sure, especially after Peter cut off his right ear.  However, imagine what Malchus was feeling when Jesus picked up his right ear and healed him.  Confused I'm sure.  Amazed.  Awestruck.  Thankful.  I'm sure there was even remorse for what he was about to do to repay him.  He still moved forward with supporting the high priest and doing what he was told to do.  You may be asking yourself why.  Why didn't he fall on his knees and beg for forgiveness?  Why didn't he show Jesus how much he believes in him now?  Did he really believe at that moment that Jesus is the Messiah?

Bill Crowder, the author of The Window On Easter, writes:

"I love that idea-but we just don't know.  What we do know, however, is that for the rest of his life, Malchus wore on the right side of his head the proof of an encounter with the God-man.  For the rest of his life, whenever he heard the name Jesus, his hand must have unconsciously moved to touch that restored right ear.  For the rest of his life, he would be unable to deny the love and care that he had experienced in what one poet called "the touch of the Master's hand."  For the rest of his life, he bore the evidence of the greatest surprise he would ever experience."

Bill Crowder continues with the following:

"Malchus knew what it was to be owned, and, as a result of Peter's behavior, knew what it was to be hated.  In Christ, however, he had known what it was to be cared for and loved.  That had to have been a surprise, given the nature of the circumstances under which he met the Savior."

In other words, we don't need to know why Malchus didn't follow Jesus in that moment.  We need to learn that we, especially in this day and age, are sinning against Jesus just as Malchus did.  There are moments in all of our lives where we sin.  Not one of us is perfect.  Worry, doubt, greed, lust, dishonesty, jealousy.  It all comes creeping in our lives.  God knew where we would be today.  Yet, He still sent his son to die for our sins on the cross.  Bill Crowder wraps up this chapter perfectly:

"Paul reminds us, 'But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' (Romans 5:8)  While we were yet sinners....Now that is a surprise."

I love that we can stop and compare ourselves to Malchus, the servant whose right ear was cut off by Peter and then healed by Jesus.  It's so easy for us to look at others and say "how could they?"  When God could be looking at us saying the same thing.  Yet, instead, He loves us through it all and surprises us by giving us healing in ways we couldn't ever imagine.  

For me, what I want to learn from Malchus is to never miss a chance to thank God for the healing He sends my way.  I want to show him how grateful I am so I can follow His path and not my own.

*  Be sure to join us next week for our next chapter, The Window of Sin: Judas Iscariot.