Two Roads Traveled

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost

Our nation has been traveling some rough roads the past few months. The terrain traversed by our nation has also affected the paths we are personally traveling. As a nation and individually, we are walking down roads not previously experienced. Routes probably not our first choice. Unlike Robert Frost, most of us prefer familiar paths. However, I believe God will use our journeys upon the difficult roads for our good and His glory. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

I am reminded of two roads highlighted in scripture. The Road to Emmaus and the Road to Damascus. I see messages for us as we currently walk down similar roadways.

Luk24:13-25, gives the account of two men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They shuffled along and discussed their quandaries regarding Jesus’ death and resurrection. These men knew Jesus was a powerful prophet. However, He had been crucified. Now some women were saying He was alive. What was really happening? They didn’t understand.

These two men may remind us of our nation and ourselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have not understood everything that has happened. Worldwide medical experts continue to ask questions regarding how to combat the coronavirus. It may appear as if leaders are shuffling along being hesitant to give answers. However, they have moved slowly because of uncertainty. Everyone is traveling down a road previously not taken. During the national shutdown, we felt like we had no roads to travel. We still have our questions. Why do we have to be so careful about being with loved ones who are sick and dying? Does social distancing really help? We get tired to washing our hands.  Do we really have to wear masks?  Can’t a medicine be found that will heal those who have acquired this disease? When will a vaccine be developed so we can return to the road of life?

Back to scripture. The men traveling the Road to Emmaus were joined by another individual. He wanted to know what they were talking about. It was really Jesus who was with them, but they did not recognize Him. They shared their story.

It is good to remember that Jesus is traveling with us even when we may not be acutely aware of His presence. He hears our questions and understands our struggles. Jesus says in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always.

When the three travelers reached their destination, the two men asked their companion to stay. Only when Jesus broke bread with them did they recognize Him. This is a picture of our sacrament of holy communion. We may become broken while traveling the roads of life’s journey. However, let us remember Jesus’ words at the Last Supper with His disciples. Luke 22:19 says, “And He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, saying, ‘This is My body, given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’”

In Acts 9:32, the men commented about how their hearts were strangely warmed when Jesus spoke to them. Let us be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Romans 8:5 says, “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

After their encounter with Jesus, the two men returned to Jerusalem. This time, they quickly ran down the road anxious to tell the disciples that Jesus was alive. No more shuffling with doubt. They were running with confidence. Let us remember Proverbs 3:4-5. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

The two men almost missed Jesus on the Road to Emmaus because He showed up in a way they did not expect. Let us be watchful for Jesus while traveling Emmaus-type roads.

There is another road in scripture that we may travel. In Acts 9:1-10 Saul walked the road from Jerusalem to Damascus. When he took his first steps, his heart burned with anger and he was determined to persecute those who believed in Jesus. He believed lies rather than the truth proclaimed by Jesus. (In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”)

On the Road to Damascus, Saul looked for an opportunity to express the bitterness that raged within him. As a nation, we have encountered men and women who have similar feelings. People have lashed out at people. Wounds of prejudice and inequality and disrespect have erupted into lawlessness. Bottled anger has exploded violently. Protests against inequality and authority have not stopped. A mixture of lies and truth continue to be voiced.

Saul’s intent was to find and kill those who believed in Jesus Christ. However, God had a detour planned. Not just a minor road detour, but a major itinerary life change. The light of the Lord flashed before his eyes. Saul hit a roadblock that knocked him to the ground. He remained blind until Ananias prayed for him. The route he would travel throughout the remainder of life was changed dramatically.

There are constructive changes that need to be made within our nation to eliminate racial inequality. However, our country would also benefit from a restoration of respect for law enforcement. Destructive riots are not the way to achieve God’s plans and purposes. While Saul encountered physical blindness, our nation encounters mind blindness. I John 2:11 says, “But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.Then II Corinthians 4:3-4 says, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.We need the light of Jesus to take away our blindness. Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.This is true for us as individuals as well as for our nation.

The United States would benefit from a Damascus Road experience. We need an encounter with the Lord to get us on the right track that will glorify Him. Also, as individuals, we can benefit from Damascus Road experiences. There are times when we need to draw closer to the Lord and allow Him to recalibrate our motives and actions. He may choose a different route. James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Saul encountered Jesus on the Road to Damascus. He became a new man named Paul with a new mission. Let us be aware of Jesus when He appears to us on the Damascus-type roads we travel.
II Corinthians 5:17 tells us that if we are in Christ, we are new creations.

Myterium tremendum” is a phrase that describes how we feel in the presence of the holy. I believe the holy presence of God was experienced by the two men on the Road to Emmaus and by Saul/Paul on the Road to Damascus. Let’s anticipate the Lord’s presence as we travel the roads ahead of us. We may discover that the road less traveled is the most blessed route. Acts 17:28 says, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.

Don’t Get Stuck on Friday

Don’t get stuck on Friday” is a quote I recently read online. I cannot find it again to give proper credit. However, it has remained in my mind.

Imagine yourself in the presence of Jesus over 2000 years ago. You travel with Jesus to Jerusalem. You shout Hosanna with the crowd. You wave palm branches. You celebrate the Passover meal with Jesus and His disciples in the upper room. Jesus asks you to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Hopefully, you do not fall asleep. You may stand around the fire with Peter to keep warm. Will you deny knowing Jesus? Will you be in the crowd along the road as Jesus stumbles towards Golgotha? Will He ask you to help Him carry the cross? Will you cover your ears to prevent hearing the hammer pounding the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet?

Matthew 27:45 says, “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.During these hours, Jesus hung on the cross bearing the sins of the world. The darkness of the world.

Do you feel like you are currently surrounded by darkness? Maybe you have recently experienced the death of someone close to you. Possibly your future looks dark because everything is your world has been turned upside down and you do not know which way to turn. Lots of darkness, discouragement and disappointment.

Don’t get stuck in the darkness of Friday. Unplug the ears you covered while the nails were being pounded into Jesus’ hands and feet. Hear Him cry, “It is finished.”

Move on to Sunday. Go with the women to the tomb. See the stone rolled away. Enter the empty tomb with Peter and John. Look at the linen burial cloths folded and laid aside. Discover for yourself that Jesus has risen! Discover He is alive! Shout hallelujah!

Hear Jesus speak the words of John 11:25-26 to you personally. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.”

Grasp the truth of Romans 8:11. “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.”

These are the truths in which you can walk. But stop for a minute and look at your present situation again.

If you are mourning the loss of someone, can you find comfort knowing this person is now in the presence of Jesus? Hear Jesus say the words of Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are (you) who mourn, for (you) will be comforted.” If the days ahead look dark for you because of uncertainty, be assured that Jeremiah 29:11 is still true. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Do you remember Paul’s words in Philippians 3:10? “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death.” During this COVID-19 outbreak, you are participating in Christ’s suffering. But there is life beyond the suffering. The same power that raised Jesus from the grave is available to you. Embrace this power. Celebrate the resurrection power.

When I previously quoted John 11:25-26 declaring Jesus as the resurrection and the life, I omitted a question at the end. Jesus asks, “Do you believe this?”

I ask you this question right now. If you answer yes, then the assurance of eternal life and resurrection power belong to you. If you answer no, let me share a little more with you.

The darkness of Friday you are experiencing is the darkness of sin. Romans 3:23 tells you and me, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” However, I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This cleansing allows you to move from Friday to Sunday. Then the promise of eternal life is yours.

Open wide your heart to Jesus. Accept Him as your personal savior, and experience I Peter 1:8-9, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

Resurrection Sunday is coming. Together, let us shout “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”

A Challenge:

With gratitude in your heart, read the various gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Possibly begin with Luke 19:28-24:12. Expect to gain fresh insight.

This year, our Resurrection Sunday celebrations will be a little different. Our hallelujahs will not be confined to the four walls of our churches. Instead, let us shout “Christ is risen” from the doorways of our homes. Declare Jesus’ victory over sin and death to the world around you. Someone who has not previously heard this wonderful story may hear you proclaim “Christ is risen! and want to know more. Share the story of Jesus Christ.

Resurrection Life


We just celebrated Resurrection Sunday a few days ago. I guess I am still standing at the empty tomb. Am I standing at the tomb where Jesus was buried or at the tomb where my old nature was buried? Don’t think for a minute that I am comparing myself to Jesus! However, I think we can make some interesting comparisons.

Let’s begin by remembering four things that happened after Jesus was nailed to the cross.
1) Jesus died on the cross
2) Jesus’ dead body was buried
3) The tomb was empty
4) Jesus’ body was resurrected

Now let’s make four corresponding statements that apply to us as believers who have accepted Jesus as our personal Savior.
1) our human nature died on the cross
2) our human nature was buried
3) our tomb is empty
4) we live a resurrected lifestyle

Galatians 2:20 proclaims, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Notice it says, we were crucified with Christ, not just that Christ was crucified for us. This becomes very personal. I realize that as Jesus hung on the cross, my sinful nature was hanging on the cross with Him. When Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus’ body in the tomb, he also buried my sinful nature. (Matthew 27:57-59) My old nature is just as dead as Jesus was.

However, when the women went to the tomb after the sabbath, the tomb was empty. (Matthew 28:1-7) Not only was Jesus’ dead body missing, but also my dead sinful nature is missing. Mary soon found out that Jesus was resurrected. That means, I am also resurrected with a new nature.

II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!We have more to celebrate than the resurrection of Jesus. We can celebrate the resurrection of the new creation we have become in Christ. Jesus did not stay dead. Neither are we to stay dead in our old sinful nature.

Being alive in Christ creates a whole new lifestyle for us! We are to walk in this freedom. We no longer wear grave cloths. John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.Hallelujah! This is worth celebrating!

Romans 6:3-11 gives a good summary of how we identify with Christ’s death and resurrection. Read the following excerpts. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, . . . For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Yes, we are dead to the old, but we are alive to the new. Let us focus upon who you are becoming in Christ. We live our resurrected life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:11-13 says, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

We now have new life because we are new creations in Christ. Galatians 5:24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.We are set free from our old nature and selfish lifestyle. Let us remember that when Christ died, we died. Because Christ rose from the dead, we can rise above the dead snful life.

Don’t look back on what you have done. Look ahead to what God has planned for you. Jeremiah 29:11 is always a favorite of mine. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Do not allow Christ’s death to have been vain. Celebrate Christ’s resurrection by honoring Him with the new life you now live. Proclaim with Paul in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ!

*Many of my thoughts in this post were influenced by online comments by Graham Cooke.

 

 

Closed Doors

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together,
with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders,
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
John 20:19

We celebrated the resurrection of Jesus a little over a week ago. Does that affect what you are doing or how you are feeling today? Let’s see what the disciples did after Jesus’ resurrection. Then, let’s find a promise for ourselves. What Jesus did for the disciples, He will do for us.

According to the gospel of John, the disciples hid behind closed doors after Jesus’ resurrection. They were afraid. Can’t say I blame them. However, this was not what Jesus intended them to do. So, Jesus walked through the closed door and extended peace. A peace that would help them overcome fear.

Have you allowed fear to close doors in your life? Jesus is willing and waiting to walk through your barricades. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”

Has God put something upon your heart that He wants you to do? But, you are afraid. God will help you break down your barrier according to Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him (Jesus) who gives me strength.”

Maybe you are afraid you will make a wrong decision. Remember the Lord’s words of assurance in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” The Lord will walk into your life and help unlock your fears.

I guess the disciples did not learn their lesson the first time because Jesus found them behind closed doors a second time. A week later, or seven verses later, they are still hiding behind locked doors. In John 20:26, we discover that Peter is with them while previously he had not been present. This visit may have been primarily for Peter’s benefit. However, Jesus extends the same blessing – peace. The disciples evidently did not remember the words of Jesus in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Locked doors still felt safer to them than the threats of the Jewish leaders.

Jesus walked through locked doors to speak with Peter and the other disciples. Today, He is able to enter through our closed doors.

Our granddaughter shared the following testimony with me. She was invited to attend a national scholastic leadership conference for college athletes. However, as she weighed her options, she decided it was best not to miss classes. She turned down the offer. A few days later, a staff member of the athletic department met with her explaining the significance of her attending this conference. She thought she had shut the door but the Lord walked through her closed door to keep the option open. She attended the conference.

Yes, all of us will be tempted to close doors because of fear. But, remember that Jesus can walk through the doors He does not want us to shut.

We just celebrated Jesus’ resurrection on Easter. Now this same power that raised Jesus from the grave is available to us. Does His resurrection make a difference in your life today? Paul says in Philippians 3:10 NLT, “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.” We will not be able to know this amazing power, if we fearfully hide behind closed doors.

I challenge you to envision Jesus walking through your closed doors and extending peace to you. Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus is risen and He still walks through closed doors!

(Images provided by Pixabay.)

 

 

The Bleeding Rose

While on vacation, we left our car in a protected parking lot when we flew to our next destination. Upon our return, I climbed into the car and found a red rose wrapped in cellophane on the seat. I held it while we drove. The outside temperature was below 20 degrees. When we entered our motel, I cuddled my rose between a couple of pillows to protect it from the cold.

Once in our room, I placed the rose beside me as I sat on the bed. I saw more than a red rose. Symbolically, I saw the Rose of Christ. The red floral blossom gently spread it petals in a circle. Beautiful red petals. But wait – the pool of petals looked like a puddle of spilled-out blood. Red petals of a flower – red blood spilled from my Savior’s wounds. His blood always speaks of life – eternal life, not death.

I also looked at the green stem and leaves. They, too, symbolized life. Green is a color of life. Were there thorns on the stem? No, they had been cut off so not to stick me. However, the thorns on Jesus’ crown cut into His head. Those thorns painfully pierced the head of my Savior.

I checked to see if my rose needed water. No, the floral stem had been placed in a little vial of water. However, that was not the case for Jesus. While on the cross, He was thirsty. He was not given a drink of water. He was only given a sponge soaked in sour vinegar.

The following morning, I took the rose in the car with us. It rested on my lap as we traveled down the highway. Jesus walked the road to Golgotha. His wounded head was never held in the lap of a loved one. I took my rose into the restaurant with me when we stopped for lunch. The waitress commented on my flower. I wondered if I carried Jesus with me in such a way that others saw His presence in me.

Our next destination was a B&B where we stayed for several days. Since there was a bouquet of fresh flowers in our room, I nestled my rose among the various blossoms. It added beauty to the bouquet. Jesus mingled with men and women when He lived on the earth. He imparted love into their lives.  He added beauty.

After a couple of days, I noticed that my rose had begun to droop its head. I guess it was telling me that its life was being extinguished. As Jesus died upon the cross, He bowed His head and cried, “It is finished!” I saw one or two dark red petals on the table beside the vase of flowers. Was I simply seeing floral petals or were they symbols of the tears shed by Jesus as death approached? I sensed that I was observing tears of liquid love, tears of blood – drops of blood rather than just dried floral petals.

My blooming rose died. The bleeding Rose of Christ died and rose again. Hallelujah!