Have you heard?

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We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard… (NLT)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard … (KJV)

We already know John heard what Jesus said – he wrote a whole Gospel about all that he heard Jesus saying; and he records in it more of the day to day doings of Jesus than any other Gospel-writer. So we expect that he heard what Jesus said. Why is he telling us this, again?

What, exactly, is John’s deal? His little nickname, beloved disciple, tells us. John is all about love. Later in this same book he tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8). So I think , maybe here he wants us to know, in hearing Jesus speak, we hear the voice of love! Just listen to the old hymn, “Draw Me Nearer” …

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee …

She heard His voice – and it told of love! Consider that Fanny Crosby, the author of this hymn, was blind. Her primary way of sensing and processing information would have been to hear it. And when she heard the voice of Jesus, she heard love. That “hearing” was her experience of Christ, and it told His love for her.

Oh, the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
I commune as friend with friend.

This is my experience of what it is to hear Jesus, too. Pure delight of communing, friend to friend. I believe that the beloved disciple, although he wanted to stress that He had heard the words of Jesus when Jesus was a Man on earth, would also want us to apprehend that we, now, may also hear His voice.

And it tells His love for us. Think about that today – and listen for His voice!

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Heard!

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That which was from the beginning, which we have heard … (Douay Rheims)

Our ears have heard … (CEV)

… we heard it with our own ears … (MSG)

No, I mean you really can hear Jesus! Not just hear His Word in Scripture, or hear “from Him” when the pastor speaks or a friend tells you something that hits home with you …

I think the apostle stresses this fact, that he had heard the Word of Life for Himself, in part so you will know that you, too, can hear Him.

Under the Old Covenant, in the Old Testament, the children of Israel didn’t want to hear from God directly. He was a pillar of fire, and He had caused plagues on Egypt, and they were frankly afraid of Him, even though He was on their side, and they were glad to have Moses go up the mountain and talk to Him, and just tell them what God said.

But here in 1 John 1:1-4, John is showing us that with this New Covenant, the one written in the blood of the sacrifice of Christ, we can hear God for ourselves, and we don’t have to be afraid. He’s not a pillar of fire (unless we need Him to be), and no intermediary needs to stand between Him and you.

We can go to Jesus, on our own, for ourselves, and receive from Him the words of life intended for us alone, because He loves us and longs to speak with us. We can hear His words, just as John did. Don’t doubt this, and don’t second guess it.

When you spend time alone with Jesus, in silence, every day, and invite Him to come and meet with you, He will come. What He has to say may not be what you want to hear, because at first I imagine His primary business will be to walk back into the past with you and heal those hurts and hang-ups that keep your heart from being whole.

It may not be fun … at first … but it will be real, and it will transform you. I hope you’ll give it a try. Listen for Jesus. I know He will speak to you.

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You hear that?

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That which was from the beginning, which we have heard … (Douay Rheims)

Our ears have heard … (CEV)

… we heard it with our own ears … (MSG)

Rastafarians say “word-sound is power.” Hearing is believing. Or at least, hearing is considering.

John here testifies to the fact that he, personally, had heard Jesus speak when the Savior was a living Man on earth. We should believe John, he is saying, because he was an ear-witness to the words of the Lord.

Let me tell you something shocking, though. I hear Him, too. And so can you. This was the gift John Eldredge gave me when I read his book, Waking the Dead. He said God wanted to speak to me, through the people around me, through the Scriptures, through everyday life and circumstances – and by actually speaking to me.

Not audio words that anyone else can hear, but a still, small voice in my head, in my heart. When I discovered this, when it began to happen, it really was like “waking the dead,” because I was in such desperation emotionally and spiritually. The little voice of the Christ inside me was like a spring of water in a parched desert.

It began to trickle over the hard ground, and soon swelled into a raging torrent that carried me away to the sea of love in which I dive and swim and live today.

Maybe you have to be half-dead, or mostly dead, to try the insane experiment of attempting to hear the voice of Jesus. I don’t know. I do know this is the season of resurrection, Easter season! If you’ve been feeling dead inside, or mostly dead, I encourage you to let Jesus raise you up.

When you hear His voice, everything changes, slowly at first, like my little trickle of life in the desert, but then faster and faster until you’re swept away! No wonder the beloved disciple wanted to make it clear that he had heard the voice of Jesus – he wants you to hear it, too.

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A very good place to start

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We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning … (NLT)

That which was from the beginning … (Young’s Literal Translation)

The Word of life always was living, even from the beginning … (Worldwide English)

This is a little theme with John – remember He begins His Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word.” Why does he reinforce this here, why is it so important for us to realize Christ is, from the beginning, the Word of God?

I believe John wanted us to know that Christ’s arrival here, as a Man, who would die on a cross, was no thrown-together plan to rescue us after everything went wrong in creation, some kind of knee-jerk reaction to the enemy’s introduction of sin to this planet.

I think he wanted us to know that Christ’s sacrifice for us was not “Plan B” for earth. God didn’t create everything in the beginning with the hope that humanity would never sin and Jesus’ death would never be required. What kind of God would He be if He couldn’t foresee what would happen here?

I think John wants us to know that Christ with God, the Word of God, was and is present at the beginning, in the middle and at the end … That the perfect plan for our salvation was part of the perfect plan of creation. “That which was in the beginning.”

After all, we’re told Jesus is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). How could He be “Plan B,” the back-up plan forced on God by the devil? Jesus was, and is, the first plan and best hope for our eternal life.

John, the beloved apostle, grasps this, and seems to think it important enough to remind us often that Jesus, the Word – without whom nothing that is made was made – was always with God, and is Himself God … and God is love (1 John 4:8), and He loves YOU!

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It’s resurrection season

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On the church calendar, these days until Pentecost are the Easter season. If you enjoyed one or two of my Holy Week blogs, maybe you will like to journey into this new season with me? We’ll be meditating on 1 John 1:1-4 … Here is the Contemporary English Version …

The Word that gives life was from the beginning, and this is the one our message is about. Our ears have heard, our own eyes have seen, and our hands touched this Word.

2The one who gives life appeared! We saw it happen, and we are witnesses to what we have seen. Now we are telling you about this eternal life that was with the Father and appeared to us. 3We are telling you what we have seen and heard, so that you may share in this life with us. And we share in it with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4We are writing to tell you these things, because this makes us truly happy.

Our eyes saw, our ears heard, our hands touched – the risen Savior, Jesus, John says.

But you and I, when we are walking so closely with Christ that we hear His voice, I believe we have the same experience! We “see” Him in our spirit because we know Him so well we begin to sense His voice, his mannerisms, His “appearance” when we commune with Him!

What a wonder! Get ready for a joyful Easter season as we meditate on a powerful passage that I believe is going to blow us away … and bring us closer and closer to the resurrected Savior.

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Risen indeed

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The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid. For I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For He has risen, as He said.— Matthew 28:5-6

“The Gospel of Grace says that God does not stand against me, that He is not and never will be my enemy, and that He has so arranged things by the mystery of Christs’ death and resurrection that at any time—before, during, or after any of my sins, past or future—I can come to Him just for the coming and find myself home.” — Robert Farrar Capon

“The resurrection of Jesus is not just a happy ending to the gospel story; it is the dawn of a new creation. No one captures this idea better than G. K. Chesterton in the close of part one of his classic work, The Everlasting Man. ‘On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn’.” — Brian Zahnd & GK Chesterton

“The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like. All sensible people know that if you are tired and hungry a meal will do you good. But the modern theory of nourishment — all about the vitamins and proteins — is a different thing. People ate their dinners and felt better long before the theory of vitamins was ever heard of: and if the theory of vitamins is some day abandoned they will go on eating their dinners just the same. Theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity: they are explanations about how it works.” — CS Lewis

However you apprehend it, Christ is risen, and because He is resurrected, you are home free!

Thank you for journeying through Holy Week with me. I’ll crawl back in my hole now … unless I think of some other earth-shaking thing to say. Blessings! — Jax

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The Waiting

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“And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” — Luke‬ ‭23:55-56‬ ‭KJV‬‬

The women who were with Jesus at the crucifixion took the time before the Sabbath begin to prepare the spices for embalming him according to the fashion of their time.
This was total commitment to the fact that he was dead, and everything they dreamed of was dead. They were preparing him for burial. While they rested on Holy Saturday, they had everything ready to lay their dreams to rest forever.

What they did not have was any idea that Jesus was going to rise again. He had mentioned it, but it seemed very far-fetched idea.

I understand them very well. I had heard the promises all my life, because when you grow up in the Assemblies of God church, you hear a lot of scripture at every service.

  • No weapon formed against you shall prosper.
  • All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.
  • They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.
  • My God shall supply all your needs out of his infinite riches in Jesus.
  • Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

And these are just a few I can reel off, off the top of my head. There are many, many more. But when you find yourself at the end of your dreams, which are so far past ever happening that you have already prepared to embalm them, and you’re just waiting, and resting, until you have the strength to bury them for good, all those promises seem like straw.

That’s where the apostles were on Holy Saturday, and if that’s where you are today, I am sorry for it. I won’t heap more promises on top of the ones that already seem to be broken. I will tell you this. Although the disciples could not see it, and did not believe it, they still had a champion who was preparing for them a different, but so far a better future than they could ever have imagined.

All they could do, and sometimes all you can do, is wait.

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God on a cross

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On Friday in Holy Week “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” — Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Growing up in the Assemblies of God we always heard the Scripture in the King James Version. Later versions change “commendeth” to “demonstrated,” but one commentary I read explained the “commended” translation of the Greek word there this way …

“He has placed this infinite act of mercy in the most conspicuous light so as to recommend to the notice and admiration of all.”

This infinite act of mercy, God’s love toward us, is recommended to us by the lengths to which it will go to bring us back. The cross says this is a God who would rather die than be without you.

On Friday in Holy Week, somehow paradoxically called Good Friday, Jesus died in such a way as to make a grand recommendation from God to notice the overwhelming love he has been pouring out on you all your life and on our world since its creation.

Somehow we missed it. Religious people tend to focus on good behavior as our reasonable service to God… Nonreligious people tend to focus on why they can be a good person and still have moral standards even if they don’t believe in a deity.

But people who have joined Christ on the cross, in the throes of the great suffering or great love, as Richard Rohr would say, somehow sense and feel – – even if they don’t understand how it works – – what is happening here on Good Friday:

God in Christ is reconciling the world to himself by once and for all demonstrating (and recommending!) his overwhelming and endless love for us.

We may weep for Christ on the cross, but never doubt he believes the sacrifice is worth it because he cannot have you separated from him. He cannot live without you.

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Loved to the End

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“Now before the Passover Feast, ­Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” — John‬ ‭13:1‬ ‭MEV‬‬

Well. What to add to this? The full extent of this one line is almost too wonderful… It is, in fact, too wonderful, for us to grasp

On Thursday in Holy Week, Jesus had his disciples prepare their last Passover feast together. And after the dinner he gave them his “new command: love one another” (John 13:34). The whole term Maundy Thursday of course results from this word, command, mandate, this is the new command he gave us: love.

But our opening Scripture reveals Jesus didn’t just command his disciples to do it, he did it first. And look how he did it.

Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. And what an end. He was about to go to a torturous, humiliating death, and he seemed to know that most of his disciples would desert him in the moment. He knew this was about to unfold; the verse tells us he knew it was time to return to the father.

Yet he loved them to the end.

Did ’ere such love and sorrow meet,
And thorns compose so sweet a crown?

I don’t know what your experience of God is. If you have ever felt that his main concern was judgment, that God was repulsed by you and/or your sin, that you could only come to him when you had purposed in your heart to go and sin no more, consider this verse.

With the shadow of the crucifixion hanging over him, in full knowledge that these, his best friends on earth, would abandon him in the clenches, Jesus determined to love them to the end.

And not just them. Us, you and me, everyone. This is how he loves us: suffering on the cross, carrying us back to God, loves us to the end.

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Spy Wednesday with Ed the Judas

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It was the most dramatic moment of my church’s pre-Easter pageant called The Living Lord’s Supper. It’s the only moment I remember clearly after 40+ years.

I was thinking about it today because it involved Judas — and Wednesday in Holy Week has been called “Spy Wednesday” because it’s thought to be the day Judas negotiated with the religious leaders to betray Jesus.

When I was a kid, we went to the Assemblies of God Church, and our church had big evangelism outreaches at Easter, including the Living Lord’s Supper — a play in which 13 guys in the church portrayed Jesus and the apostles at the Last Supper.

Each man got his turn in the spotlight, to give his own account of his dealings with Jesus — breaking the 4th wall to address the audience directly.

The very best performance ever was given by a fellow who was well known and respected in the church, a kind of funny and sweet looking family man named Ed.

The year Ed played Judas, the part came alive! They made him up to look very sinister, which must have been tough considering his natural good-natured expressions and features.

As Judas, he explained how he had to take some action to get Jesus to move forward with his Messiah agenda because the time was right, and Jesus was dragging his feet — He had to force Jesus’ hand to get him started fulfilling  what Judas knew was God’s plan to rescue Israel.

Then in a most dramatic and compelling way, he allowed: “So perhaps my hands are not as dirty as some of you think… And perhaps your hands are not so clean.” The church was utterly silent as that sank in, and the spotlight faded …

It was so powerful and effective in the moment. We were amazed Ed was a talented enough actor to portray the worst and most corrupt of the disciples so well, and make you feel for him.

Years later, when I was in college, I worked at a process service, and found that many, many subpoenas were regularly served on Ed — when the servers could catch him! He was very wily at avoiding them. He was all the time being sued over shady land and real estate dealings.

This was a shock! But it didn’t make me think any less of Ed. It just made me think that when he gave us that very human and sympathetic glimpse of Judas, he must’ve been living it himself.

Today I think, of course, that we all live this in one way or another, because we often don’t get the plan.

Jesus’ plan was never to rise up as a ruler and defeat his enemies by force. It was always to save the world through love, bringing those who perceive themselves as his enemies into his family as his beloved children.

When we put any other agenda into the gospel, and try to wrench it to our plan, it’s very human and very understandable… But it betrays the Divine Mystery.

That’s what Judas didn’t get on Spy Wednesday … and what we ought to remember today and every day.

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