Countdown to Liftoff – Day 29

“As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.” Luke 24:28-29

They urged him strongly, “Stay with us.”
They begged him… (CEV)
They urged and insisted… (AMPC)
They pressed him… (MSG)
They constrained him… (KJV)

It is a very strong word that, “they constrained him”. They not only invited him, but they held him, they grasped his hand, they tugged at his skirts, they said he should not go. (Spurgeon)

Jesus never barges in when He’s not welcome.
He will not beat down the door and force His presence on us.
When we lock Him out, still He stands, waiting.

Jesus always comes in when He’s invited.
He will patiently knock and knock and knock at the door.
When we open it, He enters in, rejoicing.

Oh Lord, please come in and stay with us.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 30

“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Luke 24:25-27

I love a good Bible study.
There’s nothing I’d rather do on a Wednesday night
than gather with some women and dig into the Scriptures.

I’ve listened to a lot of great Bible teachers over the years.
Notebooks full of notes can testify to that.

I’ve even led a few studies
and I never presume to jump into a lesson
without first praying a prayer for wisdom and Holy Spirit guidance.

But, I must say,
never once in all my days
have I been to a Bible study
where the teacher begins with these words:
“How foolish you are and how slow you are to believe!”
Or, as the Message version puts it:
“So thick-headed!
So slow-hearted!
Why can’t you simply believe?”

Maybe I’ll try that this week.
Or maybe not.

That must have been one amazing session.
Jesus.
Teaching a Bible study.
Sign me up.

The Master started with Moses, the writer of the first five books of the Bible. Then He continued on through all seventeen Prophetic books, pointing out where He was found on the pages. Surely it was one of the most spectacular Bible studies ever taught.

To a group of two.

They felt like their hearts were burning.

“‘Is not my word like fire?’ declares the Lord.”
Jeremiah 23:29

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 31

“In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They 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 tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” Luke 24:22-24

Amazing things were happening!
So why were these two walking away from all the action?

Reports of an angel visitation, a missing dead body and rumors that Jesus was alive? All that wasn’t enough to keep them from leaving town? It’s true – all of their information was second-hand. Somebody else saw the empty tomb and somebody else witnessed the heavenly hosts.

Why didn’t they go check it out for themselves?

Did they disregard the eye-witness accounts because of the sources? The women were pretty emotional and the word “amazed” implies they thought the women were insane. Peter was known to be impulsive. Besides, all Peter and John saw was an empty tomb, not Jesus Himself.

Was it just too hard to believe?

Sometimes it’s easier to walk away from other people’s amazing stories.
It feels safer to stay a little distant from the hoopla.

What these two didn’t know
was that their own amazing story
was transpiring with every step.

Everyone who walks with Jesus
has a story that’s unfolding,
whether we see it or not.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 32

“‘What things?’ he asked. ‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.'” Luke 24:19-21

PB and I process our thoughts very differently. I’m an internal processor. I get very quiet, I think and think and think, and only then will I give voice to the conclusion on which I have landed. PB is an external processor. He talks and talks and talks, and after giving his thoughts a thorough airing out, settles on his resolution. The funny thing is, we usually end up with the same outcome. We just take different roads to get there.

I used to freak out at all his ideas and plans and dreams. He used to be perplexed by my withdrawal and silence. After forty-one years of marriage, we understand each other’s style. I let him talk it out, he lets me think it through.

Jesus understood these two friends on the Emmaus road. He played along with the conversation, drawing out what was on the hearts of the two disciples and allowing them time to talk it out. But Cleopas and his friend were getting a few things wrong.

  • First, Jesus was more than a prophet.
  • Second, the chief priests didn’t hand Jesus over – they weren’t the ones in control. Jesus said, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:18)
  • Third, these two disciples were talking in past tense. They had given up hope and were walking away before the end of the story.
  • Fourth, Jesus didn’t just redeem Israel. He redeemed the world.

Sometimes when Jesus comes up to walk beside us,
it’s an invitation to talk through what we’re thinking.
He patiently listens as we process,
even if our conclusions are faulty.
Correction will come.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 33

“He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one living in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have happened there in these days?'” Luke 24:17-18

The Mysterious Eavesdropper walked up to two people in deep conversation and said, “What are you talking about? And why so glum?” They stopped in their tracks, perhaps surprised that a stranger would interrupt their intense discussion. Or maybe they were shocked that someone could be so out of touch with the top news headline of the day.

Cleopas answered the question with a question of his own, and it was a funny one. It must have made Jesus smile a little bit. After all, Jesus was the only one living in Jerusalem who DID know exactly what was going on.

But Cleopas was right about one thing: Jesus was living. He had a real live body – He wasn’t a ghost or some kind of disembodied floating spirit, but a walking-on-the-road, engaging-in-conversation, fully alive person.

If you’re feeling downcast today, take heart.
Jesus sees you.
Jesus hears you.
Jesus is walking right there with you.
But don’t be surprised if He wants you to turn around.
Things are just starting to get good.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 34

“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.” Luke 24:13-16

On Resurrection Sunday, two disciples packed it up and left town. One was named Cleopas, the other unnamed. However, Cleopas’ wife, Mary, was one of the women at the crucifixion. It’s conjecture, but maybe the pair walking down the road to Emmaus was a married couple. It seems they stayed in Jerusalem for the death and burial of Christ, they stayed for the Sabbath, and then they decided to leave, just when things were starting to get good.

This reminds me of a time PB and I went to a Brewer baseball game.

Our team fell behind in the first inning and stayed that way through eight innings. Our two best hitters combined for one walk out of ten at-bats. It was a slow day at the diamond. By the end of the eighth, we were still down by one run and PB was getting antsy. He leaned in and whispered, “If we leave now, we can get a jump on the traffic.” The bottom of the order was due to bat in the ninth, so I reluctantly agreed and we beat the crowd out of the stadium.

Before we found our way to the car, the Brewers had two men on base. Before we left the parking lot, the game was tied. Before we left the city limits of Milwaukee, our pitcher mowed down the order in the tenth inning. And before we reached the suburbs, the crowd (the very same crowd we so cleverly beat out of the ballpark) was enjoying a come-from-behind victory. We missed it because we gave up before it was really over.

Sometimes we just quit too soon. There’s a win coming within minutes, but we throw in the towel, thinking it’s over, when in reality we are standing on the brink of something big. 

Cleopas and his companion almost missed out on the comeback victory. But Jesus listened in on their conversation and kindly walked with them in their sorrow and disillusionment. As the two disciples were desperately searching for truth, Truth Himself joined them.

There’s a saying, “It’s not over till the fat lady sings.”
It means that we shouldn’t presume
to know the outcome of an event
that’s still in progress.
We shouldn’t assume
that something is irreversible.
We shouldn’t give up on God’s plan, ever.
We shouldn’t leave the stadium until the last out.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 35

“Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” John 20:28-29

After all his pretentious bluster about needing proof,
it seems Thomas didn’t need to put his finger in the nail holes
or his hand in Jesus’ side after all.

Jesus Himself was enough.

Instead of poking around in Jesus’ scars,
Thomas dropped to his knees in worship.

He didn’t miss out on any more visits after that.
Thomas was there at the ascension
and at the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost.

Tradition tells us that Thomas went on to be a missionary in India
where he established a church,
but was executed for his faith.
It is said he was stabbed in the side with a spear.

He never lived down his “doubting” label, which is unfortunate
since all the other disciples also doubted the women’s reports of having seen the risen Jesus.
There’s no doubt that Thomas was a strong believer
and God used him in mighty ways.

We have something those first disciples didn’t have.
A special blessing is given to those of us
who believe Jesus rose from the grave,
even though we’ve never laid eyes on Him.

For Thomas, seeing was believing.
For us, believing is seeing.

Open the eyes of our heart, Lord.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 36

“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.'” John 20:26-27

It was the 8th day after the resurrection, and the disciples were still holed up, hiding out behind locked doors. There must have been a lot of fear to keep 11 men inside a house for a week. (Can you imagine how it smelled in there?) Maybe they actually were in danger — the chief priests had paid off the soldiers to report that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body from the tomb (Matt. 28:13).

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) isn’t just a 21st century phenomenon. Thomas must have had a bad case of it, because he was with the other disciples this time around.

Jesus poofed in again, and He was looking for one in particular. He addressed the very statement Thomas made a week earlier: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Jesus offered proof followed by a command.

Stop it.
Stop doubting.
Start believing.

At some point, we need to quit messing around with looking for loopholes and testing for evidence. So let’s stop it. Let’s stop critiquing God’s Word and digging for error and raising our arrogant eyebrows with our defiant arms crossed. Let’s start putting some faith in something other than our own self-sufficiency.

Instead of doubting our beliefs and believing our doubts,
let’s start doubting our doubts and believing our beliefs.

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Countdown to Liftoff – Day 37

“Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. When the other disciples told him that they had seen the Lord, he declared, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.'” John 20:24

It’s too bad Thomas missed out on Jesus’ appearance to the other disciples.
Where was he, anyway?
Was he emotionally spent?
Did he need some alone time?
Was he out picking up lunch for the other ten?
Checking up on his twin brother?

Imagine the disappointment, to learn the resurrected, glorified Jesus had stopped in and you missed it. We don’t know what took Thomas away, but we do know he came back. He was a hard nut to crack, though — eye-witness reports from ten of his closest friends wasn’t enough for him. “Doubting” Thomas was really more like “Defiant Skeptical Unbelieving” Thomas.

Because he stayed away
from his community of believers and fellowship with them,
he missed an encounter with the Risen Lord,
which fed his doubt
and made him demanding,
setting his own conditions
for belief.
Sound familiar?

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 38

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” John 20:19-20.

Have you ever been to a funeral and burial of a loved one and then three days later see that person walking around? Yeah, me neither. It must have been a little unsettling for the already jittery disciples to have Jesus poof into the room. Yet, the Master couldn’t stay away from His friends. He couldn’t even wait for them to open the door.

What was the first thing Jesus showed them? His wounds. Obviously, they were healed but the scars remained. Why? Wouldn’t you think a freshly resurrected body would be perfected, free from flaws? Ah, but it was perfect. Someday we will look on those same marks and give glory to God for what those beautiful scars purchased for us.

In the same way, our scars, whether they are physical or emotional, will not be marks of shame, but a testimony of God’s mercy and grace.

Our resurrected Savior has the power
to break into our locked up fears,
speak peace into our hearts,
and transform pain into glory.
Be overjoyed at this good news!