Countdown to Liftoff – Day 25

“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.” Luke 24:33-35

God has secrets.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God.”
(Deut. 29:29)
I’m ok with that.
I don’t need to know everything He knows.
I don’t want to know everything He knows.

God knows our secrets.
“He knows the secrets of every heart.”
(Psalm 44:21)
I’m cool with that.
It’s good to be known that intimately.
I want to be known by Someone I can trust.

Sometimes, God tells us secrets.
“I will give you hidden treasures,
riches stored in secret places.”
(Isaiah 45:3)
I’ve found a few of those treasures in the pages of Scripture.
I’ve stumbled on a store of riches in quiet moments with Him.

Simon Peter was the first disciple to see the Risen Lord. He had a personal audience with Jesus, away from all the others. No details about that meeting were recorded. Peter was most likely dealing with feelings of utter failure after his triple betrayal. How sweet it must have been for Peter to get a moment with His Savior. They had a private reunion, off the record. It was just between the two of them — a confidential meeting, face-to-Face, man-to-Man, sinner-to-Savior.

Some of my quiet moments with Jesus
are meant to be kept between the two of us.

They don’t need to be shared on social media
or blogged about
or spoken of.
It’s good to have some secrets with God.

“When you pray,
go into your room,
close the door
and pray to your Father,
who is unseen.
Then your Father,
who sees in secret,
will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:6)

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 26

“When they (the disciples) heard that Jesus was alive and that she (Mary Magdalene) had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.” Mark 16:11-13

No sugar-coating here.
They flat out didn’t believe any of the scuttle-butt.
Here-say.
Wild rumors.

We shouldn’t be too hard on these guys, though.
They had never known anyone who was dead, become un-dead.
They had no personal experience with open, empty graves.
It had been a stressful week, what with earthquakes and blackouts and losing their best friend along with their best hope of freedom from Roman oppression. It was all very confusing.

Jesus told the disciples many times that he was going to rise from the dead.
Being told something and believing it is two different things.
Maybe they thought it was just too good to be true.

“It may be too good to be understood,
But it’s not too good to be true.”
Jess Ray

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 27

“They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'” Luke 24:32

Dear Jesus,
we invite You to talk with us on the road,
open the Scriptures up to us,
and set our hearts on fire.
Amen.

Don’t be scared of the weird picture.
This is a beautiful song.
Press play!
Did Not Our Hearts Burn
Jess Ray

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 28

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” Luke 24:30-31

Jesus was recognized at the table.

Maybe is was because He took on the role of host.
Maybe it was the way He took the bread and broke it.
Maybe it was something about His prayer of thanks.
Maybe they saw the scars in His hands.

Or maybe the time spent in Bible study with Jesus
caused the eyes of their minds and hearts to be receptive.

A sudden gasp, “It’s You! It’s been You all along!”

Eugene Peterson, the writer of “The Message” and many other books, also was a pastor for 29 years and a college professor for seven years. When he retired from pastoring and teaching, he and his wife, Jan, used their dining room as their new headquarters for ministry. In one year they had over 200 overnight guests in their home. Hours were spent around the supper table, listening, advising, encouraging. Later, their son heard comments like, “Your parents saved our marriage that weekend,” or “That dinner with your dad gave me renewed passion for ministry,” or “Their kindness around the table saved my life.”

If you have a table,
then you have a ministry.

The table is a sacred place of fellowship with each other,
especially when we invite Jesus to join us.
Every table — the communion table and our kitchen tables.

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.