The Violet Burning was one of the first Christian groups to add an alternative flavor to worship. I could have chosen a half dozen songs from their best album Strength. Yet, the Song of the Harlot comes right out of the Bible. As Passion Week begins, Mary Magdalene is led by the Holy Spirit to anoint Jesus’ feet with an expensive bottle of perfume. This selfless act is deemed a waste of money by Judas Iscariot.
Mary took a pound of ointment of pure liquid nard [a rare perfume] that was very expensive, and she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. And the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume, John 12:3.
The Violet Burning uses the lyrics as a means to put yourself into this situation as if to ask, “who would you be in this story and why?” Would you play it safe, do what is socially acceptable or follow the Holy Spirit? Going against the flow takes guts and fortitude, especially if this means being cancelled by today’s culture. Therefore, don’t let stereotypes keep you powerless to act by remembering this harlot.
According to the apostle Paul, more than 500 people witnessed Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Sometime before Passion Week, Jesus performed a miracle, raising his good friend Lazarus from the dead. While Jesus was dead for three days, Lazarus had been dead for four days. An eye witness of this amazing feat writes about the stench from Lazarus’ decaying body. Nonetheless, moments later Lazarus ran of this grave to embrace friends and family.
Jesus said, Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of the dead man, exclaimed, But Lord, by this time he [is decaying and] throws off an offensive odor, for he has been dead four days! 40 Jesus said to her, Did I not tell you and[a]promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you would see the glory of God? 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 Yes, I know You always hear and listen to Me, but I have said this on account of and for the benefit of the people standing around, so that they may believe that You did send Me [that You have made Me Your Messenger], John 11:39-42.
In one of the apostle Paul’s letters, he refers to Jesus’ resurrection as swallowing up death, 1 Corinthians 15:53-58. This one event has changed the course of history. While Jewish religious leaders bribed Roman soldiers to claim that Jesus’ disciples stole and hid his body, Matthew 28:12-15, those who saw Jesus ascend into heaven quickly disposed of this lie, Acts 1:8-11. When Jesus cancelled the written code of death, Colossians 2:13-15, this one miracle opened the door for eternal life.
When He had said this, He shouted with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out! 44 And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go, John 11:43-44.
In John 21, Jesus appears before his disciples for a third time in his resurrected body. Yet, the scars of the nails that held Jesus to a cross could be felt by a doubting Thomas. While 99.9% of human beings will never experience or see a modern resurrection, for those who pass away on earth, your grave clothes are temporary. For as soon as Jesus returns for His second coming, the dead will arise, run out of their graves and then lifted up to heaven for eternity.
The English term Mysticism comes from the Greek word μύω meaning “I conceal”. The Greek derivative μυστικός, also known as mystikos refers to “an initiate.” The Christian definition of Mysticism is that part, or element, of Christian belief and practice that concerns the preparation for, the consciousness of, and the effect of a direct and transformative presence of God. The mystic part comes into play when the Holy Ghost, an invisible presence can transform the life of a rebellious and wayward soul.
They must possess the mystic secret of the faith [Christian truth as hidden from ungodly men] with a clear conscience, 1 Timothy 3:9.
In the passage above, the apostle Paul claims that the truth about Christianity is hidden from the ungodly. Since Paul doesn’t go into greater details, perhaps Paul is referring to individuals who are self absorbed by their own sinful nature. Jesus uses imagery like light shining into darkness, John 1:5. One of the ways truth is hidden is when Satan snatches away what was sown in someone’s heart, Matthew 13:19. When you add this to lust of the flesh and pride. 1 John 2:15-17, the love of the world prevents many from trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior, Romans 10:9-10.
But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you, John 14:26.
As Passion Week began, Jesus gave hints to the transformative presence of God. The Holy Spirit is like an inner guide who helps, discerns, intercedes and guide you toward what God wants you to do and where you should go. Jesus demonstrates the mystic secret of faith while praying early in the morning, Mark 1:35-36. While the disciples had their own ideas on how they were going to spend the day, the Holy Spirit gave Jesus precise instructions. To a certain extent, I never really know what topic I am going to write about each week, but when the Spirit moves I follow by typing until my blogs are completed. In the end, faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ, Romans 10:17.
On the original Easter Sunday, a group of individuals traveled from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a 7 mile walk. Without any electronic devices to pass the time, this group reflected upon all that had happened during Passion Week. Going along on this walk was Jesus, disguised and playing coy. Jesus asks a series of questions, setting the tone for this afternoon stroll. Upon arriving, Jesus is asked to stick around for dinner. This is when an internal burning sensation began deep inside the hearts of these men..
Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered Him, Do you alone dwell as a stranger in Jerusalem and not know the things that have occurred there in these days? 19 And He said to them, What [kind of] things? And they said to Him, About Jesus of Nazareth, Who was a Prophet mighty in work and word before God and all the people— 20 And how our chief priests and rulers gave Him up to be sentenced to death, and crucified Him, Luke 24:18-20.
Based upon the knowledge of a first century doctor, Cleopas appears to have been one of 72 additional disciples chosen by Jesus in Luke 10:1. Since no one else is mentioned directly by name, Cleopas seems to be the leader of this caravan. Jesus continues to asks Cleopas questions as if a stranger, unaware of the previous events that took place from Palm Sunday to Good Friday. Cleopas responds to Jesus with a befuddled expression as if to suggest, “where have you been man?”
But they urged and insisted, saying to Him, Remain with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent. So He went in to stay with them. 30 And it occurred that as He reclined at table with them, He took [a loaf of] bread and praised [God] and gave thanks and asked a blessing, and then broke it and was giving it to them 31 When their eyes were [instantly] opened and they [clearly] recognized Him, and He vanished (departed invisibly). 32 And they said to one another, Were not our hearts greatly moved and burning within us while He was talking with us on the road and as He opened and explained to us [the sense of] the Scriptures? – Luke 24:29-32.
The mood of this group changed during a meal. Reclining at a table, Jesus let his guard down as the conversation ignited a spiritual fire within those who attended. It’s unclear what triggered their minds to finally recognize Jesus, but this communion like atmosphere opened their eyes. As soon as Jesus vanished like a ghost, this encounter struck a nerve in their consciences. Perhaps, there was a sense of regret, “I can’t believe Jesus was with us the whole time.” Inspired by this special moment, Cleopas’s group turned around, walking 7 miles back to Jerusalem as the fire inside their hearts continue to smolder.
The origin of backdoor dates back to the early 1520’s. Over the past 500 years, this term has evolved from small homes that were built back to back to cultural expressions. The Urban Dictionary refers to taking an alternative route, going behind someone’s back, and or a form of betrayal. The Bible provides accounts of when God leaves the backdoor open.
Now there was a certain man among the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler (a leader, an authority) among the Jews, 2 Who came to Jesus at night and said to Him, Rabbi, we know and are certain that You have come from God [as] a Teacher; for no one can do these signs (these wonderworks, these miracles—and produce the proofs) that You do unless God is with him, John 3:1-2.
As churches throughout the world celebrate Passion Week, Nicodemus is prime example that fits into this category. In the passage above, this Pharisee requests a private meeting with Jesus under the cover of darkness. Afraid of what his peers might think of his curiosity about Jesus, Nicodemus uses the backdoor. As the recipient of John 3:16-17, these words brewed with Nicodemus’ heart.
As for this multitude (rabble) that does not know the Law, they are contemptible and doomed and accursed! 50 Then Nicodemus, who came to Jesus before at night and was one of them, asked, 51 Does our Law convict a man without giving him a hearing and finding out what he has done? 52 They answered him, Are you too from Galilee? Search [the Scriptures yourself], and you will see that no prophet comes (will rise to prominence) from Galilee, John 7:49-52.
The second time Nicodemus is mentioned in the Bible, he defends Jesus in the passage above. Some of his fellow religious leaders suggest that Nicodemus is a secret follower of Jesus. Becoming a Christian usually doesn’t happen over night as many choose to enter faith through the backdoor initially. When the words of the Bible begin to click and fear of what others think about you fades, God leaves the backdoor open, Revelation 3:20, so you can enter when you’re ready.
During the Passion Week, Jesus’ last week on earth prior to his crucifixion, a series of clues are left behind in Matthew 24. The context of this conversation begins on the steps of the temple. Jesus uses this structure to foretell future events beginning with the great earthquake immediately following his death on a cross. After taking a seat on the Mount of Olives, Jesus privately meets with his disciples, revealing the signs of End Times.
Not to allow your minds to be quickly unsettled or disturbed or kept excited or alarmed, whether it be by some [pretended] revelation of [the] Spirit or by word or by letter [alleged to be] from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has [already] arrived and is here. 3 Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come], and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition), 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3.
The content of this information was so powerful that Matthew devotes an entire chapter of his gospel to these words. According to Jesus, a series of events will result in the love of many Christians growing cold, Matthew 24:12. If you place this passage in the context of 2020 with church services shut down during the Coronavirus pandemic in many states, the Spirit of the Anti-Christ is getting closer. The apostle Paul takes at closer look by examining what these days will resemble on earth.
Who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshiped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God. 5 Do you not recollect that when I was still with you, I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining him [from being revealed at this time]; it is so that he may be manifested (revealed) in his own [appointed] time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness (that hidden principle of rebellion against constituted authority) is already at work in the world, [but it is] restrained only until he who restrains is taken out of the way, 2 Thessalonians 2:4-7.
In his second letter to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul shares his own revelations about the second coming of Jesus. This includes an interesting statement that presupposes that the Holy Spirit keeps Satan on a leash until Christ returns. However, after the Rapture, Satan will turn the earth into a concentration camp, Revelation 13:17. Only those who receive the mark of the beast will be able to buy or sell. Thus, as Spirit of the Anti-Christ draws near, prepare your heart and mind now so that you won’t be deceived.
One of the disciples makes an interesting observation about Jesus. Just as Lois Lane sought to comprehend the source of Superman’s powers, Peter points to the anointing of the Holy Spirit to explain Jesus’ great power. As someone who spent nearly 3 years living and traveling with Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit defied logic and science. This anointing occurred as followers watched John baptize Jesus in the Jordan River, Matthew 3:13-17.
You know the things that have taken place throughout Judea, starting in Galilee after the baptism preached by John— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with great power; and He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him, Acts 10:37-38.
As Peter watched Jesus day after day perform miracles, a doctor attempts to explain how the Holy Spirit enabled Jesus to heal individuals oppressed by the Devil. In an era where mental health continues to be a mystery, the Holy Spirit served as x-ray vision to identify unclean spirits messing up the lives of human beings. The four gospels are filled with testimonies of where Jesus addresses, confronts and casts out demons using the power of the Holy Spirit.
“I have told you these things while I am still with you.26 But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you, John 14:25-26.
As Passion Week, the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, drew close, Jesus gathered his disciples together to reveal a future gift from God. The disciple whom Jesus loved refers to this spiritual entity as an Advocate, Counselor and Intercessor. On the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, the Holy Spirit fell upon followers of Jesus. According to the New Testament, this great power is available to those who are baptized following their conversation. While the presence of the Holy Spirit may not be as visible today, this great power is awaiting for those who believe. May the words of the prophet, Joel 2:28-29, deliver a new anointing with great power.
The element of a person that enables them to become aware of the world and their experiences is the mind. According to a recent study, the average person only uses 10 % of their brain at a time. Thus, human beings are only operating at a tenth of their full potential. In the 2014 film, Scarlett Johansson plays Lucy, a woman who becomes part of a secret case study. After a special drug is created by scientists, this pill enables Lucy’s mind to reach maximum capacity. This movie illustrates what it would be like if human beings could tap into the other 90% of their mind.
Then He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you, everything which has been written about Me in the Law of Moses and the [writings of the] Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled,” Luke 24:44.
During a seven mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus participates in a conversation that transforms the lives of a couple of his disciples. Based upon the context of the passage above, Jesus’ true identity is hidden until reaching Emmaus. Although the time is not mentioned, this discussion likely occurs over several hours, reflecting upon the events of the Passion Week, the final days of Jesus’ earthly life prior to his resurrection. Apparently, Jesus makes these men think, quoting Moses, Old Testament prophets and the book of Psalms. By the time this conversation concludes, minds are opened to fully understanding the Bible.
Then He opened their minds to [help them] understand the Scriptures, Luke 24:45.
The apostle Paul builds upon this concept in several of his letters to first century Christians. Paul encourages the church at Rome to renew their minds by meditating upon the Scriptures, Romans 12:1-2. To those in Colosse, Paul focuses on setting minds on things above. The context refers to putting to death your sinful nature by setting your mind on eternal causes, Colossians 3:1-17. Perhaps, Paul borrowed this from Joshua who urged the nation of Israel to mediate on God’s Word day and night. As modern individuals emulate this ancient practice, you too can have your mind opened up to the full meaning of the Holy Bible. May this blog inspire you to begin your own journey into examining and studying the Bible.
In 1985 Michael J. Fox plays Marty McFly, a high school student who becomes friends with a mad scientist played by Christopher Lloyd. When Doc Brown creates a time machine out of a Delorean, Michael J. Fox races into the past to save his friends life in Back to the Future. When his interactions alter the course of his families history, Marty has to convince his father George who is a teenager at the time to ask his mother Lorraine to the dance where they first kissed. After a band member gets hurt, Marty steps in to set the mood so that this moment occurs. Before leaving to return to the future, Marty shares a song that hadn’t been introduced to this generation, referring to this as an oldie, but goodie.
I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone [just one grain, never more]. But if it dies, it produces much grain and yields a harvest, John 12:24.
One of Jesus’ disciples recalls a special message within his gospel. During Passion Week, Jesus’ final week on earth before suffering, dying on a cross and rising again, the passage above was first spoken. Jesus is providing a foreshadowing of his future fate. While the disciples were oblivious to this comment at the time, Jesus knew this was his destiny, John 3:16-17. Just as a grain of wheat must die to yield a harvest, the son of God paid the price for all of mankind’s sin, Colossians 2:13-15. This is a promise for all generations.
The one who loves his life [eventually] loses it [through death], but the one who hates his life in this world [and is concerned with pleasing God] will keep it for life eternal.26 If anyone serves Me, he must [continue to faithfully] follow Me [without hesitation, holding steadfastly to Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]; and wherever I am [in heaven’s glory], there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him, John 12:25-26.
In the passage above, Jesus explains the way to eternal life. However, this theory goes against what people are taught, from early education to pursuing a career. Like the line in the movie Cars “turn right to go left,” Jesus proclaims those who hate life on earth will keep it in heaven. Initially, this concept is hard to grasp. Yet, as you meditate, pondering these words, its clear you have to give before you receive. Until you develop a servant’s heart, putting others before yourself, human nature will pull you toward pleasing your selfish desires. Thus, as Easter Sunday approaches, may you long for a faith without hesitation, holding steadfast to God’s promises in the Bible no matter what happens in this life.
If you watched the 2017 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros, you were not disappointed unless your team lost. Nonetheless, winning this title in baseball is the pinnacle for major league ball players. However, for one member of the winning Houston Astros, this wasn’t enough. Similar to the final scene of the 1999 film For the Love of the Game, sometimes relationships are more important. Thus, getting down on a knee, Carlos Correa proposed to his girl friend during the postgame festivities. In his mind, the timing was right.
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” – Matthew 16:15
During the first century, Jesus arrived in Caesarea Philippi with his disciples. Led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus felt it was time to have a serious conversation with his ministry team. After discussing what others believed about him, Jesus wanted to know, “what about you?” This question set the stage for Passion Week, Jesus’ final week on earth before his crucifixion. Following Peter’s confession that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for the events of the future. This information didn’t sit too well with Peter, who was unable to grasp the fact that Jesus was a heavenly king, not the earthly king of the Jews.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life, Matthew 16:21.
In life, the future is like a blank tapestry waiting to be painted. Yet, some times you don’t have the materials necessary to start. On other occasions, you have the tools, but you lack the vision necessary to complete this portrait. As for me, I was attending a retreat in southern Indiana. I had recently resigned from my youth ministry position and was unsure of what to do next. Following a moving presentation, God impressed upon the need to ask my girl friend Leanne to marry me. The next day, I drove to Chicago, took a twist tie that she gave me as part of a care package and proposed. When the timing is right, step out in faith while you have the opportunity to act. By doing this, you fulfill the words of Galatians 5:25.