Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Lord, I am surrounded by so many distractions, that it is hard to hear You.
I can hear the voices of men and women, the blather of a television, the beeping of an IV pump, the blaring of a car horn, but I cannot hear Your voice.
I can feel the summer sun beating down on my head, and the cold winter wind blowing in my face, but I don’t feel the fire of Your Spirit in my soul.
Lord, remind me that You are always here, even in the distractions. Help me to hear Your voice in the voices of people, the music playing in the streets, the thunder in the sky. Help me to feel You in the sun and rain and wind. But beyond this, help me squeeze in slithers of silence to concentrate on Your voice, and help me pause in periods of prayer to feel Your presence.
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
“Who will roll away the stone?” Mark 16:3
“Who will roll away the stone?” the women asked as they approached Jesus’ tomb. Their Savior had died, their hopes were gone, and their heads hang in despair as the question lingered in the air. Can you relate to that?
We have stones that need to be rolled away, too. Our way is blocked with giant stones with names like cancer and COVID-19, stones with names like debt and divorce, names like shame and sorrow, and the actual names of people like the crazy co-worker, the insane in-law, the nosy neighbor.
Like the women that first Easter Sunday morning, we too wonder, “Who will roll away the stone?”
In many ways, the message of Easter is like jazz music. Jazz music originated with African-American musicians in New Orleans around 1900, and it often expresses discordant notes of pain that are then resolved with the swing of sweet notes of joy.
Easter is like jazz music. The people loved Jesus for His compassion for the outcast, His inspiring teaching of love, and His healing of the sick. Imagine their despair when Jesus was arrested, flogged, spat upon, mocked with a purple robe and crown of thorns, beat upon the head, forced to carry His cross to Calvary, the Place of the Skull, and then the nails slammed through his hands and feet, and forced to hang there naked and suffering, No wonder Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” It’s bad enough when you and I feel forsaken by God, but here was the Son of God feeling forsaken by God! That despair was shared by Jesus’ disciples. The disciples were hiding out in a room, afraid for their future, fearing they would be next.
But that was on Friday. Very early on Sunday morning, everything changed. The stone was rolled away, an angel in white clothes had bright news, that although they came thinking they would see a dead corpse, instead they saw an empty tomb, because Jesus was crucified, but now He has risen! The One who had been nailed to a cross was now raised from the grave, the One who had been whipped was now being worshiped.
His story was also their story. The wondering women had their stone moved, the shamed Simon Peter discovered that his Savior was alive. Notice verse 7 says to tell the disciples “and Peter.” The frightened disciples became bold preachers of the gospel.
What a crazy change in three days! No wonder they were overwhelmed with emotion.
Verse 5 says they were “amazed” and “alarmed.” Verse 8 says “trembling” and “astonishment overwhelmed them” and that they were “afraid.”
That’s why I say Easter is like jazz— it moves from discord to resolution, from pain to joy, and it requires a certain mystery and faith. Somebody asked Louis Armstrong what jazz music was, and he said, “If you have to ask, you don’t know!”
But you can know the Easter jazz. You can believe in Jesus Christ. His story was their story and it can be your story and mine.
The apostle Paul put it this way in Ephesians 2:1, 4-6: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins… But God, who is rich and mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with Christ, even though you were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.”
Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:19-20, 51-52: “If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.”
Easter does not mean that we will no longer have problems. The music of our lives will continue to have bent notes and broken cords. But because of His resurrection, the discord will be resolved with the sweet sound of hope for all of us who believe.
What stones do you need to have rolled away? What hope do you need to hear? Shh! Listen closely. I think I hear Jesus playing jazz!
Ben Young & Samuel Adams’s book, Out of Control, has a very long subtitle: Finding Peace for the Physically Exhausted and Spiritually Strung Out. But the subtitle is accurate. They describe how our culture is out of control because rather than letting the greater efficiency afforded by technology such as cell phones and computers give us more time to rest, we have instead tried to cram even more activity into shorter time.
Young and Adams describe seven symptoms of an “out of control” lifestyle: out of shape (physical), out of sorts (emotional/mental), out of touch (relational), out of time, out of focus, out of balance and out of order (spiritual). Then they confront the lies that keep us out of control, particularly the idea of pleasing the world to be successful and the idea that getting rest is laziness.
The rest of the book takes a pleasantly surprising turn, as it is NOT another “how-to” book with seven easy steps. Instead, they dig into the spiritual disciplines of the Bible, and encourage the reader to practice a real “Sabbath” and take time to unplug completely from technology in order to practice the other spiritual disciplines of solitude and prayer.
This book influenced me to become more serious about unplugging from technology for a large portion of the day on my day off in order to spend more authentic time with God. It was a truly rewarding experience that I pray I will continue to explore for a long time to come.
Does the Bible encourage hatred toward homosexuals? Much of the problem people have with the Bible on this issue is not what the Bible says, but what people think it says. What the Bible says about homosexuality may surprise you.
I. Homosexuality is not the worst sin
While homosexuality is sin, the Bible does not say it is the worst sin. For some reason, many Christians and churches act as if the sin of homosexuality is the one sin that cannot be forgiven. But the Bible simply lists it along with many other sins. For example, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 lists these sins: “No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.”
Homosexuality is just one of many sins in this list, right alongside thieves, greedy people, drunkards and verbally abusive people, etc. If you cheat on your income taxes, you are just as much a sinner as a homosexual. If you have a drinking problem, you are just as much a sinner as a homosexual. If you yell and scream at your family all the time, you are just as much a sinner as a homosexual.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not denying that homosexuality is a sin. The Bible is very clear on that. From the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 to the law against sex with the same sex in Leviticus 18:22, to Jesus’ affirmation that sex is supposed to be between a man and a woman in Matthew 19:4-6, to Paul’s lengthy passage in Romans 1:24-27 about how unnatural it is for men to be with men and women with women, as well as 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, it is clear that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin.
However, nowhere does the Bible say that homosexuality is the worst sin or the unpardonable sin.
If there is any sin that can be called the worst, it would be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is a denial of the Spirit’s call to follow Christ, according to Mark 3:29-30.
II. Homosexual feelings are not sinful
Many people with homosexual attractions have felt excluded from the church, instead of helped by the church. But the Bible does not say homosexual feelings are sinful. Feelings are feelings. The sin is in how we act on those feelings. For example, Psalm 4:4 says, “Be angry and do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26 quotes this psalm, again saying, “Be angry and do not sin.” The sin is not the feeling of anger, the sin is what you do with the feeling. Likewise, if a person has homosexual urges and feelings, but decides to abstain from homosexual acts, he has not sinned.
Notice at the end of 1 Corinthians 6:9, it names the sin this way: “anyone practicing homosexuality.” It does not say “anyone with homosexual feelings.” The original Greek refers specifically to partners in the act of homosexual behavior.
This is a very important distinction that has often been overlooked in conservative, Bible-believing churches today. Missing this point has caused many people who struggle with homosexual attractions to assume that they cannot come to faith in Christ. If you are struggling with same-sex attractions right now, please hear me. You can come to Christ. All of us must come to Christ just as we are, and allow God to make us into what He wants us to be.
Conversion to Christ does not mean that homosexual urges will immediately vanish, any more than other immoral sexual urges will vanish when a heterosexual is converted, but it does mean that the homosexual, just like the heterosexual, is called to abstain from sexual relations that are not between a man and a woman married to one another.
III. Homosexuals can change!
Our culture constantly says that homosexuals are born that way. They say that the homosexual did not choose to be that way. They say that it is simply genetic. Is that really true? If all homosexuals were born that way, then shouldn’t nearly all identical twins have the same sexual orientation, since they have the same genetic makeup? Yet research shows that only about half of the time when homosexuals have an identical twin is that twin also homosexual (exodus-international.org/exodus_faqs.shtml).
First Corinthians 6:9-11 lists “practicing homosexuality” as one of the sins that do not inherit the kingdom of God. But the passage also says that homosexuals can change. Notice that verse 11 says, “And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Did you hear that? Paul said, “Some of you used to be like this.” But they had changed! Some of them used to be thieves, but they stopped stealing. Some of them used to be verbally abusive, but they quit yelling at their wives. And some of them used to engage in homosexual acts, but they stopped!
A female Christian counselor I know in Macon, Georgia, shared with me how she talked to a young lady recently who was struggling with same-sex attractions, and the counselor saw God completely and radically transform her. Asked how this happened, the counselor simply said, “by taking her by the hand and walking her to the Redeemer.”
A male Christian counselor I know in the Florida panhandle told me that he has counseled many homosexual men, and he begins by letting them know that he loves them, not in a sexual way, but just wants them to know that he loves them. He says many of them have never had an appropriate love shown to them by a father or another man. He helps them see that our Heavenly Father loves them, and can change them, and he often sees men break down and weep in his office, desiring a change.
If you would like help with same-sex attractions, visit the website of the Restored Hope Network: http://www.restoredhopenetwork.org/.
I knew a man who lost his job and lost his family because he was caught in a homosexual act. He was a believer in Jesus Christ, but he struggled with the gay lifestyle. We had a mutual friend who referred him to me, not so much for counseling as for accountability. He wanted to change, but he needed a healthy relationship with a male friend to encourage him in that direction. So we would meet for breakfast or lunch, and talk, and talk on the phone sometimes. It was hard for him, because he found that the people who accepted him the most were homosexuals, when he needed Christians to accept him and help him to change! Although it was hard, he managed to abstain from the gay lifestyle, got another job, and began to rebuild his life. When he got a better job that required him to move out of state, he brought me a plaque with a rope on it, and said, “Thanks for being there for me when I was at the end of my rope.”
If you are at the end of your rope, the Bible has good news for you. Hang on. Jesus is ready to help you when you are at the end of your rope, if you will trust your life to Him.
If you see a video ad below this post, please be aware that I have no control over what ads show up, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product.
Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers
There was an event in the life of Jesus Christ that can show us how to express our emotions. After His last supper with His disciples, just before Jesus went to the cross, the Gospels record that He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Mark 14:33 records that Jesus was “deeply distressed and troubled.” Verse 34 records that He said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” When He went to pray, He staggered to the ground. Luke 22:44 says as He prayed, He sweat great drops like blood. He was in incredible agony as He faced dying on the cross for the sins of the world. Jesus expresses extreme emotion in this passage, and He also models for us how to express our own emotion.
Jesus does not hide His emotion. Some people, especially men, try to suppress their emotions. We are told that “big boys don’t cry” and so when we get upset, we try to keep it under control. Especially when we experience the death of a loved one, witness something traumatic, and get very bad news, we often try to cope with it by containing our emotions. Some people suppress emotions by avoiding the subject, others joke around and watch happy movies and comedies on TV, while others turn to alcohol or narcotics. The problem is, that the emotion is still there. If you push it down when it tries to rise to the top, guess what? Your emotion stays deep inside you, and continues to do damage to you. You may develop depression, or physical sickness, and you may suddenly erupt with anger at the slightest thing.
So what should we do? We cannot ignore our emotions. We need to find healthy ways to express them. You will notice that Jesus went to a Gethsemane with only three of His disciples. It was there, in a quiet place with a small group of friends, that He told them of His emotional pain. Then, He went farther from them to pour out His heart in prayer to God.
This is a healthy pattern for us to follow. Find a quiet place, and at the right time, open yourself up to trusted friends, and let them know about your pain. Then you may need to weep over the matter alone. Crying can be an incredibly helpful release, particularly when it is done in private, where we have no inhibitions about who is watching us.
Don’t bottle up your emotions. Jesus was a man’s man, a carpenter who not only nailed nails but was able to take the nails for you and me. Yet He expressed His emotions when He was overwhelmed with sorrow. So can we.