Where’s My Spotter?

Life can be heavy. Family, bills, children, work, church, money, illness and pain are some of the things that can make life heavy. Have you ever felt the weight of the world on your shoulders? Sometimes it can be overwhelming. Have you wondered whether Jesus felt like it was too much and was willing to receive help? He did, and I invite you to prayerfully think about the time when an “extra” took center stage in the plan of salvation.


Lesson 1 Read Luke 23:26

There is something to be said about being in the right place at the right time. The Bible says that Simone of Cyrene was “coming in from the country.” Have you ever been minding your own business, and God decides to just drop a ministry opportunity in your lap? Maybe you have felt that tug on your heart to be exceptionally kind to someone you don’t even know. If so, let us know at Message on social media using the hashtag #messagemag.

Lesson 2

We see people every day, but do we actually love these people? We can speculate that Simon had heard of Jesus. Maybe he witnessed one of the many miracles Jesus performed. What we do know is that this man was called to help someone with whom he didn’t necessarily have an intimate relationship, And he didn’t refuse.

Lesson 3

We have altered and distorted our concept of love to require public exaltation. Jesus, however, did everything He could to make sure no one knew many of the great things He did. He constantly told those He healed to tell no one. Often when throngs of people would follow Him, He would find a way to make them want to leave. What Simon did here was the opposite. His good deed was out in the open. He was willing to bear a shameful symbol for a Man being shamed. Are you willing to love God and the people around you, even if it means you’ll be looked down upon? Pray about it. Journal about it.

Lesson 4 Read Matthew 27:32

Though Simon didn’t refuse the cross, he didn’t volunteer either. I don’t believe God takes away the gift of choice from anyone. It seems to me that there are people for whom God orchestrates unique circumstances for unforgettable experiences. Have you ever felt like God has cornered you? Has he put you in position in which you almost had no other option but to do the right thing? If so, share it with us here at Message using #messagemag on social media.

Lesson 5 Read Mark 15:21

I noticed that when the cross was given to Simon, he walked behind Jesus. This is after Jesus carried the cross on His own, and He had been beaten and bloodied. His pace would have been slow. Simon had to walk at the same pace as Jesus. I have a question for you: Do you ever feel like Jesus is moving too slowly while you have weight on your back? Have you ever felt like God wasn’t an “on-time God?” Be honest with us and share on social media using the #messagemag.

Lesson 6 Read Luke 23:26

I have a younger, bigger brother. He is a physique competitor. He recently placed second in a field of over 100 competitors to obtain his pro card from the International Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation. He is the real deal. I work out with him sometimes, and he always wants me to try an exercise I’ve never done. Or he wants me to try lifting weight that’s almost too much for me. Whenever he does, though, he always does it first. When I attempt it, he always stands behind me to make sure nothing goes wrong. Consider that Jesus carried the cross before Simon did. Tell us what comes to your mind on social media using the hashtag #messagemag.

Lesson 7

Seeing my brother lift the weight before I do lets me know that he can spot whatever weight I attempt. Jesus bearing the cross shows us that there is no weight on us that He hasn’t carried already. Simon’s encounter with Jesus shows us that the best of us need someone to spot us. Pray to God to bring you into true friendship with people who will spot you when life gets heavy. Ask Him to provide people who’ll be willing to walk your journey with you—no matter what twists and turns it takes.

…......……………………………………………………………….

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.




EXTRA

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of the days leading up to the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. In meditating upon His sacrifice for us in this “thoughtful hour”, we pray that you will sense your connection with all of heaven. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemag. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


The Bible is full of random extras. Here and there, people just kind of show up unannounced. Often a part of a larger narrative, they may have limited interaction or dialogue with leading characters. Sometimes they deliver messages. At other times, they’re passing by. In many instances, their names are not given.

You’ve read their stories, but have you noticed them?

There’s the boy who, while chasing Jonathan’s arrows, passes David and unknowingly aids the future king of Israel and Judah (1 Samuel 20:35-40). Naaman’s servants talked sense into the leper who was seven dips away from new skin (2 Kings 5:13). What about the man of God who went from speaking the truth to believing a lie in the same chapter (1 Kings 13:1-3, 11-19)? How could we forget the little boy and his sack lunch, which Jesus used to feed 5,000 men at The Hillside Fish Fry (John 6:9)? Of course we remember the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment (Mark 5:25-34). There’s also Matthias, the 13th apostle (Acts 1:26), and Rhoda, the servant girl who left Peter on the front porch (Acts 12:13-16).

Perhaps the most famous extra of them all appears in the midst of a swelling crowd on the way toward a skull-shaped hill.

“And as they led Him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus” (Luke 23:26, ESV).

Not much is known about Simon besides his name, his sons’ names, and where he was coming from. Simon, father of Alexander and Rufus, is remembered for returning from the country and being forced by soldiers to carry the cross for Jesus.

Simon’s Cameo

John’s Gospel says Jesus carried His own cross to Calvary (John 19:17). Matthew, Mark, and Luke report that Jesus did not carry His cross all the way to Calvary. He had help. In each of the synoptic Gospels, this fleeting episode occupies a singular verse (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26). Collectively, three verses record this peculiar happening.

It’s a brief cameo appearance, but it made the news. Can you hear the conversation between the Channel 10 news anchor and the field correspondent?

“Well, it’s all anyone is talking about. The man so many call King is carrying a cross. Our own Tim Stable is live on-the-scene. Tim, what is the latest?”

“Uh yes Phil, I don’t know if you can really see behind me, but a massive crowd has formed to follow three men, one of whom appears to be a man named Jesus. Sources say He is originally from Nazareth, but has no juvenile record or criminal pattern to speak of. However, over the past three or so years, He has been known to keep company with 11 or 12 men of varied characters. Comments from the crowd are mixed. Some say He was just a good man who loved to help people. Others say His teaching was strange, almost otherworldly.

“The latest development happened a few minutes ago when one Simon of Cyrene was forcibly burdened with the cross Jesus was carrying. We aren’t exactly sure why this was done, but I will say this: there was a mixed expression of sympathy and fear on his face. Back to you Phil.”

The Crosswalk

Simon was just trying to make it home after a journey out into the country. Any attempt to deduce why he was in the country would be strained conjecture. We simply do not know. Neither are we sure why the soldiers chose him out of a crowd of people. Did he shed a sympathetic tear? Was he capturing law enforcement brutality with his cellular device? Did he have a muscular build? Was he the nearest person to the grumbling soldiers? Whatever the cause, this was an interruption he didn’t see coming. Simon’s luggage is tossed to the side. He isn’t asked to sign a liability waiver. He isn’t compensated. He’s given a cross and told to walk.

theexperience-simonjesus2Have you ever had one of those interruptions? You were minding your own business when all of sudden your time, attention, and direction was diverted to something far less amusing and fulfilling? Indeed, the most perturbing interruptions are often the ones we didn’t expect. But, alas, in these unexpected interruptions, God often gives unsolicited blessings.

What blessing could Simon possibly receive with a hundred pound beam on his back? May I suggest that the blessing was not in what He was forced to carry, but in whom he was privileged to follow?

“If I had just made a left on Broad instead of staying straight on Main, I could have avoided all of this,” Simon may have thought. But, frustration gives way to conviction as he watches the wounded Man laboring before him. Jesus staggers, visibly weakened by hours of torture. Simon walks in-step with the bloody footprints He leaves behind. The splintered weight of the cross digs into Simon’s shoulder, but he barely notices. He marvels at Jesus’ dignified silence in the heat of derogatory claims and pejorative comments. What could a man have done to deserve such shameless derision?

Momentous Moment

Simon’s heart is touched by the scene. Could this man, broken and battered, truly be Savior of the world? If Jesus was willing to endure this genre of humiliation for the sake of others, then the least Simon could do was carry the cross, following close behind. It wasn’t on his agenda, but it was on heaven’s. What was once shameful became an honor. Had he never been interrupted, he may never have followed.

“The bearing of the cross to Calvary was a blessing to Simon, and he was ever after grateful for this providence. It led him to take upon himself the cross of Christ from choice, and ever cheerfully stand beneath its burden.” Ellen G. White Desire of Ages, page 742.

“And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’” (Luke 9:23, ESV).

…......…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

RICHARD MARTIN is an assistant pastor at Emmanuel-Brinklow Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ashton, Maryland. He and his “Bermuda-ful” wife Kylah enjoy traveling.

…......……………………………..

ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), the most translated female author in history and recently named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.

Where’s My Spotter? Luke 23:26

Life can be heavy. Family, bills, children, work, church, money, illness and pain are some of the things that can make life heavy. Have you ever felt the weight of the world on your shoulders? Sometimes it can be overwhelming. Have you wondered whether Jesus felt like it was too much and was willing to receive help? He did, and I invite you to prayerfully think about the time when an “extra” took center stage in the plan of salvation.

==========================================================


Day 1 -Read Luke 23:26

There is something to be said about being in the right place at the right time. The Bible says that Simone of Cyrene was “coming in from the country.” Have you ever been minding your own business, and God decides to just drop a ministry opportunity in your lap? Maybe you have felt that tug on your heart to be exceptionally kind to someone you don’t even know. If so, let us know at Message on social media using the hashtag #messagemag.


Day 2

We see people every day, but do we actually love these people? We can speculate that Simon had heard of Jesus. Maybe he witnessed one of the many miracles Jesus performed. What we do know is that this man was called to help someone with whom he didn’t necessarily have an intimate relationship, And he didn’t refuse.


Day 3

We have altered and distorted our concept of love to require public exaltation. Jesus, however, did everything He could to make sure no one knew many of the great things He did. He constantly told those He healed to tell no one. Often when throngs of people would follow Him, He would find a way to make them want to leave. What Simon did here was the opposite. His good deed was out in the open. He was willing to bear a shameful symbol for a Man being shamed. Are you willing to love God and the people around you, even if it means you’ll be looked down upon? Pray about it. Journal about it.

Day 4 - Read Matthew 27:32

Though Simon didn’t refuse the cross, he didn’t volunteer either. I don’t believe God takes away the gift of choice from anyone. It seems to me that there are people for whom God orchestrates unique circumstances for unforgettable experiences. Have you ever felt like God has cornered you? Has he put you in position in which you almost had no other option but to do the right thing? If so, share it with us here at Message using #messagemag on social media.

Day 5 - Read Mark 15:21

I noticed that when the cross was given to Simon, he walked behind Jesus. This is after Jesus carried the cross on His own, and He had been beaten and bloodied. His pace would have been slow. Simon had to walk at the same pace as Jesus. I have a question for you: Do you ever feel like Jesus is moving too slowly while you have weight on your back? Have you ever felt like God wasn’t an “on-time God?” Be honest with us and share on social media using the #messagemag.

Day 6 - Read Luke 23:26

I have a younger, bigger brother. He is a physique competitor. He recently placed second in a field of over 100 competitors to obtain his pro card from the International Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation. He is the real deal. I work out with him sometimes, and he always wants me to try an exercise I’ve never done. Or he wants me to try lifting weight that’s almost too much for me. Whenever he does, though, he always does it first. When I attempt it, he always stands behind me to make sure nothing goes wrong. Consider that Jesus carried the cross before Simon did. Tell us what comes to your mind on social media using the hashtag #messagemag.

Day 7

Seeing my brother lift the weight before I do lets me know that he can spot whatever weight I attempt. Jesus bearing the cross shows us that there is no weight on us that He hasn’t carried already. Simon’s encounter with Jesus shows us that the best of us need someone to spot us. Pray to God to bring you into true friendship with people who will spot you when life gets heavy. Ask Him to provide people who’ll be willing to walk your journey with you—no matter what twists and turns it takes.

………………………………………………………………………………..

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.

 





Can you hear me? Lesson 2

Lesson 2 – Read John 18:28

Just a surface reading of this raises some questions. Why would Jewish leaders think that if they led the Romans to kill Jesus, it would not implicate them? Were they really prioritizing their own ceremonial cleanliness over the life of someone else? Does this resonate with you? If so, tell us how on social media using #messagemag.




Blood On His Hands

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of the days leading up to the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. In meditating upon His sacrifice for us in this “thoughtful hour”, we pray that you will sense your connection with all of heaven. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemag. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


Pilate had seen a lot of things in his life. As a Roman governor, he had witnessed some serious atrocities and put away many notorious criminals. And, for the right price, he had even condemned innocent people to death. But this was something entirely new.

The man standing before him appeared so calm and dignified. Although dirty, disheveled and bruised, this man they called Jesus of Nazareth, almost looked like He was not of this world. He showed no trace of fear, guilt or shame; nor did He have a bold or defiant look in His eye. Instead, His eyes showed love and compassion—for him. In the presence of Jesus, Pilate felt like he was the one on trial.

News about the works and miracles Jesus performed had traveled all over the region. Even Pilate himself had heard about them in the palace. Jesus could cure the sick, feed thousands and even raise the dead. He was known to do so much good for His people. Why were they trying to kill Him?

“What accusation do you bring against this man?” Pilate asked the Jewish leaders. (These leaders, who refused to ceremonially defile themselves by entering the Gentile Praetorium on Passover, still found it OK to condemn an innocent man to death.)

They lied, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all of Judea. If He were not an evil-doer, we would not have delivered Him up to you” (Luke 23:5; John 18:30). That still didn’t satisfy the nagging feeling Pilate experienced that condemning this particular man to death would be the wrong thing to do. He was almost begging for an out.

Pilate was weak and vacillating. He didn’t want to risk losing his position in government and society. Giving in to their demands, he ordered Jesus to be crucified.

Even in the midst of all He was enduring, Jesus saw in Pilate someone with whom the Holy Spirit was striving. Pilate was having an internal, spiritual tug-of-war. There was still a window of hope for him to acknowledge the conviction he felt in his heart. Seeking to justify his position, Pilate tried several times to figure out just who this man was. Finally Jesus replied, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).

“Pilate had a desire to know the truth. His mind was confused. He eagerly grasped the words of the Saviour, Wife whispering into his earand his heart stirred with a great longing to know what it really was, and how he could obtain it. ‘What is truth?’ he inquired. But he did not wait for an answer,” according to a book about Jesus’s life, The Desire of Ages, by Ellen G. White.

All of the key players in this part of the life of Christ were so close to the truth, but they were blinded by their own fear, pride, feelings of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency. They didn’t know how far they had drifted from the only One who could save them from themselves. The religious leaders had stirred up the angry mob and continued to bury themselves and the Jewish nation as a whole with every word they uttered demanding His death. “His blood be on us and on our children,” they declared. “That awful cry ascended to the throne of God … the blood of the Son of God was upon their children, and their children’s children, a perpetual curse. Terribly it was realized in the destruction of Jerusalem. Terribly has it been manifested in the condition of the Jewish nation for [more than] eighteen hundred years—a branch severed from the vine, a dead fruitless branch, to be gathered up and burned,” the book continues.

Pilate was weak and vacillating. He didn’t want to risk losing his position in government and society. Giving in to their demands, he ordered Jesus to be crucified. Although he tried to literally and figuratively wash the blood of Jesus from his hands, he had already sealed his fate. Not long after the crucifixion, Pilate lost everything he had tried to hold on to and eventually ended his own life.

There is a well-known painting of Jesus standing at a door and knocking. If you look closely, you would see that the doorknob is only on the inside of the house. We control whether or not He can come in. He is not going to kick the door down and barge inside. Instead, He stands there full of love and compassion, patiently waiting while we attempt to hide the filth and dirtiness of our lives.

The Holy Spirit strives with us; prompting us to step over the obstacles, push away the barriers and open the door to our hearts. The King of kings and Lord of lords wants to come in and save us from ourselves. What is holding you back?


DEBRA MCKINNEY BANKS is the communication assistant for the Atlantic Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and writes from western Massachusetts.


ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), the most translated female author in history and recently named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.

Can You Hear Me?

Yes, action speaks louder than words. Who you are is defined less by what you say and more by what you do. Jesus said a lot of things that many church people can rattle off on command. The question is: Was it what He did or who He was that validated what He said? I believe it’s both. His true character and resolve appeared in His journey to the cross. He said a lot without uttering many words. His question to us is: Can you hear Me?

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Day 1 - Read John 18:19-26

Sometimes we forget that Jesus was a Jew, born and raised. Can you imagine growing up in a religion, your parents being in the religion, only to have the religious people turn on you? Maybe you’ve had this experience. I’m praying healing over you as I write these words. We at Message would love to hear your testimony. Share with us via social media using #messagemag.


Day 2 - Read John 18:28

Just a surface reading of this raises some questions. Why would Jewish leaders think that if they led the Romans to kill Jesus, it would not implicate them? Were they really prioritizing their own ceremonial cleanliness over the life of someone else? Does this resonate with you? If so, tell us how on social media using #messagemag.

 


Day 3 - Read John 18:29

Pilate gets pulled into this controversy by virtue of his position. I’m always intrigued by how people encounter Jesus. I love when I see stories of people running into God in the most unexpected ways. In this case, Pilate is just doing his job, and God is thrown on his doorstep.

Have you ever seen or heard of someone running into God in a place you wouldn’t expect? Share with us here at Message using #messagemag.

Day 4 - Read John 18:32-33

Why do we conclude that when we choose to follow Jesus, things will get easier? I think there is a disservice done when people think that following God is easy. If it was hard on Jesus, it will be hard on us. Do you notice these verses say this encounter had to happen to “fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death He was going to die?” What does this say to you about Jesus? Share using #messagemag on social media.

Day 5 - Read John 18:33-36

I recently used Lyft to go to a concert with some friends. When the driver arrived and greeted us, I noticed his demeanor and his accent. “You’re from New York,” I said. “I wasn’t mean was I?” he replied. “No,” I told him. “It was just the way you carried yourself.” Jesus carried Himself as if He was from a different place, and it was obvious in front of Pilate. Take time to reflect as to what your actions say about your place of origin, especially under pressure. Do you act like this world or another world is your home?

Day 6 - Read John 18:37-38

John sets out his premise clearly in the verses that begin his gospel (John 1:1). He believes Jesus is the Word. He also believes Jesus when He says, “I am the Truth.” For John to write that Jesus says, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me,” is significant. John’s not talking about a set of beliefs as truth but rather about a person. I believe Jesus wants us to “listen” to His actions. Does Jesus return evil for evil? Does He defend Himself in the face of false accusations? What are we hearing when we look at the life of Jesus as he stands before Pilate?

Day 7

Pilate came to an interesting set of conclusions. First, Jesus was a king. Second, His accusers had no legitimate basis for charges. Do we believe that same thing? Have we had a stressful encounter with Jesus when we were able to ask the hard questions and get the tough answers? I submit to you that if we look at the actions of Jesus, we will hear more than ever came out of his mouth. He asks, “Can you hear me?”

………………………………………………………………………………..

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.

 





Can you hear me? Lesson 1

Yes, action speaks louder than words. Who you are is defined less by what you say and more by what you do. Jesus said a lot of things that many church people can rattle off on command. The question is: Was it what He did or who He was that validated what He said? I believe it’s both. His true character and resolve appeared in His journey to the cross. He said a lot without uttering many words. His question to us is: Can you hear Me?

Read John 18:19-26

Sometimes we forget that Jesus was a Jew, born and raised. Can you imagine growing up in a religion, your parents being in the religion, only to have the religious people turn on you? Maybe you’ve had this experience. I’m praying healing over you as I write these words. We at Message would love to hear your testimony. Share with us via social media using #messagemag.




With Friends Like These . . .

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of the days leading up to the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. In meditating upon His sacrifice for us in this “thoughtful hour”, we pray that you will sense your connection with all of heaven. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemag. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


P eter wiped drool from his sleeve, stretched and glared at his Friend. Peter tried ignoring Him and turned over, but that didn’t work. His friend just wouldn’t leave him alone.

“Why you sleep’, man?” This time Peter played dead and waited. In a minute He was gone again until he felt another nudge – harder this time.

Again? “What?” Peter snapped. “Can’t a man have a moment’s peace around here?

“Man I need you. I’ve gotta do this. Can’t you stay awake for a few minutes, man?” Jesus sounded disappointed, so Peter sat up. Grouchy, he muttered something about coffee. Everyone knew when it came to sleep, he needed his. He rolled his eyes, then focused to where Jesus was praying. Now what was so important at this time of night anyway? He scratched his head. A few minutes later, Peter was snoring.

Was that another nudge? A few days earlier, we see the silhouette of a man as he walks down an empty, cobblestone street in the late evening. It is obvious the man is distinguished—note his dress and poise. Streets are empty and it’s late, sunset perhaps. He walks fast, glancing furtively left and right. Finally, he disappears into the temple. To pray? No. To make a deal.

Several priests are at a conference table talking, joking, eating. Judas enters. “Judas, come in!” One of the high priests with a playful smile on his lips says, “What can we do for you, Brother?”

Judas hesitates noting the sarcasm. “I need to make a trade!” he snaps. “For?,” a man seated at the head of the table seems interested. “For what?,” the guy blurts out. All attention turns to Judas. After what seems like forever, Judas timidly responds, “Jesus!”

Mark 14:32-42; 66-72; Matthew 27:5-10

Fast forward to the loft of a local home. Jesus is surrounded by His friends– twelve of them. You know the names. They eat, have bread and wine, but before that, they do the cultural stuff—foot washing. Jesus, towel in hand brings a pan to Peter, who doesn’t want it. Jesus pressures him and washes Peter’s feet anyway, and water trickles down Peter’s feet. Judas watching and the expression on his face could be anger, or guilt, already knowing he had made a deal that was about to go down. Why were Peter’s feet being washed first?

It’s Passover, family time, a special time for Jewish families. Jesus had decided to have a Passover supper with just His guys. Right time, right place. Everyone’s bonding, eating together. Then, Jesus drops it: “One of you guys is going to let me down!”

Jaws drop, eyebrows raise as everyone’s eyes and fingers scan the room. But according to the Apostles, it was loud-mouthed Peter, who just had to ask the question.

Mic on: “You’re talking about me, right?” Me? They will”, he says pointing. “Not me. I would never betray you! Who do you think I am?”

Shake your head and smile, because in a few hours, he does just that– not once, but three times. On the other hand, there’s Judas sitting, eating, and saying little. He can’t, because he knows Jesus knows. Jesus always knows. Just a couple of days ago he made a deal with the priests. He was smart, see: his friend for half a year’s salary. Well, that didn’t sound right, but yes, he sold his friend out. So yes, he probably squirms a little (actually a lot) when Jesus makes His remarks. Finally, not able to take the guilt anymore, he says: “Hey guys, I cant’ stay; gotta go!” His exit is quick, leaving the rest of the disciples to wander had just happened.

Hours later in the wee hours of the morning Peter and Judas—these friends of Jesus—faceoff in a charming, little garden nearby. Jesus is in His usual spot. He likes to pray there because there in solitude He can finally talk to His Father, without all the noise of the people, Pharisees, or disciples. It’s a perfect retreat for a busy time, and as mentioned in the Desire of Ages, the Passover always had wall-to-wall people. It was spring and the Garden of Gethsemane was blooming and fragrant. Most of all, it was midnight and quiet. No one is there but them, and so as Jesus meditates, the plot thickened.

Two characters, one night of joy, pain, anticipation, conflict, denial, and guilt.

This is the story of Jesus and his friends in the garden. However, focus in on a few of His “true-blue” friends. Peter, James, and John are supposed to stand by Him, but they just sleep by him. Jesus has one desperate need—a quiet moment alone to pray. But like us, He needed the support of His people. This time is crucial. It is time to agonize, to plead: “God, please, I don’t want to do this, but if you really want this, then . . .” He checks on his buddies, begs them to stay awake, but they are asleep. One, Two, Three times. Asleep every time.

Finally, for the last time, Jesus states that poignant line: “It’s time!” This loaded statement, a nagging reality that they blew their last chance to stand by Jesus, the ultimate fail. For our star guys, Peter and Judas, it will be a long night to make a complete fool of their friendship with Jesus, and ultimately themselves.

So many comparisons between these two leading men:

Both were quick thinkers: Judas makes the deal to betray Jesus and give a secret signal so as not to give himself away. At Jesus’ arrest Peter chops off a guy’s ear in a impulsive show of support.

Both were disloyal: Judas’ trade with the priests, and the signal kiss to Jesus both speak of bad intentions. Peter’s not much better, with his colorful display of expletives to prove he wasn’t one of the disciples.

Both showed remorse: Judas couldn’t deal with the fact that his kiss led to Jesus’ death, so he returned the cash. He eventually committed suicide after he realized it was a done deal. Peter fell apart when Jesus looked at him after he had denied Him for the third time. He had no peace until he saw Jesus again.

Yet, they were from vastly different backgrounds: Judas seemed to be white-collar, educated, reserved, and a calculating accountant; Peter, was a streetwise fisherman, brash, foul, impulsive, excitable, warm, expressive.

The paradox: Jesus was rabbi, but the lesson was taught by these two guys; not by priests, the mob, or even the rest of the disciples. Two men, two very different encounters with Jesus. One driven to suicide. The other to Martyrdom. Both touched by Jesus. Like Judas and Peter, Jesus will come to you. But at the end of the show, lights off. It will be your choice, your story.


HILARY CAMPBELL, writes from Beltsville, Maryland.


ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), the most translated female author in history and recently named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.

With Me or Against Me?

How blind is love? Is it blind at all? What about its other senses? If God is love and Jesus is God, what was Jesus looking at as He reclined at the table with His disciples, at what has come to be called the last supper? Brothers looking for upward mobility and tension that could be cut with a butter knife was the atmosphere with which we find Jesus before He takes the walk that would secure our journey in this life. Join us as we explore how the Lover of our souls dealt with those who were both with Him and against Him.

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Day 1 - Read Matthew 25:1- 26:19

Before we get to the last supper it is important to get the context of the conversation. Jesus has just told some of the sharpest and most divisive parables, relaying the message that those who think they’re making it in the Kingdom need to reevaluate what is giving them assurance of their place in glory. What do you think Jesus meant by the parables he told? Tweet us about it here at Message using the hashtag, #MessageMag


Day 2 - Read Matthew 26:20-21

Some awkward things can happen at a dinner table. I don’t know if anyone can begin an evening with a more disconcerting statement. “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” Can you imagine what went through the disciples’ minds? Can anyone stand being accused of being something that you are not? Has anyone ever thought something about you that was completely wrong? Has there ever been a rumor spread about you that was fully false? Tell us about it here on social media using the hashtag #MessageMag


Day 3 - Read Matthew 26:22-23

One of the hardest things for some people to do is admit when they are wrong. I submit to you that there is spiritual maturity in being able to point out your own shortcomings. It’s completely normal to mess up, but a little extraordinary to be “fess up” to it. The disciples shared this struggle, as each of them had “dipped his hand in the bowl” with Jesus. Has there ever been a time where you realized you were wrong, knew you should admit but just couldn’t? If you are willing tell us about it, use the hashtag #MessageMag

Day 4 - Read Matthew 26:24-26

Now that we’ve looked at our own wrongs, I know we that all of us have had others do us wrong as well. Herein lies the challenge. Jesus ate with the one who was going to hand Him over! If Jesus is the epitome of love, then His actions challenge us to be willing to not only tolerate whos who harm us, but to be hospitable to them? Tell us your thoughts: Do you think it’s in you to do this? #MessageMag

Day 5 - Read Matthew 26:27-28

Jesus has overstepped His boundaries at this point. Not only is He at the table with the one who will betray him, but He’s sharing with him the representation of the sacrifice He is about to make. In other words, He knows that Judas is about to betray him but in response He is still willing to give everything for him. How hard is it be around the people who don’t have your best interest at heart? How hard is it to go out of your way to look out for them? Have you ever had family, “friends,” or even co-workers who had ill-intent concerning you, yet something in you kept you positive? Share that with us, using #MessageMag.

Day 6 - Read Matthew 26:30

What a way to end a tension-filled evening—singing a hymn. Just from a surface look at this we can see that even when things are about to come to a boiling point Jesus is still the Prince of Peace. Does anyone desire to be able to have peace even when you cannot tell who is for or against you? The fact is that eventually all the disciples would betray and abandon Jesus, but in spite of this Jesus took joy in being able to sit down and eat with them one more time. I pray that you, as you navigate the maze of personalities this life can throw at you, are able to be at peace whether they are with or against you.

 

 

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Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.

 





You Will Like Me When I’m Angry

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of the days leading up to the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. In meditating upon His sacrifice for us in this “thoughtful hour”, we pray that you will sense your connection with all of heaven. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemag. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


I loved watching the popular television show, “The Incredible Hulk.” The mild mannered Dr. David Banner has a condition that causes him to change into a huge, menacing, green, rampaging character—the Hulk. The Hulk would then go about righting wrongs and dishing out vigilante justice.
One line Banner would use to caution people who took his calm demeanor as a license to take advantage of him was, “You don’t want to make me angry. You won’t like me when I’m angry.”
As I read Matthew 21:12, I see a different side of Jesus than the one we are accustomed to seeing. The verse says: “Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.”
This is not the “gentle Jesus meek and mild” that some of us recited in our prayers as children. This Jesus is turning over tables and chasing people out, and breaking up stuff. Tables flying everywhere. People clearing out. This is not a polite display of asking permission. Jesus acts first and talks later.
This Jesus seems angry. Why?
Jesus? Angry?  
Angry man with reeds in fistThe reason Jesus seems angry is because Jesus is angry. I know the picture we sometimes cling to is that of the Savior who was void of human emotions, such as anger. This passage indicates that there is nothing wrong with anger; Jesus was angry. There is nothing wrong with being angry about the right things, and in the right way.
So what was Jesus angry about? Well we do not have to guess. He tells us in verse 13: “And He said to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” Jesus quoted a popular verse that day from Isaiah 56:7 with which they were familiar. He said, essentially, you have taken this place that was intended for one thing and turned it into another. A place that should have been a house of prayer has become a den of thieves.
In a poignant and powerful symbol to address sin, God established a system that required the sacrifice of an animal. For those who did not have such an animal, well, they were conveniently sold on the premises. And, as with any system that is created, we human beings have the potential to corrupt it and use it for our benefit.
Recognizing they had a captive audience, the animal brokers by the temple gate jacked up the prices. Because of this, poorer folks could not afford to buy the animals so they were kept away from the temple. They were kept away from the house of God. They were kept away from the place where the grace of God was being ministered.
Isaiah 56:7, 8, the passage Jesus cited, helps us see the power of what made Him so angry.

“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain,
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
Will be accepted on My altar;
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says,
‘Yet I will gather to him
Others besides those who are gathered to him.”

All
The word that sticks out is all! God’s house was to be a house of prayer, and it was to be for all people. No one was to be excluded because of anything they did not have or even their ethnic group or disabilities. And Jesus got angry because people were being denied access to God. I think He still gets angry when people are denied access to God because of socio-economic reasons or their disabilities, or even their hang-ups and issues.
Jesus was so angry about what was happening in the temple that day that He did something about it. He cleared out the system standing in the way. And the next verses show the results. It says “Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.”
Wait, Jesus just flexes his muscle and throws His weight around and the blind and lame come to Him? They are not afraid of Him? Even the children sing Hosanna in the temple and are drawn to Him. They are joyful because finally they had access to the temple to be able to connect with God in a way that they could not before. And they loved this Jesus who got angry, because He did something about the things that kept them away from God.
I am glad that Jesus saw another system keeping us away from God. It was one that we brought on ourselves as humans. One called sin. And He came down to earth and did something about it. He took it on, head on. He took it on and destroyed the system that kept us out from the grace of God. But it cost Him His life to do it.
Today Jesus will not let anything or anyone keep you away from Him. Anything that tries to, He gets angry about it and does something about it. And you will love Him for it.


KYMONE HINDS, his wife, and their three energetic children live in Memphis, Tennessee. He pastors the Overton Park and Journey Fellowship Seventh-day Adventist churches. He also speaks and blogs regularly on different life issues. You can connect with Kymone via twitter@kymonehinds, or on his blog at comejourney.org.

TOO GOOD FOR GOD

What does Jesus want out of our relationship with Him? Love? Commitment? Service? I’m sure you have wondered if your relationship with Jesus is what it should and could be. Do I pray and have devotion enough? Am I in my Bible the way I should be? We’ve all had those questions. I wish to submit to you that unknowingly we are trying to be too good for God.

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Day 1 - Read Mark 11:7-11

Many of us know what it’s like to have someone smile in our face one moment only to stab us in the back the next. What do you think is going through Jesus’ mind as He is entering into Jerusalem? We want to know your thoughts here at Message. Share on Social Media using the #MessageMag.


Day 2 - Read Mark 11:12-14

Have you ever experienced God do something that didn’t make sense. Why would Jesus curse the fig tree that was out of season? What has God allowed to happen to you that you have felt has been out of season? Share it with us on social media using the #MessageMag.


Day 3 - Read Mark 11:13

Notice that the Bible says the fig tree was in leaf. When a fig tree is in leaf it is supposed to have fruit. Therefore this fig tree looked like it was being fruitful but was just putting on a show. Is it possible to look like you have everything together and really be nothing but show? Do you know anyone like that? Are you like that? Don’t share it with us. In your time with God I invite you to pray about the places in your life that may just be show.

 

Day 4 - Read Luke 7:40-46

There is another side to the coin. Some people see it as disruptive when other people go after God in the way they feel inspired to. This is how Simon responded. Because the woman went to Jesus in a way in which he and others did not approve, he spoke condescendingly about her. Be honest now: Can you think of a time when you were being a Pharisee, looking down on someone for something you did not like? Share it with us using the #messagemag.

Listen
In preparation for the next section I invite you to listen to “Intercession” by Kirk Franklin. Allow your mind to drift to your need for Christ.

Day 5 - Read Mark 11:15-17

Jesus seems to be out of character in this portion of the Bible. Irate and enraged is the Lamb of God who is usually meek and mild. What caused Him to act this way? If we pay close attention to the personality of Jesus, nothing sets Him off more than people being mistreated. The church had gotten so bad that the place used to connect with God is now being used to take people’s money and resources. The thing is, aren’t we supposed to help people connect with God, but sometimes we drain or get drained by people who were supposed to help us get closer to Him? Have you experienced this? Tell us about it on social media using the #MessageMag

Day 6 - Read Mark 11:19-20

I once thought the stories of the fig tree and Jesus flipping tables were disconnected. But when I took into account the detail of the tree having withered from the roots I realized Jesus was being very intentional with His perceived discontent. God is turned off by those who act like they’re connected when they are nothing but show. The fig tree didn’t have fruit because the roots weren’t connected to anything of substance. Jesus kicked the people out the temple because they were hindering connection to God. Take time to evaluate your connection to God and if your life facilitates other people making connection to God.

 

Day 7 - Read Mark 11:22-26

Jesus is simply emphasizing prayer. Some of us are so focused on acting right and behaving correctly that we neglect our connection to God that truly makes us productive. Let us be mindful and prayerful that we don’t focus on acting so good that we are too good for God and the people He’s truly trying to connect with.

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Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.

 





Fragrant Anointing

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of the days leading up to the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. In meditating upon His sacrifice for us in this “thoughtful hour”, we pray that you will sense your connection with all of heaven. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemag. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


Excerpted from the classic The Desire of Ages, p. 558-563 “The Feast At Simon’s House.”*
At the table the Saviour sat with Simon, whom He had cured of a loathsome disease, on one side, and Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead, on the other. Martha served at the table, but Mary was earnestly listening to every word from the lips of Jesus. In His mercy, Jesus had pardoned her sins, He had called forth her beloved brother from the grave, and Mary’s heart was filled with gratitude. She had heard Jesus speak of His approaching death, and in her deep love and sorrow she had longed to show Him honor. At great personal sacrifice she had purchased an alabaster box of “ointment of spikenard, very costly,” with which to anoint His body. But now many were declaring that He was about to be crowned king. Her grief was turned to joy, and she was eager to be first in honoring her Lord. Breaking her box of ointment, she poured its contents upon the head and feet of Jesus; then, as she knelt weeping, moistening them with her tears, she wiped His feet with her long, flowing hair.

Woman with long Hair
She had sought to avoid observation, and her movements might have passed unnoticed, but the ointment filled the room with its fragrance, and published her act to all present. Judas looked upon this act with great displeasure. Instead of waiting to hear what Christ would say of the matter, he began to whisper his complaints to those near him, throwing reproach upon Christ for suffering such waste. Craftily he made suggestions that would be likely to cause disaffection.

Mary heard the words of criticism. Her heart trembled within her. She feared that her sister would reproach her for extravagance. The Master, too, might think her improvident. Without apology or excuse she was about to shrink away, when the voice of her Lord was heard, “Let her alone; why trouble ye her?” He saw that she was embarrassed and distressed. He knew that in this act of service she had expressed her gratitude for the forgiveness of her sins, and He brought relief to her mind. Lifting His voice above the murmur of criticism, He said, “She hath wrought a good work on Me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but Me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint My body to the burying.”

The fragrant gift which Mary had thought to lavish upon the dead body of the Saviour, she poured upon His living form. At the burial its sweetness could only have pervaded the tomb; now it gladdened His heart with the assurance of her faith and love. Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus offered not their gift of love to Jesus in His life. With bitter tears they brought their costly spices for His cold, unconscious form. The women who bore spices to the tomb found their errand in vain, for He had risen. But Mary, pouring out her love upon the Saviour while He was conscious of her devotion, was anointing Him for the burial. And as He went down into the darkness of His great trial, He carried with Him the memory of that deed, an earnest of the love that would be His from His redeemed ones forever.

Many there are who bring their precious gifts for the dead. As they stand about the cold, silent form, words of love are freely spoken. Tenderness, appreciation, devotion, all are lavished upon one who sees not nor hears.

Had these words been spoken when the weary spirit needed them so much, when the ear could hear and the heart could feel, how precious would have been their fragrance!

Mary knew not the full significance of her deed of love. She could not answer her accusers. She could not explain why she had chosen that occasion for anointing Jesus. The Holy Spirit had planned for her, and she had obeyed His promptings. Inspiration stoops to give no reason. An unseen presence, it speaks to mind and soul, and moves the heart to action. It is its own justification.

Christ told Mary the meaning of her act, and in this He gave her more than He had received. “In that she hath poured this ointment on My body,” He said, “she did it for My burial.” As the alabaster box was broken, and filled the whole house with its fragrance, so Christ was to die, His body was to be broken; but He was to rise from the tomb, and the fragrance of His life was to fill the earth. Christ “hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor” Ephesians 5:2.

“Verily I say unto you,” Christ declared, “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” Looking into the future, the Saviour spoke with certainty concerning His gospel. It was to be preached throughout the world. And as far as the gospel extended, Mary’s gift would shed its fragrance, and hearts would be blessed through her unstudied act. Kingdoms would rise and fall; the names of monarchs and conquerors would be forgotten; but this woman’s deed would be immortalized upon the pages of sacred history. Until time should be no more, that broken alabaster box would tell the story of the abundant love
of God for a fallen race.
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ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), one of the most published authors in the world, named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.

 

DIVINELY DISRUPTIVE

No one likes being in a place where they are not wanted. Few things are more uncomfortable than knowing the people around you do not want you there. Is it possible that God is looking for people who are comfortable being uncomfortable? I want to invite to explore what it means to be divinely disruptive.

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Day 1 - Read Luke 7:36, 37
Where is this woman’s invitation? Where did she get the idea that it was okay for her to crash the party? Can you recall a time where you were in a place that no one invited you to, but you knew you had to be there? We would love to hear about it. Share with us on social media using the #messagemag hashtag.


Day 2 - Read Luke 7:38

Isn’t she just asking to be judged? Isn’t she flirting with criticism? Sometimes in our most passionate times with God we are also in our most public revelation. Can you remember a time where your passion for Jesus overpowered your concern for your reputation? Just use #messagemag to respond.


Day 3 - Read Luke 7:39

Notice that the attention actually shifts to Jesus, and the woman is only the evidence used to show his lack of authenticity. People will always try to disprove God by the actions of others, but praise God that He doesn’t shy away from these situations. Jesus doesn’t mind standing in the gap—taking a hit—because of someone’s past mistakes. He doesn’t allow anything to come between you and Him.

Take a moment to meditate on the words of this old Hymn.

Nothing between my soul and my Savior,
Naught of this world’s delusive dream;
I have renounced all sinful pleasure;
Jesus is mine, there’s nothing between.

Refrain
Nothing between my soul and my Savior,
So that His blessed face may be seen;
Nothing preventing the least of His favor;
Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.

Verse 2
Nothing between, like worldly pleasure;
Habits of life, though harmless they seem,
Must not my heart from Him ever sever;
He is my all, there’s nothing between.

Verse 3
Nothing between, like pride or station;
Self or friends shall not intervene;
Though it may cost me much tribulation,
I am resolved, there’s nothing between.

Verse 4
Nothing between, e’en many hard trials,
Though the whole world against me convene;
Watching with prayer and much self-denial,
I’ll triumph at last, there’s nothing between.

Day 4 - Read Luke 7:40-46

There is another side to the coin. Some people see it as disruptive when other people go after God in the way they feel inspired to. This is how Simon responded. Because the woman went to Jesus in a way in which he and others did not approve, he spoke condescendingly about her. Be honest now: Can you think of a time when you were being a Pharisee, looking down on someone for something you did not like? Share it with us using the #messagemag.

Day 5 - Read Luke 7:47

Max Lucado in his book, A Love Worth Giving, points out that it is hard to give what you do not have. Jesus brings attention to the great love this woman has poured out on Him, and specifies that it is because she has received great love in the form of great forgiveness. This should cause you to wonder if you are really open or aware of the love God shows you. In your personal time with God, ask Him what loving action He is doing for you that you may not be receiving?

Day 6 - Read Luke 7:48-50

I believe that God is looking for people who are not afraid to be disruptive, people willing to sacrifice their comfort zones for the sake of having an encounter with the Christ. Talk to God about the comfortable places in your life that He wants to disturb. Talk to Jesus about your life and those that you are around whom He wants you to disturb. Maybe one day you will look back and realize that God used you to be divinely disruptive.


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Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.

 





The Greatest

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


The arena was a hill called Calvary. In this corner, a Roman soldier. But he was not just any soldier. He was one who had faced many foes and fought many battles. His discipline in training, courage in combat, loyalty to his superiors paved the road for his rise through the ranks. For his greatness he was rewarded with the rank of centurion, captain of 100 soldiers. He wore his fancy helmet and armor like a heavyweight belt and carried the short vinewood staff, a symbol of his rank, like a trophy. These were his tokens of greatness.
In the other corner, well, that sight was not so pretty. There stood a pitiful peasant rebel, claiming fulfillment of a silly Jewish legend about some coming King. This “Messiah” came to deliver the people and destroy the Roman empire, he’d been told.  He was an enemy of the state and any enemy of Rome was an enemy of his. It was not enough that He be defeated. This level of insolence demanded humiliation as well. And so, as if pouring on points in a blowout, the captain stood aside, allowing his soldiers to have their way with no limitation.
But his humiliating tactics produced unusual results. Instead of the usual cries for help or mercy, the centurion heard Jesus give instructions for the care of His mother, and the centurion watched as He recruited a thief. In the bloody face of the Man across the ring the centurion saw resolve. His bloodshot eyes screamed defiance; His countenance flashed determination. This was familiar. He had seen it somewhere before. He was seeing discipline in training, courage in combat. He was witnessing a soldier defiantly determined to obey His Officer’s command. This great man was now a spectator to greatness and he knew it.

Eye of the Tiger
Insert the soundtrack from Rocky
right here? Two great fighters in one public ring, with only one possible victor. Like Apollo Creed, this Roman captain probably wondered why this Man fought with such resolve.
“Why won’t He just give up? Stay down. Take off the gloves. Stop fighting!” he thought. But Jesus would not stop. John tells us He did not stop until He declared “It is finished.” There was a reason for Him coming to this world. There was something He was assigned to do. And until He had finished His task he would not take His last breath.

In the bloody face of the Man across the ring the centurion saw resolve. His bloodshot eyes screamed defiance, His countenance determination.


There is an assignment, a purpose for which you were born and that task is no easy one. Unfortunately for many of us, our assignments lead to difficult situations in an arena called Calvary. And Calvary is a very public place. So not only do we suffer and struggle but, oftentimes we do it while people look on and wonder why we do not just give up. Forget this God thing! Give up on faith! Stop fighting! But if we stop fighting there is a centurion somewhere that will never start believing.

Finished
What an amazing feeling. To be able to declare that you completed the task to which you were assigned. That you did not give up. To be able to say, “Father I did what You asked me to do. It is finished.”
Not only did the centurion hear Jesus say that He finished His task, but both Matthew and Luke record that He also witnessed the response. Soldiers who valiantly perform in battle usually receive a medal, or they are thrown a parade. However, the affirmation that followed Jesus was one that the centurion had
never seen.
All of creation responded to the completed work of Jesus. The earth shook and the sun refused to shine. The veil that hung in the temple ripped from the top down, exposing the inner chamber of the Most Holy Place. God the Father needed this Roman captain—and everyone around—to know that His Son had completed His mission.
There are no pictures of this moment, yet the mind can envision the great Roman Centurion—fancy helmet removed, no trophy in hand—kneel before Jesus whom He now recognizes was so much more than the greatest Soldier that ever lived.
He declares breathlessly, “This must be the Son of God.”
Because Jesus finished the task, the soldier finally saw the Savior. It is tough. You are going through it. You want to quit, but remember there is someone who is watching you and they will only follow your Commander if, even through pain, you finish your task. So fight the good fight, finish your race, and keep the faith. Do not stop fighting!

STUDY AT THE CROSS

How long does it take to know who Jesus is?
Many talk about sanctification—or becoming holy—as the work of a lifetime, but is it possible to know Jesus in an instant? With a character and work as deep and wide as the ocean, Jesus does not seem to be the most comprehensible person in the history of the world. Join us as we explore what is possible in an initial encounter with the incarnate God.

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Day 1
Do you know Jesus? Do you think you know Jesus? Can you describe Him to someone with the same specificity and endearment as you do a family member? I invite you try. Grab a pen and paper, or open a new note on your phone and tell about the Jesus you know. Share it with us here at Message by posting to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook using the #MessageMag. We look forward to reading your responses.


Day 2 - Corinthians 13:4-7

Look back over your description. How long has it taken you to know that about Jesus? I have noticed that a lot of what I know about Jesus has been taught to me through my own personal shortcomings. Max Lucado suggests an exercise in his book, A Love Worth Giving, in which you insert your name wherever it says love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Try it. Share it with us here at Message by posting to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook using the #MessageMag. We look forward to reading your responses.


Day 3 - Read Mark 15:39

In this verse we encounter a centurion, a Roman soldier in command of 100 men. The centurion was not Jewish, more than likely not acquainted with Scripture, and definitely not a follower of Christ. Many of us encounter people like him everyday. The question is do we see them as one step away from being believers? I invite you to think of someone who can be your accountability partner in praying that God makes you a kingdom-minded person, a person who sees everyone as a potential resident of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Day 4 - Read Mark 15:39

Awe-inspiring, right? There had to be something awe-inspiring about Jesus’ death. Read the surrounding verses, and make
a list of the details about of how Jesus died that led the centurion to react the way he did.

Day 5

The way we die can stir more conviction than the way we live. What I mean by that is, the way we go through things can have more impact on people than the way we come out. Have you ever gone through something in your life and did not know that you were being observed, and someone was blessed by how you conducted yourself? Share it with us here at Message by posting to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook using the #MessageMag. We look forward to reading your responses.


Have you ever thought about the possibility that the calamities in your life may be the only encounter with Jesus people have? The shaking and storms that you experience can be the testimony someone needs, to know who Jesus is. Pray with the your prayer partner from earlier that all that you experience will help lead someone to Jesus.

Day 7

The Centurion exclaimed after being with Jesus only a few hours something that takes many of us a lifetime to get: “Surely, this is the Son of God.” We must keep in mind that at the cross, anyone, regardless of time in the faith, can come to the same conclusion: Jesus is who He said He is.

 


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.

 





Covered

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


The covers were pulled off. Naked and surprised, a young woman is grabbed from a man’s bed and snatched into the damp dawn of morning. Head spinning, hair matted, half naked, tears spill down her cheeks to the thin sheet she managed to wrap around herself.

“Adulteress!” they shouted, spewing hatred at her as they dragged her out of the bedroom. As dawn broke and the sun rose, she was again grabbed from the cell where she had been held, leaving the sheet behind. But no sheet could cover her shame. Not a blanket in town could hide her from the death sentence she deserved.

But where were they taking her? Why her? Why now? Why couldn’t they have just let her go? Where is the man who had invited her over? Why was she the only one being dragged through the streets, adding to her shame?

Feelings of betrayal and anger, humiliation and remorse rose in her throat until she choked on both her guilt and her tears. Oh, what she would give to have back in her grasp the small sheet to cover her and the nakedness of her condemnation. As she walked behind the priests, she recounted the events of the night. It was supposed to be fun. She could taste the salty tears drawn from the well of virtue she had traded for shame. Although the Pharisees may have trapped her, she knew deep inside it was a bed she had made for herself. It was in fact her fault. She had indeed committed adultery, and was by law condemned to die. But like this? Here, in front of the temple? Was it not her husband’s job to bring an accusation, not these people who looked at her as dirt?

Then she heard His voice, the One they called Teacher, the One who both healed diseases and fed the masses. Why would they bring her to Him? A sudden wave of terror raced through her veins and stalled her feet until the Pharisees were dragging her to the front of the crowd. They threw her down at the feet of Jesus.

It was bad enough to be shamed before her friends, and paraded as an adulteress through her community, but now to be thrown before Jesus, the Teacher? She could not look up. She wept and trembled, and felt the eyes of everyone on her. A harlot. An adulteress. A sinner. The law said to stone her. But, then she was a sideshow for the Pharisees. They treated her shame with indifference and focused only on trapping Jesus.

“What should we do with this woman caught in adultery?”

She was still cowering, but Jesus bent down, eye level, and wrote in the dust. Confusing and even angering the Pharisees, they want Him to engage, take a position.

“What should we do with her?”  Air is thick with anticipation and judgment, and at fever pitch, accusers silently, and in disbelief looked down to see the guilty secrets of their own private lives spelled out in the dust.

Jesus said decidedly, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

With judgments in hand, but the truth at their feet, no one picked up a stone. No one could. Did He write their individual sins, or a single statement that caused them to do some introspection about their own unrighteousness? The Bible does not tell us, but what we do know is that they all began to leave, one by one, starting with the oldest down to the most pious.

She braced herself and awaited the judgment of her fate, but Jesus calls her attention to His ruling.

“Where are your accusers?” He asked gently. She looked up, maybe expecting to see angry eyes, but instead saw no no one—only compassion. In Jesus’ eyes she found relief, and gentleness unlike anything she had ever experienced. It was a kindness, unattached to physical expectations and lust. It was pure, unmatched mercy.

Death is what we deserve, but in the dust of defeat we find the mercy of Jesus.

Surely, the Pharisees had left, but what about this Teacher? He alone could condemn her, but instead she finds more mercy, more grace, an abundance of forgiveness, and a pardon for her sin’s deserved punishment. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

When tossed before the feet of the Savior, the sinner finds no condemnation. She no longer needed the sheet to cover her sins, because she found comfort and covering in the redemption of Christ.

Within this story is the summation of the gospel: confirmed sinners caught daily in the act of falling short of the righteousness of God; paraded through the communities of heaven as the beloved creation who fell; accused by Satan, and brought before God, condemned to death. Death is what we deserve, but in the dust of defeat we find the mercy of Jesus. Jesus, the Redeemer. Jesus, the Rescuer. But the gospel doesn’t end at forgiveness. He tells the woman to go and sin no more. This is evidence that an encounter with Jesus doesn’t just end with forgiveness, but it leads to life transformation.

She longed for earthy covering from her sin. But God had offered her more than a temporary cover. He offered her freedom. While Jesus does not condone sin, nor lessen the sense of guilt, He seeks not to condemn, but to save (John 3:16, 17).

The world may have accused you.

Your family and friends may be against you.

The writing in the dust covers that.

Your sins may be haunting you.

You may be struggling right now, consumed with guilt and shame.

Find yourself at the feet of Jesus.

The Blood of the cross covers that.

You may be broken and ashamed, hiding under the sheets where you hope no one can see.

The Mercy of Jesus covers that.

You may feel condemned, because
of a mess you may have gotten yourself into.

The Love of Jesus covers that, too.


And whom the Son sets free is truly free indeed. (John 8:36).

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Kimberly Mann is an associate chaplain with the Office of Spiritual Life at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama.

By Any Means Necessary

Tenacious. Unstoppable. Perseverant. Usually these are words used to describe many sports heroes. Have you ever in your prayers or testimonies described God with one of these? Are they not accurate? I believe the Bible is full of stories of a tenacious, unstoppable, perseverant God.

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Day 1 - Read John 8:2,3
This is a dramatic situation and would be unacceptable in our time. Do you see the extent to which the teachers of the law and Pharisees are after Jesus? Have you ever wanted to prove someone wrong that badly? Has anyone ever gone the extra mile to expose you? Tell us about your experience on social media using the #MessageMag.


Day 2

Is it our “duty” as Christians to point out sin and pull the veil off wrongdoing? Were the Pharisees and teachers wrong for what they did? Why or why not? Share your views using the #MessageMag tag.


Day 3 - Read John 8:4-6

When we encounter people who don’t have our best interest at heart, the temptation is to see ourselves as the victim and ask, why me? What is interesting here is that the text specifies that this had less to do with the woman, and more to do with Jesus. Have you ever been through something you thought was about you, only to find out you were just a bystander, collateral damage? Has God ever taught you that it is not about you? Tell us about that on social media using the #MessageMag tag.

Day 4 - Read John 8:7,8

Once in a while God blesses us with a tough moment of clarity. Have you ever been overwhelmed with your own shortcomings? Isn’t it usually followed with an awe-inspiring view of God’s grace? The people here didn’t seem to have that, but we at Message want to know if you have. Let us know on social media using the #MessageMag tag.

Day 5 - Read John 8:9

This verse is quite curious. Why did the people walk away? Why did they leave in descending age order? Pray and contemplate this, then let us know your thoughts via social media using the tag #MessageMag

 


Day 6 - Read John 8:10,11

Sometimes it’s of value to note what Jesus didn’t say or do. He doesn’t point out that she made a mistake. He doesn’t point out that her situation is her fault. Instead He draws attention to the fact that there’s no one pointing out her faults anymore. Is that a part of our role as Christians? Showing that there’s “no condemnation”? Search, speculate, and share your thoughts with us with tag #MessageMag.

Day 7 - Read John 8:2-11

An observation you may have made was that there were many people who were in the presence of Jesus on this day, but only one found forgiveness. Is it possible that this woman would not have ended up at the feet of Jesus if she hadn’t been in the compromising position she was? Is it possible that her shortcoming was the means by which God orchestrated a confrontation? Has there been a time in your life when God took one of your dark yesterday’s and turned it into a bright tomorrow? Share your testimony with us using the #MessageMag.

I believe that God will do whatever He must to get us to the feet of Jesus. There are no means too dark, dank or despondent that God cannot or will not use. He will save us by any means necessary. Those means will always be Jesus.


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.