Wondering What Had Happened (Luke 24:12, NIV) by Carley Evans


12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Peter stood over the empty tomb where Jesus’ body was laid out just as Lazarus’ was once wrapped in linen strips and laid in a different grave. Peter examined the strips of linen, and even with the words of the women in his mind, wondered to himself what had happened.
How extraordinary that after all he saw and heard from Jesus, Peter didn’t know what the empty tomb meant.
Perhaps in shock, he forgot that Jesus foretold His death and missed that Jesus also foretold His return to the living. Jesus even rebuked Peter as “Satan” when Peter suggested that Jesus must not die. “You are thinking like men, not like God,” Jesus warned. Perhaps Peter pushed this confrontation from the forefront of his mind, still ashamed that he denied Jesus three times before the crow of the morning cock.
So now, Peter wondered what the empty tomb meant. A completely logical conclusion may have occurred to him — the body of the Lord Jesus must be stolen!
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” an angel asked Mary, the mother of James, Joanna, and Mary Magdalene who came to the tomb earlier with spices for the Lord’s body. The angel opened the women’s eyes and hearts to the truth, even asking if they remembered Jesus’ own words regarding the prophesies of the older covenant with God.
When the women returned to the Eleven to tell the truth of the Resurrection, no one believed them. The women’s words seemed like nonsense. But Peter ran to the tomb to see for himself.
Like Peter, each one of us must see the empty tomb, wonder and remember what it means.

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Woe to Hypocrites (Matthew 23: 23-27, NIV) by Carley Evans


23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

The appearance of morality makes some people believe they are actually moral. Some people convince themselves that by avoiding this or avoiding that, promoting this or promoting that, believing this or believing that, performing this or performing that — that these acts somehow make them holy; not only holy, but holier than someone else who hasn’t bothered to clean the outside of the cup and dish.

Cleaning the inside of the cup and dish is much trickier than we care to admit. And much harder than doing a quick spiff-up of the outside.

How do you rid yourself of lust, greed, self-hatred, hatred of others, anger, deceit, mean-spiritedness, and yes, hypocrisy?

Jesus says to clean the inside of yourself and then the outside will automatically be clean. He warns us not to put on a disguise but to become genuine from the inside out.

He tells us how to do this, too. He does not ask us to avoid this or that, do this or that — after all, He picked wheat on the Sabbath! Instead, He promises to reside inside us. By being inside us, He makes us clean — akin to having an automatic dishwasher inside our hearts!

This automatic dishwasher is God, the Holy Spirit. He gently but persistently reminds us that the most important matters of the Law — the Law Christ fulfilled by His Life and Death and Resurrection — are “justice, mercy, and faithfulness.”

I love how Jesus Christ links the three, making them one in Him.

If God Is Perfect (Romans 8: 29-31, ESV) by Carley Evans


29 For those whom he (God) foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[a] against us?

“Those whom God foreknew he also predestined.” God pre-determines those whom He then transforms into brothers and sisters of His Son, Jesus Christ. In order to transform us, first He has to call us, then He has to justify us and finally He must glorify us. The entire work of salvation is the Lord’s — from beginning to end.

I am not sure why this concept is difficult for seemingly so many Christians, but it is. Some Christians want to take credit for accepting Christ and even for becoming ‘holy’. But the Word contradicts this idea repeatedly.

God makes Pharaoh a vessel for wrath while He makes Moses a vessel for glory. Moses is a murderer, and as such is — at his worst — no more worthy of God’s mercy than Pharaoh at his best. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart repeatedly, each time the Egyptian king decides to let God’s people go, God changes Pharaoh’s mind.

God loves Jacob before Jacob does anything good or bad while He ‘hates’ Esau also before Esau does anything good or bad.

Someone I know told me that God is not a manipulator. God most certainly is! He is the great and ultimate ‘manipulator’! A manipulator is defined as “a person who handles or controls something skilfully”. God is the perfect manipulator, handling us as skillfully as a master puppeteer or gifted potter.

God is in control.

Why does this bother you (assuming it does)? Why do you resist the Master’s control? Don’t you believe He is perfect? Don’t you believe He is only good, that there is no evil intent in His plan?

If God is indeed perfect, then it follows that His control — His manipulations, if you will, are also perfect.

The Secret (Mark 4: 10-12, NIV) by Carley Evans


10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,

“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”

Salvation is exclusive, not inclusive. Jesus deliberately keeps the secret of God’s plan from “those on the outside”. He reserves full understanding of His stories — His parables — to those “on the inside”. His disciples and others who are with Him are the only ones to whom Jesus explains Himself.

He asks His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” He desires for His followers to grasp the bigger picture, to know He is God, the great “I AM” of their Jewish heritage. He does not appear concerned about those who are excluded.

I like to think those who are excluded from understanding Jesus are those who can’t understand Jesus; unfortunately, this is errant thinking for no one is capable of understanding Jesus unless God the Holy Spirit gives understanding. In other words, we are all blind, all deaf, all stupid when it comes to comprehending God. God Himself gives us the ability to see Him, hear Him, understand Him, follow Him.

So, we come to the election of the saints.

Yes, God did choose — before the foundation of the world — a select few for salvation; or at the very least God saw ahead of time who would choose Him. Either way, the election stands.

The parables — the mystery of Jesus’ stories — proves the Son of God died for those in the Book of Life.

We Wear Out And Die (Isaiah 51:6, DARBY) by Carley Evans


Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall grow old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. (Isaiah 51:6, DARBY)

The message here isn’t — of course — that the created dies but that the Creator lives forever and that His purposes never fail. The heavens above us — the sky, the other planets, the stars, the galaxies — will vanish one day like a puff of smoke. And the earth will just wear out. So will we. We will grow old and die. Some translations go so far as to say we will die like gnats or like flies — like insignificant insects.

But God — who is not insignificant — will never die. And His holiness and His method of salvation will last forever.

 

Who Can Be Against Us? (Romans 8:29-32, NIV) by Carley Evans


“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

God exists outside the limits of time and space (except for a brief stint here on earth as an infant, child, young man). Since God is not limited in His point of view (since He is omniscient, that is) He is able to know ahead (and outside) of time who is “to be conformed to the image of His Son”. That’s easy. Once something is known (ahead of time) and is not then changed by the all-powerful God, then that thing known ahead of time becomes what we refer to as “predestined”. So much for free will. That’s easy, too.

So, God knew us before time, predestined us before time, called us before and inside time, justified us inside time, and glorifies us inside and beyond time. Time, in other words, does not and can not limit God.

Because of His unlimited power and knowledge about our fate, God “is for us”; and because He is for us, nothing can be against us. Nothing. Why? Because God did not spare His own Son. He gave Him up to Death for us. Therefore, He will keep us  (those whose names are written in the Book of Life) — forever.

Sons & Heirs (Galatians 4:1-7, NIV) by Carley Evans


“4 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

Odd that Paul starts this portion of his letter with the aside, “What I am saying” as if he is fully aware that he has not yet convinced his readers in the church of Galatia of the extraordinary truths that they are no longer slaves but fully adopted sons of God and therefore are no longer under the law.

The law, reminds Paul, was only a guardian — a kind of trustee of a future inheritance –right up until Jesus died on the Cross and was subsequently resurrected and ascended to glory. At that moment, born-again believers were transformed. They were adopted as sons and therefore heirs of God’s promise to remove the yoke of the law by fulfilling every jot and stroke of that law through Christ’s sacrifice.

Once freed from the law, Paul exhorts his readers not to try to put themselves back under the yoke and burden of the law which will only drive them deeply into guilt and shame.

Instead, Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV).