The Answer to the Final Test

Final night in the Garden of Gethsemane—Jesus faced a final test that we all end up facing. Thankfully Jesus gave us the answer for this final test.

Before we go there, time travel back to Genesis 22 where Abraham and Isaac acted out centuries in advance what Jesus—and God the Father—would face. Abraham was given three days notice – you have to wonder if he slept any at all during the trip to Mt. Moriah! No time markers are specified but this moose has to suspect it was Passover day back then since God the Father and Jesus are such Master Timers.

Incredibly, we see nothing about a struggle. “Wait for us. I and the lad will be back soon” Abraham tells his servants.

When Isaac noticed no lamb, he started to get the idea something bad was in the works! “God will provide” Abraham assures him and named the place that.

Fast forward to Jesus in the garden. He was the provision! And He knew it full well! He knew it was coming for a long, long time! He knew He was the “Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).  He knew looming just ahead: betrayal, judicial lies, scourging and crucifixion.

He would do His best to see and feel “the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2) but that wouldn’t spare Him facing the dread that could only be described as dreadful!  He was the sinless and yet unrisen bread of life bound to die after hands would break and crunch Him like a matzo!

“My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26: 38).  Jesus asked us His disciples to “Stay here and watch with Me.” We slept. As He wrestled in prayer, apparently for an hour, the crux of His prayer was: “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (v. 39).

He didn’t just say that over and over.  Knowing it was the Days of Unleavened Bread about to begin, maybe Jesus mused: “Well, I knew this was going to be no piece of cake!”  He probably wished He could just die right there as He knelt in agonizing prayer.

Rose Publishing’s Names of Jesus says “Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane before his crucifixion should teach us both about whose authority we are under and about accepting God’s better plan… (‘Let this cup pass from me’), the only request He made that was denied, teaches us that there are some things we ask for — good as they may seem — that are simply not God’s best for us” (2006, p. 4).

An angel appeared from heaven and strengthened Him (Luke 22:43).  “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly” (v. 44).

His second prayer showed still unquestioned surrender but with a major shift in resolve: “If this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done” (Matthew 26:42).  We slept on.  Jesus prayed a third time,

Luke the physician diagnosed Him as sweating great drops of blood!

This is a well-known medical condition, though relatively rare, called hematidrosis. Blood vessels in a net-like form around the sweat glands constrict under pressure of great stress.  As the anxiety passes the blood vessels dilate and rupture into the sweat glands, pushing to the surface as blood mixed with sweat.

It’s significant that happens “as the anxiety passes.”  This must have happened toward the end of the third prayer.  Then Jesus woke us up, met the mob and carried out the Father’s will, perfectly surrendered to it.

As powerful as Jesus is, He could easily have avoided all of this and simply disappeared.  He could have called down a legion of angels.  He could have made his skin impenetrable, anesthetized to pain so He would feel nothing.  But he meekly kept all His power under control.

Whatever problem or issue we’re dealing with, it ultimately boils down to the same final test faced by Abraham and Jesus. It’s easy to say “your will be done” in the prayer closet when everything is easy.  Of Abraham God said “Now I know” (Genesis 22:12).

Whenever any test comes,the right answer is always: “Not my will but yours be done!”
FUN FACT: Don’t ever expect to find a moose with hematidrosis. First of all, does it look like I work hard enough to work up a sweat! Secondly, we cannot tolerate climates above 80 degrees Fahrenheit because we cannot sweat. You never see a moose worrying or anxious anyway, but if you do, don’t bother saying “Don’t sweat it.”

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Master Timer Even in Death

God the Father and Jesus Christ are Master Timers.  This moose hangs his hat on that, since he can’t get it over his antlers anyway.

Jesus knew the correct date to die on.  Because He as the God of the Old Testament was the One who commanded it to take place on the 14th of Nissan of the Hebrew calendar.  So He observed the Passover with His disciples at twilight beginning the 14th just as He specified for Moses and the Israelites in Exodus 12.  He walked them out of Egypt on the night of the 15th which the Bible instructs to commemorate as “The Night To Be Much Observed” (Ex. 12:42) and which significantly was 430 years to the day when Jesus covenanted with Abraham in Gen. 17.  Talk about the Master Timer!

Actually people would rather talk about when they think things should be done.

Amazingly, despite all this amazing timing,  the idea became that the Passover meal should be at the end of the 14th/beginning of the 15th, and eventually temple lambs started being sacrificed at 3:00 in the afternoon to have them ready for the evening meal.

Whoever came up with this errant timing change unwittingly resulted in lambs for God crying out at the exact time Jesus “finished” and cried out on His cross.  Talk again about the Master Timer!

Josephus and Philo confirm there were two Passovers in Jesus’ day.  And now we have a “Passover of the Jews” with its Seder one day late.  Now people can conveniently think of Passover as Jewish when it’s nothing but Christish.

This year Nissan 14 equates to Friday, April 3.  The New Testament Passover service instituted by Jesus with foot washing, unleavened bread and wine will take place the Thursday evening before, starting just after sunset.  The Night To Be Much Observed will be celebrated Friday evening, starting just after sunset.

God and the Word planned these priceless events from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).  The Master Timers will be there through the Holy Spirit.   Who are we to be so blessed to fellowship with them (I John 1:3)!

FUN FACT:  Moose graze during the day and sleep at night.  It’s a good thing we weren’t there when the Israelites walked out of Egypt under the full moon.  We would have been sleepwalking!

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Gentiles Starting to See the Value

In the panel discussion following “Patterns of Evidence,” the special nationwide showing about proof of the Exodus events, the most interesting comment was made by Anne Graham Lotz, second daughter of famed evangelist Billy Graham. She noted that many Gentiles are starting to see the value of Passover.

A shocking statement that shouldn’t be! The Premier Christian kept the 4 Passovers during His 3-1/2 years of teaching and example. It was no holiday to Him. He was destined to become the main course without blemish or broken bone, the Lamb of God (John 1:29, I Cor. 5:7). And on His last Passover He was beaten to a pulp and crucified so that His blood can be smeared on the lintel and door jambs of our thoughts and actions so we can be passed over from the eternal death we earn.

As the Word of John 1, Jesus knew He was destined to be slain “from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). He could start counting down to the dreadful day when He would be marred more than any man and have His blood poured out. Yes, while it would be no piece of cake for Jesus, unleavened being the order of the day, somehow He was able to carry it out for “the joy that was set before Him” (Heb. 12:2).

Anne Graham Lotz is right that Christians should start seeing the value of the Passover. The Apostle Paul told Gentile Christians to “proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” by keeping it (I Cor. 11:26).

Jesus as YHVH instituted it in Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23. We Christians should carefully read and study every word of those 2 pivotal chapters because it’s “the LORD’s Passover (Ex. 12:11). It’s all about Jesus and glory to Him! It’s Christish.

Jesus lived it with Moses and revived it with Hezekiah and Josiah. He lived it with His disciples. And He lives it each year in those of us who have been blessed to see the value in it.

By His stripes we are healed! (I Pet. 2:24). His scourging and crucifixion make possible complete healing of body, mind, emotions and spirit. We are saved by grace through His shed blood. We are delivered from slavery to sin and led by our Savior in a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night to the Promised Land.

Passover is also all about God the Father. Didn’t the spotlight in Gen. 22, acting out the coming sacrifice centuries in advance, fall more on Abraham as the father.

As much as Jesus sacrificed all for you and me, let’s not overlook that the Father gave up His only begotten son and, as even most human fathers can feel, would have been wishing He could take the place of His suffering Son! In a very real sense God our Father could say “I died that day for you, too!”

At this special service, we will reconfirm our total humble surrender to God. Though 365/24/7 we have instant forgiveness the moment we repent of sin and we live day in, day out under grace, there is nothing like the clean feeling on this night.

Even after 44 years of observance, this moose can testify that he is only starting to see the incredible value in this only-the-first step in God’s Plan of Salvation.

How long will the Passover have value? We can read with our own eyes Ex. 12:14.

And in His coming kingdom, Jesus has a date lined up with His bride to observe it (Luke 22:16, 30)! By then all His and the Father’s pain, suffering and mental anguish — not just during the 24-hour period in 31 AD but all the timeless years of anticipating dread — will surely have given way to eternal joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Talk about value.

FUN FACT: Even without scourging, I know I’m not much to look at with my long and heavy head and my slightly suspended big flexible upper lip. Maybe I wasn’t blessed with upper front teeth, but hey, they don’t sit by my bed at night like some of you gummers!

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Happy New Year!

OK, who’s been sippin’ the spiked eggnog a little too much? Where you been for the last 3 months? Shoveling snow give you a brain freeze?

Saturday, March 21 — this is the day God thinks is New Year’s Day (Ex. 12:2). That’s good enough for me. Dick Clark’s a nice guy but I’m in with Moses and Aaron.

On God’s calendar it’s Nisan 1. And I’m guessing as I post this on Wednesday that Saturday is going to be a glorious day to enjoy the ride!

Somehow you’d expect a day God designates to be a dandy!

Who needs Times Square to feel that it’s the right time for a new year. Creation is ready to party! The dead of winter is springing to life! The furnace is still turned on but doesn’t kick on. No more hunkering under blankets and layering in jackets. We’re hitting 70s and it feels so good to be alive out working on the yard. The wife’s plants are popping up. Green and growth are in the air. The spring holydays with all their rich meaning are just 2 weeks away!

And here’s something an old moose can really appreciate: there isn’t pressure to stay up till midnight to bring it in. God’s days start at sunset. Even I can stay up until 7!

So bring on Saturday — always special but this week more so as Happy New Year!

“I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied: ‘Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way’”–Minnie Louise Haskins, broadcast by King George VI in 1939 at the beginning of World War II.

Is there any of that eggnog left!

FUN FACT: Moose are diurnal — active in the day. It’s completely natural for us to see sunset ending one day and starting the next. When I watch the sun go down Friday, it’s going to be tough maintaining my strong silent-type image. Inside me is going to be the thrill of being an actual part of new life springing into action! Oh, why not: Happy New Year!

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Sensing the Wall

 Lore has it that marathon runners hit the wall a few miles from the end of the 26.2 mile race.  After 29 blogs I sense the wall.

Is it worth the effort?  Maybe you should just quit, Broose!

It’s not the writing part.  At first it was hard to come up with 2 blogs per week, but now that the creative juices are flowing, lots of drafts are waiting to be published.  Life brings material.  The writing part has been pure pleasure.

It’s the statistics.  The pathetic statistics.  The court of public opinion.  You not only don’t get the wishful encouragement to lift the magic carpet ride but you get the rug pulled out from under you.  That’s so, but it’s also so that I don’t want any pity; I want people to read because they want to.

February had exactly the same amount of visitors and views as January even though it had 3 more blogs.  Alas, a ceiling?  A ceiling usually has a wall.

Never mind your senses, “The just shall walk by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7).   And the rest of us better do the same!   Not by sight.   And not by site!   Not by checking my WordPress stats every hour of the day.   How easy it is for anything to become an addiction!

Thankfully I still believe unseen good will come from continuing to write this blog that’s totally apart from the number of visitors, views and subscribers.  And I’m still feasting on two specific comments in the past 3 months where a reader said the blog was just what they needed to hear.

Twenty-five years ago we were climbing Yosemite Falls with my 2 kids, probably ages 5 and 9.  All the way up the 3 miles plus they were moaning and groaning and begging to quit.  I kept encouraging them: Rest if you must but do not quit.     Wouldn’t you know it that when my wife and I were gathering our strength at the top, aahhhhhing our overheated hooves in the cool pool of water, our kids were running around laughing and giggling!   Hey, Daddio, rest if you must but do not quit.

Keep plugging!   Pedal to the metal!   Hand on the plow!   Forward ever, backward never!   One hoof in front of the other!   Remember the Alamo!  OK, enough already, I’m pumped for at least one more post.

A flat face might be an improvement!  Wall?  What wall?

FUN FACT: Moose thrive in areas that have seasonal snow cover.  We prefer colder climates below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s because we cannot sweat, and the fermentation caused by our digestion creates a large amount of heat.  So some of us live in the northern areas of Asia — Mongolia and China — and if we sense a wall there might be something to it!

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“Lord, Get Me a Taxi”

Late ‘70s so me in my late 20s, at the Tucson, Arizona arena. The thousands of people there had all left, and the sad part was they all left me. As a gregarious single I had tried in vain to hook up with somebody going out to eat or fellowship, but nothing had worked out.

It was dark with October chill and I was standing outside in the parking lot with no ride home to the campground which was about 10 miles away. No public phone in sight and nobody had cell phones back then.

The dread of having another boring evening alone gave way to worrying about how to get home! Semi-panic began to take root in a strange big city.

To make the best of a bad situation, my mind conjured up memory of a famous radio evangelist making fun of Christians who unknowingly think of God as a hip pocket God. “Lord, get me a taxi!” he’d spoof.

In my predicament, I couldn’t help uttering in prayerful resignation “Lord, I don’t want to disrespect you but I really wouldn’t mind if you’d get me a taxi!”

No sooner than the words left my mouth, a vehicle roars up and brakes right beside me. It didn’t say taxi on it but it looked like one.

“Who … who are you here for?” I asked fearfully.

“I’m here for you. Get in” the driver ordered nicely. I remember no hesitation to do exactly what he said.

What’d he look like? Michael Landon? Danny Devito? I really got no good look at him. My daughter commented with conviction that any angel taxi for her better have a female at the wheel. For such a wonderful daughter God might just grant that desire.

But it would break Bible precedent where all appearances in human form are as adult males with names like Gabriel and Michael. I say appearances because Matt. 22:30 says angels do not marry, indicating they are probably sexless. Who cares? Those of us who want to be resurrected! Because Jesus said we would be like the angels and not marry either.

We can be thankful God doesn’t dispatch the seraphim of Ezekiel 1 and 10, though the ride would be out of this world! They had the form of a man (1:5), but where some men can be rather 2-faced, they have 4: man, ox, eagle and lion. Also 4 wings. Definitely more conducive to driving a gyro throne than a taxi!

And I’ve always heard that angels are all business. No chatting or gabbing. We didn’t talk on the 10 mile drive.

I don’t remember the driver even asking me where I wanted to go. OK, he was appearing as a male so why should he ask for directions! But he took me straight to my campground. I felt peace from pickup to dropoff.

He asked for no fare. Good thing I didn’t think to ask about a tip. He probably would have said nicely but bluntly: plan better next time.

Yes, I was touched by an angel among us, as Alabama sings with such encouragement and inspiration. They are God’s servants for us (Heb 1:14).  [You might like to read:  “Entertaining Angels Unawares”]

This moose knows that God answers prayers. Even a desperately serious joking one!

FUN FACT: I’m not saying but that driver could have been a moose because we don’t talk much! The hard part is acting angelic. Actually if you see a moose driving a taxi, you really should go try to fare better somewhere else!

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It Takes Basin and Feet

Looking to see what Jesus did? We get an eyeful in John 13.

On the way to Jerusalem facing the greatest challenge of His meaning-packed 3-1/2 years on earth, with scourging and crucifixion imminent, all his clueless disciples wanted to do was argue about who was the greatest — how could they know about Mohammed Ali back then! But they thought they deserved to have the honor of sitting at Christ’s right hand in His kingdom.

At His last Passover with His beloved disciples, before instituting the new symbols of unleavened bread and wine symbolizing recommitment to our Lamb of God Savior, Jesus knew they needed an attitude makeover before being ready for such a commitment.  Earlier He had tried to teach them that they must be servants and not seek to lord it over like the Gentiles (Matt. 20:25-28). And they were right back at it again (Luke 22:24)!

So He got up, filled a basin with water and washed their feet! This totally shocked them because this dirty task (from trodding the dusty roads) was something not done by even the lowliest servants.  The practice was to hand a guest a basin of water and let them wash their own feet (Luke 7:44, Gen. 18:4). Ugh, such filth! You do it!

With action speaking louder than words, Jesus shouted at them by pure heart example that the greatest would be the humble servants demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ their Savior living in them.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:14-15, NIV).

More than just a beautiful annual ceremony, we are inspired to wash feet wherever our service is needed. Bring on the feet! No matter how dirty, deformed or yellowed!  Let’s do it!

But, wait! Do we notice what Peter actually exclaimed when Jesus knelt before him: “You shall never wash my feet!” At this point the idea of washing somebody’s feet didn’t repulse him. But no way did he want to humble himself to let somebody wash his!

After 45 years of doing the annual ceremony and also striving to wash feet in Christ-centered servant leadership all these years long, I have found it’s much harder to put out your hooves so somebody else can have the growing experience of such loving service.

It sounds like such humility to kneel but it’s strangely easier than sitting in the chair and wondering what they are thinking about your ugly feet.

Oh the joy of watching somebody open your choice present more than trying to come up with the words to thank them for theirs. “You shouldn’t have.” We probably mean it.

When I was first converted, the man and woman who were like father and mother to me in the church would regularly do so many nice things for me. But when I tried to do something nice back for them, they would refuse to let me! They were self-reliant live-off-the-land ranchers. I’ll give you the shirt off my back but you keep yours on! … oh, so you don’t freeze or get sunburned. One day I had a heart-to-heart talk to them about it, and they proved their humble serving conversion by yielding.

One of the funniest escapades I ever witnessed among converted brethren was at the conclusion of eating out at a restaurant with several men who are very generous and known for picking up the check. What a hoot to see them jockeying to be the one to get their hands on the check! They weren’t used to being treated that way!

OK, it should go without saying that God does not want mooches and freeloaders!  But there is a right time and place to let others learn the joy of washing feet. It’s simply a not-so-obvious fact that they can’t use the basin without somebody contributing the dirty feet!

A corollary: For really beautiful Christ-centered servant leadership, it takes beautiful Christ-centered responsive followers. As the “Life’s a Dance” song by John Michael Montgomery puts it so well, “Sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow.”

It takes basin and feet.

FUN FACT:  Praise to our Creator, our hooves were designed to act like snowshoes so we can travel smoothly over snow and also through mud and marsh. You’ll have your hands full if you try to wash feet on me. Double trouble!  And quite a feat!  I understand if you choose to let me just splash around here in my boggy basin.

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