Sunday, July 31, 2016

Little Signs - Jesus of Nazareth (Scene: The Prodigal Son)

So, my wife, Susan, and a friend Paul, joined me to play for a church service this morning.  A number of members from the congregation share coffee and pastries in the church meeting room after worship.  Whenever we play for this church, we join them.  It's always a beautiful time of sharing.

As we were leaving I notice a small magazine on the table by the exit.  I forget the name of the magazine, but I believe it was the May 2016 issue.  On the cover there listed an article on Christian Devotions accompanied by a picture of Robert Powell portraying Jesus in Franco Zeffirelli's mini-series, Jesus of Nazareth from nearly 40 years ago.  This has always been my favorite portrayal of Jesus (despite Robert Powell's English accent).

A few days prior I had been considering the story of the prodigal son.  In my internet meanderings I ended up on YouTube (I spend a lot of time there).  I did a Prodigal Son search and came up with a clip from Jesus of Nazareth which happens to be one of my favorite enactments of the parable.  Bear in mind Franco Zeffirelli uses some literary license by placing the telling of the parable at a scene in the home of Matthew the tax collector.  The enactment puts Matthew into the role of the younger son and Peter into the role of the older brother.

So my point is (since I haven't made one yet) I considered linking this video to my blog last Friday and put it off.  Sunday morning God showed me what he really wanted me to do by using a very old picture on a new issue of a magazine.

Let me just add, if you have never had the chance to watch this movie, please take the time... but you need 6 and a half hours.  The entire film is on Youtube.  There are a number of scenes which still give me a warm chill today.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Grace from His Wounds

They throw a robe over His shoulders,
these soldiers of a foreign creed.
He does not defend Himself
when they spit and swear.
They crown Him
with thorns of mockery
and then lash His flesh open
with their whips.

He is humiliated and condemned,
forced to carry
the tools of His execution.
He bleeds,
He falls
and new wounds are opened.
The robe is wagered
His hands and feet are bound.
He is a criminal,
born to die.

And as He breathes His final breath
all truth is laid out for the spectators.
He loves them all.
He forgives the soldier who swung the hammer.
He forgives those who cast lots.
He forgives those who forsake Him
and He forgives those who condemn.

the hatred of the many
has given love to more.
And the grace that pours from His wounds
will forever
change the world.

copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Friday, July 29, 2016

For God So Loved the World

So this is a rambling:

In the third chapter of John's Gospel we have perhaps one of the most well know passages in the Bible. "For God So Loved the World."  As John tells us, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to see Jesus at night, as opposed to during the day.  He probably came under the cloak of darkness because he was afraid.  He did not want to be seen, by those of his sect, with the itinerant preacher.

And Jesus tells him that His Father loves the world so much that He is going to give His Son, His only Son as a sacrifice.  Like a Lamb to be stretched out on an altar, Jesus will be stretched out on a cross.  This is love.  This is a love we... in our human thoughts... have difficulty comprehending.  The Father gives His Son to be killed and in doing so every sin (past, present, future) is washed away.  Jesus takes every sin onto himself, for us.  He does this of His free will.  All we have to do is accept this as truth.

I don't know about you, but I can't fathom that much love.  We injure our relationship with God on a daily basis with sin, only the wounds we inflict are on ourselves.  The Father forgives, yet we walk around bearing the scars inflicted by our indiscretions, because we have to keep score.  We need to accept His forgiveness, it's one of the many things He loves to do for us, if we but ask.  He loves you that much.

So Nicodemus comes at night because he is afraid.  As we would be in a  similar circumstance.  He is drawn to the all encompassing love radiating from Jesus.  He believes in miracles, he is touched by the words of the teacher.  There are however, conflicts in his heart, the rules and dogmas of his life are coming into question. Jesus is the undoing of the accepted doctrine that ordains us as unloved sinners.  The Father loves us, despite us and we need to come to terms with that reality.

copyright 2016 - Donald P James Jr

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ragamuffin Gospel

About fifteen years ago my eldest daughter starting listening to a band named DC Talk.  I'm not much for Rap music, but one of their albums (Jesus Freak) incorporated elements of Pop and Rock.  The fourth song on the album (What if I Stumble) begins with a spoken prelude by Brennan Manning.

"The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today are Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."

Since I had been a fan of the music written by the late Rich Mullins (writer of the song 'Awesome God') since the 1990sI had heard of Brennan Manning, although I had never taken time to read any of his books or listen to any of his talks.  There is a story of Mullins being introduced to Manning's writings by one of his band-mates.  The one book which seemed to draw Mullins in particular was the Ragamuffin Gospel.

I encourage everyone to read this book, slowly and prayerfully.  Take into your hearts a deep understanding of the Gospel of Grace.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Kristene DiMarco - It Is Well (Live)

A few weeks ago a YouTube recommendation suggested this song based on my viewing history.
I love how that works.
I really love this piece of music.
One line that really strikes me is:  "The Waves and Wind Still Know His Name."
Through all our trials in life, through all our sufferings, every storm we confront still holds a deep respect for the name of Jesus.  We need to trust that he will always say, "Be Still".
Of course, after listening to this song, I needed to find some guitar chords and sit with my mahogany acoustic in my Man-cave and learn to play this song... actually with a song like this 'playing' doesn't come close to describing the true intimacy.  This is a prayer