Friday, April 29, 2016

What's better than the force being with you? by Dan Jones




The LORD Be With You
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:3 NIV
…to be with me…
Those four words in that verse recently jumped right out at me. It was an “ahah” moment.
Even though I’ve heard and read that verse many times, this Sunday in church I suddenly got “it.”
More than once and in many different ways, I have not gotten “it” -- not even if it was wrapped up with pretty paper in a big box with a big red bow and an enormous sign that said, “IT.”
And, when I occasionally do get one of those moments, my head can rush ahead and forward and behind what the pastor is saying, often ending somewhere off to the side or chasing a wild goose into the setting sun.
In this case, my head went from the beginning of time to the end of time and on into eternity.
Literally.
Because it made me think, “Yes! God created us to be with Him in the first place!”
That was the purpose, the plan, the grand design of all time! God creates us in His own image to be with Him and to love and to be loved—that love would be multiplied forever.
So it makes perfect, absolute, and beautiful sense that there would be a plan to be with Him for all eternity even after we fell.
Yes, it wouldn’t be easy and it would look absolutely awful during the process, but once it was over and it had worked, it would be beautiful beyond comprehension.
Kings and kingdoms would submit themselves to the One who had submitted to death on a cross, all so we could be with Him forever.
And that made me think about how we say, “The Lord be with you.”
And also with you. (Or, “And also with your spirit.”)
There’s even a name for it: “Dominus vobiscum,” which is Latin for (of course) “The Lord be with you.” 
It’s been used in Christian Liturgical services for so long I couldn’t find a historical record of its first inclusion. Perhaps its most famous usage in the Bible is in the book of Ruth when Boaz uses it to greet the workers in his field, which makes the phrase at least 3,000 years old.
It also occurs in the book of Samuel, when Saul says it to David as he sends him out to battle Goliath. (The book of Samuel was written at about the same time as the book of Ruth. In fact, it is thought that Samuel probably wrote the book of Ruth.)
So, its use dates way, way back. In some churches, the phrase may not be uttered in a church service by anyone who is anyone less than a deacon.
I think it’s an incredibly beautiful thing to say to another human being and I would even go so far as to try and start a trend of saying it to each other on a day-to-day basis.
I know there are many people out there who could sure use it as they go out to do battle with the Goliaths in their lives each day.
I even think we should start saying it to politicians and lawyers and judges and celebrities and police and activists and people in the media as a genuine and heartfelt prayer.
As I was pondering all this and trying to decide what to write, Kinship Christian Radio Executive Director Matt Dorfner was at the controls at the radio station and “just happened” to play a song I had not heard for some time.
It’s called “City of Gold” and it’s by the group City of Gold. The song is about the time when we will be with the Lord forever, and its lyrics are Today’s Praise:
Soon your trials will be over
Offered up by mercy's hand
A better view from where you stand
Going to another land

The sweetest welcome from the Father
Gathered up and carried home
We are past this time of waiting
Come let us bow before Your throne

We will meet in the Golden City in the New Jerusalem
All our pain and all our tears will be no more
We will stand with the hosts of heaven
And cry holy is the Lamb
We will worship and adore You evermore

Never can the powers of darkness
Neither death nor even life
Let nothing ever separate us
From the holy love of God

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Problem with Righteousness

by Dan Jones

In the days of my misspent youth, it was not at all uncommon to hear someone say, “Wow, that was righteous, man.”

Of course, back then “righteous” was a slang term for “cool” and it had absolutely nothing to do with the way the Bible uses the word.

Today, no one ever uses that word.

It is decidedly “unrighteous” to use the word “righteous” because somehow we automatically jump over the true meaning of that word to the word “self-righteous” which is a word automatically associated with “bigot” and/or “intolerant.”

And I don’t need to tell you that in today’s society, that is a very bad thing indeed.

So what does “righteous” mean?

The dictionary defines it as “morally right or justifiable.” But the Bible adds another aspect to the meaning.

In the New Testament, the Greek Word is "dikaious" which means “just in the eyes of God, approved by God, and in conformity with God’s own being.”  In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is "tssadiq" and means, “just, blameless, and innocent.” All the Biblical meanings carry with them the idea that it is God alone and one’s relationship with God that determines one’s righteousness.

All of those things used to be attributes that people strived for, but they now seem so old-fashioned and, well, just ….egotistical and judgmental.

There’s an excellent example of how society views righteousness in R.C. Sproul’s book, “The Holiness of God.” 

Now, granted, Sproul wrote the book when Gerald Ford was President, but it still works today:

“A well-known professional golfer was playing in a tournament with President Gerald Ford, fellow pro Jack Nicklaus, and Billy Graham. After the round was over, one of the other pros on the tour asked, "Hey, what was it like playing with the President and Billy Graham?" The pro said with disgust, "I don't need Billy Graham stuffing religion down my throat!" With that he headed for the practice tee. His friend followed, and after the golfer had pounded out his fury on a bucket of golf balls, he asked, "Was Billy a little rough on you out there?" The pro sighed and said with embarrassment, "No, he didn't even mention religion." Astonishingly, Billy Graham had said nothing about God, Jesus, or religion, yet the pro stomped away after the game accusing Billy of trying to ram religion down his throat.”

I think we can all agree that Billy Graham is generally considered a righteous man by just about everyone. The story wonderfully illustrates how people react to righteousness today.

The thing is, the word occurs over 500 times in the Bible, so it’s not a minor concept by any means. (Interesting side note: Biblegateway shows the word 536 times in the ESV, 510 times in the KJV, 493 times in the NIV, 257 times in the New Living Translation, 107 times in The Message, and just twice in the Easy to Read Bible.)

I recently posted something on Facebook and mentioned the need for the nation to repent—and was roundly accused of shoving sin in people’s faces. 

And there’s the deal.

Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins. Ecclesiastes 7:20 (NIV)

Not one of us is truly righteous. The very idea of being righteous makes us uncomfortable because we know we can never meet the standard.  The Bible tells us so in Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Acts, Romans, and many others.

It’s literally in our DNA. We are born unrighteous. We can’t help it.

And so, there is this temptation to only focus on the positive aspects of Christianity—to turn our eyes away from our sin. We’d much rather look on the perfection and the love of Jesus and believe that God understands we can’t help it. He understands, right? As long as we believe that Jesus loves us, it’ll all be okay, right? God doesn’t make junk, right? We’re not really sinning, right?

But, there’s a problem with that.

If all we have to do is love Jesus, why the cross?

Why the beating and the mocking and that awful crown of thorns and the nails and the spear in the side?  Why all that blood? Why would he be hanging there on that cross dying this horrible death, crying out that his God, his own Father, had forsaken and abandoned him?

The cross is offensive. It’s awful. It hurts just to think about it. It hurts in our soul.

But a God of justice cannot simply ignore sin.  As little children, we all cried out at some point, “It’s not fair!”  We want a just and a fair God, but what is fair when we have thumbed our noses at God and declared ourselves to be the final and ultimate judges of what is right and wrong—even if the Bible clearly calls it sin?

What is fair when God has told us that the wages of sin is death? (Romans 6:23)

The image of Jesus on the cross is the most unfair moment in all of human history.  A holy and perfect God, come down to earth, never having committed a single sin in his entire life, mercilessly killed in our place to take away the sin of the whole world –past, present, and future.

"He himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed." 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

“…so that we might live for righteousness.”

It’s the response. It’s what we do in gratitude and thanksgiving and praise for what Jesus, in the incredible mercy and grace of a loving God, did when he paid the debt we could never pay ourselves.

Righteousness is not a club we raise to crush the ungodly.  Righteousness is indeed credited to us by faith (Galatians 3:11) but true faith is moved to act righteously. (James 2:21-26) Righteousness is the joyful response of a people set free from the laws we could never uphold. Righteousness is not the condemnation of sinnners (John 3:17) but visible evidence that the old man has died and a new creation has been born (2 Cor. 5:17) and lives to the glory and praise of the LORD, our God!

And if that righteousness causes someone to go out and mercilessly club a bucket of golf balls into oblivion, that might be how the Holy Spirit works on that day.

Today’s Praise
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1: 9-11 (NIV)





Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Missions

by Dan Jones

Kinship Christian Radio airs “Up for Debate” through Moody Radio on Saturday mornings. It's an excellent program where Christians debate timely topics and I very much enjoy listening.

This past Saturday, the topic was the value of short term missions.

Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I was on a short term mission trip to the Dominican Republic in January of 2015.

It was an absolutely wonderful, life-changing trip and I cannot wait to go back and once again be with the brother and sisters (“hermanos”) I came to know and love while I was there.

So obviously, I am incredibly biased on this topic.

Nonetheless, I think there was something that was just barely touched on in that program that needs to be expanded upon and very clearly spelled out.

But first, let’s sum up the objections to short-term missions:

Basically, the opponents of short-term missions say that they can be done in a way that is harmful and that the money spent would be better just sent to the people we want to help.

Yes, it is possible to do short-term missions incorrectly.  If the team comes in with a big pile of money and 150 members and just kind of bulldozes their way into and through the culture and then leaves, that can be a bad thing.

There is a right way and wrong way to do things.  It’s very important to work with an experienced missionary who has a long-term relationship with the people in the area. Short-term missionaries should be there to support and encourage the local church, not go in and “show them how it’s done.”  

That is a huge mistake rooted in ego and pride. 

And yes, it’s not cheap to go on a short-term mission trip—but that’s a relative term.  The cost of the mission trip I went on to the Dominican Republic was about $1500 for 10 days.  It amazes me that people will gasp at such a high cost in service to the Lord, but think nothing of spending the very same amount on a vacation to a different part of the very same country.

Plus, (and let’s be honest here) those who say we should stay at home and just send the money are not going to send the money. That comment is exactly the same thing Judas said when he complained that the jar of nard should be sold and the money given to the poor. 

But the part of this whole debate we are missing here is that we are talking about this subject with earthly minds.

We are completely and utterly forgetting that we serve a God of multiplication, not a God of addition.

When you go on a short-term mission trip with a heart willing to wash feet, to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and to love the Lord and love your neighbors, an absolutely amazing thing happens.

Blessings multiply.

Yes, you absolutely and positively do bless the people you visit. But, when you are sitting in church your first Sunday back in the U.S. and you find yourself and your wife in tears because the lyric in a song has broken your heart for the Holy Spirit, you realize something:

You got a chance to actually see, taste, hear, touch, and understand how wide, how high, how long, and how deep the love of God is in Jesus Christ.

When you are standing before your congregation with tears falling on Ephesians 3:18, trying to explain what that is like, then and only then will you understand why it is so very important that we share this love of Jesus Christ that is so vast and incomprehensible that it is beyond all words to describe.

That’s why a Christianity that stays huddled in the corner of its own safe little world clenched in the fetal position is no Christianity at all. That’s why we are called to go to the very ends of the earth to share the love of Jesus Christ with every people, every tongue, and every tribe in all the earth.

Because it’s not about “me.”

We are the church. We are the bride.  We are the body.

That’s why every pronoun in the Lord’s Prayer is plural. Our Father…give us…our daily bread…forgive us…our trespasses…lead us….deliver us…

I’ve written here before that in huge sections of the world, Christianity is actually growing and that it is we here in the western world (where Christianity is declining) who needs to be evangelized.

And I am convinced that the absolute best way to train missionaries to evangelize the United States of America is to send them out so they can see and know what a living body of Christ looks like and return to tell others about it.

We have it so easy here. We have been blessed so greatly that we take those blessings for granted and we have the pride and arrogance to actually believe that we are somehow better than the members of Christ’s body in the “third world.” (Take a moment here to consider how a brother or sister in Christ might feel about that phrase.)

But then, when we step into their world, we realize that it is not them, but us who are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked in our faith.

As I reflect on this now, I am amazed that they have the grace to continue to let us come.

Today’s Praise

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 1 John 3:14 (NIV)


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Day When It Was Good to Be Queen

by Dan Jones

This past Friday and Saturday, I had a minor role in helping with Kinship Christian Radio’s “A Day for Women” conference in Mankato.

If you were there or you heard about it, you know that it was an extremely positive event.  

Over 650 women enjoyed excellent food, a great speaker, wonderful music, interesting and valuable mini-sessions, fine fellowship, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

When I say, “a minor role” what that means is that I mostly moved around tables and chairs.  I cleaned some tables, too. Oh, and I went to New Ulm and picked up a throne and brought it to the church to sit on the stage as a prop. I also put stickers on the backs of chairs that said, “You have been prayed for.”

But what you don’t know (“The Rest of the Story” as Paul Harvey would say.) is that the enemy of our souls sought to destroy it.

One of the things atheists commonly cite as a reason there can be no God is the presence of evil in this world. They point to wars, famine, starvation, child abuse, and a host of terribly evil things to make the point that if there was indeed a loving God, He would not allow such things to exist.

I suppose it’s understandable that if they deny the existence of God, they would also deny the existence of the devil-- even to the point of citing evil  as “proof” that there is no God.

So, even though my role in the event on that day was very minor, I have “inside information” as to what goes into making it possible.

God makes it possible through prayer.

The planning for this event started over a year before it actually took place and the enemy tried in many and various ways to ruin it.

There was doubt and worry and frustration and the enemy tried to drive wedges in relationships.  There were logistical problems, mechanical problems, technical problems, financial concerns, and thousands and thousands of teeny details I don’t even know about.

Come to think of it, there was one teeny detail I was witness to:

Moments before 650 women were going to go through eight buffet lines to enjoy some delicious pulled pork sandwiches, (and other goodies) someone noticed the barbecue sauce didn’t come out of the squirt bottles properly.  This was because the caterer had made an incredibly thick, delicious sauce and the bottle was apparently designed for thin, ordinary ketchup.

Somebody said, “kitchen shears” and somebody else began snipping the spouts shorter (and therefore wider) on 32 sauce dispensers. At least a half-dozen pairs of hands were shuttling the bottles back and forth between the buffet line and the kitchen and back.

And then it was discovered they needed to be cut again, so the whole process took place a second time.

And all during the process, there was no weeping, no wailing, and no gnashing of teeth.  There were no accusations, no blame, no finger-pointing.

It just got done.

And I’m sure someone, somewhere was standing off to the side and saying a silent prayer. In fact, I’m sure prayers had been said before anyone even arrived at the church that all would go well with the serving of the food.

I absolutely and positively knew that those stickers I was putting on the backs of those chairs were telling the truth. The ladies coming to that conference had been prayed for many times over.  And the prayers had asked that all who attended would be blessed to the glory of the LORD.

The food, the beverages, the rooms, the church, the songs, the words of the messages, the decorations on the tables, the people helping-- all had been the subject of prayers over the course of the planning and implementation of that event.

And yes, even the tables and chairs I hauled around like a stevedore had been prayed for.

The element of prayer is something that has bathed Kinship Christian Radio since its very beginning.

So, when hands were folded and heads were bowed, over and over again many times over the course of the last year, those prayers always had one unifying theme:

“Lord, let this be to your glory.”

And that’s why it worked.

And that’s why He is to be thanked and glorified and His name is to be lifted above all names.

HALLELUJAH JESUS!

AMEN!

Today’s  Praise
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:13 ESV



Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter in Heaven

by Dan Jones


On Monday morning, the day after Easter, I was listening to Kinship Christian Radio. There’s nothing odd about that, as I am always tuned in on the drive to work.

My attention was drawn, however, to a conversation between announcers Allen Jones and Steve Ware about Easter in heaven.

Allen and Steve are a joy to listen to. Allen has no shortage of enthusiasm for the Lord and Steve is one of the kindest people I have ever met.  They are both excellent at what they do and each is truly a blessing individually and they are even better together.

Steve, however, had endured a rather rough 2015 as both of his parents had gone on to be with the Lord in that same year.

But Steve wasn’t complaining or looking for pity. He was wondering out loud what Easter in heaven would be like for both of his parents to take in.

Now, Steve didn’t say he knew for sure what Easter in heaven would be like, but he had a mental picture of Jesus riding a white horse down streets of gold as countless throngs praised our Lord and Savior.

The book of Revelation does indeed mention Jesus on a white horse (Chapter 19) and streets of gold. (Chapter 21) Revelation is also packed with praise of the LORD, both from angels and from saints.

Actually, Revelation doesn’t describe praise and worship as being limited to just saints and angels:

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" (Revelation 5:13 NIV)

Granted, the context of this scene is that it is taking place just before Jesus returns, so this is not an “ordinary” day in  heaven, but…

But, is there ever an “ordinary” day in heaven?

We know that there will never be any more tears, pain, death, or mourning. (Revelation 21:4)

In addition to the streets of gold, Revelation also describes a river and the tree of life. The tree bears fruit each month and “its leaves are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2) Obviously, we will continue to enjoy the beauty of nature or these things would not be here. Will we enjoy a cool drink from the crystal river or enjoy the taste of fruit from the tree? I cannot say for sure because it’s not specifically spelled out, but certainly the leaves exist for a purpose, so it would certainly seem the water and the fruit would also.

The New Jerusalem will be immense and gorgeous beyond our present ability to imagine. The foundation of the city will be made of precious jewels more pure than any seen on earth and its gate will be made of gigantic pearls. (Revelation 21:15-21) Jesus will have prepared a place there for us. (John 14:3)

And there is no temple in the city of heaven because:
the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. (Revelation 21: 22b-26 NIV)

So, we know heaven will be incredibly beautiful. And, because there is no sin and no death and no pain, we will have nothing to worry about. There will be no mortgage payments, no doctor bills or health concerns of any kind, no cars breaking down, no poverty, no pollution, no corruption, and absolutely nothing associated with sin.

We will truly and honestly be carefree.

And, when we put off these imperfect bodies (2 Corinthians 5: 1-4) we will also be granted not just a full understanding of who Jesus is, but we will see him face-to-face:

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)

And it will go beyond even that:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

But, best of all, with no more sin between us and God, with all healed and revealed, our relationship will be restored to what He intended all along.

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. (Galatians 4:6-7 NIV)

We will finally and completely and perfectly be the sons and daughters of the King of All with nothing to confuse or darken or inhibit our relationship with Him or with each other. We will be His children in perfect relationship with him, not just for a day—but for all eternity. We will finally be able to perfectly and completely love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We will know exactly who we are in His eyes and so we will be able to love each other completely and fully in perfect relationship with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. We will fully grasp how wide, how long, how wide, and how deep is the love of Jesus Christ and we will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God! (Ephesians 3:18-19)

So, to Steve and Allen I thank you for setting my mind and heart to contemplating on this subject, and (if I may be so bold) I would respectfully suggest that every day in heaven will be an indescribably glorious, incredible, joyous celebration of the Resurrection and triumph of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ beyond our present ability to think or imagine.

HALLELUJAH! HE IS RISEN!

Today’s Praise.  

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,' who was, and is, and is to come." (Revelation 4:8 NIV)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Holy Week

by Dan Jones


Holy Week is kind of emotionally challenging for me.

We start with the joy of Palm Sunday with its shouts of “Hosanna!” and the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We’re waving palm branches and talking about the stones crying out…

And then we have Maundy Thursday, where we observe the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the washing of the disciple’s feet, and then the betrayal, arrest, and beating of our Lord. Also in the mix we have Peter’s betrayal.

Then there’s Good Friday.

I know we call it “good” and I understand it all had to happen this way, but He is nailed to that cross for my sins. I don’t think anyone present at the event called it “good” at the time.

Well, except for perhaps the Pharisees.

You can call this “good” all you want, and more than one preacher has eloquently made the case for rejoicing on these two days, but when I wrap my head and my heart around these events, I am not dancing. I feel deep grief and sadness and guilt.

Have any of you been to a Tenebrae Service? The name comes from the Latin word for “shadows” or “darkness” and you physically pound a nail into a cross to remind yourself of what Jesus did for you.  And it’s not just a couple of people. The whole church does it. Men, women, children. The ushers hand out the nails as the people approach the cross and they make sure the hammers get handed efficiently from one person to the next. If you’re too young or too old to pound the nail in yourself, one of the ushers will do it for you.

I can still hear the church echoing with the sound of hundreds of hammer blows pounding those nails in.

Then the pastor reads the last seven things Jesus said on the cross, slams the Bible shut, and all the lights go out and you walk out in darkness and silence.

That has brought me to tears.

They framed Jesus. They set Him up and killed Him. He was humiliated, beaten, spit upon, nailed to a cross… and died this horrible, awful, death. 

Then they stuck Him in a tomb and sealed the door.

Done. Over. Finished.

And this was all for you and me. Because we could never make up for what we have done.  There is absolutely no possible way we could put ourselves right with God, so GOD let US kill HIM so we could be right with Him.

And we didn’t just kill Him. No. We had to come up with some really, really evil and hideous way to do it.

Well, mission accomplished.

At that Tenebrae service, they don’t just give you one nail. They give you two.

One you nail into the cross. The second you keep in your pocket so you can remember all this.

Like I would ever forget.

I have a suitcoat I rarely wear (pretty much funerals only) and I would find that nail in the right hand pocket every time I wore it—for years afterwards.

And that’s why Holy Week is so hard.

That stuff sinks in. It permeates you. The sky of your soul turns dark not for three hours, but for three days. Your stone heart cracks and splits in two. The veil covering over the darkness of your heart is torn in two. And, if your soul had been dead to all its sin, it staggers out of the grave weeping—seeking to repent and forgive.

And then it’s Saturday.

You still have all that stuff still going on inside you from Good Friday, but you know what’s coming on Sunday.  Still, Saturday is kind of like being a spiritual zombie. Half alive, half dead—suspended in the middle.

And then, you wake up and it’s Easter morning. The sun is shining and JESUS IS ALIVE!

Yes, HE IS ALIVE! HE IS RISEN!!

But, when I put myself into the place of the people who loved Jesus on that first Resurrection Sunday, it’s not hard to understand how they reacted:

1.   No. Can’t be.
2. What? You saw Him? Nonsense. You’re talking crazy.
3.Really? Yes, come to think of it, He did say He would rise again, but…c’mon. No way.
4.Jesus? He’s… He’s here?  He’s here!
5. HE IS ALIVE!!!

And, after that, nothing would ever shut them up.

Today’s Praise

The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:30-32 NLT)


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Olivet

by Dan Jones

As your pastor preaches this Palm Sunday, there will no doubt be some reference to the Mount of Olives.

The road that connects Bethany and Bethphage to Jerusalem passes right over the Mount of Olives.

It was on this road (just after the crest of the hill and coming and down into the Kidron Valley to Jerusalem) where the Triumphal Entry of Palm Sunday took place.

The view of Jerusalem from this spot is said to be stunning, particularly in the morning. The Temple Mount (Jesus’ destination on Palm Sunday) and most of Jerusalem is clearly visible.

In fact, right after he tells the Pharisees that if his disciples were silent the very stones would cry out in praise, he stops along this road and weeps over Jerusalem‘s coming fate.  (Luke 19:41-44)

The Mount of Olives is also mentioned several times in the Old Testament.  

It was probably on that same road, or very near it, that David fled Jerusalem barefoot and weeping when Absalom took control of Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 15:30) It was on the Mount of Olives that Solomon set up places to worship the horrible false gods Chemosh and Molech. (1 Kings 11:7) And Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord depart from Jerusalem and come to rest on this same place. (Ezekiel 11:23)

The Mount of Olives was clearly a favorite place of Jesus as he visited it three times in the week before his crucifixion.  

We’ve already touched on the Triumphal Entry, and there was also the “Olivet Discourse” as described in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In it, Jesus describes to his disciples what will take place at the end of the age when he returns. Mark 13:3 tells us that they were sitting on the Mount of Olives looking at the Temple across the valley when this took place. Jesus also told them the parables of the wise and faithful servant, the five wise virgins, and the good servant who uses his talents wisely.

And lastly, we all remember the prayer, betrayal, and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane—which is also on the Mount of Olives.

But that’s not the last mention of the Mount of Olives in the Bible, because this is also where Jesus ascended into heaven.  Another one of my favorite scenes from the Bible is described in Acts 1: 10-11.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (NIV)

(Apparently, the disciples needed angelic intervention to tell them they could stop staring up into the sky at this time.)

But here’s the thing:

Not only is Jesus coming back in the same way he left, he is coming back to the very same place!

Zechariah 14:4 describes his return at the Second Coming:

On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. (NIV)

Because of this prophecy, Jews have sought to be laid to rest on the Mount of Olives for over 3,000 years. They believe the resurrection of the dead will begin in this place. There are currently over 70,000 tombs on the side of the Mount of Olives facing the Kidron Valley and Jerusalem.

Geologists have long known that a fault line extends north and south along Israel’s eastern border. The valley formed by this rift holds the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, and the Sea of Galilee.

But it wasn’t until 1964 when construction crews begin excavating to build The Seven Arches Hotel on the Mount of Olives that it was discovered that there is indeed a fault line running east to west right through the Mount of Olives.

But the best news is not that we know where Jesus will return, but that we know he will return.

Today’s Praise


For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ESV