A Bigger Picture

jesus-of-nazareth

Back in the book of Mark today. Still in chapter 1, and as I said before, Mark is hard hitting and fast moving. Where the other Gospels are giving details on the virgin birth, genealogies, or artistically pointing us to the son of God, Mark is giving us a just the facts history of what was happening during the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. With just enough background on John the Baptist preparing the way, then Jesus baptism, a sentence on His temptation, then John is arrested for preaching the Kingdom of God (or some reason related to that – being too honest with a certain being outside of that kingdom), we’re off with Jesus finding disciples and preaching, of course, the Kingdom of God.

jesus-teaches-in-the-synagogue

Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach. Notice, when you read the bible, that every Sabbath day you find, Jesus is in the temple or in the synagogue. There is a lie very nearly accepted as fact by many that Jesus was against organized religion. Jesus was not at all against organized religion, He in fact fully participated in it His entire life. Even when the religious leaders were hot on His case and looking for reasons to kill Him, He was in temple on the sabbath.
And also notice here – just as Peter, Andrew, James and John saw some reason to follow this carpenter from Nazareth, those same religious leaders who would later turn on Him saw something in Jesus that they allowed and invited Him to teach in the synagogue. Jesus was clearly becoming known around this town of Capernaum.

amazed
The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law. In other words, Jesus taught and preached not on the authority of Moses, or Elijah, or Abraham, or anybody else. He taught in His own name. Many places we see it where Jesus says something like “You have heard it said….but I say…” Like where Jesus says – “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew‬ ‭5:27-28‬ ‭NLT‬‬ He doesn’t rely on the authority of those who comes before him, doesn’t just quote scripture, He is making His own rules on His own authority. This was stunning to those in the synagogue, nobody had ever been so bold. “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God….For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:1-2, 17-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Jesus doesn’t have to rely on the word given before because He is the very word of God in and of Himself. The authority He claims is the authority in Himself, God incarnate. In fact He later told the religious leaders bluntly “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” ‭‭John‬ ‭5:39‬ ‭NLT‬‬. So Jesus taught, but very unlike anyone who had ever taught before.

jesus_heals_demon_possessed_man

Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Now there is a huge verse in the bible that is so often just read past and barely noticed. Think about one thing for a minute – how often had this man been in this synagogue, being taught the word of God, and this demon living inside of Him had never been disturbed?? This guy probably came every Sabbath, listened to the teaching like a good Jew, living every day with a demon controlling him.
But Jesus shows up, teaching on His own authority, and all of a sudden – Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? First of all, who is “us”? And why does this demon react as it is? What did Jesus teach about, all the time? He taught the Kingdom of God. Jesus was the word made flesh, coming to exorcise all of our personal demons, save us from all of our sins, but we miss the bigger picture. The BIG PICTURE here is this – Jesus came down to earth to reclaim the world for Himself. There are really only two kingdoms – the Kingdom of God, and the Satan’s kingdom based on violence, rivalry, and  accusation.  Jesus preaching the Kingdom of God was declaring to the satanic forces that their time was up!!

Later on Jesus would say ““I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going.” John‬ ‭14:30-31‬ ‭NLT‬‬. The ruler of this world which Jesus is talking about is Satan. As we see in Cain vs Abel, the world began with the influence of Satan, that sin crouching at Cain’s door, which God warned him about but which overcame him anyway. Cain started the first city, laying the foundation for our world based on the satanic forces of power and force, rivalry and accusation, blame and shame. Society arose from that city, named Enoch after Cain’s son, and empires were formed, empires died, all based on the same satanic foundation. We see in Isaiah 13 & 14 the great prophet personifying the empire of Babylon as Lucifer, the morning star, the imitator of Jesus Christ. The whole overarching story of the bible, Babylon vs Jerusalem.

Desperate

So, again, the question the demon asks – Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? “Us” is all the demons of the world, all the forces of Satan. I think I’m safe in saying that we all have our demons, right? We all have something inside us that we just can’t shake, can’t get rid of. Something that hurts, something that we don’t even want to acknowledge is there. There is a bigger picture, but as we know, all politics is local, right? So we simplify this, we declare Jesus is Lord and He will save us, he will free us from our own personal demons.
And all of that is true. But the bigger picture is this – Jesus came bring and preaching the Kingdom of God. He came into this synagogue and announced to this demon that He was coming to destroy all of satans little demons. He came declaring war in the spiritual realm. This demon, so happily holed up inside this man for who knows how long, got the message immediately.  breaking-chains
Not just this demon, not just your demon, but for all the satanic forces, Jesus came to establish the kingdom of God right here in this world. Satan thought he had won on Good Friday, when all the darkness of the world converged and crucified the Christ. But then Sunday came, the cross became not just a tool of execution but the very throne of Jesus, the glory of God revealed in an empty tomb and walking savior.
Notice that those who were threatened by Jesus were the first to recognize who He was. They will do everything they can to suppress His true message.  The spiritual forces, along the empires they produce,  will deceive with their own message that is just close enough that many will accept the counterfeit as the real thing. That morning star flashing across the sky will deceive, but when the Son comes up He will overpower all.
‭‭
“Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law. Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him. Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:21-28‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/mrk.1.21-28.nlt

John Lewis

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The Battle

babylon

I’m using a very long passage  from Isaiah. Not going to try to go line by line, but I will give an overview. Take the time to read what the great prophet has to say, it’s worth reading!
One thing to understand in reading the bible is this – that Babylon, during the time of Isaiah a very real “city”, represents much more than just a city in time. Babylon represents the world’s system man has built in his defiance of God. In short, Babylon is the ongoing biblical symbol of empire.

 

Jerusalem is the chosen city of God. So much of the story of the bible is the story of the battle between Babylon and Jerusalem, the battle between the “Ha-Satan” (which in the old Hebrew simply means “the accuser” or “the adversary”) and the Kingdom of God. Read the Gospels and you will find that is all Jesus ever talked about. Every sermon, every miracle, in everything He did He was pointing to and preaching about the Kingdom of God.

kingdom-of-god

Babylon vs Jerusalem. Now, Babylon vs New Jerusalem. Jesus is building His city, the New Jerusalem. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭6:10‬ ‭ESV‬. In Revelation we see this image -“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬. The battle is happening right here, right now. Jesus IS building His city. We are all wrapped up in what happens when we die, but the battle for the Kingdom of God is right here on the turf of the Satan. It is all around us. Babylon is still fighting with its weapons of power and force, fear and accusation, blame, shame and scapegoating. Jesus is building His army around His axis of love.

sodom-and-gomorrah
Babylon, the most glorious of kingdoms, the flower of Chaldean pride, will be devastated like Sodom and Gomorrah when God destroyed them. Babylon will never be inhabited again. It will remain empty for generation after generation. For the earthly city of Babylon, that happened during the time of Daniel. “That very night Belshazzar, the Babylonian king, was killed. And Darius the Mede took over the kingdom at the age of sixty-two.” Daniel‬ ‭5:30-31‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Babylon had some life after this, but disappeared completely after Alexander the Great. But Babylon, the symbol of empire, lives on. But, just like the literal city, all earthly empire will ultimately go the way of Babylon – Babylon’s days are numbered; its time of destruction will soon arrive.

 

But the LORD will have mercy on the descendants of Jacob. He will choose Israel as his special people once again. He will bring them back to settle once again in their own land. And people from many different nations will come and join them there and unite with the people of Israel. The nations of the world will help the people of Israel to return, and those who come to live in the LORD’s land will serve them. Those who captured Israel will themselves be captured, and Israel will rule over its enemies. In that wonderful day when the LORD gives his people rest from sorrow and fear, from slavery and chains, you will taunt the king of Babylon. The Hebrew nation probably took Darius the Mede’s conquest as some fulfilling of this scripture, but for us it means – Jesus has come, and He will come again!!

kingdom-of-heaven
In the place of the dead there is excitement over your arrival. The spirits of world leaders and mighty kings long dead stand up to see you. With one voice they all cry out, ‘Now you are as weak as we are! Your might and power were buried with you. The sound of the harp in your palace has ceased. Now maggots are your sheet, and worms your blanket.’ “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’ Every empire aspires to be like God. They all set themselves up to be worshipped, they all have their “holy” sites. But they will all come to an end, all will arrive at the place of the dead, where there will be much excitement at their arrival. But the excitement will soon pass, the empire never had any real power.

its-a-morning-star-43605

How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth. In the old King James Version this is translated “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭14:12‬ ‭KJV‬. We all understand Lucifer to be the angel cast out of heaven to become Satan, but this is his only mention in the bible. He thought he would be like the most high God, Isaiah the prophet uses him as another symbol for empire on the earth. “Lucifer” is Latin for “morning star”. He is the symbol here for empire because just as the kings glory does not last very long, neither will his. The morning star will shine, but is quickly swallowed up by the light of the sun (Son!). Satan is known as Lucifer, the morning star, because he is a cheap imitation of our Christ – ““I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.”” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭22:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

sunrise
And the battle rages on…

“Babylon, the most glorious of kingdoms, the flower of Chaldean pride, will be devastated like Sodom and Gomorrah when God destroyed them. Babylon will never be inhabited again. It will remain empty for generation after generation. Nomads will refuse to camp there, and shepherds will not bed down their sheep. Desert animals will move into the ruined city, and the houses will be haunted by howling creatures. Owls will live among the ruins, and wild goats will go there to dance. Hyenas will howl in its fortresses, and jackals will make dens in its luxurious palaces. Babylon’s days are numbered; its time of destruction will soon arrive.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭13:19-22‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/isa.13.19-22.nlt
“But the LORD will have mercy on the descendants of Jacob. He will choose Israel as his special people once again. He will bring them back to settle once again in their own land. And people from many different nations will come and join them there and unite with the people of Israel. The nations of the world will help the people of Israel to return, and those who come to live in the LORD’s land will serve them. Those who captured Israel will themselves be captured, and Israel will rule over its enemies. In that wonderful day when the LORD gives his people rest from sorrow and fear, from slavery and chains, you will taunt the king of Babylon. You will say, “The mighty man has been destroyed. Yes, your insolence is ended. For the LORD has crushed your wicked power and broken your evil rule. You struck the people with endless blows of rage and held the nations in your angry grip with unrelenting tyranny. But finally the earth is at rest and quiet. Now it can sing again! Even the trees of the forest— the cypress trees and the cedars of Lebanon— sing out this joyous song: ‘Since you have been cut down, no one will come now to cut us down!’ “In the place of the dead there is excitement over your arrival. The spirits of world leaders and mighty kings long dead stand up to see you. With one voice they all cry out, ‘Now you are as weak as we are! Your might and power were buried with you. The sound of the harp in your palace has ceased. Now maggots are your sheet, and worms your blanket.’ “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’ Instead, you will be brought down to the place of the dead, down to its lowest depths. Everyone there will stare at you and ask, ‘Can this be the one who shook the earth and made the kingdoms of the world tremble? Is this the one who destroyed the world and made it into a wasteland? Is this the king who demolished the world’s greatest cities and had no mercy on his prisoners?’ “The kings of the nations lie in stately glory, each in his own tomb, but you will be thrown out of your grave like a worthless branch. Like a corpse trampled underfoot, you will be dumped into a mass grave with those killed in battle. You will descend to the pit. You will not be given a proper burial, for you have destroyed your nation and slaughtered your people. The descendants of such an evil person will never again receive honor. Kill this man’s children! Let them die because of their father’s sins! They must not rise and conquer the earth, filling the world with their cities.” This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: “I, myself, have risen against Babylon! I will destroy its children and its children’s children,” says the LORD. “I will make Babylon a desolate place of owls, filled with swamps and marshes. I will sweep the land with the broom of destruction. I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!””

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭14:1-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/isa.14.1-23.nlt

John Lewis

Spilled Blood

cainabel

The story of Cain and Abel. I’ve shared on this before, but wanted to come back to it. It sets so many of the patterns of our world that we follow to this day, it’s worth looking at over and over.

abels-offering
When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the LORD. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The LORD accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. When I first read this, I was trying to figure out why Cain’s gift was rejected and Abel’s accepted. I thought it had something to do with Abel being a shepherd and Cain working the ground, but that had nothing to do with it at all. Like so many other bible stories, we really only get the surface, the highlights. We don’t get to read what was happening to lead up to this point. But the writer of Hebrews tells us – “It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.” Hebrews‬ ‭11:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Abel’s offering was based on faith. Cain had some sin in his heart. God wasn’t interested in the offering, but in the heart behind the offering.

anger
This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” Cain reacts as we still do to another getting praise over us – with anger and jealousy. But God tries to lift him up and encourage him. Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. If you turn from your anger and bitterness, you will be accepted too. Maybe part of the reason Cain was so upset was because he felt he was being slighted of his first-born rights, which were very important in these ancient times. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master. This verse is huge. The actually verbiage in Hebrew for crouch can mean “lie in wait”, and was associated with demons guarding the entrances to building in ancient Mesopotamian religions. So, God is telling Cain here that he has demons lying in wait for him, that they want to control him. Sin, personified as a demonic force, just waiting for the chance to strike. And notice the warning here – But you must subdue it and be its master.   Control that demon, or it will control you.
One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. Cain did not control that demon at his door. Satan’s minion had its way with him, sin took control. Anger, jealousy, and rage won the day.

brothers-keeper
Afterward the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?” “I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” But the LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.” From Genesis 3 we see Adam and Eve quickly confessed their sin to God. But Cain here lies directly to God (probably to himself too). Our sin so quickly multiplies, doesn’t it. We do something we know is wrong, we lie about it. We tell another lie to cover up the first lie. And on and on it goes. “I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian? So quickly, Cain went to denying any responsibility for his brother. In fact, he went from seeing Abel as “brother“, instead he saw him as “other“. Once God accepted Abel’s offering over his, his brother became a rival, a competitor who had to be defeated. We are all children of God, right? We are all brothers. We are all made in His image. But how many of your brothers do you instead see as a rival? Are you your brothers keeper? Think about it.

bloodsplatter

But the LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! No matter how much we try to cover it up, lie to ourselves, try to get away with it, God already knows. But we already know that too, don’t we? Yet, we still try and try to cover up the crime.

big-guns

So Cain left the LORD’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain had sexual relations with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Then Cain founded a city, which he named Enoch, after his son. Skipping forward to the point I’m trying to make here. This is the foundation of our society, the pattern set which Jesus came to reset. We see our brother as other, find any reason to conquer and subdue him in the name of our own empire. This has been going on perpetually since this story of Cain and Abel. We see our brothers as rivals, fight wars using whatever just cause we try to claim. We lie to ourselves and to God about what just happened. We hide the bodies and pretend like all that blood is not telling our truths.

 
Our society was founded on a system of power enforced by force, built on the blood of millions of Abel’s throughout history. Their blood cries out from the ground. Jesus came to re-found the world on an axis of love.  Instead of demanding the blood of some “other“, He gave His own blood so that the blood of all our brothers, the blood of all our sons and daughters might no longer have to be shed. Paraphrasing Ravi Zacharias, in a discussion between Christian and Muslim thinkers that until we all accept the blood given by the son of God on the cross, we will continue giving the blood of our own sons.

blood-of-jesus

“Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the LORD’s help, I have produced a man!” Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel. When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the LORD. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The LORD accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. Afterward the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?” “I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” But the LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.” Cain replied to the LORD, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!” The LORD replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him. So Cain left the LORD’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain had sexual relations with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Then Cain founded a city, which he named Enoch, after his son.”

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭4:1-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/gen.4.1-17.nlt

John Lewis

Accepting the Call


If you are reading this, then you have at least heard the call of Jesus Christ on your life. You may not have answered that call, but you’ve heard it. And upon hearing that call, you have been chosen. Chosen by God. Think not?? There are billions in this world who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some simply live outside of modern civilization, still using ancient ways and methods. Some live in regions where the Gospel has not reached yet. Others live in vast regions that are simply dominated by other religions – Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or are under control if governments that greatly limit the sharing of the Gospel.  


So if you’ve heard the Gospel, you’ve been chosen. You’ve been called. But sometimes the phone can ring, and we just don’t want to answer. We look at that caller ID, and we just don’t want to accept that call.
(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.). It says here that all who heard Jesus, even the worst sinners in society, those nasty tax collectors (traitors to their own people joined with the Roman oppressors for their own benefit), acknowledged and accepted God’s way because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves…  They were part of Israel, Hebrews, God’s chosen people. Yet they chose their own free will over following God’s will in their lives. Jesus called, but they held onto their nets. They didn’t drop everything and follow. God had a purpose and call on their lives, but just as they had rejected John, they rejected Jesus. Other translations say they “frustrated” the will of God.


God does not call by force, but by love. Imagine what might have been if these teachers of the law, with all the respect they had in society, had accepted the call of Christ themselves. G.K. Chesterton once wrote – “God had written not so much a poem, but rather a play; a play he planned as perfect, but which necessarily had left to human actors and stage managers, who had since made a great mess of it.” “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬. God has big plans for you. Are your plans bigger?


Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “ ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ Some people look for any reason to “opt out”, don’t they? They hear the call on their lives, they see the people out on the floor, they hear the music playing – but they just don’t dance!!   


For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ A stark contrast between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth. The first building that highway in the desert, pointing us for eternity to the second. John living in the wilderness, eating locusts and honey, emulating the great prophet Elijah. Jesus living among the people, joining in the lives of men, participating in all their activities. Both rejected by those whose hearts were hardened. John rejected by the Pharisees and scribes, written off as a crazy eccentric who’d lost his mind. Jesus rejected for loving the pleasures of the world too much!! Two completely different methods for reaching the lost, both rejected by those who would reject. There is much that could be said here about our modern day line of thought that we need to change our methods to reach all of our sophisticated, modern day sinners…


But wisdom is proved right by all her children. God could have simply made a world where everyone obeyed, where everyone followed his will. A world without free will, a world where man had no real choices to make. He could have taken that route, and we could live in a world without trouble, a world without pain. The world did not need to be broken. But He gave us a free will to make real choices, and all the way back to the garden, we chose not to trust Him. So we were kicked out of paradise into this broken world of pain and suffering. Why the world had to be broken, why we have all this pain and suffering, I d not know. But I do know the He did not exempt Himself from the suffering. He came down and joined His creation, walked among us, and lived the day to day struggle. Then He stepped out, announced He was here, and we did to Him just as Plato predicted 400 years earlier. If the perfectly just (i.e., righteous) man were to come into the world…“He will be scourged, racked, bound. He will have his eyes burned out. And at last, after suffering every kind of evil, he will be impaled.”   
He announced Himself and gave us a way out. Has it ever occurred to you that just as we were expelled from paradise for not trusting God, the only way back in to paradise is…trusting God.


Who, or what, are you trusting?

“(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.) Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “ ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭7:29-35‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/luk.7.29-35.niv

John Lewis

Following Jesus


The Gospel of Mark, though second in the New Testament order of the things, was the first gospel written. It is also the shortest Gospel. I suppose if you just wanted the quickest look at what happened in the time of Jesus, then Mark would be the one to read.
But you had better be paying attention. Because the Gospel in Mark is told kind of the way I talk, all rapid fire and all. He moves the story quickly – the words “immediately” or “at once” is used over 50 times. He is completely focused on the ministry of Jesus. You won’t learn about Jesus mother, or His childhood, from reading Mark. Mark IS focused on spiritual warfare, he talks about Jesus casting out demons more than any other Gospel.
So, right in Chapter 1, we see in Mark the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, as well as the call of His first four followers.
Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” The arrest of John brought on the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. Notice that John and Jesus preached the same message – “In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. ”” Matthew‬ ‭3:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Matthew was writing specifically to Jews, who always avoided even using the word “Yahweh” out of reverential fear and respect, that’s why he refers to the kingdom of Heaven and not the Kingdom of God, but they are the same thing. Repent of your sins and turn to God, the Kingdom of God is coming. Jesus Himself uses the term “Good News”, referring to the Good News that only He could bring.  


Why was John arrested? Why were John, Jesus and all 12 of His apostles (except John) arrested and executed? For talking about spiritual things? For talking about going to heaven when you die? No, principalities and powers don’t care what happens when you die. All these men ultimately died for preaching the Gospel, the Good News, that Jesus is Lord. Their message was threatening to those in power, it is still threatening to those in power. Jesus said “follow me”, Caesar demanded that he be followed.  Jesus tells us to follow Him, He is the way the truth and the life. Our rulers tell us “It’s the economy, stupid.” I’m simplifying, but I hope you get the point.


One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. Moving right along. The first two disciples, Simon (Peter) and Andrew. Throwing their nets into the water, catching fish. It’s what they did. It’s what their father did, what their grandfathers did. They didn’t choose to be fishermen. No one was holding their hand in kindergarten asking “what do you want to be when you grow up?” You learned what you were going to do, you didn’t choose it.
A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men. James and John, sons of Zebedee. Later known as the sons of thunder! Their mother would later ask Jesus to sit them in places of honor next to Himself, she didn’t know what she was asking. Just as they had no idea what Jesus was calling them into. Peter, Andrew, James and John, before there were 12, there were four. Peter, James and John would ultimately be the three that never left Jesus’ side. Together, four fisherman called by a carpenter. Did they have any idea they would change the world. Did they have any idea they were part of something that was about to split history, split time, in two? Call me crazy, but I doubt it.  


So – why did they follow Jesus? Who in the world was He? He called these first four, and without questioning, without thinking, each one “at once” dropped their nets and followed Jesus. This is not 2016 America, where the world that is so big is now so small, where people can earn a good living simply based on moving information without moving anything. When these disciples were called, you didn’t just up and leave your home, your job. How would they eat? How would they support their families?  


Again, why follow Jesus? Because He’s JESUS!! When He calls, you might not understand what you’re being called to, or why. But you GO. All of these men would follow Jesus to His, and their very own, deaths. That was part of the deal. They didn’t know it, we don’t understand it. But when Jesus chooses us, we follow. We don’t know where it will take us, or what it will cost. But it will take us places we never knew, and maybe don’t want to go. It will cost far more than we imagine.
So why do we follow? Because He’s Jesus. 

“Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:14-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/mrk.1.14-20.nlt

John Lewis

Righteous Anger


Good morning!! Been reading Proverbs lately, and came across these verses. Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul. Two simple verses from 3000 years ago that can speak directly to us in our lives today. Anger, rage, is contagious. If we hang around people who are angry, we will become angry. Myself in my own life, at home or at work, find it easy to get sucked in to someone else’s anger, someone else’s insult. I find myself quickly commiserating with the angry person and now I, too, am angry. Angry about what I don’t always know, I just know that my blood pressure is a couple of points higher than it was 2 minutes ago and it’s somebody else’s fault! This person has done something wrong to me.  


Except they haven’t. They probably haven’t even done anything wrong to my angry friend. Except now it’s not just my angry friend, it’s my angry friend and angry me. And the person we’re both angry at doesn’t even know my friend is angry, much less me. What a waste of time and energy.
This is how scapegoating begins. My friend was angry, now I’m angry, soon we can have a whole angry crowd. These days we all have angry friends 24 hours a day, all we have to do turn on our TVs, or participate in the angry text chain going around. How hard is it to surround ourselves with an angry crowd? Our entire political system is based on one angry, frightened crowd vs another angry, frightened crowd. For that matter, our whole society is based on that us vs them mentality.
But don’t we all have a right to our anger? Aren’t we supposed to fight for our rights, to be angry this happened to us, to fight to get what I deserve? Sure, if you’re living for this world. But if you don’t want to endanger your soul, you need to remember these words of Jesus – 



“God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” ‭‭
Matthew‬ ‭5:7-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬



“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” ‭
Luke‬ ‭9:24‬ ‭NLT
And one more time…

“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Matthew‬ ‭16:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭22:24-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/pro.22.24-25.nlt

John Lewis

Crowning of the King

 

crowning-of-the-king

We know that Jesus died on the cross as atonement for our sins, offering us grace and forgiveness where we only deserve condemnation and damnation. But something else was happening there as well. The Son of Man came in His glory, in His beauty, and glorified God right on the very cross where He suffered that ugly death. The original Gospel proclaimed by the apostles was “Jesus is Lord.” ““So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”” ‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭2:36‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Webster’s defines Lord this way – “one having power and authority over others: a : a ruler by hereditary right or preeminence to whom service and obedience are due“. If Jesus is Lord, that means He is in charge, He has power and authority. He is THE RULER by hereditary right, having been born by divine intervention in the life of Mary. It is to Him that we owe our service and obedience.

christ-in-garden-of-gethsemane
Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name.” Just a few verses before, we are told “Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory.” John‬ ‭12:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬. He knows the cross is where He will enter His glory, yet His soul is deeply troubled. It is at this point that He has a choice to make. He knows He is about to enter His glory, but He’s got to go through hell to get there. He also knows He has an audience which does not know the events which are about to unfold. When He asks if He should pray to be saved from this hour, He is letting those nearby, and us two thousand years later, know that it was His Father’s will that He endure this suffering. He is also modeling free, not forced, submission to the will of the Father. He would ask to be saved from this suffering, but He sees and understands the purposes behind it – to bring Glory to His Father.

glory-to-his-name
Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.” We know that the Fathers voice was heard at Jesus’ baptism and again at His transfiguration. Glory was brought through the birth, life, and miracles of His Son. And He would very soon be glorified in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. He is glorified every time a sinner repents and comes to Christ. He is glorified in ways we have no understanding of.
When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him. Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. Jesus’ signs and miracles are not for His benefit but the benefit of those receiving and witnessing. They also had just witnessed His personal struggle and prayer about following through with His purpose, so maybe that was also to make sure those nearby would understand there was something bigger going on.

lord_jesus_26r
The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this to indicate how he was going to die.” The judgement of the world is coming in His enthronement on the cross. The immediate judgement of those who put Him on the cross. The judgement of a larger broken world ruled by Satan, dooming itself by crucifying the Son of God. Our own judgement today based on our acceptance or rejection of the work Jesus did on the cross.

In His being lifted up on that cross the world indeed was drawn to Him. He came to save, His dying on the cross finished the work of salvation He came to accomplish. When we come to the foot of that cross, we can bring our shame, our guilt, our anger, our frustrations. ““Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the LORD, have spoken!”” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭1:18-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

Or we can reject the gift being offered. We can remain in charge of our own lives (because that always works out so well). Christ came to save, not to condemn. But we can condemn ourselves if we so choose.

father-forgive-them
Jesus is Lord, right now. We are waiting for Him to physically return, but we forget He is omniscient and omnipresent. We are supposed to be living as though He were returning today, every day. What is the true call of Christianity? Absorbing the anger, rage, frustration, criticism, mocking and hatred of the world around us and saying – Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”….” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭23:34‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Because that is the love of the Father shown to us by the Son.

““Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name.” Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.” When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him. Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this to indicate how he was going to die.”

‭‭John‬ ‭12:27-33‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/jhn.12.27-33.nlt

John Lewis