Kingdom Come!!

Thy Kingdom Come

Looking at one of my favorite passages in the Bible this morning. I’m sure I’ve done this before, but there’s a lot to be said about this section of scripture, and this is just where I’m led today.

In Luke 24, after the resurrection of Jesus. It’s been a long week for the followers of Jesus. They entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday expecting a showdown which would result in Jesus being crowned King of the Jews. They already had a king, King Herod, but he was just an imposter, the official puppet king of the Roman Empire.

HerodtheGreat2
They had gone to Jerusalem with such high hopes. They believed in Jesus, believed he WAS the Messiah, the savior, the one who would rescue them from Roman domination. But things had gone so very wrong, one of the twelve had betrayed Jesus, making it possible for the temple police to come and arrest him under the dark of night and not start a riot (did you not know that Jesus was VERY popular?). From that point it was very easy for the temple officials and priests to manipulate the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and use the crowds in Jerusalem to get what they wanted – the end of Jesus.

Baburen_Arrest
So Jesus had his sham trials and was crucified that Friday morning, and was dead and buried by Friday night. Now it was late Sunday afternoon, and it was time to get back to life for his followers. Jesus mission to Jerusalem had failed. There had been rumors that day of same strange happenings and goings-on, but it still seemed as if all their hopes had died with Jesus that Friday.

Emmaus-Road
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. What is it about the resurrected Jesus that even those followers who had been closest to him – think Mary Magdalene at the tomb, even John, Peter, and the rest of the eleven by the shore of Galilee, and also these disciples here – did not recognize him? These disciples are walking along the road, the road of life, talking about Jesus and all the happenings in Jerusalem of the past few days. They had believed in Jesus, they were among his followers, they knew Jesus. Yet they were so wrapped up in their conversations about Jesus and all that had happened that they could not recognize him when he was walking right beside them.

jerusalem
And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Jesus even speaks to them, and they don’t recognize him.

jm_200_NT2.pd-P21.tiff
And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” They don’t recognize Jesus standing next to them, but they surely gave a pretty good grasp of what’s gone on regarding him the past few days. These were not časual followers, they were not uninterested observers. Clearly they were serious followers of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel.

oh foolish ones
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. They were serious followers of Jesus, but Jesus has to tell them ‘You don’t know your Bible very well, do you?’ It’s too bad we don’t see what exactly Jesus shared here, but it says he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So maybe he shared the story of Joseph, maybe he told how Joseph had been rejected by his brothers, had suffered that rejection, suffered being thrown in the pit and imprisoned for sins he did not commit, yet stayed true to the father and ultimately was seated at the right hand of Pharaoh, 2nd in command of the most powerful empire in the world. And Joseph, when his brothers who had rejected came in dire need and in danger of starvation, did not seek vengeance but instead showed mercy to his brothers.

david-spares-sauls-life
Maybe he shared the story of David, who had to suffer under King Saul, yet when he had the chance to kill him, he too showed mercy. Of course, much later, it was David who needed and sought mercy from the Lord for the evil he had done, and of course he received mercy, because as Jesus himself had taught, “”Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬.
It says he started with Moses, who was rejected by his own people, lived in hiding in the wilderness for forty years, all but forgotten before God used him. He probably talked about Isaiah, who told us that Messiah would be a suffering servant, and Zechariah, who said the coming king would be pierced.

broke the bread
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. So now their walk is at an end, their time with the stranger is coming to a close. He is going to walk further, but they ask him to stay, the night is coming soon. So he stays, a welcome dinner guest, but at some point the guest becomes the host. Maybe he asks, maybe he doesn’t, but he takes the bread, blesses the bread, he breaks the bread. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. They had walked at least two hours with Jesus, walking and talking and listening. But these two disciples of Jesus, even though they had known him in life, did not recognize the resurrected Christ. He walked with them, he talked with them, he shared from the Bible with them. But they did not recognize him until he blessed and broke the bread. Then, just like that, he was gone.

breaking bread
They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” Now they see that it was Jesus walking with them all along, listening to them, sharing the scriptures with them, comforting them. It was only after the fact that they knew it was Jesus. There are times in our own lives that we encounter Jesus on the road, but just like these Emmaus Road disciples we almost never recognize Him until after the fact, after it’s over. It is almost always in hindsight that we can look back and say to ourselves ‘Yes, that was Jesus.’ But we also encounter Jesus in the bread of our shared sacrament, the ‘breaking of the bread.‘ And also just like these Emmaus Road disciples, we can almost always recognize Him in that breaking of the bread. We encounter Jesus both in our own surprising stories and in our shared sacrament.

fills all things
On the road of our lives, just like Easter Sunday on the Emmaus Road, CHRIST IS RISEN!! He is alive and risen, not just a dying man resuscitated, but a dead man resurrected. He went into death, fully experiencing all it means to die a physical death. But God the Father raised him in glory on the third day, vindicating his sinless life and his “Jesus Way” of co-suffering love and unlimited forgiveness. In doing so, he also destroyed sin and death, and us capable of being present to all people all the time. “And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” Ephesians‬ ‭1:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

resurrected
Because he is resurrected and alive!!!, Jesus will remain unpredictable to us. We can, and should, expect to encounter him in unexpected ways. He will come to us in the kindness of strangers, and certain providential circumstances. The body of Christ is sometimes the embodied presence of Jesus, bringing exactly what we need. We will understand later that it was Jesus at work.
Encountering Jesus on the road of life is unscheduled, hard to recognize, and uncommon. We all have these moments, but for most of us, we can count them on one hand. But – we can encounter Jesus on a regular basis, and know we are encountering him as we do it. This is done through sacrament – or in the breaking of the bread.

road of life
We can encounter Jesus on the road, and when we do we will be surprised. It doesn’t happen often. It is individual, rare and unscheduled – we almost never see Him coming.
Or, we can encounter Jesus in the bread, and this is communal, common and scheduled. We never have to miss it, in fact. Many churches do it every worship service. Many do it monthly, some less frequently.
However often, every time we break the bread as He taught us, we know we are encountering Christ. And learning to recognize Him in the bread can only help us to recognize him on the road. Connecting with sacrament, intentionally, helps open our eyes and connects us to what we sometimes miss on the road of life.
And yes, Jesus IS in that bread which we break and that wine which we drink. He is both in the bread and in the cup. It is NOT mere symbolism. It IS sacred mystery. We can not explain, nor do we try. But we do confess. That is because we are sacramental and not secular. We will explain that which we can explain but we will simply confess far more than we can ever explain. And sometimes in the life of faith, confession is far more important than explanation.

cup of blessing
The apostle Paul tells us “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Paul has every chance to tell us that this is mere symbol, but he does not. In fact the word he uses here is translated as “participation” means far more than that. It means fellowship, communion, joining in, sharing, giving together. We are joining together with Christ in his broken body and spilled blood. Just like these Emmaus Road disciples, it is in the breaking of the bread that we can join together with Christ even today.
Jesus Himself had a lot to say on this in John chapter 6 after feeding the 5000. “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”” John‬ ‭6:48-51‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Are you following? Our ancestors ate manna from heaven, yet they all perished. Jesus is the bread from heaven which all can eat from and never perish.

death-of-Jesus
Continuing on, “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” John‬ ‭6:53‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood…we have no life in us. The flesh of Jesus is both human and divine. Jesus’ blood is both human and divine. Again, don’t try to explain it. But Jesus tells our problem right here – we have no life in us. We are dead in our sins. We are sick. Why, when Jesus tells us so often that we are sick, are we simply looking for a lawyer? We need a doctor, the great physician Himself. Jesus gives us the cure for our sickness, it is his body and his blood. This is the cure for the disease of death that flows through us. We receive this through the bread and wine of communion.

crucified
Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”” ‭‭John‬ ‭6:54-58‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The Kingdom of God has come. These Emmaus Road disciples thought that because Jesus was killed, the kingdom did not come. They were wrong. The true Kingdom had arrived. But – this meant big changes for the world as they knew it. Up until this point, the kingdom of God had come through the temple, and it’s whole system of hierarchy and domination.

temple
After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the kingdom no longer comes through a temple, but a table. There are no longer the ever shrinking circles of exclusion of the temple. There is no hierarchy or domination (no matter how hard we try to bring that back). There is always more room at the table. We might feel it’s getting a little crowded, maybe we try to squeeze some out, especially those people. Jesus just says ‘stop that’ and tells you to move over. Because there’s always more room at the table, and all who want to come are welcome.

table of christ
“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Communion is not symbol, its sacrament. Where in the words of Jesus (or Paul) does anyone get the idea that it’s only symbolic? This is a sacred mystery given to us by Christ himself. I don’t understand it, I don’t try to understand it, I don’t have to understand it. But I do believe and confess it, just like I believe and confess that Jesus Christ is the true Son of God who died so that my sins might be forgiven.
The communion table, the center of the Kingdom of God come to earth. All are welcome, and there’s always room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭24:13-35‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.24.13-35.esv

John Lewis

How to Move Mountains

How to Move Mountains

Dangerous Mountain

Looking at an example of Jesus Christ, Son of God, living out his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount at a moment in time when it would have been very useful to him to NOT follow his own ways. But of course, that would have been very un-Christ like of our Christ, wouldn’t it?
Look at this very famous passage in the Bible where Jesus knows what is coming. He knows the time of his arrest is drawing near, he knows the suffering he’s about to endure, and he knows that Peter is going to deny him through it all.

wheat
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Jesus surely would have been tempted to try to fix Peter here, don’t you think? Peter was about to do a terrible thing, something so bad we still point to it in comparison to ourselves in our pathetic spiritual state two thousand years later, knowing that as bad as we are, at least we didn’t do what Peter did!

jesus-prayed
And yet, what did Jesus do about it? No, he did not do nothing. But notice, neither did He condemn Peter. He does not attempt to shame Peter into ‘doing the right thing’. He does not attempt to manipulate, He does not break out his ‘pearls of wisdom’. He doesn’t use His power of God to rewire Peter on the spot. He just says to Peter, I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.   

codependent
He tells Peter that he’s about to be tested, and He prayed to the Father for the faith of Peter. He asks, seeks, and knocks, both of Peter and of the Father. He doesn’t try to fix Peter. He doesn’t beg Peter to stand with him through the trials He Himself was about to endure. He knew Peter was about to have his own trials, and how he must have wanted Peter to pass those trials!! But, showing His own faith and confidence in the Father, the same faith and confidence he calls us too (“…For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”” Matthew‬ ‭17:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬), He left Peter free to succeed or fail before both God and man.

last supper
Peter failed his tests that night. Jesus could have saved Peter from his failure, and could have personally gained help and comfort by doing so. But even at great personal cost to himself, he allowed Peter to fail. He did not manipulate or attempt to fix Peter. He prayed to the father, and let Peter know he had prayed and what he prayed for. He also made a request of Peter – And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. Jesus did not manipulate or control the situation, but he did assume his prayer for Peter would be answered. He asks Peter to strengthen his brothers, a request he would renew after his resurrection – “He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” John‬ ‭21:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

Mustard-Seed-Faith-by-CRI
Peter failed Jesus that horrible night. Jesus could have saved Peter from his failure, but that would not have allowed Peter to grow into the man he was to become. Peter had a mountain of failure to overcome after denying Jesus, but Jesus had asked both Peter and the Father that his faith would not fail. And Peter’s mustard seed of faith would move that mountain of failure, a mountain that should have prevented Peter from being the rock upon which Jesus would build his church. Instead, Peter indeed would strengthen the brothers and feed the sheep, and within weeks he would be the one to preach on the day of Pentecost and bring 3000 new believers to the eternal life only available in Jesus Christ.

knockin'
Because Jesus asked, seeked, and knocked.

peter preaching pentecost

“”Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:31-34‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.22.31-34.esv

John Lewis

Do Unto Others

Do Unto Others

Do-Unto-Others

Having looked at the power of the request, both of man and of God, and especially of requesting from God and man at the same time, we come now to what we call the Golden Rule. So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Or, perhaps more simply, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus says that this is the Law and the Prophets, just as earlier in the sermon he had told us nearly the same thing – “”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

kingdom of heaven is at hand
This is so much the point of the sermon on the mount, that we as Christians would live in such a way that as opposed to using the law and the prophets to condemn and confront the world around us, we instead would live our lives in such a way as to fulfill the law and the prophets and embody the reign of Jesus Christ on earth here and now. Remember the Gospel, the Good News, as proclaimed by Jesus himself was not that ‘I’m here to rubber stamp your life and give you a free ticket to heaven when you die.‘ Instead, what Jesus proclaimed over and over was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”” ‭Matthew‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬. All Jesus ever talked about was the Kingdom of God (Kingdom if heaven in Matthew). His point always the the kingdom was (and is) available here and now. The Jesus Way, laid out in the Sermon on the Mount as well as in his very life by example, is how we gain entrance into the kingdom exactly where we are. It is this Way which Peter betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane when took the sword to the soldiers ear. “And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:50-51‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Peter may not have betrayed Jesus as Judah did, but he betrayed the way of Jesus every bit as much. Jesus restored his enemies ear, loving his enemy, just as he would later restore Peter after his own resurrection. Peter betrayed the Jesus way here, just as we betray the Jesus way every time we lash out in anger and condemnation, every time we accuse, every time we ‘put them in their place’, every time we engage in our Facebook wars.

touched his ear
So, we are to do unto others as we want them to do to us, for this is the Law and the Prophets. What does this mean for us?

lawprophets
What did Jesus taught during his sermon?

argument-cartoon
Don’t want to be insulted on Facebook? Don’t insult on Facebook.
You think someone owes you an apology? Be the one to make the phone call.

phone call
You want someone to let bygones be bygones? Let bygones be bygones.
Don’t want to be cursed out? Don’t curse out.

Gaming-curses
Don’t want your wife or ‘significant other’ flirting around town? Don’t flirt around town.

untrustworthy-woman-flirting-with-other-guy
Don’t want someone to break their promises? Don’t break your promises.
Don’t want to be manipulated? Don’t manipulate.

manipulation1
Don’t want to be paid pack for every wrong thing you do? Then, let it go.

payback
You want your enemy, your bully, to stop taunting you, stop fighting you, stop embarrassing you?? You want those whom you fear to just leave you alone? Then pray for them. Love them. Seek out their best interests. (Whaaat?). You will be sons and daughters of our father in heaven. But we don’t really want that this badly, do we?

Open bible with man and cross
Want to receive all you need? Give to others what they need.
Don’t want to be judged in all you do? Don’t judge others.

forgive others
Want to be a forgiven sinner? Forgive sinners.

jesus-forgiving
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew‬ ‭7:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“”So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.7.12-14.esv

John Lewis

Change We Can Believe In

Change We Can Believe In

changes

Back to the issue of asking, of making requests, instead of demanding. We need to always understand (and never forget) that we are made in the image of God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis‬ ‭1:27‬ ‭ESV‬‬. It is because of this most basic fact of life, this most basic reality of who we are, that we can not have one attitude toward God and another attitude towards our brothers and sisters. This is why Jesus’ two great commandments are to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭22:37-40‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Loving God and loving your neighbor, they go hand in hand. You can’t love God without loving your neighbor. Loving your neighbor, as a matter of fact, is precisely how you love God in this life. There is no other way to do it. You can’t love God through nature. You can appreciate his awesome power, love, and creativity, but you don’t love God by watching the sun set over the pacific. You can’t love God through the Bible. You read the Bible, you get to know God and Jesus through the scriptures, but that’s not how you love God. You love God by loving your neighbor. And you love your neighbor by loving your enemies and praying for those who would crucify you.

MadeInImageOfGod
Let me say it this way. Because we know we are made in the image of God, we can’t have one posture before God and another before man. We are whole beings, and your true character, who you are and what you believe, pervades everything you do. So, we can not love God and hate other human beings (ANY human beings). This the apostle John tells us directly – “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John‬ ‭4:20-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬. If we don’t love our brother, who has the image of God yet we can see him, then we do not love God, whom we can’t even see. John also tells us that “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” ‭1 John‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

God is love
James, the half-brother of Jesus, tells us that with our mouths “…we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” James‬ ‭3:9-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. James goes on to tell us that we can’t be humble before God and arrogant and judgmental before men in James 4:6-12.

forgive others.jpg
The same point is made about forgiveness. Right after he gives us the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus tells us “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew‬ ‭6:14-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Our spirit of unforgiveness will block the forgiveness we take for granted from Christ. If we don’t forgive our brother whose made in God’s image, then the one who made him (and you) will not forgive you.

not ashamed
Do you openly confess Jesus as Lord, or are you ashamed and deny him before others? “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”” Mark‬ ‭8:38‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

Fatherinheaven
Also when we pray – “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭11:25‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Forgiving is a form of giving and loving. We need to understand that if we do not forgive, then we don’t live in the spiritual reality of giving where prayers are answered.

one_way_sign_R6-1r_large
There are few one way streets in the Kingdom of God. Just as we are forgiven, we are to forgive. Just as we want to be recognized by Christ at the pearly gates, so we must recognize him here. The kingdom is not there for us to “use” as we see fit, while we hold back our inmost selves from it. It is not here as a utility, to be used to get more of what we want at the lowest price possible. We must keep this in mind when understanding what Jesus teaches about the power of the request, of asking, both as it works here with our brothers and in prayer with God.

Employee-Making-Demands
We don’t demand from God. I suppose we could try, but it’s not going to do much good. Nor would we expect it to. But we do come respectfully, humbly, and prayerfully before God.

powerful-requests
We are to come to our brothers in the same way. I know this sounds strange, but think about it. When I ask someone (instead of demanding) to do or give something, I am standing with that person without force, condemnation, or manipulation. A request unites, it softens hearts. A demand hardens hearts and separates.

please
We teach our children to say “please” and “thank you”, correct? In many ways, this is seen as a matter of respect, but it’s much more than that. It is a way to get what we want. Getting what we want by requesting takes us through the freedom of the one we are asking. When we ask, we acknowledge and accept that the other person is free to say “no”. Yet we ask anyway, and if the answer is “no”, we respect and accept that. There is no punishment or condemnation for saying no. But we find that far more times the person being asked does not say no. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. This is how we relate to others, and it is the primary intention of this famous passage.

sarah-carter-april-may_-2
Think about the power of asking. Think about your children. How difficult is it to say “no” to those little ones, especially when they say ‘pleeeeease!” Or even think about the other side. How much trouble do we go through to avoid someone we think might ask us for something? How often do I avoid certain streets, or avoid eye contact, because I’m trying to avoid that convicting “please sir?” When your boss asks you to get something done, how hard and long will you work to accomplish it? There is power in the request. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Snake
Even if it’s someone we don’t know, don’t care about, and will never meet again, we will go out of our way to avoid a situation where we think someone might ask us for something. And that is precisely because saying “no” is really against our natures. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? Especially in our closest relationships, just asking will usually get us what we want. Sometimes these relationships have been damaged, and the relationships are scarred. Sometimes there are good reasons not to say “yes”. But most of the time, we will get what we ask for.

Psalm-51-asking-God-for-forgiveness
We know this instinctively, and Jesus uses that fact to help us to understand the power of prayer. If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Our final answer to the basic need we have to influence others for good is prayer. We make our requests, both prayerfully and respectfully, of those around us. We ask and don’t demand. And then we take it to God, asking the same thing we already asked for of the person we would like to see a change in. The bigger point here is, we’ve gone to that person with same humility and the same attitude with which we take our requests to God. We don’t have one way of dealing with people and another way of coming before God. We have the same spirit and attitude in both situations. If we are walking in the kingdom, our spirit will shine through in both relationships. And know this – it is only our confidence in God that makes it even possible for us to treat others as they should be treated. Or – if we don’t have confidence in God, then we are left only with confidence in ourselves and the things of man, which means we have to rely on ourselves to change our loved ones.

The Bible
Just how is that working out??

 

“”Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.7.7-11.esv

John Lewis

Just Ask

Just Ask

Eager-to-help

And now, continuing the thoughts about not condemning and manipulating through judgment and our “helping” them. Exactly how in the world do we go about actually “helping” someone if we can’t, don’t and won’t condemn them and their behaviors, and if we don’t force our will upon them by showing and telling them our more correct ways of living and doing things?

ask
Jesus’ answer to this question is concise, stunningly effective, and infinitely powerful. And all the self help books, counseling sessions, and therapeutic drugs fall far short of the answer Jesus gives us.

pearls-of-wisdom
Just as “turning the other cheek”, forgiving those who have hurt us, and praying for our enemies radically changes our relationship to others, this too radically changes how we relate to others. It’s another step in the process of learning to live in the kingdom Jesus brings. We need to accept and understand that as long as we condemn our friends and family, or are constantly pushing our “pearls of wisdom” on them, we are their problem. And they will respond to their problem, usually judging us right back, and “biting” or “attacking” us in the process. We remember what we had just read in Matthew 7:6‭‭ “”Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

battle of wills
But when we back off, when we give up condemnation, manipulation and seeking our own will in someone else’s life, we are no longer the problem. We don’t judge them, and they aren’t forced to judge and attack us in return. They don’t have to protect themselves from us. And maybe, we can be a potential ally, a resource, a friend and not an enemy. Maybe they can open up. Maybe they can begin to see the situation they have created as the problem instead of you or me. Maybe they can begin to see themselves as the problem. And because we are not trying to force them into a solution of our own creation before we (or they) actually understands the problem, maybe we can actually have real communication and work with one another, not against one another.

ask-seek-knock
And so Jesus gives us his answer to what plagues so much of our interpersonal relationships and our lives in general. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

ask-for-the-business
When we are living in and for the Kingdom of the heavens, we don’t judge, we don’t condemn, and we don’t manipulate. We ask. If we have a friend or loved one in whom we see something that needs to be changed, how often does it work if we just demand the change we seek? How well does it work when we force our will and good intentions upon them? How effective is it to simply point out their shortcomings and tell them all the things we think they need to change? Even if we get our loved one to submit to what we think or know is good and right, very often we know it is like the little boy whose mother hounds him to sit down when he is darting around like little boys do – “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!” And we all know it’s just a matter of time before he’s standing up again, whether his mother likes it or not.

letmehelpo
So just as we go before God and ask in prayer for what we need, so we ask our loved ones to change, and are willing to help in any way we can. We ask them to change, and we go in prayer and ask God to help them make the changes that need to be made. One is a natural extension of the other.

jesus-washing-apostles-feet
We will find that as long as we respect them before God, are thoughtful and considerate, we can keep asking, seeking and knocking on the door of their lives. Jesus’ teaching here is first applied to our dealings and relationship to others, not to God. The heart lies within a man, and the way to the heart is through a simple request, not demanding they make the changes we want or condemning them for not doing so.
“Asking is indeed the great law of the spiritual world through which things are accomplished in cooperation with God and yet in harmony with the freedom and worth of every individual.” – Dallas Willard

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“”Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.7.7-11.esv

John Lewis

Giving Pearls to Pigs

Giving Pearls to Pigs

pearls to pigs

 

Sometimes, we just have the solution, don’t we? We just have that moment of clarity when it all comes together. Especially after we’ve “found God”, or “met Jesus”. Not only do we have the solution, but now we have His great commission to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew‬ ‭28:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬. In this case, we’ve found the answer, Jesus Christ, and “received” a command from the Lord Himself to go tell everyone about it!! So then we run full speed to spread our Good News, fully energized by our newly found “answer” multiplied by the “command” we have to go and “make disciples for Jesus!”

make disciples
So then we go out into the world, sharing our “answer” we’ve found which is going to make all their problems go away, and we are often left stunned that “they” aren’t interested in us solving their problem. We may find that they don’t even think they have a problem which needs solving. But we insist, “yes, you do have a problem, I have a wonderful answer for you, why don’t you just let me show you how it works!!” But they in turn insist, “No, I don’t have a problem! And even if I do have a problem, I don’t need no stinking answers from you!” And we walk away with hurt feelings and wounded pride on both sides, a potentially damaged relationship, and new doubts of our own about the “truth” of the “answer” we have.

serious problem
Jesus warns us about this in his discussion on condemnation. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Quick question – what have you always understood this passage (if you’ve heard it before) to mean? What is Jesus telling us?

dog turns
Maybe it goes like this – “Some people just aren’t worthy of what we have to offer (the gospel of Jesus Christ), and we should not be wasting time giving our pearls to those “pigs”. Besides, just like Jesus said, look at ISIS, all these terrorists, we shouldn’t try to share the gospel with them, they just turn around and try to kill us anyway!!” Is this what Jesus is saying? Are there just some groups of people, the “dogs” of the world, who just aren’t worthy of what is “holy”, they are just “pigs” trying to take our pearls, stomp them into the mud, and turn against us?

Beautiful-Picture-Of-God-Jesus-Christ
Of course this is NOT what Jesus is telling us here. That would be exactly the OPPOSITE of everything Jesus ever taught. As Dallas Willard points out – “Indeed, the very coming of Christ, the pearl of God, into the world, would be a case of pearls before pigs thus understood.” Remember what the apostle John told us – “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We, the entire world, are all dogs and pigs who did not receive Christ when He came into the world. He put before us what was holy, He laid all His pearls before us. And pigs that we are, we trampled His pearls underfoot and hung him from a tree, remember?

ISIS-figthers-in-Mosul
So, never forget this – ALL are worthy to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no person, no sinner, no murderer, no terrorist, who is UNWORTHY of the Good News, no person who is a dog or pig who doesn’t deserve to hear that God the Father, who made them in His own image, sent his own beloved son to the world to walk with us, teach us, advocate for us, and ultimately to die FOR us, even if it was our own hands which swung the hammer that drove in the nails.

pearls
So what does Jesus’ “pearls and pigs” have to do with our solutions for everybody else’s problems. If it’s not that those dogs and pigs are unworthy of our solutions, if it’s not somehow for our own safety and security, then what could Jesus mean?
Pigs can not digest pearls. Pearls have no nourishment for a pig. No matter how you dress it up, no matter how hard you try, that pig just is not going to get anything out of those pearls. A dog can’t feed on the holy scriptures, the cross of Christ, or any of your other solutions to the trouble they may or may not find themselves in. Of course, if we keep trying to feed animals things which they cannot digest, and otherwise leave them starving, sooner or later they will turn on you and eat you for lunch. At least you are edible to them.

beautiful-pictures-of-jesus-christ_1
All people are made in the image of God. But not all people know it. And not all people want to know it. Of course, we know that we are made in the image of God. And since we are made in the image of God, since we have discovered and believe in the way, the truth, and the life in Jesus Christ His only son, it only makes sense that the rest of the world needs to hear it. Because we know we are in the image of God, then we should do all we can to make those around us in the image of God. In other words – we should make them more like us, so they too can be in God’s image, right? We bring our solutions to them, whether they want to hear about it or not, whether they are ready or not. And we keep bringing our solutions to them, keep confronting them, even though they can not digest the “water” we are trying to pour sown their throats. It does not help them at all. In reality, what we are really trying to do is control them, using our pearls as a means of forming them to be more like us (after all, we are in Gods image!). And eventually, we are left wondering why they turned against us.

fire heart wallpapers 1
Of course, our heart is in the right place. After all, the world needs our pearls, whatever they may be. If your pearl is the Gospel, that is even the only hope of the world. But the Gospel can be hard to digest, and your pearls might be left on the ground time after time. Eventually, you might wind up on the menu.
Sometimes, our heart really is not even in the right place. Sometimes, we are really just more interested in our own ego or our own will. I’ve known people people to drive an hour and a half each way to pick up people to bring them to a one hour meeting, and the people they brought to the meeting didn’t even want to be there. They resented the effort put in, because it was not done for their benefit at all, but for the benefit of the ego of the one doing the “good work”.

Jesus Rejected
I am not saying we don’t try to help people. We have that desire, and we should do all we can in the service of others. It’s kind of difficult to love those around us without being willing to help. But what matters is our approach and attitude in our endeavors to help others. Are we really trying to be of service, or are we trying to justify our selves and get that pat on the back? What is our motivation? Are we trying to help because we feel superior or because we can see how wring they are doing things? In this case, we will almost never actually be helping.
God gave every human being free will. He then came and paid a high price to arrange for that free will. It’s obviously very important to him. It’s the only way we can be the kind of personal beings he can use for eternal purposes. Earlier in this same sermon Jesus told us “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew‬ ‭5:37‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We are not to manipulate others with our flowery language. Just as we are not not (can not) to harass people into our kind of rightness or goodness with condemnation, or use our “pearls” to manipulate them to be in our image, as we would have them be.

 

“”Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.7.1-6.esv

John Lewis

The Log In Our Eye

redwood trees

We looked at condemnation yesterday, but there is so much involved in this and in Jesus treatment of it, I have to go there again. Condemnation is very powerful. It cuts to the most vulnerable areas at the core of our being. This is why it hurts so badly when used against us, and also why we rely upon it so heavily for our own purposes. So, to accept and live out what Paul tells us in Romans 8:1 is a major milestone in our lives – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans‬ ‭8:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬. If we really are different from the world around us, this is where those in the outside looking in should be able to see our difference, where our light should shine the brightest. If we’ve really been changed on the inside, if we are truly becoming more like Christ, then we would not condemn those around us, nor would we accept or receive others’ condemnation raining down upon us.

christians-perfect

If we’ve dealt with anger and contempt (which we probably haven’t), then this battle’s mostly won already. When we condemn, we are setting ourselves up as somehow better than the one being condemned, the inference being, of course, that we are not like that. We have gotten all wrapped up in our delicious self righteousness, and therefore feel justified in comparing ourselves and condemning. We have contempt for them or their actions, and we see them as less than ourselves, deserving of our condemnation.

anger and condemnation
Anger almost always leads to condemnation, because anger seeks to injure, and there is not much in the world that injures as quickly or painfully as condemnation. And once we go down the path of condemnation, our anger is then free to multiply, because now we see those on the receiving end as deserving of their suffering and unworthy anyway of any love, protection or respect. To which the one we condemn responds back with amplified anger and condemnation of us, and then it all just goes around in a circle as ever recycled hate and revenge.

log-in-eye

Of course, Jesus does give us his better way. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. It is amazing, isn’t it, how we can always see and point out every fault and defect in those around us, but as soon as our own faults are shown to us we respond with – anger and contempt!!

holy-spirit-comforter1
Jesus declares something very strong, powerful and important here that I don’t want you to miss. He is declaring loudly and clearly that everyone who judges, who condemns others, is a hypocrite. We see the speck of dust in our brothers eye and condemn him for it, while not even knowing we have a “log” in our own eye. Yes, we know that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Is it just because everyone screws it up, we are all sinners, that Jesus says this? Is he merely telling us once again to “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone,” John‬ ‭8:7‬ ‭ESV‬? Actually, no, that’s not what Jesus is doing here. Jesus just understands what condemnation really is, and what it involves.

Cast-the-first-stone
Here’s what we miss here – Jesus knows inherently that all who judge others with condemnation are hypocrites and have a log in their eye because condemnation itself is the log in their (yours and my) eye. Simply the fact that we are condemning someone in this manner is evidence that our hearts are not yet right in the kingdom of God. Our condemnation of our brother blinds us to the true value of our brother. We can’t see how to help our bother, because we really can’t even see our brother as our brother. And until we become the kind of person who does not condemn, we will never know how to really help our brother. We don’t take the log out so we can see how to better condemn our brother. It is only when we take the log out of [our] own eye that we can walk with him representing the Holy Spirit of advocacy and not the unholy spirit of accusation and condemnation.

unholy spirit

“”Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.7.1-6.esv

John Lewis