Counting the Cost?

on fire

Have you ever been “on fire” for Jesus? Maybe when you first came to Him and prayed that prayer, and felt the Holy Spirit invade you for the first time?
Just how “on fire” for Jesus were you? How excited are you, right now, to know that you have a personal relationship with the creator of the universe, the whole heavens, the earth, and everything in between??

on fire 2
Jesus knew that we would be “on fire” for Him. He also knew that we should be “on fire”, because He knows the deal He is offering. This is no late night telemarketing call full of fine print. The deal Jesus offers is entry into the kingdom of God, the kingdom of the heavens, complete with backstage passes and field access credentials. Full buffet and open bar. Not only do you get to meet the players and sit with the band, you are equal with them. You get to share meals, go into the locker room, room with them on the road trip. Nothing is held back.

buried treasure
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. How excited should we be when we get the deal Jesus offers?? How excited would you be if you were camping in a forest, dug some dirt to smother your campfire, and found undiscovered and unknown gold deposits??!! Or better yet, somehow you went deep enough and found some of that black gold, oil!! On coming out of that forest you find the owner and he says he’ll gladly sell you his 40 acres in the hills for $100,000? Would you mope around thinking about all you had to give up to buy that property? Of course not!!! You would see the opportunity before you, the chance of a lifetime. How fast you you move heaven and earth to get the funds and close that deal. You would cash in the IRA, the 401(k), the checking account, sell the car, sell the house, sell your shoes. You would scramble like never before in the excitement to gain that treasure you had found. You would count the cost and laugh at it, because what you were about to gain was so much more valuable than anything you had to give up to get it.

pearl
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” These days, we’re all searching, searching, searching, aren’t we? We read self help books, seek “spirituality”, consider Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Darwin. We are like this treasure hunter searching the seas who finally found what he’s looking for.  We find the greatest treasure, it’s what we’ve always been seeking. We find that hope diamond, the heart of the ocean (Titanic anyone?). There is nothing we could possibly give up that would be more valuable, is there? We would sell everything we had for the chance to get it all back times a thousand, wouldn’t we?

oil-jed-clampett
Jesus tells us this is what the kingdom of God is. It’s all we’ve ever been looking for, everything we’ve dreamed of. We talk about counting the cost, but there is no cost too high, because the return on that investment is just too great!! All we can think about is the opportunity we see!! We know there is nothing greater we can ever achieve, nothing more valuable, no greater opportunity, no greater dream, no sweeter deal that we could ever hope to get. We see it and our hearts are filled with excitement, hope and joy!!

excitement
No one ever becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ sadly or reluctantly. We have been digging our whole lives, searching out our treasure. We’ve struck gold, oil, and the Hope Diamond all in one. We’ve counted the cost, and it doesn’t matter.

heart of the ocean
Because the cost is nothing compared to the treasure we’ve found.

treasure

“”The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:44-46‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.13.44-46.esv

John Lewis

Casting my Cares

mirror

I’m writing to myself today. We live in a world overflowing with anxiety, of which I myself have grabbed more than my “fair share”. I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life. I’ve been in recovery for over three years now, and one of the greatest parts of my recovery was the fact that as I got into recovery and began working the recovery principle and 12 steps, my anxiety vanished. Which I can say definitively because, for the first tine I remember in my life, sleep was not an issue. When I say for the first time I remember, I mean that even as an 8 year old child, I remember lying in bed at night, unable to sleep. I would lie awake, waiting for my dad and step mother to go to bed, then very often get up and creep into the living room so I could turn on the tv and watch whatever was on, often watching until the station would sign off for the night.

3rd step
When I got into recovery, and especially got through step 3, turning our lives and our wills over to the care the care of God, the sleepless nights vanished. They were over. For the first time I could ever remember, I was not laying awake, thinking, worrying, stressing out about who knows what. Then stressing out about lying awake and being unable to sleep, causing even more anxiety. I had found the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. I didn’t understand it, I didn’t worry about, I didn’t have to think about. I was simply able live under the love of Christ with peace in my heart, my mind free of the anxiety which I had known my whole life.

leave it at the cross
But now here I am, and I’ve picked it back up again. The sleepless nights have returned. Most often it is Sunday nights, maybe because I know Monday morning is coming and there is always so much to do. So I lie awake all night, not actually thinking about anything in particular, just on edge. I will glance over at the clock and see its numbers – 12:00, 1:00, now 2:00. Now I’m thinking about how I’ve got to be up in the morning, there’s only a short time to go. I reset the alarm an hour later, but it doesn’t matter, sleep never comes. Now I’m facing the day with so much to do, and more thing added to do is to deal with the stress and anxiety created by the lack of sleep because I’ve got to think about all those things I’ve got to do.
Because I’ve picked it back up again, I am in control. Life keeps happening, things have not always gone my way. It’s not just work either. There are things in my life which I think I can control or affect. I consciously know that I can’t, but I also know that I am thinking and behaving like I can. Last week it wasn’t just Sunday night that I got zero sleep, but it came back around Thursday night into Friday. Then again this Sunday just passed. Which at that point made 3 nights out of 8 that I have gotten zero sleep.

Letters-to-myself
Why do I tell you this? Because like I said earlier, I am writing to myself today.
I came across something this week that screamed at me. Listening to a podcast of Alistair Begg, I understood what had happened to my peace, and why I had picked up again the anxiety I had previously left at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. It’s from the first letter of Peter to some of the early believers in the church.

humble before the lord
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. That’s right, the famous “cast your cares”. But notice that in the ESV it is not a directive to cast your cares, it’s an action based upon the actual directive, which is a call to humility. It’s an active participle, showing an action that flows from the command which came before it. This, apparently, is more accurate translation from the Greek, because the in the original Greek it was written in this same way, as an active participle. In other words, the command here to humble ourselves is not separate from from the casting of cares. Peter did not separate the two. It is not ‘humble yourselves. Cast your care.’ It is ‘humble yourselves…casting your care.’

Cast-Your-Cares-Full-Message
I do have a point here. Humility is a trait which we know is desirable to God and in our lives. Most of us would wish that we could be more humble (at least, we might wish for our neighbor to be more humble, correct?). We would wish for more humility, at the same time we would wish less anxiety.

pride
If we read Peter honestly for what the lord is saying through him, casting our cares and anxiety upon him comes from our posture of humility towards him. The trouble is, my anxiety which I am suffering right now is a result of the return of my own pride and arrogance into my heart. This is screaming to me that I have no longer humbled myself, I have dropped the ball on that third step, and I am up and running again in control of my own life. The fruits of this is manifested in the anxiety and sleepless nights which I again am dealing with.

Pride & Arrogance
This is nothing new. Think about the believers Peter was writing to originally. He was exhorting them to be humble before the lord, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. We think we have worries, but I’m not sure we can compete with the stress these believers had. Peter was writing to scattered Christians living in the Roman Empire. The political environment was completely against them. They were thought of as antisocial nuisances. Many Romans thought they were locking themselves into rooms and practicing cannibalism, because they had no understanding of the Lord’s Supper.

persecution
Persecution was always right around the corner. They lived with their own daily expectation of “the big one” which was to come. And their big one did come, with the persecution of Nero (which would include the upside down crucifixion and beheading of Paul). It started with Nero and continued at points for the next 250-300 years. The Christians Peter was writing to, their anxiety was for their very lives. Not for the creature comforts of those lives mind you, but the very existence on their lives themselves. Their stress and worry would have been for the lubes of their children, their grand children. They would have had to worry then about their business, how to earn a living, and what about any hopes and dreams?

anxiety
We sorry about a lot of things today ourselves, don’t we?? We think we have major worries. We worry about our lives. Not the existence of the life so much, but we worry nonetheless. We worry about our lives, our families our hopes, our dreams. We worry about being caught in a crowd, we worry about being alone. We worry about failure, we worry what it will mean if we succeed, we worry about change, we worry about not changing. We worry about the heights, the dark, the light, or being brought down low.
We worry about our place in the grand cosmic scheme of things. We worry that there is no cosmic scheme.
We know fear, and we know anxiety. We worry about our past, we worry about our future. Anxiety distracts and divides our minds, which fuels our fears, which fuels our anxiety and distracts our minds even more, becoming as for me, it’s own self fueling and self fulfilling prophecy.

Image-06-I-Will-Give-You-Rest-mini
So Peter tells us to be humble before the Lord, casting our anxieties upon Him. I can’t help but thank of these words of Jesus himself, which Peter would have been right there to hear. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬. It does not say the anxieties, the burdens, don’t exist. It does not tell us to deny or ignore our anxiety. This is not a call to repression, but a call to realism.
The fears and anxieties we face are real. Life is hard. It’s hard now just like it was hard 2000 years ago. Sure, we have our creature comforts and modern amenities, but that core spiritual truth remains – life is hard. But we should be casting all your anxieties on him. The verb here in Greek for casting is the same as the word used on Palm Sunday when his disciples untied the colt of a donkey and threw their cloaks on it in preparation for Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem that day. It is in this way we are to throw our very real anxieties upon Him.

Beautiful white passenger airplane in blue sky
Humbling ourselves before the Lord transforms everything else we do. Casting our anxiety upon Him is a necessary part of coming under Christ’s care and control. Because the question for us all is this – do we trust Jesus to be in control of our lives?? CAN we trust Jesus to be in control of our lives?? It’s like this – if you are on big jet airplane flying from DCA to LAX, can you trust the pilot to get you where you going?? Or are you trying to fly that plane from your window seat?? Can you humble yourselves under the pilots care?
He cares for you. He knows your children. He knows where you live. He knows who your boss is. He knows your neighbor. His instruction is to humble ourselves and trust him in the ride. If we don’t, we are taking matters into our own hands. When we do this, when we consume ourselves with worry, we reveal the truth that we are concerned with our own selves and not him. We will try to give the impression that we are concerned with him, but we are more concerned with our own pride than we are in making progress in his kingdom.

Mary and Martha
Here’s an example we might be able to relate to. “Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭10:38-42‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Notice Martha was distracted with much serving. Martha was distracted – we might say she was anxious. Martha was upset about many things, but Mary chose what was better. It’s not that we are not to be useful and of service to the lord and to those around us. It’s just that our posture and our heart needs to be like that of Mary during our times of activity and service. We are more like Martha, anxious and troubled about many things. But we need to remember it’s all in the name of and for Him, and he can never be taken away from us.
The posture of Mary needs to be the heart of OUR Martha here. If it is not, then our preoccupation of what we do for Jesus may rob us of our time spent with Jesus, and the enjoyment of the companionship of Jesus. This can create a bitterness in us that we will then resent the humble spirits of others who have chosen a less frantic way of life (is this hitting home with anyone?)

aneshetic
In the words of Alistair Begg, “The presence of anxiety is directly related to the absence of humility“. Having dispensed with the transcendent God who who is in control if all our lives, and exalted ourselves in our pride, we now fill in the blanks ourselves. As we scramble to fill in all these blanks, we have become a neurotic society. We are full if neuroses, full of anxiety, stressed out, burdened, fractured, divided, crushed, debilitated, and paralyzed. Until we humble ourselves and bow before God to acknowledge that our hearts are restless, we will never make sense of it all and we will continue to be unstable and riddled with anxiety.

90 proof
How do we cope?? We have our 90 proof anesthetic to get us through our fear of flying and everything else. We have our boozy lunches to get us through the day. We have the endless, 24 hour possibilities of entertainment in excess to temporarily give us hope and a quick lift.

Persecution of the Christians at Rome by Nero
As Christians, we are responsible to challenge the way of the world – not with false cries of bravado, but in the example of humbling ourselves before God and declaring how powerful we believe his hand to be in our lives. We are to be nit just saying it, but living it!! It’s easy to say we are living free of worry, it’s a whole other thing altogether to be experientially free of worry. It’s real easy to talk the good talk without actually living the good life.
We are not called to cast our troubles onto him, but we are allied to throw those anxieties which the troubles cause his way. Life sometimes takes turns which we simply can’t control. We can not be free of all trouble, we might not be able to change every condition in our lives. But we can be free of the anxiety, because he cares for you. I can refuse to be burdened by the cares weighing me down which have disturbed my peace and distracted my mind.

humble yourselves
I can refuse this because in the anxiety we face, there is an action we take, and an assurance we find. If we are in Christ, if we know the reality of sins forgiven, the joy of forgiveness, the presence of the spirit in our lives, then the promise of God’s word is that we are his personal concern. Our trust is not misplaced. “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭121:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬. He never sleeps, he never slumbers. He never needs a wake up call. I am his personal concern.
Until man bows in humility to the god of the whole universe who knows every hair on my head – there is no hope for the neurotic lives we lead. Anything else may deal with symptoms. The care of God is ultimately expressed in a cross, sending his own son to die for us. The love of God is heard in a cry – “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke‬ ‭23:34‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The peace of God is discovered in a moment – “And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭23:43‬ ‭ESV‬‬.
Sometimes we (I) live in a silent cave of our own creation. ‘I can share this with no one. No one cares.’ Except Jesus stands right there in the shadows making each one of us his personal concern.
I AM writing to myself today.
“…Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:5-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/1pe.5.5-7.esv

John Lewis

Even at Work

hard at work

Getting prepared this morning to go to my full time job, to earn my full time living (which would be the only way I earn one). I do not work full time in “Christian service”. Yet I do consider myself to be a disciple, or a student, of Jesus Christ. My aim is to learn from Him how to live my life. I do not aim or wish to live His life over again. He already lived His life during His time, and He lived it very well, thank you very much. But I do aspire to live my life as He would have it, and to his glory. I fall well short of that at this point, this I know. But I would like to consider myself a saint-in-training. We are all saints in the body of Christ, over and over again Paul would refer to the believers in different churches as saints. “All the saints greet you.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.” Philippians‬ ‭4:22‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings.” Hebrews‬ ‭13:24‬ ‭ESV‬‬. (This may or may not have been Paul, we don’t know. It refers to the believers being talked about as saints either way). “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭14:33‬ ‭ESV‬‬. This is just a short list, but you get the point.

saints and sinners

The trouble is, while we may be saints in the body of Christ, we are still sinners. This is who we are in this world IF we are attempting to live in this world as a disciple of Jesus Christ (and that’s a very big “if”) – we are saints-in-training who are still sinners falling short of the glory of God.

jesus my lord
Yet – aspire to our calling saints we yet do. We come to Christ as we are, not as we would like to be. We accept Jesus as Lord, we ask the Holy Spirit to invade our lives. But then, we have another choice to make. We’ve decided already to become “Christians”, to check that box that says we believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried. We then believe that he was vindicated by God the Father on Easter Sunday, was resurrected in the body, walked among his disciples for forty more days and ascended into heaven, and has been seated at the right hand of the Father ever since, having dominion and power over all nations.

learning from jesus
But to become a disciple of Jesus is another thing entirely. To become his student, we make the effort to attempt to follow his teaching, to learn from him, to be his student in how we live our lives here and now.
Yet we go into the world, and we just look like another part of that world. We go to church on Sunday, we read our bibles, we are sure to do or participate in certain religious rituals or activities. Then go back to our ‘real” life.

life given
Because we do have a life. We had a life before we met Jesus, didn’t we? And we still have, while hopefully an improved version, that life. All the teachings of Jesus do not make life in themselves. They presuppose a life already in existence. They presuppose the fact that you exist. The life we have is who we are and all the things we do. It is the life God gave us. We are exactly where he has us. But – it is this very life which already exists which He wants us to give back to Him.

life given to christ
The teachings of Jesus show us how to live this life which we are giving back to him. He gave us our time, family, friends, neighbors, talents and opportunities. His teachings show how and why we are to live the life we have been given.

WA155_-_Friends_and_Family_Gather_Here
Our problem, really, is that we go through all the trouble of going to “church”, reading the Bible, and serving whatever ways we serve, then we go back to life and forget everything he taught. Then we go to work at the jobs or professions in which we toil, and we forget completely everything he teaches. Many of us actively choose to leave Jesus at the front door. We think we can be disciples of Jesus everywhere but at the job where we spend more waking hours than anywhere else in our lives.

office-gossip
We claim to be followers of Christ, then exclude most of our waking hours from him. We go to “work” and Jesus is no longer Lord of all, he’s left to wait in the hot, sun baked car until 5:00. We then go run one of the largest areas of our lives by our own power and our own wisdom. We take our instruction on how to do that part of our lives from anybody but Jesus. We are convinced that this is how it has to be, because after all, I don’t work in Christian ministry, do I?

On-the-Job-Training1-e1430520742859
But this is clearly not the expectation Jesus would have as teacher, we do know this instinctively. The apostle Paul tells us Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Yes, Jesus is still Lord, even when we walk through those office doors. We can not segment our jobs apart from Christ. He is Lord of all, or not at all. We are to make our jobs a primary place of our discipleship, just like it is a primary place in our lives.

christian cop
What does this mean? Am I supposed to be the Christian cop, pointing out every error and every flaw everybody in the office has? Am I supposed to be the Christian nag, making sure everyone around knows they are doing it wrong? Of course not. IF we’ve read our sermon on the mount and the rest of our bibles we know this is not the case. Especially for me, I have enough logs of my own not to be worrying about everybody else’s dust, and every time I focus on their dust my logs get bigger anyway.

angry on the job
But it does mean that I should not cooperate with things which everyone, including me, knows are wrong. It means that I treat my office mates and coworkers with the same respect, love and grace I give to my family or other church members. It means that God sees my conduct at the office as well. God, along with everyone else in the office who might know that I am a follower of Christ, will judge my “professional” life just as much as my “personal” life. After all, it’s all one life, it’s all part of the same 24 hour day. So I don’t have to be obnoxious about it, but I should not cooperate and be a part of wrongs at my office any more than anywhere else in my life. I should not lie or cheat at work any more than I should anywhere else. I should avoid office gossip just as I would avoid it anywhere else. I should not create office gossip or issues just as I wouldn’t anywhere else. I will say, there are times when this is difficult, I’m sure in all jobs. There are just shortcuts we take, things we do to just make things go easier and more smoothly. But somehow it all catches up, doesn’t it?

Jesus-giving-the-Sermon-on-the-Mount
But we should be non-cooperative with these things. I certainly shouldn’t lead others in doing them. I should maintain an attitude of service to others in my work environment, just as I would attempt to serve others in any other environment. This service should not obtrude on the work if others or simply be done to be seen as a helper, just where it is needed. I should also be in prayer for those I work with just as I pray for my family or brothers in Christ.

believe
Jesus teachings on non retaliation, love of enemy, not simply doing things to be seen or for financial advantage (!!!???) and appropriate assistance to those who might need it come into play, even at work. Of course, we should always be watchful and prepared to meet obvious spiritual needs or a displayed interest in Jesus with kind and understanding words. After all, if we live at the office with the light that can only come from Christ, there will be some who approach us about it.

 

jm_200_NT1.pd-P7.tiff
And of course, we should do our work as though we are doing it for Jesus himself. Because after all, we are!! I am a sales manager. I should live and work during business hours the same way I live after hours. God cares about my job. Whether we weld steel, flip burgers, design aircraft, fly the aircraft, wait tables, run a bank, run a ministry, it does not matter. Our work is work that needs to be done, it is central to our lives, and it is important to our Father. He wants our work to be done well. Our work is important, it needs to be done. As disciples of Jesus, it means that it should be done as Jesus himself would do it, just as we attempt to live the rest of our lives as Jesus would live them. Nothing can substitute for that. As a matter of fact, while we are at our jobs doing our assigned work, even our specifically “religious” activities should take second place to our job with all effort, all our focus, and all our power which we have from the kingdom of God. That should be part of our daily devotion to God, part of how we bring glory to His name.

inheritance
If we do our jobs in this way, of course that means that those we work for and with will benefit. But this is not why we do the job as we do. We do our jobs as we do because we are serving the Lord Christ. We know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. So whoever else benefits from our labor, whether we feel we are appreciated, whether they treat us well or treat us poorly, it does not matter to us. We don’t live in anger, even with those who are angry with us. We don’t respond to anger with anger, we respond to their anger with our peace. In fact, our peace does not depend on anything they do. At work, as in the rest of our lives, our peace comes from the one who is Lord of all.

SONY DSC

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:23-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/col.3.23-25.esv

John Lewis

For All People

For All People

house of prayer

Looking at a meeting on the road of life between the apostle Philip and a certain man who, though excluded from the temple of God, lived his life with reverence and love for God anyway.

Acts_128

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” A few things about this eunuch. First of all, we can know that he was a man who had some wealth and power. In modern times we would call him the “Secretary of the Treasury.” It specifically says he was in charge of all the treasury of Queen Candace, queen of all Ethiopia (which was a much larger and more prominent nation than it is now). We know that this man loved God, because in spite of the fact that he was not allowed in the temple, He had come to Jerusalem to worship. Eunuchs were specifically excluded from worship in the temple (Deut 23:1), yet this man had made the trip to Jerusalem to worship. Not only that, but he had spent a large sum of money (books were very expensive in these days, because each one had to be hand written) on a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. And it is this scroll from which he is reading when Phillip, led by the Holy Spirit, boldly asks him “Do you understand what you are reading?” To which our eunuch perfectly answers “How can I, unless someone guides me?”  

philip-and-ethiopian1
I say this response was perfect, because it shows the humble heart with which this man was seeking the Lord. He was a wealthy man, probably had just about everything wealth could have given him. He was specifically excluded from actually entering the temple. Even at the most outer gate where Gentiles were allowed, this man was persona non grata. And yet, he takes his own time and own money and makes the trip to Jerusalem, spends more of his own money on a scroll which which he then has the humility to admit ha can’t even understand for himself. Perfect!!

Big-Bible
This is perfect, because despite the rugged individualism we have been scripted into in our modern age, the interpretation and understanding of scripture is not an individual project. This eunuch couldn’t do it alone, and neither can we. The church gave us the Bible. The Bible was given by the spirit to the church, and the church then gave it to us. And it is the church, with its long history of interaction with the Bible, that is able to guide us in understanding what we read to this day.

lamb_slain
And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”
The eunuch is reading from what we now know as Isaiah 53, Isaiah’s vision and prophecy of the suffering servant, the suffering Messiah. “Just who is this man?” As it says, from this point Phillip preached the good news of Jesus Christ to a man who loved and worshipped a God who did not even allow him into his temple to pray.

new temple
But there is a new temple coming, something else Isaiah had a vision of. Isaiah did not just gives a prophecy of Messiah as the suffering servant, one who Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent. Isaiah’s vision and prophecy continues beyond that. It is during the time of Isaiah, about 586 B.C., that the temple is destroyed. King Cyrus will eventually give the order to have the temple rebuilt, and it will be rebuilt, but Isaiah has some new ideas for the temple. Not architectural ideas, Isaiah is thinking far bigger than that. Look at what Isaiah says in Isaiah 56 – Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. In Isaiah’s vision of a rebuilt temple, things would be different. Foreigners, and even the specifically extra-excluded eunuchs, will no longer be excluded, but will be included in the temple. They will no longer be outside looking in, but will be inside fully participating. Isaiah continues – “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Temple-Inscription-286x300
To which we yell out a loud “Amen!!” Because, of course, we know that the Temple of the Lord IS a house of prayer for all nations. Because we grow up in 21st century America, and this would be one of those truths we hold to be self evident. Unfortunately, neither Isaiah nor this Secretary of the Treasury grew up in 21st century America. Isaiah’s vision was NOT fulfilled in the temple rebuilt under the order of King Cyrus. The temple was NOT a house of prayer for all nations, foreigners and eunuchs were still excluded.

house_of_prayer
Phillip understands all if this has he sits with this man. He understands that there IS NOW a new temple, and ALL ARE INVITED!! Philip might even have been there when Jesus endorsed Isaiah’s vision at what we call the “cleansing of the temple – “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”  
This is the Good News Phillip shared with the Ethiopian eunuch. It is, in the words of Pastor Brian Zahnd, “Good News for the excluded!” And this excluded Ethiopian eunuch is immediately baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and becomes the first Gentile convert baptized into eternal life in Jesus Christ. The temple Isaiah was looking for was not fulfilled in the bricks and stones of a new temple built by human hands. The temple Isaiah was looking for was built by the life, the blood, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A temple where there is no hierarchy (even though we try every day to restore the hierarchy). There are no priests- except that we ARE ALL priests. That’s right – we are a Kingdom of priests offering spiritual sacrifices and the sacrifices of our own lives before God.

spriitual sacrifice
There are only two things Jesus asks of us.
1). Be honest about your own sins. Don’t wear a mask. Don’t pretend not to be a sinner. We are all saints in the body of christ, this is true. But we are saints-in-process. We are all sinners in the process of becoming saints.

Exclusion
2). Welcome all the other sinners. Don’t try to keep everyone else out. Salvation is not just for “us”. It is for all who would call on the name of the Lord. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” Acts‬ ‭2:21‬ ‭ESV

‬‬whoever calls on the name of the lord
Sometimes we try to keep people away, don’t we? Maybe we see them as “other” or “enemy”, and not as our “brother.” We’ve always done this, all the way back to the time when Jesus was with his disciples. “Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.” Matthew‬ ‭19:13-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We may try to keep people away, but Jesus just says “stop that” and ministers to them anyway.

jesus-children
Because your background, your past, and even your sin does not exclude you from the grace of Jesus Christ. Even those who thought they were excluded are welcome at the table of Christ. If you think you are excluded, Jesus tells you to “come”. All are welcome at the table of Christ, the true temple of the Lord which is the house of prayer for all peoples.  Jesus will welcome you personally.

lords_supper-1024x484

“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”

‭‭Acts‬ ‭8:26-35‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/act.8.26-35.esv

“Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.””

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭56:1-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.56.1-8.esv
“And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭11:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mrk.11.17.esv
John Lewis

Do as He says…

jesus

We are all disciples of somebody. We all learned to live from somebody else, there are no exceptions. As human beings, we are the kind of creatures who have no choice but to learn, and keep learning, from others how to live.

john wayne
Of course, we live in 21st century America, the land of “rugged individualism”, we are all our own man, or our own woman. We do what we want to do, we ‘don’t need nobody‘ telling us how to live our lives. Except for one thing – we learned this “rugged individualism” from somebody, or more likely a whole bunch of some-bodies, who taught us this “rugged individualism”. We don’t need anyone telling us how to live. What we need is to get the right job, live in the right neighborhood, drive the right car, wear the right clothes, marry (or not marry) the right person, use the right phone on the right phone network, eat the right food, drink the right beer, use the right deodorant, get the right hairstyle…and everything will be just fine, because I GOT THIS. I am in charge of me. Yes, we have been taught and discipled in such a way that we know that we are to live our own lives as we see fit, and we don’t need anyone butting their stinking noses up into our business.

modern
This is what it means for us to be modern people, living in an overwhelmingly secular society. We are ruggedly individualistic. But we did not become the individualists we are through our own individual and independent thoughts and insights on ultimate truth. We did not come to our individualism individually.

discipling
We, like every other human being, learned how to live our lives from somebody, again probably several somebodies. We are all, mostly, students of a few crucial people who have been in your life at crucial times to help you form your standard responses in thought, word and action to the world around you. This process is really ongoing, never ending (which is a good thing for most of us), and self-correcting.
Usually we begin as disciples of our closest family members, hopefully our parents. For most of us, this is very good. Maybe you were taught very young by good, strong people who knew God and ways in his ways.

alcoholic-parent
Not all are so fortunate. Sometimes we are disciples very early on of parents and family that are dysfunctional. Our original family examples can for many of us be mildly debilitation or outright disastrous. We can look at the results of children who were raised by alcoholics or drug addicts. They learn from their chemically dependent parents how to exist and function in the world around them, and in many cases the results can be tragic.

peers
We later become disciples of our teachers, and our playmates and peers. Once we get to the teen years, those who are teaching us to live will set in stone for us the way we see and approach the world around us. We could learn from teachers or college professors or military instructors. We learn far more than we would care to admit from music stars, actors and actresses, the celebrities we follow. Maybe a writer or well know professional type. These people all give us an impression of what life is supposed to be about, and what we learn from them gives us the necessary orientation of our conscious behavior and outlook toward ourselves, toward others and toward God. We all have (must have) these orientations, even if they are wrong.
At some point in time, we must recognize who has taught us, mattered us, discipled us. We must evaluate and understand the results of the teaching we have received. This is a sometimes frightening task, and many of us just can’t do it. But when we do this, it can result in us opening the door to finally learn from the true master of life.

master of life
Jesus assumption during his time on earth was that his followers, his disciples, would live their lives as his students and coworkers. That his people would (and should) find him so admirable and wise in every respect that they would constantly seek to be in his presence and guided, instructed and helped by him in every part of their lives. He assumed this because he is the firstborn of the new creation, the new Adam who walked on the earth as the first Adam was supposed to – in obedience to our Father in the heavens. In the words of Dallas Willard, “he is indeed the living head of the community of prayerful love across all time and space.”

commanded by jesus
If we live our lives as disciples of Jesus, we will become the kind of people who would do everything we do “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3:17). We would do all we do in his behalf, or in his place, as he would do it. His great commission to us at the end of Matthew’s Gospel is “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” Matthew‬ ‭28:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Notice what it explicitly tells here, that we will baptize in the name of the the Lord – teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And what is implicit here? How would his disciples, then and now, teach others to obey all that he commanded them if they themselves are not obeying his commands? So we obey his commands (right?), and our inner life is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Christ within us.

blameless-jesus-reaching
There is no good reason for us not to do what Jesus tells us to do, because he only tells us to do what is best. But do we do what is best? One day, we know we will stand in the presence of Christ. Have we been good and faithful servants, or will Jesus stand before and ask this question – “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

021-lumo-jesus-disciples
What are the commands of Jesus? You know them, you’ve heard them. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:30-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Pretty simple, right? Love your God, love your neighbor. And don’t forget this one – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭ESV‬‬.
So why do we call Jesus ‘Lord, Lord’? Do we believe that he is lord? By which I mean, do we believe that he all power over all things right here and now? Maybe we don’t see his power playing out in the world because we don’t have his power in our lives. Maybe his power is not playing out for the world to see because those who claim to be his disciples call him Lord, Lord, but don’t actually do what he says.

jesus-love-your-enemies-lg
What am I saying?? How do we know we love God?? The biblical test for love of God is the love of neighbor. “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.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬. God is here, but we can not see or touch or directly work for him. Except that we can, because we do have our brothers, each one made in the image of God. The trouble with our brothers as opposed to our God is that we can see them. We can touch them. We can smell them. We can see all their bad habits. We can hear their annoying laugh. We know that they don’t love God like we love God. We know they don’t live by his word like we live by his word. We know they don’t forgive others like we forgive others. But we love them anyway, don’t we?

jesus-christ
We know we love God by our love for our neighbor. But, the classic question is, just who is our neighbor? Anyone we can help (see Luke 10). The biblical test case for love of God is love of neighbor. The test for love of neighbor is love of enemy. “”You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew‬ ‭5:43-45‬ ‭ESV‬‬. If we are living as the image of God, the image of Christ in the world, we will know that our enemy is our neighbor just as much as our closest friends.

forgive
Love God. Love neighbor. Love and pray for our enemies. How about forgiving others? “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

‬‬
Uh-oh.
Who’s disciple are you?

 

“”Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:46‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.6.46.esv

John Lewis

It Matters

It Matters

prayer

Do you pray? If so, do you pray knowing that God hears you? Do you pray expecting that it means something and will make a difference?
Or, do you pray just because it’s what you’re supposed to do? Do you say your prayers because someone told you that’s what you should do, but you don’t actually believe it matters and has no bearing on anything God will or won’t do?

moses praying
You might want to read about how Moses’ prayer on Mt Sinai affected the actions of God. This occurs while Moses is on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from the Lord. Moses gets delayed in coming down the mountain, and Aaron and the Israelites get impatient and make their infamous golden calf to worship and bring sacrifices before. So God decides that he will pour out his wrath upon the people for blatantly ignoring His first commandment.

Wrath-Of-God
And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” The people have committed great sin, having worshipped their idol and turned their hearts back to Egypt who Yahweh had rescued them from. As St. Paul tells us, “For the wages of sin is death…” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬, God is going to give these Israelites exactly what they’ve earned by their own power.

moses-image
But Moses steps in and makes a request of Yahweh on their behalf – But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Moses begins to reason with God, asking why he’s giving up on his project with his own people. Shouldn’t he be able to complete it??
Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. What kind of glory to God would it be to bring these people out of bondage to Egypt just to destroy them in the wilderness?? Is that a good God, a great God, a loving God, they would ask? (Isn’t this what we still want to ask today?)

untitled
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” Moses then appeals to the promises made by Yahweh to the patriarchs. He has promised them descendants that will be multiplied as the stars of heaven. Would destroying these descendants be consistent with the promises made to those fathers?

the lord relented
Moses boldly has asked Yahweh to change his mind about harming his own covenant people. What was the response? And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

great god
We serve a God who can be prevailed upon by those who faithfully serve him. Just as parents respond to their children, so God the Father listens to His children. Children can ask for anything from their parents. Maybe the parents grant their request. Maybe they don’t. Whether they do or do not grant the request, it will be for a good reason. This is how our relationships with others should be, just as it is with our Father in heaven.

SONY DSC
We serve a great God, a God great enough to handle his affairs in real relationship with his creation. God’s nature, his identity, and purposes are unchanging. But how he deals with us as individual human beings is not. You might think this diminishes Him, but it does not. Just the opposite, He would be a far lesser God if He could not change his intentions when he sees that it’s appropriate. If he sees fit to deal with humanity in this way, how much greater does that make our relationship with Him?
Bring your requests to Him. Prayer matters.

man praying
“And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.'” And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.”

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭32:9-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/exo.32.9-14.esv

John Lewis

The Man with No Name

The Man with No Name

man with no name

Do you ever feel like you are lost in the world and no one notices you? Do you ever feel like no matter how loud you cry out, no matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are, how smart you are, that you are just another face in a sea of faces, just another number among the millions and billions of numbers?? Ever feel like you don’t matter?

blind beggar
Look at the story of blind Bartimaeus for a moment. And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. When you read this, notice one thing. The blind beggar called Bartimaeus has absolutely no identity of his own. By which I mean, Bartimaeus, which has become a name for us (we would call him Blind Bart), is not a name at all. Bar-Timaeus simply means “son of Timaeus”. Bartimaeus has no identity of his own. He is a man with not even a name. He is overlooked everyday, barely noticed, not even having his own name to be called by. He is only known for being blind and as the son of his father, otherwise completely lost in a sea faces and the hustle and bustle of a busy city, left only to cry out for “alms” every day for his sustenance.
And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. The world may not notice him, but this son of Timaeus is paying attention to the world around him. He has heard of this Jesus of Nazareth, he knows this is the miracle worker, he believes he is the prophesied Son of David predicted in scripture to be the Messiah of Israel. But even in his cries for mercy to the son of David, those around him just want him to pipe down, like a child to be seen but not heard.  Or our own homeless and destitute, whom we would just as soon ignore, and who sometimes annoy us with their insistence that we notice.

have mercy
But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” Sometimes we just have to be heard!! Bart wasn’t going to keep quiet this time. He keeps crying out to Jesus, and Jesus calls him. Not by name of course, because this man has no name, but Jesus calls to him nonetheless.

miracle worker
And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” A very simple question, ‘what do you want me to do for you’? Isn’t this the essence of prayer, just asking God for what we would want him to do for us? Remember what Jesus tells us in John’s Gospel – “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John‬ ‭14:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬. What is it you want the son of David to do?

blind bart
And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.” Jesus here pays the blind man without even his own name perhaps the ultimate compliment – the compliment of his own individuality. Go your way; your faith has made you well. Your faith – not the faith of his father, mother, brother, or the third cousin on his brothers side. Blind Bart cries out in faith to Jesus of Nazareth, and though blind from birth Jesus restores his sight on the spot.

miracles-of-jesus-feeding-5000-fish-1127605-tablet
Bartimaeus’ faith was based in the knowledge that Jesus had done the miracles, and that he was the son of David in prophecy. Jesus affirms him in his own individuality. Jesus, for every believer who cries out to him in faith, gives each of us our own individual respect and worth. I am the son of my father, and there are to this day people who know me mainly as ‘John Henry’s boy“. Which is fine in and of itself, my father was a good man and I’m glad when people recognize that. But I have my own DNA, I have my own identity. God made me an individual. When I finally cried out to him, I was saved not because of my fathers faith but because of the trust I had placed in Him. When you put your trust in Jesus Christ personally, he will affirm you and help you redefine everything in your life. And just like a blind beggar with no name, He will help you see the world as you’ve never seen it before.

faith-in-jesus-christ

“And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭10:46-52‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mrk.10.46-52.esv

John Lewis