They Could Have Been Saved

They Could Have Been Saved

rebuke your disciples

I’m continuing what I started yesterday, looking at Jesus on the road to Jerusalem with the full knowledge of what the outcome would be.   Beginning today with his entry into Jerusalem, that triumphant entry where the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”   To which, of course, the Pharisees responded with this admonition  – And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”   This was actually good advice from the Pharisees to Jesus, because his followers were declaring him King when Israel already had a king.  It was the kind of thing that might get one crucified for treason – which had happened plenty of times before.  Of course, Jesus knows what his purpose is, and the time to fulfill that purpose has come – He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”   Jesus is the king, and the time for his coronation had come.

They could have been saved

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”    The king has come with tears in his eyes.  He knows that in their hosannas there is a darkness still present, a kind of triumphalism which maybe we still share to this day.  Jesus followers were looking for a revolution, and they got one.  They were looking for a Messiah, and they got one.  But their revolution was not of violence, and their Messiah was not a conqueror.  He would not take up the sword and lead his army into a great battle, conquering his enemies by spilling their blood.  No, Jesus knows that despite their hosannas, the crowd cheering him would melt into the crowd jeering him.  They would choose a Messiah named Barrabas (which, by the way, means “Son of the father“) a violent revolutionary who saw the world as that crowd saw the world, as an us vs them proposition, we are right and they are wrong, we are good and they are evil.  They would choose the messiah who believed in violence as they believed in violence.  And some of those crying out Hosanna! on Palm Sunday would cry out “crucify him” as Pilate asked what to do with this King of the Jews.

king-jesus-2

But back to my original point here.  Jesus has come to Jerusalem, to the climax of his earthly ministry.  He has come to Jerusalem with tears in his eyes, weeping as he prophecies The End for Jerusalem and the temple.   Understand the real drama that is going on here, and high drama it is.  Because at the same time the temple establishment is seeking a way to bring and end to Jesus,  Jesus is predicting the end of the temple and the temple age.   His entire ministry, Jesus has preached almost nothing but the kingdom of God.   Kingdom of God, kingdom of God, kingdom of God, it’s all Jesus talked about.  Jesus believed the end of the temple was coming, and that the end of the temple would mark the coming of the kingdom of God.

Kingdom of God

The king had come to Jerusalem.  No longer was he telling his disciples to keep it under wraps that he was Messiah.  He comes to Jerusalem with tears in his eyes, because they simply do not know the things that make for peace!   Things did not have to go the way it did.   For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.   Again, the whole story did not have to play out the way it did, and has.   Jerusalem could have been saved.  If they had recognized their true King when he visited them, they could have been saved.  But they don’t.  And 40 years later, in AD 70, what Jesus predicts would happen, happens.   40 years later, undoubtably with some of those who were in both crowds, before that generation had passed away, the crowd crying Hosanna and the crowd crying crucify him!, the Romans set up siege barricades around Jerusalem, hemmed them in on every side, and tore the city to the ground.  Men, women, and their children with them.  And no, not one stone was left upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.

crucify him

 

They could have been saved had they known the things that make for peace!   

peace

Lucky for us, we can…

FergusonTruth

“And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.””

Luke 19:36-44 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.19.36-44.esv

John Lewis

There is a Temple

There is a Temple

the temple

Been offline for a week (again), was enjoying a nice family vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC.   I’ve been a little inconsistent the past couple of months, for various reasons.   I hope to get back to a little better consistency in writing, pray for me on that, if you will.

Receive-the-holy-spirit

When last I did write, I wrote on John 20:19-23, particularly verse 23, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”   We are all commissioned  by Jesus as priests in his kingdom, commissioned to offer his forgiveness to the world.  Commissioned to flood the world with the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

destroy this temple

If you’ve spent any time in or around church, you probably remember the story which we call the “cleansing of the temple“, when Jesus drives out those doing business in the temple, turning the temple into their own house of business rather that a house of worship.  He did this right in the middle of Passover week, their busiest time of the year, really costing these money changers and businessmen at the time when they would do their greatest business.  Really interfering with the way things are done.  So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”   Who are you do stop us from doing our business??   Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

temple of his body
Jesus challenged those in authority, challenged their economic systems and their hierarchical system of power and control.  When he answered their question about his authority to interrupt their commerce, “The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” John 2:20-21 ESV.  Seems like a logical response to me, they’d been building that temple for 46 years, how in the world we Jesus rebuild it in three days?   Some of us are still waiting for that temple to be rebuilt.  Undoubtedly, some of those Jews thought they were standing in the temple prophesied by Ezekiel hundreds of years earlier.  Ezekiel saw a new temple coming, a temple from which would flow rivers of forgiveness.   The temple Ezekiel saw coming in his ancient prophecy is the temple Jesus refers to when he gives them his response  Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.   The temple Ezekiel saw coming was not a physical temple, but the temple of the body of Christ.

Body-of-Christ

It is from this temple that rivers of forgiveness flow.  Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.   

Trickling water
At first, closest to us, it is just a trickle.  But the temple of the body of Christ is not just one place.  The temple of the body of Christ goes anywhere the followers of Christ go.   And as we go farther and wider into the world, the water begins to get deeper.  Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep.   As we go into the world, out of our locked panic rooms, through our fear and eventually out of our fear, sent by Jesus, we become salt and light in the dark, ugly world.  As we carry the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ into the world, the world we fear and want to escape, the water begins to get deeper.   Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep.   At first it’s just a trickle, then it’s ankle deep, now it’s knee deep.

knee deep

Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.   Now we are swimming in our river of forgiveness.   It eventually swells and grows to overflowing, we can’t get away from it.

rushing-river-1500x1015
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.   The water keeps rising, keeps flowing.   It eventually flows into Arabah, or as we know it, the Dead Sea.  The sea which is at one of the lowest altitudes on the planet, the sea which, I believe, is a hundred feet below sea level.  The sea so salty nothing can live there (which of course is why we call it the Dead Sea).  The water which flows through the desert, healing the desert as it goes, growing trees where no trees grow, makes it into the Dead Sea, turning even that dead space into fresh water.

dead sea

But here’s the thing – the great problem if the world is not the saline content of the Dead Sea.  That is not the point of Ezekiel’s vision.  The great problem of the world is hate and retribution.  The world we live in is a scorched desert of hate.

scorched_desert_1

But there is a temple from which a river flows.  The temple of the body of Jesus Christ.  The temple which was raised after three days.  The body of which all who believe are members.

CA18632

Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.   If we want to stand in the swamps and marshes, we can do that.  We can even build walls to protect our swamps and marshes (or dams.  Or whatever we might build to protect a salty swamp or salty marsh).  Sometimes our salt tastes good to us.  We think everybody should be a little salty like us.

tree producing good fruit

But we are sent by Jesus to flood the world with rivers of mercy and forgiveness.  We are sent to grab rods and go fishing.  We are sent to heal that scorched desert of hate, heal it with mercy and forgiveness.  We are sent to bring water from the sanctuary, to nourish the trees that never fail, to provide good fruit for the world to eat.
raised on the third day
Jesus gave us his sign.  He raised that temple in three days, just like he said.  That temple has water flowing, water that can heal the desert and make the Dead Sea fresh.

living water

Didn’t Jesus say something about water?  “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.””John 4:10 ESV.  The living water is flowing, flooding the world.  Why do we keep trying to dam it up?

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”” 
John 2:18-19 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.2.18-19.esv

“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side. Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.””
Ezekiel 47:1-12 ESV
http://bible.com/59/ezk.47.1-12.esv

John Lewis

Flood the World

martin_john_-_the_deluge_-_1834

Continuing on thoughts from my last post.

Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_-_Appearance_Behind_Locked_Doors_-_WGA06734

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

huddled in fear

Jesus disciples were huddled, locked in fear in a closed room.  They feared  the Jews, the Judeans.  After all, they had crucified Jesus.  Who knew if some of the chief priests and scribes might come looking again, maybe one of them would be next.

peace be with you 1

But Jesus comes into the room and says to them "Peace be with you."   Doesn't knock, doesn't come through the door, doesn't pass through the walls.  He's just there, standing among them.  By his presence, he makes the impossible possible and brings peace into that frightened room.

refugeees

His disciples were locked in fear of the Judeans, afraid they might be next.  We like to lock ourselves up in fear of plenty, don't we?  Who are we living in fear of?   Are we afraid of Muslims, afraid that in every mosque there is a terror attacking waiting to happen?  Are we afraid of immigrants, afraid that they may be immigrating to our land of immigrants for the wrong reasons   Are we afraid of refugees?   Maybe we're afraid of liberals, because whichever talking head we listen to says it's all their fault.  Are we afraid of conservatives, because the talking heads we listen to say it's all their fault??

 

Are we afraid of sinners??   Or maybe the big, bad world?   Are we just trying to get through every crappy day hoping to make it to next Sunday, when at least we can get together behind the closed doors of our own religious panic room, and at least for an hour or two feel protected from this evil world??

zombies

For some of us, this is what we are inviting people into when we talk about Christianity.  We think the good news means that we have a safe place to hide from all those evil zombies walking about all around us, just waiting for the chance to eat us alive.

glad

But let me make this plain, simple, and easy.   The Good News in NOT inviting people to share our fear and join us in our religious panic room.   Those disciples in their locked room had no Good News to share.  No one wanted to come join them in their fear.  But when Jesus breaks into that room and says "Peace be with you," things change.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.    How many of us are glad to see the Lord?

peace be with you
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."”

The-Commission

All four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, have some form of the Great Commission.   This is John's version of the Great Commission.  "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you."    There's that phrase again, "peace be with you."   And Jesus commissions is disciples to go out into the world.   They were not commissioned to stay in that locked room, live in fear, and shut themselves off from the world around them.   No…Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, the same Holy Spirit he received at his baptism, the same power by which he went into the world, without fear, and brought the good news of the kingdom of God.   He bestows his own Holy Spirit onto the disciples, and tells them - If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.

forgiveness

As I said, this is the great commission according to the Gospel, the good news, of John.   Again, let's simplify.  Jesus tells his disciples that as the father sent him, he is sending them, and bestows the spirit of God upon them.  But not only that, he gives them the power to forgive sins - If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.   Do not miss this.   Jesus commissions his disciples, gives them the Holy Spirit, and sends them into the world specifically to forgive sins.

forgiven-jesus20forgives
As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.   Gospel 101.  Jesus came for the forgiveness of sins, did he not?   So he sends out his disciples for the forgiveness of sins.   Never forget who or what the Holy Spirit is.  Jesus gives his Holy Spirit, the spirit of advocacy, the spirit of walking with someone.   The spirit of aiding and helping.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.   The mission, or co-mission, of the followers of Jesus is to walk the world fearlessly flooding the world with peace and forgiveness.   This is the what and why Jesus sends his disciples out of that locked room for.

give

Yet we are afraid.  Maybe this makes you afraid.  Maybe we are afraid that someone who does not deserve it might receive the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.   (Did you hear that?).   Maybe we are afraid of giving away what we have received so freely.   Don't worry about giving away free stuff you received freely!!!   What did Jesus tell us?   “…Freely you have received; freely give.” Matthew 10:8 NIV.

2013 Faith Church Final Words father forgive

Jesus speaking peace and sending disciples into world with a commission to forgive should speak powerfully to us. We are sent by Jesus not to rage, not to moralize, not to reprimand, but to forgive sinners in Jesus' name.   Jesus own words dying on the cross were "Father Forgive them."   What, exactly, do you think the Father does when Jesus prays this to him??   He forgives!!

send-me

But what about that next part, if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.   Well, what else is the to say about withheld forgiveness?   It is withheld!!   But why would you withhold forgiveness?   Don't withhold forgiveness!!  Be as generous with forgiveness as Jesus is with you.  Be as generous with forgiveness as you would like Jesus to be with you.

Saint Francis of Assisi
G.K. Chesterton said this about St. Francis if Assisi – "He walked the world as the pardon of God."   This is how we are to walk.  As followers of Christ, if we allow Jesus close enough to us to breathe his Holy Spirit on us, the we have the spirit of advocacy, the spirit of God to go into the world as Jesus did for the forgiveness of sins.

blame game.jpg

There is a game we play.  This game has no end.  It has no winners.  It has only victims.  But we keep playing anyway.  The game is called the blame game.   It is the devil's game.  Who is the devil?  It comes from the Greek word "diablos", just as Satan comes from the Hebrew "ha-satan".  They both mean the same thing – "the accuser".  The adversary.  The blamer.

satan-accuser

Most of the wars, most of the hate, most of the pain in the world can be traced to the blame game.  It's how the devil rules the world to this day.  All the way back, Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and the disease infected their their family to the point that Cain blamed Abel so much he had to kill him.  And it's the game running the fallen world ever since.

 

But at the cross, Jesus took all the blame.   He took all the blame and cried out "Father forgive them.

Now it's our job to flood the world with His forgiveness.

“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."”
John 20:19-23 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.20.19-23.esv

John Lewis

By His Breath

By His Breath

Jesus breathed

Going back to the evening of the first Easter.   The hope that the kingdom of God would come into the world through the person of Jesus of Nazareth had come to a horrible, tragic, scandalous end.   For his disciples, one of their own had caused this, had sold out their master for money.   Then that disciple had himself gone out and committed suicide.

locked room

This day, their had been lots of talk, lots of rumors going around about the tomb being empty.   But for Jesus disciples, they were staying behind locked doors, because after all, Jesus had been killed.  You never could know who might be next…

jesus-appears-to-his-disciples-in-a-locked-room

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 

peace-be-with-you-1
They are cowering in fear, but suddenly Jesus is there!!   He doesn't unlock the door, he doesn't knock, he's just there, with them.  And what are the first words Jesus speaks to his disciples after he had been crucified and buried while they had scattered?   "Peace be with you." 
peace be with you
Jesus' first words to his frightened disciples on that resurrection night, his first words to the new world, the first words we should hear from him are "Peace be with you." 

jesus stood among them

There was no peace in that room.   There was only fear, sorrow, anxiety, uncertainty…but with the presence of the risen Christ, peace flows into the room.  Jesus breaks into their rear and anxiety and brings peace.   Just three days earlier, they had all seen their teacher arrested.  At least one of them had stuck around long enough to see the gruesome finish that Friday afternoon.  They are now back together, huddled in fear in a licked room, determined only to keep everybody else, that big bad angry world out.   But Jesus shows up, and the impossible becomes possible.  He brings peace into that room.

Jesus-Baptized-07
Jesus brings peace into that room, then he breathes on his disciples the Holy Spirit - And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.   So Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit onto his disciples in that locked room, and sent them out into the world.  Which Holy Spirit would that be??   “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."” Luke 3:21-22 ESV.  The exact same Holy Spirit which came upon Jesus at his own baptism is the Holy Spirit which he breathed upon his disciples in that locked room.  The rest, you might say, is the history of Christianity.

holy_spirit3s

It's the same Holy Spirit he can still breathe on us in our locked rooms, if only we would allow him to get near enough to breathe it upon us.   Jesus breathing this Holy Spirit on his disciples then sending them out into that big, bad, scary world commissioned to forgive should speak powerfully to us today.   We may living in a locked room with our fear, our sorrow, our uncertainty, our anxiety, but Jesus simply says "Peace be with you."   He can say this because he is the one, simply by his presence, who can make the impossible possible and bring peace into our own locked room.
Jesus_standing
He's standing right there.  Do you see him?  Can you feel him?  Will you let him close enough to breathe upon you?

To be continued…

“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."”
John 20:19-23 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.20.19-23.esv

John Lewis

Our Will Be Done…

romans-10-9-christian-ipad-backgrounds-wallpaper-bible-lock-screens

The Sermon on the Mount, and not all who read this will be happy with it. We live and grow up in a Christianity that tells us to say a sinners prayer, usually based on Romans 10:9 (“But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”‭‭ Romans‬ ‭10:8-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬) check our “salvation box”, and now we who once were “out” and condemned to hell when we die are now “in” and have just assured ourselves of a magic carpet ride with a disembodied soul to live in heaven for eternity. But, if you read what Paul is telling us in this great passage from Romans, he us simply echoing what Jesus told us in his beatitudes at the outset of this Sermon on the Mount – that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and available to all who would come to it. It is no longer exclusive to the Jews only, but also available  to the Gentiles – or anyone else who would come. Look one verse farther at what Paul says – “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬. As in so many other of Paul’s great messages, he is simply echoing what Jesus said all along – “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” Luke‬ ‭13:29‬ ‭ESV

lord lord.png

‬‬
So, as Jesus is wrapping up his message on the hill, he gives us this little note – Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. So, why does it seem as though Paul is contradicting Jesus here? Paul (and many others) tells us everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, but Jesus explicitly says Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. The reason is simple – we have a different definition for “kingdom of heaven” than Jesus.

souls flying to heaven

For us, the “kingdom of heaven” is where we hope our disembodied souls will fly off to at our death, our eternal resting place, our true and final “home“. It’s the “great Christian hope” we cling to. It’s what we’ve been taught, it’s all we’ve known. So, when we read Jesus (and Paul) we are just puzzled by even the most basic Gospel statement Jesus himself ever made – “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We are puzzled by this, we miss the point. We think Jesus is talking cryptically about himself being present in the world, and in a way that’s true enough. It is his presence that brings the kingdom, but Jesus message then, as it remains to this moment, is the same – the kingdom of heaven is at hand. As in, right here, right now. Even in his basic prayer which he gave us, he refers to the kingdom being present on earth as it is in heaven.

kingdom.jpg
So, essentially, most of us do not miss the kingdom of heaven by 14 inches, or whatever the difference is between the head and the heart, as is so often said. The reason we miss the kingdom of heaven is the same reason Jesus told Nicodemus he would miss the kingdom. “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”” John‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We miss the kingdom of heaven because we are never actually born again, in the words of Jesus. Because, and Nicodemus understood exactly what Jesus was telling him here in this discussion between two rabbis of Israel, to be born again is to be able to rethink, or repent, of how we see the world. And unless Nicodemus was born again, unless we are born again (again), he would not see the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God, which Matthew calls the kingdom of heaven because Matthew rights specifically to the Jewish audience for whom using the Lord’s name was to be feared, which is at hand.

kingdom of god
So we say our sinners prayers, check our box, and live our lives, same as it ever was. We don’t repent, we don’t rethink, we don’t see the kingdom of God. We just continue to help create our hell on earth, doing and seeking our own will, standing up for our rights, doing things our way.

good creation
Because we forget that God called his creation good, good, and very good in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, we think that the ultimate Christian hope is the destruction of our good planet in a final Armageddon, which will signal Christ’s return to separate the wheat from the chaff and whisk all his saints off to heaven. So who cares what we do, how we treat people, how we treat the planet?

save the world
We forget what Jesus told Nicodemus that dark night as they continued their talk. “”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬. I could go on and on, but let’s say this right now – God sent Jesus in the flesh to save the world. He did not send him to save parts of people for another world. And unless we are born again, we will never see that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. So some will call Jesus “Lord” and still not enter the kingdom of heaven. Because we will miss the kingdom when we see it. We do miss the kingdom when we see it. For the kingdom of heaven is at hand, right here, right now, and we do not see it. We do not believe what Jesus tells us. We will not follow his path as laid out in the sermon on the mount, the path that includes the teaching about not just forgiving, but loving our enemies. The path that includes laying aside our anger, our lust, our very wills. Because we are still about carrying out our own wills. We may use the name of Jesus, but we still seek for our will to be done, not his. Because, after all, this world is run by us, all we need Jesus for is that trip to heaven when we die.

Lord
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. We can do all the great things we want. We can create all the wealth, cure all the diseases, drive the best cars, send our kids to the best schools, feed, house, and clothe all the poor we want (through a government program, of course. I mean, Jesus didn’t actually intend for me to do all this personally, in my own life, did he?). We can even do them in his name. But unless we are doing his will in his name, not our will in his name, then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you’.

born-again-jesus

How do we know what his will is? The first thing Jesus ever told us to do is the same thing he continues to tell us – Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent, turn, change, be born again. Become willing and able to see the world differently, to see the other as your brother (he’s always been your brother anyway, you just have never been able to see that, never been able to see the kingdom of God. Never been able to the the kingdom where all the others are our brothers.). It is after we repent, are born again, and can see the world differently, that we begin to see the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

repent
It is only then that we can begin to “…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. It is only then that we can do the will of my Father who is in heaven. 

YouMustBeBornAgain

It is only then that we really begin to understand that the great Christian in not that we are going, but He is coming.

“”Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:21-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.7.21-23.esv

John Lewis

Honor Your Father and Mother

Honor_Your_Father_Mother

Principle 6 of recovery (from the Celebrate Recovery principles) reads as follows – “Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.” This differs from the secular 12 step program specifically in that the twelve steps focus entirely on harm we’ve done to others, with no place for offering forgiveness of others for wrongs done to us.

Making-Amends
Step 8 – “We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”

12 steps
Step 9 – “We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

clean-up-your-mess
I bring this up simply because I just noticed it this morning while looking up this principle and these steps in relation to the scripture I am looking at this morning. Those of us in recovery have often (as in almost always) made a mess of things in our lives. If not…we would not be “in recovery.” It is in doing our inventory and getting to steps 8 and 9 that we begin to clean up the mess we’ve made.

holding a gudge
But also very often (again, as in nearly always), those of us in recovery have certain resentments and grudges we’ve carried around for much of our lives. It is often these resentments we have that lead to the hurts, habits and hangups from which we then try to recover. So not to deal with these resentments and grudges we carry, not to address the poison we carry around with us in our souls, seems as though it might leave a gaping hole in our recoveries. (To be fair – I have worked with a sponsor in AA and we did work on resentments, so that is not left out of the tradition altogether. But it does seem like a gaping hole in the steps which seems to only be filled by the presence of a very good sponsor.)
Which leads me, finally, to the actual point I may or may not have in mind today.

honor your father and mother
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Honor your father and mother – do you realize that this is the 5th commandment of God from the Old Testament? As in the Ten Commandments? As in before ‘do not murder’, ‘do not steal’, or ‘do not commit adultery’ (but after ‘keep the sabbath’ – in a quick nod to my pastor for this Sunday’s sermon), we are commanded by God to honor our father and mother. This is not a suggestion or a request, but a command. A command, as the apostle Paul note in Ephesians 6:2, with a promise – that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

love-advantage
Why this promise? What does honoring our father and mother have to do with a long and healthy life? One word – gratefulness. A long and healthy existence requires that we be grateful to God for who we are. But we can not be grateful to God for who we are without being thankful to God for our parents, from whom we came from. If we are ungrateful to God for our parents, we are basically saying to God that he made a mistake, and that we know better who we should have been born through than he does. We question his plan and purpose for our lives. We demonstrate our lack of faith and belief that God is good, and that he loves us.
But even more than that, to reject and be angry with our parents is to reject and be angry with ourselves. Our parents, like it or not, are part of our identity. Just as we were made in the image of God, our parents were made in the image of God. Which is a good thing, because so clearly we were made in the image of our parents. So, living angry at our parents means we reject and live in anger with ourselves. They are part of who we are. To reject and be angry with ourselves leads to sickness and death, both spiritual and physical. We can not reject ourselves and love God.

man-walking-through-destroyed-city
It is this breach in our souls called self-rejection that has led to all kinds of evil in the world. It us where the Adolf Hitlers come from. But for every Hitler, there are millions who destroy themselves and die in silence in every corner of the earth.
The very last words of the Old Testament addressed this very issue. “”Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”” ‭‭Malachi‬ ‭4:5-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬. This turning of the hearts between parents and children reflects a deep human need. What good is it to love your neighbor as yourself if you don’t love yourself?

making-amends2
So we must make our amends, whether we are “in recovery” or not. First of all, we must be honest about who and what our parents are, and how we truly feel about them. Then we must confess our wrong attitudes and actions towards our parents, and ask for forgiveness. Then we (I) must accept our parents for who and what they are, have mercy (pity) on them, and forgive them.

istock-purchased-surrender
All of which just sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Lucky for us recovery folks, we get to have a sponsor walk through this with us. For whoever is attempting to fill this hole in their soul, it will require much prayer and time with someone who can be a teacher or guide through the process, whether that be a counselor or mentor or someone else. It might be a long process. It’s been a long time coming. We must not get caught up in our old patterns with our parents. We must avoid the traps of wanting our parents to understand us, of being right, of always having the last word. We must not expect anything in particular from them in return. All this must simply be surrendered to God for him to work out as he will. Just as he worked out for them to be our parents in the first place.

Angry-at-God
Because, after all, that is what you’re mad about anyway, isn’t it?

“”Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭20:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/exo.20.12.esv
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.””

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/eph.6.1-3.esv

John Lewis

Love and Truth

Love and Truth

truth-in-love-300x270

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 

upper-room-discourse

This is a message from the upper room, where Jesus is distilling the essence of his teaching to his disciples. For three years He has been with them, teaching and showing what God is like, that He like the father of a prodigal son, who runs out on the road to meet his son, even while he is still far off, to welcome him home. For three years Jesus has shown His disciples by example exactly who they, and we, are called to be. This message comes from first communion table, Jesus has just established the sacrament of Lords Supper. In doing so, he has relocated center of God’s activities on the earth from the temple back to the table, where it actually began at the Passover with the Hebrew people in Egypt.
Jesus takes the disciples into the heart of his teaching. He takes his disciples into the very heart of what he’s been teaching for 3 years. What, exactly, is the heart of Jesus teaching?

thing-called-love
Jesus is talking about love.
We have 9 verses here, Jesus uses the word love 9 times. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. You will abide in my love. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this.  

circle dance
God is a trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A communion, a Holy Union. A trinity of divine, eternal, self giving love. John is right to say God is Love. The Father loves the Sin, the Son, loves the Father, the Holy Spirit is that love. Jesus here invites his disciples to participate in this divine dance of love.
Early church fathers, trying to communicate what God us like, liked to refer to the “circle dance”, the ongoing eternal dance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Now Jesus invites to join this dance.

Father Son Holy Spirit
 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Love-of-Christ
We come and bow down before the cross of Christ in worship, we call him Lord, and this is what is appropriate. But Jesus lifts us up and calls us “friend“. While we do accept that Jesus loves us, we find it really hard to believe Jesus likes us. We know he loves us, but we think Jesus plays that word game we sometimes play, especially maybe when we are angry or upset with someone, we might tell someone about another “I might love them, but I don’t have to like them!
What if Jesus really likes us?? It is true.

my friend
Do you remember Jesus calls Judas “friend” as Judas is betraying him? “Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭26:50‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Jesus says this with no irony. He considers Judas a friend. This means Judas can turn at any moment turn toward the light, toward love, and be embraced in the friendship of Christ. But it is up to him.
In John chapter 21, we see Jesus restore Peter to a deep sense of personal friendship. Do you believe that Jesus considered Peter to be his friend??

man-climbing-to-cross
Jesus is always inviting us to join him in his love. Unless you love your life will flash by. Unless you love, your life will flash by, because you will always be chasing some delusion. I am beginning to recognize that I chase a lot of delusions. I chase success, achievement, recognition, security, and yes, I pursue my own happiness, that great American Idol written directly into our earliest founding document. 45 years later, I’m still chasing it. Anxiety, soul killing commutes, sleepless nights, and wasted days have gotten me no closer.
Because, love alone can ground you in the present moment by giving your life sufficient meaning. It’s love that grounds us in the present moment, so that we can be content in the here and now instead of always chasing something else.

friends
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…Jesus throws that IF in there and we all become self judgmental, stressing about this like we stress about our job, thinking we have some impossible task for a harsh taskmaster whose commandments are an impossible demand. Another new “boss” the same as the old “boss”, just waiting to tear us down for not following his ways.

fortheloveofchrist-h1.jpg
But what’s his commandment we are to keep? This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. The commandment we must keep to abide in Jesus’ love is to love. Just like the circle dance of the trinity, Jesus’ great command here is a circle dance of love. If we want to abide in the love of Christ, the way to do that is to love. The commandment to abide in the love of Christ is simply to love.
Jesus gave us 2 commandments. We are to Love God with all our mind, strength, mind, and soul, and we must love our neighbors as ourselves. The biblical test case for loving God is loving neighbor. The test for loving neighbor is loving your enemy.
Christianity not a religion of rules but circle dance of love.
Love is the only valid defense of Christian faith. Love alone is credible. If we defend our Christian faith without Christian love, we are not credible.
It is by our love they will know we are disciples. Living a life characterized by love is what makes us credible. Maybe this is why we seem to have lost all credibility in society today. It seems we are known for everything but love.

635889314596531475679218412_1corinthians13_13
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. As the apostle Paul tells us here, without love we are nothing.
Yet – we viciously attack even each other over our Christian truth. We attack each other for our differing beliefs about how to love and worship our savior. Yes, right belief matters. But right belief about God is less important than love. Love alone is credible.

internet warriors
So internet warriors crusading for their “Christian truth” are not credible.
Treating people cruelly in defense of our Christian truth is a betrayal of Christ’s greatest command. The command that we be known for our love for one another. You may be right in your argument – but still be left behind as a credible disciple of Jesus.

persecution
We make much of the persecution of Christians around the world today. But throughout history, more Christians have been killed by other Christians than by our non Christian persecutors. During the reformation more Ana-Baptist Christians, who believed baptism was for adults and that Christianity should not be joined together with the state, were put to death than all Christians during all of Roman Empire.
From the Middle Ages through the reformation, there is a long history of Christians killing other Christians over “wrong belief.” There is one particular case of a here unnamed Protestant hero that I was going to share, but in the interest of not offending anyone too badly, I will speak in broad terms here. We all know what it means to be burned at the stake.  Don’t fully accept the orthodox view of things, don’t believe in the trinity, don’t accept “our” doctrine….we will kill you!! This was not a problem in the early church, they had all kinds of discussions and disagreements about what the cross meant, about Jesus’ divinity, about all sorts of things. But they didn’t reject the teaching of Christ to defend his truth. That didn’t happen until The Church became completely intertwined with The State.

burning-at-stake_0
When we speak of “combatting for God’s glory“, claiming that we know “the law God would have kept” and that in such combat we are to “forget all humanity“, we are missing the whole point. First of all, how can we forget humanity in the defense of Christianity? We serve a God we rightly believe was fully human, correct? I think I’ve said this before, to be inhumane in our treatment of others is to be against Christ, not for him. You might even call it anti-Christ.
The New Testament tells us God’s glory was defended by the cross. God was most glorified by his one and only begotten Son forgiving his enemies from the cross.

neighbors
Jesus half brother has this to say – “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.” James‬ ‭2:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Loving your neighbor is the royal law according to the Scripture. We would do well to remember this. God’s glory and honor are not defended by burning people at the stake.
The church was and u\is built on the shed blood of Jesus Christ, not the shed blood of heretics and infidels. Exactly what faith was being defended, or will be defended by cruelty and inhumanity? Attacking people under the banner of the cross is the ultimate exercise in missing the point. Because the cross us where Jesus forgives his enemies. He doesn’t climb upon that cross to kill his enemies. Let me ask you, exactly which museum is it that you can find the sword of Jesus Christ?
As Christians, we don’t use force or cruelty to convince others we are right.

greater love
Who have you burned at the stake lately? On Facebook? Or Twitter? Who have you excoriated on social media over their slightly different theology. Maybe they misinterpreted the seventh horn on the third dragon in Revelation. Heretic!!! 
Even worse, who have you attacked because of politics? Elephant and donkey games!!

Don’t be a disciple of the cable news hotheads who make their fortunes burning people at the stake.
Be a disciple of Jesus Christ, who taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves. While we’re at it, love your enemies too.

10-facebook-like-free-cliparts-that-you-can-download-to-you-computer-0Qh2Xq-clipart
There is no Facebook exception.
We will contend for the truth if Christ. But we will always love more.

 

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

‭‭John‬ ‭15:9-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jhn.15.9-17.esv

John Lewis