Called Out

Called Out

Good Shepherd

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

 

Jesus is the good shepherd! We can say that again, Jesus IS the Good Shepherd!! But The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. Who is this thief? The devil of course!! But Jesus is speaking of specific works of the devil. There is an historical context in what Jesus is teaching here. But, what is the context??

patriarchs
Look at what precedes his declaration of the thief and his intentions. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. Who, exactly, are these thieves and robbers Jesus is speaking of? Is he speaking about Abraham? Is he calling Moses a thief and a robber? Maybe King David? Solomon? All the prophets, maybe Isaiah or Elijah?
No, Jesus is not calling patriarchs and prophets of God from the Old Testament thieves and robbers. But in the first century, the Jewish people, occupied and dominated by the Roman armies for so long, were longing for a Messiah, a savior. There was no shortage of would-be Messiahs who tried to fill that role, and the first century listeners of Jesus knew who they were.

good shepherd 2
Athronges the Shepherd was one. He was known as “the shepherd of Israel“. When Jesus says he is the good shepherd it is in contrast to Athronges, who was not a good shepherd but a very bad shepherd. Athronges was actually crowned “King of the Jews”. He was exactly the kind of warrior Messiah the people were looking for (then and now). Athronges used guerilla warfare tactics quite successfully for a time against both the Roman and Herodian armies. He was known quite well for how many people he was able to kill. Until, of course, both he and almost all of his followers were killed themselves.
You could say this bad shepherd came to kill.

guerrilla warfare
Judas Bar-Hezekiah was another “messiah”. He was from Sepphoris, which was a large city 4 miles from Nazareth where Jesus grew up. It was the big city of Jesus’ world, and he likely had heard stories of this particular character growing up. Judas Bar-Hezekiah came to fame as a revolutionary who would rob Romans, even once attacking and robbing the royal palace in Sepphoris, making off with all the weapons and money that had been stored there. He was something of a folk hero, but unfortunately it all went downhill from there. Judas went from targeting Roman to going after wealthy Jews. Eventually he would rob just about anyone, becoming a menace and danger to all.
You could say Judas Bar-Hezekiah came to steal.

thief
Simon of Peraea was a Jewish slave in Herod’s palace. This slave eventually escaped, amassed a following, called himself messiah, and was crowned king of the Jews. But his biggest claim to fame was that he burned down Herod’s palace in Jericho, as well as smaller houses of the king in other parts of the country.
You could say Simon came to destroy.

palace burning
There were others. Theudas is mentioned in the book of acts by Gamaliel. Theudas claimed to be the new Joshua, and was going to prove it by parting the Jordan River. Unfortunately, the Romans heard about and showed up, killing all of his followers. Of course, Theudas fled.

tax revolt
Judas the Galilean was an intellectual rabbi who started a group called the zealots, who violently resisted paying taxes to the Romans. He also is mentioned by Gamaliel in the book of acts when some of the disciples were imprisoned and the council was trying to decide what to do about “the way” they followed. This is what Gamaliel had to say about Theudas and Judas the Galilean – “But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,” Acts‬ ‭5:34-39‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

red sea
So when Jesus makes reference to thieves who come steal, kill, and destroy, he was referring to Jewish Messiahs before him who were just tools of the devil. They were nothing more than thieves, robbers, and killers. They tried to change the world by the means of death. But in the end, they only led their followers to more death. They were bad shepherds.
But Jesus says I am the good shepherd.
He followed a parade of Messiahs, the most notable of whom actually called himself “The Shepherd“. But all these Messiahs only led their followers to more death. They all gathered their following around the energy of hate. As occupied people subject to a foreign superpower, it was (and is) easy to hate those who are occupying you. All these Messiahs thought they could bring the Kingdom of God through hate and violence.

terrror problem
If you were a Roman citizen hearing the news reports coming out of Judea, you just might say to yourself “wow, they really have a problem with terrorists out there!” If you’re a Jew living in Judea during this time, you might call these so-called terrorists freedom fighters. You might believe in their cause. These freedom fighters, these Messiahs, could gather a following like they did because there are always people who believe in the ways and means of death. There are always people who think, “If we can just kill the right people, things will get better.” “If we can just kill those bad guys, everything will be alright.

freedom fighters

Jesus tells us regarding these would be Messiahs, though, but the sheep did not listen to them. The sheep did not listen, but who did? The goats…

goats
The goats who believe in the way of hate will always follow their false Messiahs, then and now. But the sheep know there must be a better way. The way of life, peace, and mercy. The sheep will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

hear his voice
But, then and now, the goats always get a lot of attention. They make a lot of headlines, create a lot of noise. But there are always more sheep than we think. Jesus tells us “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John‬ ‭10:16‬ ‭ESV

american goat

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Sheep are quiet, goats make lots of noise. You can find the goats of hate in every nation and every religion. There are Iranian goats.  There are American goats. There are Muslim goats embracing the way of hate. There are Christian goats embracing the way of hate.
But – in the same way – in every nation and every religion, there are sheep who believe in the say of peace. They will listen to Jesus. They are drawn to Jesus. We might be quick to yell “That’s not true!!”, but it is.

leads them out
They may not call themselves Christians (yet). They may still identify as Muslim (or an other religion). That is all they’ve ever known. But there are those around the world, regardless of the tags or titles, who will follow Jesus.

sheep led out
Jesus does not pick sides in our conflicts. We must stop using Jesus to justify hating our enemies. “Love your enemy” is the way that leads to life. “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The sheep will hear his voice, and the Good Shepherd leads them to life.
Know that when Jesus talks about enemy love, he’s talking about the ISIS of his day. We can hate ISIS as structure of evil spreading the hate, death, and the destruction of Satan. But must love every Abdul, Achmed and Mohammed.

b1
But to kill ISIS, we have to send in the B1 bombers don’t we? Ok, but that’s the way of Cain and not Jesus, just know which spirit it is we are following when we do that.

MOAB
Remember, always, that Jesus calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. The Beast wants to give you a number, remember? Jesus calls you out by name.

abundant life
What is Jesus calling you out of? Is he calling you out of hate? Anger? Regret? Maybe he calling you out of some kind of pain. Maybe it’s no fault of your own. But the Good Shepherd still calls you out of that pain and into His eternal kingdom.
He’s calling each one of us by our own name. Do you hear the Good Shepherd calling? He’s calling you out of all that belongs to death. Hate, fear, pain, depression, rage, and anger all belong to death.  Jesus calls us out of all of all of that, so that they may have life and have it abundantly.

lays down his life
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. But the Good Shepherd has laid down his life for the sheep. And only he has the authority to take it back up again!! The Good Shepherd laid down his life, but he is alive today!!

broken body
He offered up his own body and blood that we might live. “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:19‬ ‭ESV

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“So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

‭‭John‬ ‭10:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jhn.10.7-11.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

How to Move Mountains

How to Move Mountains

Dangerous Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

knockin'
Because Jesus asked, seeked, and knocked.

peter preaching pentecost

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

‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:31-34‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Do Unto Others

Do Unto Others

Do-Unto-Others

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

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

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

lawprophets
What did Jesus taught during his sermon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Change We Can Believe In

Change We Can Believe In

changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bible
Just how is that working out??

 

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

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Giving Pearls to Pigs

Giving Pearls to Pigs

pearls to pigs

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

The Log In Our Eye

redwood trees

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

christians-perfect

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

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

log-in-eye

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

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

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

unholy spirit

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

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis