Little Rich Man

I’ve been working my way through the gospel of Luke, now we are into chapter 19. Ever since chapter 9, Luke has been retracing the final journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. From right after the transfiguration in chapter 9 to the triumphal entry at the end of chapter 19, Jesus is on a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. The story becomes more and more ominous as we go. There is a dark ominous cloud lingering over Jesus as he’s on his way ultimately to be crucified. He talks more and more about what is to happen once they get to Jerusalem…saying things like “”You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.””Matthew 26:2 ESV. And…“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.””

Luke 9:22 ESV

But today we have the final event before Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. What Luke is doing today is once more showing us that salvation and the kingdom of god are expressed as radical hospitality.

Throughout his gospel, Luke shows Jesus as moving from table to table, meal to meal, announcing and enacting the kingdom of god. He wants to show us one more time, with the story of Zacchaeus, what that kingdom looks like. They are nearing Jerusalem, arriving at Jericho. They are one days journey from Jerusalem. The very next day Jesus will arrive in Jerusalem. This is the final event recorded before we move into the actual passion week, the Holy Week of Jesus.

“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””

By now we are encountering what should be a familiar theme. Once again we have a tax collector, not just a regular tax collector but a chief tax collector. He is rich and he is despised. The Pharisees thought that land based wealth based on production of the land was a sign of being blessed by God. We saw before that Jesus didn’t agree with that. He didn’t agree with the assesment that you can determine God’s favor and blessing based upon wealth and riches. Nevertheless, the Pharisees thought that great wealth accrued through the production of the land was a sign of Gods favor, but wealth accrued by collecting taxes for the hated occupying gentile force of the Romans was seen as a great evil. Tax collectors and prostitutes were seen as the consummate moral outcasts, excluded from the synagogue and temple life. A chief tax collector would be seen as completely excluded from the covenant of Abraham. You might as well think of Zachaeaus as the chief of sinners.

Zacchaeus is banished from the synagogue, he can not participate from synagogue life. Being banished from the synagogue, he’s also banished from the Kingdom of God. There was a great sense of anticipation at this time. There was a great Jewish anticipation something big was about to happen. The Kingdom of God really was going to come. They believed that God was about to act decisively and definitively very soon, and would establish his reign, rule, and government among men. They were equally convinced that people like Zacchaeus would be excluded from it. They would not be a part of what God was doing. They would be left out.

But – by this time I hope you have learned that we must not be so quick to dismiss those who appear to be outside of the kingdom of God just because they don’t presently participate in accepted forms of religious life.

This is Zacchaeus’ situation. He is an outsider, an outcast. He is banned from the synagogue. Everybody views him as a despised sinner, and he will not be a part of what God is doing.

But Zacchaeus has something going for him. He is fascinated by Jesus. He has heard that Jesus is coming. Word of Jesus had spread, this prophet from Galilee who works miracles, heals the sick, helps the lame walk, the blind see. I’m sure that had gotten Zacchaeus attention.

No doubt he’d also heard about his table practice. He’d heard how this miracle worker from Galilee would also share his table with tax collectors and sinners and prostitutes and the outcasts, those who’d been banned from the synagogue. This is very fascinating to Zacchaeus.

We are told that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but not just as a celebrity. He wanted to see who Jesus is. He was fascinated by Jesus. I want to see who this guy is. What is he about? What’s he really like?

That kind of sinner is far more common than you think. Our world is filled with people who have zero interest in going to a church, but they are fascinated by Jesus. And if they see some means by which they really might actually know what Jesus is actually about and like, the are interested in that. That’s Zacchaeus…

Jesus is seeking and saving the lost. All those people that we think are on the wrong side of God, that don’t do things just as we do, Jesus wants to sit down and share a meal with them. And they are far more willing to sit down with Jesus than we, or even they, might think. Trouble is, the body of Christ in the world is far too often putting up barriers, putting conditions in coming to the table. Instead of putting up barriers, maybe we just need to wash the dishes, set the table, prepare the meal, and have a seat.

Yes, these people are messed up. But do we trust Jesus enough to simply allow him to sit down those whom we think are lost? Of course there is more to say on this, I will be back…

“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””

Luke 19:1-10 ESV

John Lewis

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Standing Firm

Looking at a central scripture for those of us in recovery, especially if you’re like me and participate in the Celebrate Recovery ministry.  It’s a verse that reminds us all how close we are to relapse at any and all times.

That verse is 1 Corinthians 10:12, So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!   This is part of a larger section which includes verses 11-13 – “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:11-13 NIV.   Israel had a long history of rebelling against God and chasing after idols.   Paul points out several of these instances leading up to this passage, as well as the consequences suffered because of their idolatry.  Consequences such as being scattered across the wilderness, kept from entering the promised land until most of a generation had passed away.  Consequences like 23,000 dead in one day.   Dying by snakes.  It even recalls that some were killed by the destroying angel.  1 Corinthians 10:10.

As Paul says, These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us.  The consequences of sin, idolatry, our addictions, is real.  Sometimes, we forget this.  We get a little bit of sober time.  We get a lot of sober time.  We get clean, we stay clean.  We claim the victory over whatever ails us.  But we forget.  We forget that those consequences are still out there.  We forget that the wrath of God, aka the consequences of our sin, our wrong decisions and choices, await us.

We forget.  We forget Paul’s warning – So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!   We forget how close we are to falling.   In recovery, we call this relapse.   For me, it’s just one drink, one bet, one click away.  That’s all it took, was just one look.  That’s all it takes.

People ask me, how do I keep from drinking??   I don’t get asked about my other issues so much, maybe because they don’t relate or it’s just taboo.   But, I do get asked about the drinking.   Y answer is always the same.  It’s not a matter of never drinking again, or how do you deal with not drinking in a world where drinking is just normal.  I’m not not drinking 12 or 24 or 30 drinks.  I’m just not drinking one.   The first one.

Whatever your temptation (whether you’re “in recovery” or not),  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.   You are not the first, or the last, to struggle with that.   It may seem that way, that no one could possibly know what it feels like to be in your shoes.   And in a way, that’s true.  None of us walks the same walk.  Each of us has a unique story.   But our struggles, this is what we have in common.  We all struggle with something in our lives.   And very often, it is in this struggle that our greatest victories might come.     For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV.  But that, I suppose, is a discussion for another day.

And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.   We all struggle, we all have some form of temptation in our lives.   But God is faithful, we are not tempted beyond what we can bear.   Paul makes this clear, so does the apostle John is his first letter –  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 ESV.   Paul says he will provide a way out of temptation and failure so that we may be able to endure it.  John tells us what that way is.    “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” Luke 8:17 ESV.  Our way out of temptation, our way out of sin, is to confess our sins If we take the way out God has provided, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   

Want freedom from your temptation, from that sin that is overcoming you?   Confess it.  To somebody.   On this point, those of us in recovery  have the advantage, we have the support of others that we might be able to share with, whether it’s an accountability partner, or better yet a sponsor.  So quickly we forget that if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!   We think we have our time, we have the chips, now we have it all together.  Until we don’t.

Those consequences, remember them?   They are still waiting.  You might forget them, they will not forget you.  Relapse, a fall, is one drink, one hit, one click away.  Think you are standing firm?   Be careful that you don’t fall.  Find someone you trust, and talk about it.  Don’t hide.  “”Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”  Isaiah 1:18 ESV.  It’s those things we keep hidden that run scarlet.

“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

1 Corinthians 10:11-13 NIV

http://bible.com/111/1co.10.11-13.niv

John Lewis

It’s Got to Be Somebody’s Fault…

It’s Got to Be Somebody’s Fault…

Going to be looking at the parable of the rich man and Lazarus,  but before that I’m going to look at what comes right before that parable.  In other words,  I’m going to set up the context in which we find that third of the most famous parables of Jesus.  We’ve already looked at the story of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and the third of these most famous parable of Christ is, indeed, the rich man and Lazarus.

Jesus doesn’t just give his parables in a vacuum, and the rich man and Lazarus is no different.  The parable is given in the context of a particular debate and it’s given to a particular people.  As was almost the case with Jesus parables, his target was….the Pharisees.

So Luke 16:13 says “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”   Did you hear that?   I hope so.  Jesus is speaking pretty plainly on this point.   You can not serve both God and money.  The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it[or ‘everyone is trying to attack it.’  I’ve read this may be a better translation here.]. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.”   

This is the setting for the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  I’m going to say again, Jesus’ entire ministry is announcing and enacting the kingdom of God.  He is announcing that kingdom of God has arrived and is arriving, and he is enacting the kingdom, showing us by action what the kingdom of God looks like.   This is the ministry of Jesus, to announce and enact god’s new government, God’s new arrangement for human society.

Jesus knows that the greatest obstacle to entering into and living in the kingdom of God instead of under the reign and rule of man is our own economic self interest.   When we are dominated by economic self interest it’s like squeezing a camel through the eye of the needle, and it’s hard.   In fact, we need Jesus help to do so, because as Jesus says, with God all things are possible.

He also says that the law and the prophets were doing their work of preparing a people who would love god and love neighbor, anticipating the coming of the kingdom of God.  But then he says The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone [is trying to attack it] (again, this may be a better translation).   The law and the prophets were anticipating the kingdom of god, but with the arrival of John the Baptist and now Jesus the Kingdom of God is breaking into the world, it’s being announced, it’s on the scene, but everyone is not happy about it.  Many are trying to attack it, because many do not like what Jesus is announcing and enacting about the kingdom of god.

So when Jesus says You cannot serve God and money,  what happens?   The Pharisees attack that – The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed himThe Pharisees were unabashedly lovers of money.   They would say they loved God as well, but they would also say “we love money too, and there’s no problem, you can do both.”    They had a theological foundation, a particular theology that endorsed that way of thinking.   Their theology came mostly from the way they read and interpreted the book of book of Deuteronomy.

The Pharisees believed that if you obeyed God he would bless you in both war and commerce.   You can read the book of Deuteronomy that way, and that’s what they believed.    If you obeyed God, you would be blessed in war and commerce, you would be successful and prosperous (sound familiar?).

The Pharisees therefore believed that success and prosperity were in fact a sign of god’s blessing.  On the other hand, poverty and failure were a sign of God’s disfavor.

Jesus disagreed.  Jesus disagreed with the Pharisees theology that success and wealth equals blessing.  Now, Jesus does not see wealth as inherently evil.   Just one example, we’ve seen the parable of the Prodigal Son, and in that parable the father, who is a wealthy man, is in fact a good man.  So Jesus does not see wealth and money as inherently evil.  In fact wealth, all things being equal, is a good thing.  But Jesus does see our economic self interest as the greatest single hindrance to our entrance and participation in the Kingdom of God.

This is why In Luke Chapter 6, Jesus begins his kingdom announcing sermon on the Plain with “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20 ESV.   When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.   That little eye of the needle for the rich man, is a wide open gate for the poor man.  He’s got nothing to lose, it’s easy to get in.

The Pharisees also viewed sickness and suffering as punishment for personal sin. Human suffering would be seen as divine punishment.  Don’t we still have some who work from thus theological system?   Don’t we hear from those to this day who twist earthquakes and tsunamis and epidemics into divine punishment for some great sin “those” people have been guilty of?!

Jesus’ disciples were working from a very similar paradigm on this as the Pharisees.  Again, Jesus disagrees.  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:2-3 ESV.  Who are we going to blame here?   The man or his parents?   Jesus says “neither”.  It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.   So, for us, when we see episodes of human suffering, we are not called to assign blame, but to relieve the suffering…

So, such is the context and background of the rich man and Lazarus…

No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

Luke 16:13-17 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.16.13-17.esv

John Lewis

Ninety-nine Sheep

ninety nine sheep

Looking at the grace of God, a grace which surpasses all human understanding and comprehension.  A grace which just makes no sense to us, because the only ways we can understand are the ways of our world, the ways we have learned and lived our whole lives.  Consider this story of a shepherd and a particular lost sheep.

Lost-Sheep

“”What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:4-7 ESV

open country

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time getting this one.  It seems simple enough, but when I really consider it, what about those other ninety-nine sheep?   Jesus tells us this man (God the Father) would leave ninety-nine sheep in the open country to chase after this one fool sheep who wanders away.   In the open countryunprotected, there would be thieves, wolves, and any number of other threats.  More could simply wander off.  What if he comes back with this one lost sheep, celebrating and thanking God, and twenty more are missing?  Then what?

wolves_at_2

It makes no sense to us (at least me) because I am too busy counting. I like to know I’m doing the right thing, making the right decision.  So why would I leave ninety-nine perfectly good sheep vulnerable to attack, unprotected, to go chasing after one scoundrel who never should have wandered off in the first place?   In trying to win back this one little sheep, I’m not going to risk losing any of my good sheep.

Name in 3D coloured lights

But here’s the thing about God and his grace – if you’re busy counting, doing the math, you’ve missed the whole point.  In the words of Philip Yancey in his book What’s so Amazing About Grace?, “Grace is not about finishing last or first; it is about not counting.”   God’s grace is a free gift, not something we can ever earn.

healthy people

God’s not doing the math.  God is not about making sure we have done ten more good things that bad things in our life so we can then somehow be found worthy of his love.  God is not even about distinguishing “bad” from “good”.  (What was that tree Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat from in the garden?)  If he were, he had ninety-nine perfectly “good” little sheep and would never have left them to chase after that one “bad” sheep.   But, as Jesus also says, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”” Luke 5:32 ESV.  That one lost sheep is the whole reason Jesus ever came…

grace2

God did not come to us in the form of Christ Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, because of how righteous we are.  He came to chase us down because we are all his lost sheep.  He comes out of heaven, walks with us on earth, joins us in our mess which we have made, and guides us back.   He is gathering his flock.  If we have been brought back into the fold, now we get to join Jesus in chasing down the rest of those lost sheep.  We are out in the open country, there are wolves watching and waiting.  If we are just standing still, how easy will it be for the wolves to pick us off?

jesus searching

So we don’t stand still.  We join Jesus in his search.  In our search, we draw closer to Him, we become more like Him.  As we become more like Him, we too begin to stop counting.  We too begin to see the value of one lost sheep.  We too will leave ninety-nine in open country to chase the one who has strayed.

harvest is plenty

There are so many lost sheep.  So many that, as Jesus tells us, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Luke 10:2 ESV.   If you are that lost sheep, Jesus will not rest until he has tracked you down.  He’s come all the way from heaven to find you.  If you’re one of those ninety-nine in the open country, the wolves are watching and waiting for their chance to strike.   Quit standing still, go with Jesus, and find that lost sheep He is looking for.

John Lewis

Change is Coming

Change is Coming.jpg

Been looking at the first couple chapters of Luke during advent and epiphany, today really just setting the stage for what comes next.

messiah

Beginning with the psalms, especially psalm 2 but others as well, then carried on by the prophets, there began to develop a picture of what Messiah would be.  Messiah in this case means “Mashiach”, the anointed one.  Anointed as in “to christen”, it’s actually where we get the word “Christ” from.   “Anointed one” means “Messiah” or “Mashiach” in the Hebrew, “Christ” in Greek.  Same word, two different languages.

samuel_anoints_david

In ancient times of Israel, kings were not crowned, they were anointed.  It was not a crown that signified royalty, but oil.  The prophet Samuel took a horn of oil and anointed Saul the first king of Israel.  Later, he would anoint David king.  Very specifically, Messiah means “anointed one”, as in anointed to be king.

messiah-prayer

In the psalms and prophets, there developed a five-fold expectation of what the Jewish king, the Messiah, would accomplish.  Yes, there were kings, but Israel was waiting for a special king who was going to come.  He would be like the Son of God.  He would be the coming king that would accomplish great things that would change the world.

raised on a cross

There were five overarching expectations of messiah.  However, none of these expectations went anything like this – “We are waiting for Messiah to come so he can die on a cross, be raised on the third day, so we can be saved and go to heaven when we die.”  No one thought anything close to this.  This is no where any  part of the expectation for Messiah.  The Jews, rather, derived their anticipation of messiah from the psalms and prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, i.e. the Old Testament.

Here is the fold job description of Messiah.

boom_evil_empire_004

1).  Messiah would rescue Israel from the tyranny of wicked, evil empires and dictators.  Through Israel’s long history they’d often been threatened and dominated by a succession of empires and dictators.  The Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Medes, Persians, Greeks, Syrians, the Romans had all joined in on the succession of empires and dictators dominating God’s chosen people.  The expectation was that Messiah would rescue Israel from that.

rebuild the temple

2). Messiah would rebuild the temple.   The idea is that the king is closely connected with the structuring or rebuilding of the temple.  This is why Herod was so interested in greatly enlarging the temple.  Though he was king, Herod was only half Jewish.  In other words, Herod was in no way qualified to be king of Israel, but the occupying force appointed him anyway.  However, Herod was a great builder.  He was a master architect.  Maybe as an attempt to establish himself as a true king of Israel to ingratiate himself with the Jews, Herod spent 46 years rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.  Not because he was a godly or pious man interested in religious things, but because he wanted to ingratiate himself with the Jews, and establish that maybe, just maybe, he was, after all, the true Messiah.

Righteousness-Of-God

3). Messiah would  restore righteousness.  Righteousness in the Bible can be understood as faithfulness to the covenant.  Israel had a long history of being unfaithful to covenant they had with Yahweh, this is why prophets would often refer to Israel as an unfaithful wife, an adulterous woman.  Israel was unrighteous in the sense of being unfaithful to the covenant.  One of visions of messiah is that he is an Israelite who would act righteously and lead the rest of Israel back into covenant faithfulness with Yahweh.

every knee will bow

4).   Messiah would rule over the nations. The vision is not just that Messiah would be the king of Israel, but Messiah would have a kingdom to dominate  all the other kingdoms.  Every knee would bow and every tongue confess Israel’s true king as Messiah.  His would be the one world government to overcome all the other governments.

Habakkuk2

5).  Messiah would reveal God to the Gentiles.  Not just any God, the the God of Israel, Yahweh, the one true God.  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Only Israel worships Yahweh.  The rest of the nations had a myriad of gods.  Messiah would make the God of Israel famous.  Gentiles would turn away from Zeus, Baal, Mars, Apollion.  Knowledge of Yahweh would cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

Jews-and-Gentiles-in-the-Gospels-2

So we see that Messiah had a big job description.  He was to rescue Israel, restore righteousness, rebuild the temple, rule over the nations, and reveal God to the Gentiles.

saint-john-the-baptist-and-jesus

Luke opens his gospel with the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. We also see many signs, Zechariah’s prophecy, Mary’s Magnificat, the angelic announcement to the shepherds, the temple prophecies of Simeon and Anna, all these things indicating the long awaiting king is about to appear.

They’ve been waiting for a thousand years for this very special king to come.   Now we have a great rush of activity.   The birth of the two babies, all the signs, the flight to Egypt recorded in Matthew.   Then all goes quiet again for about thirty years.  John and Jesus have to grow up.

St_John_the_Baptist_in_the_Wilderness_Museum_Lazaro_Galdano_Madrid

When we next see John, he is living out in wilderness.  This is in itself is significant.  John is the son of Zechariah.  His father is a Levite, a priest.  The way things work, John is supposed to be a priest, he’s supposed to follow his father in his priestly calling.  Yet John lives his lone, ascetic lifestyle.  There is a form of protest in this.  There is much we don’t get to see in the story as it is given to us.  Is his father Zechariah disappointed in John for not living into the family tradition?   Is John protesting the temple and priesthood?  Is he declaring in his minimalist lifestyle out in the wilderness that the temple is corrupt and he just won’t be a part of it??   I think this is exactly what he is doing…

jm_200_NT1.pd-P7.tiff

Jesus is living in Nazareth as the son of a carpenter. Everything is waiting.  Israel’s waited a thousand years, so much happened, then it grew quiet again, all is now waiting, waiting.  Then Luke Chapter three comes, and as we might say in the twenty first century, it’s on!!  Beginning Luke chapter three, things are happening.  What happens next is most important stuff to ever happen in the history of the world.   After a thousand years of waiting, thirty years after these two babies are born, the world is about to be changed forever.

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'””

Luke 3:1-6 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.3.1-6.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

Let It Burn??

Let It Burn??

let it burn

Looking at a prayer of discipleship to Jesus from the Psalms. On trusting in the Lord as our teacher…

trust in god
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Do we trust Him enough to believe this?? Or are we the ones who feel shame for openly professing faith in Christ? Do we profess our faith but secretly wish we could just be more like the world?? After all, it seems like they have no worries, doesn’t it?? Don’t they laugh at us in their glee, joyfully thumbing their nose at God and mocking his people.

betterway

They tell us they have a better way, and that we can do it with them, without God. Sometimes our own doubt creeps in and we start, just a little bit, to believe them. But then we open our eyes. We look around, and we can see the lie. The lie hidden behind the hustle. The lie behind the smiles and laughter. We see the world as it is, not as we would have it. We see the sub machine guns patrolling the concourse at the concerts. We see the suicide rates. We see the lost war on drugs, we see the addiction epidemic. We hear the guns firing over the busy-ness of our bustled life. We see the funerals, more now for those 18-45 than for those over 65. And we are reminded that Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Indeed.

teach me your paths
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. So we wait for Him. We sit with Him and His word. We pray to Him. We trust Him for our salvation, we know it’s only through Him that we are saved. He is the way, the truth and the life. We therefore trust that He best knows how to live that life. Because we believe Him when He tells us “…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

remember your mercy
Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord! We trust in His love, because we know God is Love. He is love, has always been love, even when we didn’t believe in His love, even when we sometimes still don’t believe in His love. He’s been love ever since In the beginning… We ask him to forgive our sins, and we know He is faithful to do that, because He is love eternal, love that was, love that is, love that is to come. Our sins are only temporary, no matter how egregious they may be. We have faith in the love of God expressed in the Son who stayed faithful to the Father and his brothers all the way through forgiving them even during the act of dying on the cross. So in our sin, we run. We run. And we run. But we can never outrun or outlast the love of God. Because love never ends. Love never fails.

instructs sinners
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. Do unto others as you would have the do unto you. Love your enemies. Forgive them not seven times, but seventy times seven. Turn the other cheek. We trust Jesus for our salvation. Seriously, who else are you hoping to trust for that?? So we trust Him to carry us off to the heaven we dream and fantasize about. A place with streets of gold, the brightest sun and bluest sky, the greenest grass, the prettiest girls, the most handsome men. We trust that he has power over our souls to take us out of the lake of fire and into paradise the day we die.

in the lake of fire
But – do would we rather be in the lake of fire while we are on earth? We trust Jesus with our souls, but do we trust Him with our lives??  Do we believe that the Jesus way will give us a better life in the here and now??  I have a serious question. What in the world makes us think we can spend our lives creating hell on earth, but that’s ok because we trust Jesus to take us out of the hell of our own creation when we die? Jesus promises us heaven, and we trust Him for that. But he also promises the abundant life, the good life. He doesn’t just promise to give us life abundantly, he teaches us how to have that abundant life.

mother-of-all-bombs-moab_650x400_51492112407
But do we love our enemies? No…we watch CNN over and over so we can see that Mother Of All Bombs kill as many as possible as quickly as possible. We secretly cheer in our hearts when we hear of another war in the Middle East, kill-em-all and maybe our world will feel a little more comfy tonight. We curse our enemies during rush hour, giving them the one finger salute at 80 MPH…maybe slightly encouraging them to find the guardrail with a swerve in the road on the way.
Jesus taught you to forgive others their trespasses, but we hold onto anger, bitterness, and malice in our hearts because we don’t like the way they apologized to us. Or we are mad on top of mad because they have not apologized at all. We’d rather keep our anger and bitterness than the relationship we’re angry and bitter is gone. But in our minds that’s better than forgiving them, and it doesn’t matter, because Jesus has forgiven me, right?  We’d just as soon hang on to our anger and pride than follow the Jesus way of forgiveness.

turn the other cheek
Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, if someone slapped us on one, we should be the kind to turn the other. If someone wants your shirt, give him your coat too. Don’t look at people as objects to be used. Give to the poor, just because they need it.

he is coming
Yeah, all this discipleship stuff, all the things Jesus taught us about how to live this life, are all optional. Because when Jesus talks about the eternal, abundant life, he’s only talking about that far away luxury resort we call heaven.  The world’s on fire, but that’s ok. Let it burn. In fact, make sure to throw more gasoline into the lake of fire. Hate and curse your enemies, that enemy love is no way to live. Let the poor be hungry, what’s that got to do with me, I gotta feed my kids! I’m not forgiving that guy, he didn’t even say he was sorry. Even if he did, I still ain’t letting go if that grudge. What he did was unforgivable!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Why bother with the teachings of Jesus. He’s coming back to set all things right. Besides, I know he’s taking me out of this lake of fire when I die, because I said my sinners prayer. Everybody else might be stuck, but I’m going to heaven when I die. Piss on ’em!!
But no, Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. We don’t throw gasoline on the lake of fire. We smother it with love, grace and forgiveness. We teach others to do the same. And maybe, just maybe, when we’ve made disciples of all the nations, when we’ve achieved peace on earth, when the bride of Christ is fully adorned and has defeated all the dragons of empire, the New Jerusalem will be realized and Christ will return triumphant.

return-of-jesus-christ
Because the great Christian hope is not that we are going, but that he is coming. He taught us how to live here to bring his kingdom and do his will, on earth as it is in heaven. Maybe it’s time we stopped throwing gasoline into the fire, stopped contributing to hell on earth, and starting working to bring the kingdom of God into fullness of glory.
One believer at a time.

“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord! Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭25:1-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/psa.25.1-10.esv

John Lewis