Protest and Parable

Protest and Parable

tissot-the-merchants-chased-from-the-temple-746x471

Back in Jerusalem, after the triumphal entry.  Jesus has cried his tears over Jerusalem and gone into the city.   He’s received the hosannas and been warned by the Pharisees.   Upon entering the city, Jesus goes into the temple.   “And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” Mark 11:11 ESV.  Notice it says he looked around at everything.   So the next day, when he actually prophetically blesses the temple, we know that it was a planned action, not a heat of the moment temper tantrum.

Jesus-curses-fig-tree

So on Monday, Jesus is headed to the temple, but first he comes upon a fig tree.  “On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.” Mark 11:12-14 ESV. Now, this is not the season for figs, and Jesus knows it.  He is enacting a parable.  He is making a point, just as the gospel writer is making a point of including it.  Jesus is using the fig tree as a symbolic representation of the temple.  Mark told us he entered the temple and looked around following his entry into the city.  Know he tells us Jesus is looking for fruit on this fig tree, and finds none.  Just as he finds no fruit in the temple.   The next morning, remember, Jesus and the disciples pass by the fig tree again.  As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God.” Mark 11:14, 20-22 ESV.  The withered fig tree which was not producing fruit, on the way to the temple which was not producing the fruit of righteousness and faith in God.

whip for the sheep and cattle

Jesus then goes back into the temple and does his prophetic reenactment of Jeremiah, driving out those inside conducting business during the Passover week.   And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”   And he was teaching daily in the temple.  Notice here it does not mention the whip, and neither do Mark or Matthew.  The only gospel that mentions the whip is John’s gospel, because John is the only one that mentions the sheep and cattle.  The whip was for the sheep and cattle, not the people.

seeking to destroy him

The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.   How about that translation – the principal men!   Those principalities and powers that control society to this day, those men who control the money, the military, and the religious institutions, as well as the spiritual forces behind them.  And what does it say about them?  It says they were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.   

jesus teaching in the temple.jpg

So Jesus is teaching daily in the temple.  Those in control of the money, the power, and religion were seeking to destroy him.  The people are hanging on his words.  Jesus is teaching in the temple about the end of the temple, while those in charge of the temple are planning the end Jesus.   They can’t arrest him during the day,  because they fear starting a riot or revolt.  Jesus remarks on this as he gets arrested a few days later – “And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”” Mark 14:48-49 ESV.

Judas

This is why Judas was so important to the story.  Jesus correctly points out that he was every day right there teaching, in the open.  They could have taken him anytime.  But they feared the people, who were hanging on his every word.  They feared starting a riot during Passover.  But Judas gives them a way, a way to take him into custody in the dark of night, away from the crowds.

Jesus

He gave them a way to fulfill their plot to put an end to this Jesus of Nazareth.  Principalities and powers to this day are trying to figure out how to put and end to this Jesus business.  He’s just so inconvenient.

end of the temple

But none of them could prevent the end of the temple.

“And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.”

Luke 19:45-48 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.19.45-48.esv

John Lewis

Flood the World

martin_john_-_the_deluge_-_1834

Continuing on thoughts from my last post.

Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_-_Appearance_Behind_Locked_Doors_-_WGA06734

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

huddled in fear

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

peace be with you 1

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

refugeees

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

 

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

zombies

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

glad

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

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

The-Commission

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

forgiveness

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

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

give

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

2013 Faith Church Final Words father forgive

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

send-me

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

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

blame game.jpg

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

satan-accuser

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

 

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

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

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

John Lewis

What a Hope!!

What a Hope!!

hope
I've been offline for a week, and need reminding myself sometimes of the great hope we have.  So, again, from the prophet Isaiah, as the poet prophet brings to an end his scroll with a prophetic vision of the end we are all moving towards.

glory of god
For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them.   In Isaiah 65, we see the vision of God creating the heavens and the earth all over again - For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth…I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.    God is still creating, it is our privilege and our responsibility, if we call ourselves Christians, to be working with Him towards this new creation.   His new creation, his holy city called Jerusalem, the peace of God, is to be a joy, not a curse to the world, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues.   When Isaiah wrote this prophecy, the time was coming.  As we read it 2700 years later…we know it is no longer the time is coming, it is the time has come!!   Christ has come!!  Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!!   For Isaiah, the time was coming to gather all the nations, for us we have been commissioned for 2000 years 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.  We are tasked to be the ones to gather all nations and tongues.  We are called be disciples of Jesus Christ, to walk in his steps, to follow him.  We are called to be the glory that they will see.

survivors to the nations
And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.    Or, as Jesus said, “And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.” Mark 13:10 ESV.   While we might think the world is a lost cause, it is exactly those lost causes Jesus came for.  “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."” Luke 19:10 ESV.  In fact, he's more interested in the lost than he is in those who are already found.  “"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?” Luke 15:4 ESV.  Jesus came seeking his lost sheep.  If we are following him, this is the job he has given us, to find these lost sheep and bring them into his fold.  To Tarshish, Pul and Lud.  To Tubal and Javan.  To the coastlands far away.  We have seen his glory.  There was a time when we could not look at the face of God, only his backside.   “Moses said, "Please show me your glory." And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The Lord.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live."” Exodus 33:18-20 ESV.   We have always wanted to see his glory, we still say show me your glory.   Isaiah tells us the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues.    We are good with that, right??  We are ready to go share the gospel with the nations and all the languages.  We have plans and ambitions to make this happen.   But Isaiah also tells  And they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them.    

Transfiguration
Moses wanted to see the glory of God, but was not allowed to see the face of God.   But 700 years after Isaiah, the apostle John would write to us “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 ESV.  There was a time when we could not see the glory of God, only his backside.   But – did Moses ever get to see the face of God??  “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.” Matthew 17:2-3 ESV.   Christ was transfigured before them, shining like the sun.  And up on Mount Tabor, Moses finally gets to see the glory of God, not just his backside.

show me your glory
There was a time when we could not see the face of God, a time when his glory was held back from us.  The law came through Moses, who was not able to see the face of God.  But that time has passed. We have seen the glory of God.  He came to earth and walked among us, showing us The Way to the Kingdom of Heaven.

death and destruction
And so we have a story to tell.  It is in the story that salvation comes to a broken world.  Because while we do live in a broken world, we do not live in a condemned world.  “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:17 ESV.  So while we might like to condemn our broken world to a grisly end of death and destruction, the LORD we serve does not.  He sent his own son to us in order that he might reestablish us in his own image, show us what that image really looks like.   The glory of God is seen in Jesus Christ.

shine-like-stars
That glory is what we seek.  And as we work with Christ to bring about his New Jerusalem, we begin to shine with Him.  “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel 12:3 ESV.  We show the world His glory in the hopes that we will walk in that glory, shining like Christ did on the Mount of transfiguration when Moses was finally shown the glory of God.

And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord. "For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 66:18-23 ESV.  This is the hope we have, that we will work with Christ and his Holy Spirit to create the new heavens and the new earth.   What a hope it is!!
clouds of heaven

“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”
Mark 13:26-27 ESV

“"For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord. "For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the Lord.”
Isaiah 66:18-23 ESV
http://bible.com/59/isa.66.18-23.esv

John Lewis

Cause and Effect

Cause and Effect

cause-and-effect-essays

From the scroll of Isaiah, a vision of the end times. Isaiah gives us a vision not of death and destruction, doom and gloom. He gives us a vision of peace, a vision of joy, a vision of hope.

New-heavens-and-new-earth

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.In the end, we will have a new heaven and a new earth. It says I create– God, Yahweh, is still creating. He is the creator God, creator of heaven and earth. He is still in the business of creation, not destruction. His creation was, and is, good, good and very good. But he is not finished. He is still building. He is still creating. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. Jerusalem, "the peace of God", is created to be a joy. In Revelation 21 we see the new heaven and new earth, the new Jerusalem being formed on the earth, God joining with man, living with his creation. This new Jerusalem is what Jerusalem was always intended to be, "the peace of God", which the apostle Paul tells us surpasses all understanding, a peace which we as yet have no comprehension of. Yet this is the peace which, if we are living as disciples of Christ and living out his great commission – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."”Matthew‬ ‭28:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬. This great commission to make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. We forget (or maybe never heard) that in both Exodus and Revelation, we are called to be a "kingdom of priests", and in Revelation it goes on to say we shall "reign on the earth". We are to not just share the Gospel, but to make disciples of all nations.  It's going to take far more than the work of Jonah, going in because we feel compelled, sharing the message of God, then getting angry that the message may or may not have been heard. We are not called to simply share the good news. We are called to make disciples of all nations. Russia. China. South Korea. North Korea. Mexico. India. The United Stated of America.

kingdom of priests
We are his kingdom of priests, called to make disciples of all the nations. Disciples to Jesus Christ. Disciples to the way of peace, love, and above all forgiveness. We are joined with God, Yahweh, through his one true Son in the project of building the new heavens and the new earth. It is upon our completion of this project, with the ever present help of Christ through the Holy Spirit, that we will see Christ coming again. What I'm saying here is that I think we have our cause and effect backward. We are to make disciples of all nationsto Jesus Christ. We tell ourselves that there will never be peace on earth until Christ returns. So we are then to just wait, make sure we make our "fair share" of converts, live our lives as best we can, and hope that if Christ returns tomorrow we will be among those taken and not among those "left behind" (which, by the way, is a MASSIVELY TRAGIC misreading and misunderstanding of Jesus' Olivet discourse).

make disciples
But I'm saying that it's the other way around. We are not waiting for Christ's return in the hope that there will finally be peace on earth. We are called, again, to make disciples of all nations. Not just read the verses, then turn and run. Jesus Christ himself was the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets. “"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. The Jewish people, and indeed the whole world, already had the Hebrew Scriptures. It's all in there. If that were enough to get the job done, Jesus would have never come in his incarnation. The point is, we have the Bible. It's all in there. But it is not enough. It's not enough to know the Bible, it's not enough to be able to teach what the Bible says, it's not enough to share the Bible with the world. Just sharing the Bible does not make disciples to Jesus Christ. It will not make disciples of all nations. The only way to bring about the new Jerusalem, to participate in the project of creating the new heaven and new earth, the only way to bring about the return of Jesus Christ in glory, is to follow him. We must do as he told us. We must live as he showed us!! It is not enough to 'tell' people about Jesus. We must 'show' them the Christ in our own lives. We must be the Christ in their lives.  

fishers of men
“And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:38‬ ‭ESV‬‬. " Jes“Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:21-22‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."”‭‭John‬ ‭13:35‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬. I share these verses just as a small sampling of what Jesus taught and showed. But the message we learn from his life is that God is love. We must be the embodied expression of that love in the lives of people here and now. Because this is how we make disciples of all the nations – by showing God's love to the world around us, one person, one believer at a time.

The-Wages-Of-Sin-Is-Death
Because it won't be Jesus second coming that will bring peace on earth. It will be peace on earth that brings the second coming of Christ. We are the instruments of that peace. We've followed the first Adam into sin and death long enough. Yes our world is a broken, sinful world. The apostle Paul told us – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The wages of sin is death, have we not figured this out yet? We know it, we say it, but then we just don't see it. Christ at the cross paid the wages of the sin in the world in his own death. Yet we keep sacrificing all the Abel's of the world at the altar of our own sinful world systems. Blood continues to cry from the ground…we just turn up the radio louder so we don't have to hear it. The endless cycle of recycled revenge is the cycle we choose. We don't get mad, we get even. We do unto others as they've done to us. Sometimes we do unto others before they do unto us. 50,000,000 dead in WWII. Hundreds of millions in various wars in China. The wages of sin is death. Tens of millions killed by the conquest of the Americas after its discovery by Columbus. The endless parade of dead bodies, blood on our hands. Just google wars and death tolls. We fight fight, fight because we are right and they are wrong. The wages of sin is death.

free gift of god
We've followed the first Adam into disobedience, sin, death and destruction long enough. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. So we now lead the world in following the second Adam. It's not enough to tell them, we must show them. If it were enough to tell about it, Jesus never had to come. But God had to show us what the fulfillment of his law and prophets looks like. He had to show us what He looks like. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬. God looks like Jesus. It is in the resurrection of Christ that God the Father affirms – "That's it!! That's how you do it!!" So we follow Jesus, we show Jesus to the world around us. We make disciple one person at a time, until our project is completed to make disciples of all nations.

jesus-second-coming
We participate with him to make way for the second coming of the Lord. Of course, he never actually left us.
“"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain," says the Lord.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭65:17-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.65.17-25.esv

“and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel."”

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭19:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/exo.19.6.esv
“and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭5:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/rev.5.10.esv

John Lewis

“Cogito Ergo Sum”

Cogito-Ergo-Sum-Cat-e1403041889132

“I think, therefore I am.” Or in Latin – “Cogito ergo sum.” As it first appeared in French – “donc je suis.” A well meaning man’s effort to get to the basic of being, of exactly who we are. Rene Descartes was a devout Catholic and believer in the resurrected Christ, but Descartes wanted to be able to know. He wanted to know beyond all doubt why he was here, and that he existed. So, the cogito, as it came to be know, became the basis for just about all modern western philosophy. We believed, and maybe still believe, that this gave us a secure foundation for knowledge in the face of radical doubt. A fuller version was later given, “I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am.” While all other knowledge could be an illusion, imagination, lie, or just wrong, Descartes asserted that as long as one doubts one’s own existence, that at least proved the existence of the mind which doubted, which thereby proves the existence of the entity which has the mind which doubted. It proved the existence of self. And so the enlightenment was born, and we’ve being seeing the world through the lens of our self ever since.

descartes_i_think____theref
But there is one problem with Rene Descartes revelation. Descartes expressed his thought, indeed thought his thought, “Cogito ergo sum,” in a language. Whether it was originally thought in Latin or French, I do not know the inner machinations of the mind of Rene Descartes, but I do know this – he thinks, therefore he is, in a language. A language which he did not create. A language which he did not think up himself. A language which he received from someone who taught him to speak in that language. To think in that language. Because such is the nature of language.  We don’t invent, create, or make up the language we speak. We simply receive it. It is a gift given to us by the community in which we are raised. You can’t buy it.  You don’t work for it.  It is passed down to us, given to us by the society and culture in which we are raised.  It can only come from the generations that have gone before.

learning to talk
What is my point? The point is that, if we think, therefore we are, then even by that self-centered philosophy, without the community around us to give us that language to think in, we do not exist. You can not even think outside of the freely given gift of language from the community in which you were born.  Because without that language, you cannot even form a rational thought in your own mind. That language you did earn, did not work for and did not invent. You just received it, your free gift for being. So, we think therefore we are. But we don’t even exist, we are not, without that free gift of language from the community we are born into.

Glasses on Open Bible
And so it is with our Christian faith. We didn’t invent it. We didn’t make it up. We couldn’t and wouldn’t make that up anyway, would we? We receive it. Christianity, like the free gift of salvation which it offers, is only a received faith. It is passed down from generation to generation. The doctrine of the Trinity, father, God and Holy Spirit. We didn’t come up with, or invent that. That Christ died for our sins…we didn’t make that up. That we may like to go to heaven and not the gates of hell, we did not create that ourselves. We learned that, we received this hope.

justgivemejesus
Yet, so many of us claim that we can do it on our own. ‘I don’t need church, I just need Jesus.’ ‘I have my bible, I don’t need no stinking church or no stinking church people!’ To which we should ask the question, which Jesus, and what Bible? Tell me about them. Tell me about this Jesus which you have your personal relationship with.  

Moses Receiving the Law Exodus 31:18
Because everything we know, and everything we think we know, about Jesus, we know from the community of faith and believers who passed that down through the generation. You didn’t make any of it up yourself. You did not receive it through your own personal divine revelation.  It took the early church at least 400 years, with all the best and brightest minds, using all the methods they had learned from Greek and Roman philosophy, to come up with the doctrine of the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ‘But its in the bible!’ Of course its in the Bible. It always was. But, without the traditions that have been handed down from the church, you would and could not pull that out of the Bible. In other words, if you had never heard of Christianity, Jesus Christ, or any of the stories, you could be locked into a room for a year with the Bible, read 8 hours a day, six days a week. And when you were finished, we could ask you to tell us about God. And you most definitively would not start explaining to us about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You would not start giving us atonement theories. You would not start explaining how we are justified by faith. It’s all in the book. But just reading it on your own, without the stories and beliefs which we have received as believers (and even as unbelievers), we would arrive at none of these conclusions on our own.

trinity
And let’s talk about the Bible. Where did it come from? You don’t need no stinking church – but who do you think created the Bible you claim to rely on? Yes, it was inspired, through 40+ writers, multiple languages, over 1500 years, by the Holy Spirit. But it was compiled, gathered, canonized, and organized by the very church which you claim you don’t need. It did not just fall from heaven into your lap.

love-one-another-crosses
Christianity is not a solo project. A lone Christian is no Christian at all. Christ’s most basic commands would be impossible. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” John‬ ‭13:35‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John‬ ‭13:34‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “”This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John‬ ‭15:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬. So, if you don’t need or want the church, just Jesus – what, exactly, are you to with this commandment to love one another?  This is just a small sample, that command comes over and over again. And again. If you are a Lone Ranger Christian, do you just ignore this? Because it seems it would be hard to love one another without the one another. Reminds me of the old Billy Idol (an apt name) song “Dancing with myself”.

baptism
We don’t do this alone. Our Christian faith is a shared faith. The most basic, sacramental elements of our faith are communal in nature. You can’t baptize yourself, you can’t partake in the body and blood of Christ, broken for you, by yourself.

sacraments
Why would you want to do it on your own? This occurred to me on stage giving a CR lesson last Friday night, a lesson called “admit”. The apostle Paul tells us to “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians‬ ‭6:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬. We obey the law of Christ by sharing and carrying each other’s burdens. And we know the law of Christ – to love God and love neighbor. And of course, this little thing of love one another. But this us what came to me on stage last Friday night – that in following Paul’s command of sharing each other’s burdens, we accept Jesus’ invitation to “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We, the church, are all part of the body of Christ, correct? Correct! So, when we share each other’s burdens, when you share what’s burdening you with your brother or sister, you are sharing that burden with Jesus Christ himself. The way we come to him, is by coming to his body, the church. You come to the church by coming to the individual members, one another.

confess you sins
James, the half brother of Jesus, tells us “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Again, that one another thing. This is how we find healing, how we begin to walk in the light of Christ and our own salvation. This is where healing begins!! We come to each other, one another, we pray for and with each other. We can not do it alone. We weren’t made to walk alone. I don’t care what your radio tells you.

come to me

Accept Jesus’ invitation.  If you are laboring, heavy laden, weary, he will give you rest.  Take his yoke upon you.  It’s where you will find rest for your soul.  Come to church, find the body of Christ, find rest for you souls.  Our yoke is easy, our burden is light.

come unto me
Cogito ergo sum. Except that without the community to walk with you, give you that language, pass down that faith, you can’t even think on your own. About God, Jesus, or anything else.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.11.28-30.esv
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

‭‭James‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jas.5.16.esv
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/gal.6.2.nlt

John Lewis

 

Love and Truth

Love and Truth

truth-in-love-300x270

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

upper-room-discourse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

‭‭John‬ ‭15:9-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Frogs and False Prophets

Frogs and False Prophets

Bullfrogs

Jesus continuing his sermon on the mount, giving us the hard truth that not all who claim his name will be what they seem.

wolf in sheeps clothing
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. This was a hard teaching of Jesus that remains difficult. Beware of false prophets. Remember the teaching that just preceded this, “”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 ‭7:13-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Jesus goes right from this into teaching about the false prophets, those who might teach exactly the opposite of this. ‘Follow Jesus – he will give you everything you want!’ ‘If you want to be healthy, wealthy and wise, Jesus has a plan for you!!’   

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. They don’t teach about loving enemies. They don’t talk about turning the other cheek. They don’t teach the hard truths about forgiveness, the truth that most of the time, we are to be the forgiving one, not the forgiven one. These don’t make people feel good, they don’t inspire “generous giving“. They don’t teach the hard things, because while they may look like sheep on the outside, they just come eat the sheep, using us for their own purposes, to fulfill their own desires.

bad fruit
They might even teach the hard things. The thing about the wolf in sheeps clothing, sometimes you just have to ignore what they say, but watch instead what they do. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. What is the state of their own relationships?? How well do they apply the teachings of Jesus in their own lives? Are they forgiving of others themselves? Do you see them holding grudges, bearing anger? Do they respond to evil with evil? Or do they exhibit those fruits of the spirit, “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Do you see the fruit of obedience in their lives??

false_teachers
Now, I just can’t leave this out. Because false prophets still exists today, inside our own churches for sure. But what about the false prophets outside the church. The false prophet we are far more prone to fall for in this day and age. The false prophet of empire…

frog_spirits
“And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.” ‭Revelation‬ ‭16:13-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬. From the mouth of the dragon and the beast, and the false prophet, the spirits like frogs. The frogs of empire. Yes…in Revelation the dragon and the beast are symbols used for empire, those large, rich, powerful nations who claim a manifest destiny to rule the nations and shape the world as they would have it, in their own image. And from their mouths come the frogs of empire, croaking out with glee the anthem of the beast. Every conflict, every riot, every shooting, now more than ever, we listen to the demonic frogs of the empire. We have a 24 hour news cycle, 24 hours of talking heads telling us who’s side we should be on, who’s right and who’s wrong, which “us” we are for and which “them” we are against. This is who we are for, that’s who we are against. They make their own disciples among all the nations, pitting one group against another, all to their own glory and benefit.

24 hour news
Know one thing for sure, we are not called to be disciples of the frogs of empire. The manifest destiny to rule the nations does not lie with the dragon, it does not lie with the beast, or any if its false prophets or frogs. God reserves that power to his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. All those frogs of empire will fade away, but the name of Jesus Christ will go on forever. The beast thought it had him killed, they even had him buried. The beast keeps trying to kill Him. But He just keeps rising again.

frogs of empire
We are not called to be disciples of the frogs of empire. We are called to be disciples of the slaughtered little lamb who defeats the dragons and the beasts of empire by the shedding of his own blood.

Laura Sotka after Grunewald, 2012

“”Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:15-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.7.15-20.esv
“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:29-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/act.20.29-30.esv
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭2:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/2pe.2.1-3.esv

John Lewis