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

Called Out

Called Out

Good Shepherd

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

freedom fighters

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

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

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

american goat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‭‭John‬ ‭10:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Even at Work

hard at work

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

saints and sinners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

SONY DSC

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

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:23-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Do as He says…

jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

forgive
Love God. Love neighbor. Love and pray for our enemies. How about forgiving others? “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew‬ ‭6:14-15‬ ‭ESV

‬‬
Uh-oh.
Who’s disciple are you?

 

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

‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:46‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Kingdom Come!!

Thy Kingdom Come

Looking at one of my favorite passages in the Bible this morning. I’m sure I’ve done this before, but there’s a lot to be said about this section of scripture, and this is just where I’m led today.

In Luke 24, after the resurrection of Jesus. It’s been a long week for the followers of Jesus. They entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday expecting a showdown which would result in Jesus being crowned King of the Jews. They already had a king, King Herod, but he was just an imposter, the official puppet king of the Roman Empire.

HerodtheGreat2
They had gone to Jerusalem with such high hopes. They believed in Jesus, believed he WAS the Messiah, the savior, the one who would rescue them from Roman domination. But things had gone so very wrong, one of the twelve had betrayed Jesus, making it possible for the temple police to come and arrest him under the dark of night and not start a riot (did you not know that Jesus was VERY popular?). From that point it was very easy for the temple officials and priests to manipulate the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and use the crowds in Jerusalem to get what they wanted – the end of Jesus.

Baburen_Arrest
So Jesus had his sham trials and was crucified that Friday morning, and was dead and buried by Friday night. Now it was late Sunday afternoon, and it was time to get back to life for his followers. Jesus mission to Jerusalem had failed. There had been rumors that day of same strange happenings and goings-on, but it still seemed as if all their hopes had died with Jesus that Friday.

Emmaus-Road
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. What is it about the resurrected Jesus that even those followers who had been closest to him – think Mary Magdalene at the tomb, even John, Peter, and the rest of the eleven by the shore of Galilee, and also these disciples here – did not recognize him? These disciples are walking along the road, the road of life, talking about Jesus and all the happenings in Jerusalem of the past few days. They had believed in Jesus, they were among his followers, they knew Jesus. Yet they were so wrapped up in their conversations about Jesus and all that had happened that they could not recognize him when he was walking right beside them.

jerusalem
And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Jesus even speaks to them, and they don’t recognize him.

jm_200_NT2.pd-P21.tiff
And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” They don’t recognize Jesus standing next to them, but they surely gave a pretty good grasp of what’s gone on regarding him the past few days. These were not časual followers, they were not uninterested observers. Clearly they were serious followers of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel.

oh foolish ones
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. They were serious followers of Jesus, but Jesus has to tell them ‘You don’t know your Bible very well, do you?’ It’s too bad we don’t see what exactly Jesus shared here, but it says he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So maybe he shared the story of Joseph, maybe he told how Joseph had been rejected by his brothers, had suffered that rejection, suffered being thrown in the pit and imprisoned for sins he did not commit, yet stayed true to the father and ultimately was seated at the right hand of Pharaoh, 2nd in command of the most powerful empire in the world. And Joseph, when his brothers who had rejected came in dire need and in danger of starvation, did not seek vengeance but instead showed mercy to his brothers.

david-spares-sauls-life
Maybe he shared the story of David, who had to suffer under King Saul, yet when he had the chance to kill him, he too showed mercy. Of course, much later, it was David who needed and sought mercy from the Lord for the evil he had done, and of course he received mercy, because as Jesus himself had taught, “”Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬.
It says he started with Moses, who was rejected by his own people, lived in hiding in the wilderness for forty years, all but forgotten before God used him. He probably talked about Isaiah, who told us that Messiah would be a suffering servant, and Zechariah, who said the coming king would be pierced.

broke the bread
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. So now their walk is at an end, their time with the stranger is coming to a close. He is going to walk further, but they ask him to stay, the night is coming soon. So he stays, a welcome dinner guest, but at some point the guest becomes the host. Maybe he asks, maybe he doesn’t, but he takes the bread, blesses the bread, he breaks the bread. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. They had walked at least two hours with Jesus, walking and talking and listening. But these two disciples of Jesus, even though they had known him in life, did not recognize the resurrected Christ. He walked with them, he talked with them, he shared from the Bible with them. But they did not recognize him until he blessed and broke the bread. Then, just like that, he was gone.

breaking bread
They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” Now they see that it was Jesus walking with them all along, listening to them, sharing the scriptures with them, comforting them. It was only after the fact that they knew it was Jesus. There are times in our own lives that we encounter Jesus on the road, but just like these Emmaus Road disciples we almost never recognize Him until after the fact, after it’s over. It is almost always in hindsight that we can look back and say to ourselves ‘Yes, that was Jesus.’ But we also encounter Jesus in the bread of our shared sacrament, the ‘breaking of the bread.‘ And also just like these Emmaus Road disciples, we can almost always recognize Him in that breaking of the bread. We encounter Jesus both in our own surprising stories and in our shared sacrament.

fills all things
On the road of our lives, just like Easter Sunday on the Emmaus Road, CHRIST IS RISEN!! He is alive and risen, not just a dying man resuscitated, but a dead man resurrected. He went into death, fully experiencing all it means to die a physical death. But God the Father raised him in glory on the third day, vindicating his sinless life and his “Jesus Way” of co-suffering love and unlimited forgiveness. In doing so, he also destroyed sin and death, and us capable of being present to all people all the time. “And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” Ephesians‬ ‭1:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

resurrected
Because he is resurrected and alive!!!, Jesus will remain unpredictable to us. We can, and should, expect to encounter him in unexpected ways. He will come to us in the kindness of strangers, and certain providential circumstances. The body of Christ is sometimes the embodied presence of Jesus, bringing exactly what we need. We will understand later that it was Jesus at work.
Encountering Jesus on the road of life is unscheduled, hard to recognize, and uncommon. We all have these moments, but for most of us, we can count them on one hand. But – we can encounter Jesus on a regular basis, and know we are encountering him as we do it. This is done through sacrament – or in the breaking of the bread.

road of life
We can encounter Jesus on the road, and when we do we will be surprised. It doesn’t happen often. It is individual, rare and unscheduled – we almost never see Him coming.
Or, we can encounter Jesus in the bread, and this is communal, common and scheduled. We never have to miss it, in fact. Many churches do it every worship service. Many do it monthly, some less frequently.
However often, every time we break the bread as He taught us, we know we are encountering Christ. And learning to recognize Him in the bread can only help us to recognize him on the road. Connecting with sacrament, intentionally, helps open our eyes and connects us to what we sometimes miss on the road of life.
And yes, Jesus IS in that bread which we break and that wine which we drink. He is both in the bread and in the cup. It is NOT mere symbolism. It IS sacred mystery. We can not explain, nor do we try. But we do confess. That is because we are sacramental and not secular. We will explain that which we can explain but we will simply confess far more than we can ever explain. And sometimes in the life of faith, confession is far more important than explanation.

cup of blessing
The apostle Paul tells us “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Paul has every chance to tell us that this is mere symbol, but he does not. In fact the word he uses here is translated as “participation” means far more than that. It means fellowship, communion, joining in, sharing, giving together. We are joining together with Christ in his broken body and spilled blood. Just like these Emmaus Road disciples, it is in the breaking of the bread that we can join together with Christ even today.
Jesus Himself had a lot to say on this in John chapter 6 after feeding the 5000. “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”” John‬ ‭6:48-51‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Are you following? Our ancestors ate manna from heaven, yet they all perished. Jesus is the bread from heaven which all can eat from and never perish.

death-of-Jesus
Continuing on, “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” John‬ ‭6:53‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood…we have no life in us. The flesh of Jesus is both human and divine. Jesus’ blood is both human and divine. Again, don’t try to explain it. But Jesus tells our problem right here – we have no life in us. We are dead in our sins. We are sick. Why, when Jesus tells us so often that we are sick, are we simply looking for a lawyer? We need a doctor, the great physician Himself. Jesus gives us the cure for our sickness, it is his body and his blood. This is the cure for the disease of death that flows through us. We receive this through the bread and wine of communion.

crucified
Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”” ‭‭John‬ ‭6:54-58‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The Kingdom of God has come. These Emmaus Road disciples thought that because Jesus was killed, the kingdom did not come. They were wrong. The true Kingdom had arrived. But – this meant big changes for the world as they knew it. Up until this point, the kingdom of God had come through the temple, and it’s whole system of hierarchy and domination.

temple
After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the kingdom no longer comes through a temple, but a table. There are no longer the ever shrinking circles of exclusion of the temple. There is no hierarchy or domination (no matter how hard we try to bring that back). There is always more room at the table. We might feel it’s getting a little crowded, maybe we try to squeeze some out, especially those people. Jesus just says ‘stop that’ and tells you to move over. Because there’s always more room at the table, and all who want to come are welcome.

table of christ
“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Communion is not symbol, its sacrament. Where in the words of Jesus (or Paul) does anyone get the idea that it’s only symbolic? This is a sacred mystery given to us by Christ himself. I don’t understand it, I don’t try to understand it, I don’t have to understand it. But I do believe and confess it, just like I believe and confess that Jesus Christ is the true Son of God who died so that my sins might be forgiven.
The communion table, the center of the Kingdom of God come to earth. All are welcome, and there’s always room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭24:13-35‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.24.13-35.esv

John Lewis

Change We Can Believe In

Change We Can Believe In

changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sarah-carter-april-may_-2
Think about the power of asking. Think about your children. How difficult is it to say “no” to those little ones, especially when they say ‘pleeeeease!” Or even think about the other side. How much trouble do we go through to avoid someone we think might ask us for something? How often do I avoid certain streets, or avoid eye contact, because I’m trying to avoid that convicting “please sir?” When your boss asks you to get something done, how hard and long will you work to accomplish it? There is power in the request. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

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

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

The Bible
Just how is that working out??

 

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

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Just Ask

Just Ask

Eager-to-help

And now, continuing the thoughts about not condemning and manipulating through judgment and our “helping” them. Exactly how in the world do we go about actually “helping” someone if we can’t, don’t and won’t condemn them and their behaviors, and if we don’t force our will upon them by showing and telling them our more correct ways of living and doing things?

ask
Jesus’ answer to this question is concise, stunningly effective, and infinitely powerful. And all the self help books, counseling sessions, and therapeutic drugs fall far short of the answer Jesus gives us.

pearls-of-wisdom
Just as “turning the other cheek”, forgiving those who have hurt us, and praying for our enemies radically changes our relationship to others, this too radically changes how we relate to others. It’s another step in the process of learning to live in the kingdom Jesus brings. We need to accept and understand that as long as we condemn our friends and family, or are constantly pushing our “pearls of wisdom” on them, we are their problem. And they will respond to their problem, usually judging us right back, and “biting” or “attacking” us in the process. We remember what we had just read in Matthew 7:6‭‭ “”Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

battle of wills
But when we back off, when we give up condemnation, manipulation and seeking our own will in someone else’s life, we are no longer the problem. We don’t judge them, and they aren’t forced to judge and attack us in return. They don’t have to protect themselves from us. And maybe, we can be a potential ally, a resource, a friend and not an enemy. Maybe they can open up. Maybe they can begin to see the situation they have created as the problem instead of you or me. Maybe they can begin to see themselves as the problem. And because we are not trying to force them into a solution of our own creation before we (or they) actually understands the problem, maybe we can actually have real communication and work with one another, not against one another.

ask-seek-knock
And so Jesus gives us his answer to what plagues so much of our interpersonal relationships and our lives in general. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

ask-for-the-business
When we are living in and for the Kingdom of the heavens, we don’t judge, we don’t condemn, and we don’t manipulate. We ask. If we have a friend or loved one in whom we see something that needs to be changed, how often does it work if we just demand the change we seek? How well does it work when we force our will and good intentions upon them? How effective is it to simply point out their shortcomings and tell them all the things we think they need to change? Even if we get our loved one to submit to what we think or know is good and right, very often we know it is like the little boy whose mother hounds him to sit down when he is darting around like little boys do – “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!” And we all know it’s just a matter of time before he’s standing up again, whether his mother likes it or not.

letmehelpo
So just as we go before God and ask in prayer for what we need, so we ask our loved ones to change, and are willing to help in any way we can. We ask them to change, and we go in prayer and ask God to help them make the changes that need to be made. One is a natural extension of the other.

jesus-washing-apostles-feet
We will find that as long as we respect them before God, are thoughtful and considerate, we can keep asking, seeking and knocking on the door of their lives. Jesus’ teaching here is first applied to our dealings and relationship to others, not to God. The heart lies within a man, and the way to the heart is through a simple request, not demanding they make the changes we want or condemning them for not doing so.
“Asking is indeed the great law of the spiritual world through which things are accomplished in cooperation with God and yet in harmony with the freedom and worth of every individual.” – Dallas Willard

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

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis