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

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

Leaking Foudations

Water damaged and moldy basement wall

Jesus, the great civil engineer, talking about foundations of rock and foundations of sand.

house on the rock

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

water issues
I’ve been told that every house has water issues. There is nothing you can do about it. Water is going to come. Whether these water “issues” becomes the ruin of a house depends on what systems are in place for dealing with that water.

caught in a storm
So it is with the storms of life. We can run, but we can’t hide. In this life, in this broken world, we will be tried. We will be tested. There will be storms to rock and challenge our foundations. These storms can (and will) come from every direction, in every form we can imagine. Jesus captures that for us with the pictures he paints in our mind. And the rain fell – we can be attacked from above. And the floods came – the attacks can come from underneath us. And the winds blew and beat on that house – attacks can blow in from every direction. As Jesus himself had said before – “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes…” ‭‭John‬ ‭3:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬. These days, we think we know where it’s coming from and where it’s going, yet still, the wind can just come and blow us away. We hear it’s sound, we know it’s there, we even know it’s coming. But there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

jesus-christ-images-3
But we can build our house on the rock. And as Paul told us in his letter to the Corinthians – For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Christ is our rock. He is our foundation. We come to him in faith, we profess our faith openly to him. Then we follow.

jonah-and-the-whale
We follow because we believe. Not just an external belief, but we believe in our hearts that Christ rose from the dead. We believe Christ rose from the dead, therefore we have our sign that he knew what he was talking about. “But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” Matthew‬ ‭12:39-42‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of the unwilling prophet, the Queen of Sheba came seeking the wisdom of Solomon. We are judged by the men of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba, because we have the sign of Jonah. Jesus spent three days in the belly of the earth, he has been vindicated by the father as being greater than Jonah and wiser than Solomon. So, we believe in our hearts Jesus was raised from the dead, and we listen to him.

rock was christ

We don’t know where, when or how these storms will come. They could be a natural disaster to test our resolve, our faith in God, our trust in him. We could get a flirty new coworker who’s not so hard on the eyes (or ego). We might (will) be challenged this week simply driving to work. The storms and temptations of life will come. Is your foundation built on the rock? Will your house be the one that did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. The rock that is Jesus Christ.

road rage
Have you overcome your anger so that you don’t wind up plucked off at 80 mph?? Have you stopped looking at people as objects to be used, or stopped being controlled by your lust and desire, so that every pretty face, handsome smile, or flirty wink and smile might cause water to begin seeping in? Are you ready to dump people at the nearest exit as soon as they don’t fill some need or desire in your life? Are you ready to carpet bomb the entire Middle East because you disagree with someone on CNN?
Or – are will willing to return good for evil. To return forgiveness instead of vengeance. To put the needs and desires above our own. Even if we don’t understand their needs or desires?? Are we willing to pray for those who offend us? Do we believe in forgiveness seventy times seven? Or will we take vengeance seven times over? If I stomp your toe, can I expect a broken leg in return?

violence
And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. Will we seek vengeance, or pray for our enemies? Are we generous, or only seeking attention? Do we believe God sent his son to save the world, or only that part of the world that looks and acts like us?? Our salvation depends on the answers to these questions. Eternity does not begin when we die – our eternal life begins the say we are born into this broken world. Will we spend our days working with Jesus to bring his new Jerusalem? Or will we spend our time participating with hell on earth and leave that new Jerusalem and God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven to some other generation?

abundant life.jpg
Jesus gave us a way to live life that we “may have life and have it abundantly.” John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Do we believe him? Or are we those whose foundation us built on sand? Those who say the sinners prayer, check that box, claim for ourselves “once saved, always saved”, yet are just hearers, and not doers, of his word? Are we really just about fulfilling our own desires in Jesus’ name?

abide in him
“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭2:17‬ ‭ESV

 

“”Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.””

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:24-27‬ ‭ESV

‬‬http://bible.com/59/mat.7.24-27.esv
“…For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:4‬ ‭ESV

‬‬
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” ‭‭James‬ ‭1:22‬ ‭ESV

‬‬
“For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” Romans‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭ESV

‬‬
“Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭3:7‬ ‭ESV

‬‬
“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭2:17‬ ‭ESV

‬‬

John Lewis

Our Will Be Done…

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

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

lord lord.png

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

souls flying to heaven

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

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

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

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

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

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

born-again-jesus

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

repent
It is only then that we can begin to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:30-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬. It is only then that we can do the will of my Father who is in heaven. 

YouMustBeBornAgain

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

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

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:21-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Honor Your Father and Mother

Honor_Your_Father_Mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭20:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Show Us The Father

Show Us The Father

4th of July

The day after the 4th of July.  It’s Wednesday, “hump day!”  What greater day could there ever be?? It is a day which has been filled with the presence of Jesus Christ, as is every other day. Because, after all, he “…fills all things everywhere with himself.” ‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

in my mothers womb

The world is burning with the glory of God. We do know this, just as we know that it is he who “…made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalms‬ ‭139:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬. We know his love, we feel the awe and wonder of our creation. But do we understand the nature of the one who made all of nature? Do we understand the nature of the one who knit us together in our mothers womb, yet also created the whole cosmos, of which our galaxy, with its tens of thousands of stars, us apparently just one of billions of galaxies?? And when I say billions, that is as in hundreds of billions of galaxies. We see the wonders on our own, tiny blue planet, and while we can know there are billions of not just stars but galaxies out there, can we even begin to truly comprehend the magnitude of what God created? We think we have a diverse planet. Imagine the unknown, untapped, and incomprehensible diversity in just this galaxy. Then try to wrap our heads around hundreds of billions of galaxies. Just think…there are only 6 billion people on our planet, there might be 50 galaxies for every human being, maybe more. The psalmist had no knowledge of any if this, but he could see enough to ask “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭8:3-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬. What is man, and how can we ever understand the nature of the one who created all of this creation??

lord show us the father
Jesus gives us some insight on a tiring, harsh night with his disciples. Jesus was talking much this night. He had washed the disciples’ feet. He had predicted Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. He had talked much about love and about the father. Finally, Phillip has heard enough, and he just wants to cut to the chase. “Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Can you feel Phillips frustration? ‘You keep talking about the father, the father, the father!! If you would just show him to us, that’s all we would need!!’ To which Jesus replies “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

god the father
Read this again. Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. He’s been with us for so long, yet we still do not know Him. Because we read this, and we just find this to be unbelievable. By which I mean, we just don’t believe it. I mean, do you believe it? Can the nature, the character, of God, creator of the whole cosmos, be the character of we see in Jesus? The answer, if we believe in Him who said so, is a resounding YES!!
What does this mean?? It means that the character we see in Jesus with the woman sitting by the well is the character of God the Father. It is the character of one humble enough to ask the Samaritan woman for water to drink and loving enough to offer her ‘living water’. The character of one who does not condemn her for having has 5 husbands and living now with another who she had not even bothered to be married to, but instead offers her salvation.

jesus-heals-lame05
The character of God the Father is the character of the one who, when he found a man sitting by a pool for thirty-eight years, waiting for salvation that was seemingly always just out of his reach, he doesn’t condemn him, he heals him in the spot. Even though it was the sabbath, even though “the rules” said ‘you can’t do that on the sabbath!!’

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset
It’s the character of the one who, when his disciples wanted to tell the people to go home and fend for themselves, “Jesus said, “Have the people sit down…” John‬ ‭6:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Then he proceeds to feed 5000 men, plus the women and children, maybe 15-20,000 people in all. Did I mention he fed them with 5 fish and a couple pieces of bread? Because, after all, he is the creator of the universe and the master of all molecules!!

Water into Wine
It’s the character of the one who, when wine ran out before the feast was supposed to be over, turned 5 jugs of water into 150 gallons of the finest wine. The party wasn’t over. Get this through our heads. Jesus, in whose name we judge and condemn those who would consume so much wine, did not judge or condemn. He made more wine. Because with Jesus, in whose name has come so much judgment and condemnation, the party never ends. The party still hasn’t ended. It’s found every Sunday at communion tables around the world. It’s found in every believer who’s discovered the truth about Jesus. The truth about the Father who sent him. The truth that with him, and only with him, all the sour grapes, all the rotten water, all the troubles of our lives can be turned into the finest wine. And the party will go on.

he touched his ear and healed him
The nature of the Father is the nature of the one who went to the cross as a common criminal with common criminals on our behalf. It’s the nature of the one who, when his star disciple cut off the ear of one who was coming to arrest him and take him to his own tortuous death, he said “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.” Luke‬ ‭22:51‬ ‭ESV‬‬. It’s the nature of the one who, while dying upon the cross, with the guards shooting dice for the last of his clothing, cried out from the cross not for vengeance but forgiveness. “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke‬ ‭23:34‬ ‭ESV

father-forgive-them-for-they-know-not-what-they-do-janos-vajda

‬‬
He’s been with us so long, yet we still do not know him. Because we just can’t wrap our heads around the fact that yes, God is exactly like Jesus. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John‬ ‭1:18‬ ‭NIV

father and son

‬‬

“Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

‭‭John‬ ‭14:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jhn.14.8-9.esv

John Lewis

How to Move Mountains

How to Move Mountains

Dangerous Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

knockin'
Because Jesus asked, seeked, and knocked.

peter preaching pentecost

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

‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:31-34‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis