The Truth Will Set You Free

The Truth Will Set You Free

the-truth-shall-set-you-free

I’ve had this ready for over a day now.  Due to the vagaries of life and my “day” job, I have not been able to take the time to post this, which is too bad because I thing it’s an important subject.  I’m going to start doing things a little different for now, and schedule my posts for 6:30 PM on a regular basis.   Maybe this will be better than just my random post times.  Also, I still have to figure out days of the week and get more regular in my postings.  Not too oversimplify, but myself and my blogging are both a work in progress.  After reading this post, many of you may not want to read my writing anymore regardless of the time or the day.  So, here goes nothing…

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Collective murder and the lies we tell ourselves about it. Lies we still need to be set free from…

truth will set you free
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus is speaking here to Jews, probably Judeans, who had believed in Him. They had recently come to believe Jesus was Messiah, that he was indeed Israel’s true king. A “belief” of which Jesus seems more than a little skeptical. He says ok, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. It’s great that you believe in me, and that you want to follow me. But if you stick with my teaching, you’re eyes will be opened up to some things you need to be made free from. These disciples were looking for a Messiah for sure. They were looking for a Messiah to lead them in their war of independence from Rome. Was Jesus the one to pick up the sword and lead them in their war, or not?? These would-be new disciples don’t handle what Jesus says to them about truth and freedom very well. They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

out of the temple
I’m proud to be an Israelite, at least I know I’m free! Something like that, right? Jesus tells them they need to be set free, they declare that they are free!! (So just why were they looking for a Messiah, anyway?). By the time this scene is finished, this crowd would be looking to stone Jesus. So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. So much for being new believers in Christ!
The truth Jesus was telling these believers they needed to be set free from was no bumper sticker slogan. The truth Jesus brings in John chapter 8 incites this crowd of would be disciples first to insult their Messiah, then to try to kill him.

pilate
For these Judeans coming to Jesus, the freedom they sought was political. Their truth was the same as Pilate’s truth, the power to kill. “So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”” John‬ ‭19:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Their idea of freedom was that freedom came from power, especially power over their enemies. Freedom for them was a euphemism for lethal power – Pilate’s power to kill. When you have the power and the will to kill your enemies, you will be “free”. But for Jesus, freedom in the form of lethal power is not true freedom. Freedom is the liberation from sin, especially the sin of collective killing.

children of Abraham
Sound like a stretch? Here’s Jesus’ response to their declaration the they are children of Abraham. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. This conversation has gone way off the tracks!! Remember, these are not the scribes or Pharisees that Jesus was continually at odds with. These are Jews who had begun to believe in Jesus. Also remember that they had probably either just witnessed or maybe participated in a public stoning of a woman in adultery which Jesus had stopped by putting the onus back on the individual, cutting through the demonic mob mentality that controls such scenes (Let he who is without sin…). If they were actually listening and hearing what Jesus was teaching them, they would have known killing was incompatible with the way Jesus was leading them. Jesus knows the foundation of the crowds “freedom” was violence and murder. Freedom was another word for the power to kill their enemies. The crowd says “we’re talking about freedom”. Jesus says, “no, you’re talking about killing.” Jesus was revealing a truth about themselves which this crowd is unprepared or unwilling to understand. The truth which will set them free is a truth they don’t want to know. By the end of the chapter, the crowd seeks to stone Jesus. Six months later they would cry out for his execution.
For Jesus, the truth he is showing this nationalistic crowd of Judean disciples is that freedom maintained by killing is another name for slavery. What they think makes them free actually enslaves them. They are slaves to the practice of us vs them collective killing for the sake of power and think this is freedom. For this crowd, freedom is another word for killing. For Jesus, freedom is another word for love. If these would be disciples are truly ever going to follow Jesus, to see the kingdom of God, they are truly going to have be born-again, to rethink everything they think they know. Is freedom the power to kill, or is freedom the choice to love?

i speak what i have heard
Let’s continue with what the Bible tells us here. They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did. Jesus keeps bringing this conversation back around to killing. Does this make us uncomfortable?  This is an unpleasant subject, maybe an unpleasant passage. Do we trust that Jesus knew what he was doing or talking about here? He was trying to set us free! Think about what Jesus is saying here. This crowd repeats their assertion here that they are Abrahams children, Jesus says if they were really Abrahams children they would not be trying to kill him. Jesus says directly This is not what Abraham did. Well, what did Abraham do?

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We know the story of Abraham, the call of God, the covenant and the promise. We know the promise fulfilled in his old age through his gathering of a family past the age of 100. But Jesus is talking about killing here, what does Abraham have to do with killing? What did Abraham do specifically that Jesus says these disciples needed to do. Abraham put down the knife. Abraham did not sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt Moriah. He abandoned the sacred violence of human sacrifice (which was normal and expected during Abrahams time).

abraham
We read and understand the story of Abraham and Isaac in a very 21st century way. We can’t get our heads around the fact that the Bible tells us God asked Abraham to sacrifice his first born son. To us, this is grotesque, abhorrent. But Abraham’s contemporaries, especially his Canaanite neighbors (he was living as a foreigner in Canaanite land) would not have seen it this way. The sacrifice of children, especially first born sons, was what the Gods required. It was part of our quid pro quo arrangement with the Gods (we still have these arrangements, don’t we?). The firstborn was offered to God to ensure future fertility. A blood sacrifice to secure future blessing. His Canaanite contemporaries may have seen it as a tragic irony that Abraham was asked in such old age to sacrifice his long awaited son, but they wouldn’t have been scandalized. The gods can be cruel. They were not to be messed with.

Sacrifice-to-Moloch
What Abraham did on Mt Moriah was revolutionary. What he did at what we erroneously call the “sacrifice” of Isaac (erroneous because Isaac was not sacrificed) was to gain the revelation that God, Yahweh, does not want human sacrifice. He put down the knife. If Abraham is the father of monotheism, he also ended human sacrifice, at least for what would become the Hebrew people. When Abraham put down the knife and offered a ram instead of his own son, humankind took a giant leap in the right direction. One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. 

knife
Abraham abandoned killing in the name of God. This is what Jesus is talking about. This is what Abraham did. This is why Jesus is telling these would-be Judean disciples that if they were truly his disciples they would do what Abraham did and not seek to kill in the name of God.

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Jesus and these disciples are at a real impasse. The problem is that Jesus and these Judeans have such differing views of God. They are really talking about two different, competing beings. One is the Abba father of Jesus, the other is the satan. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father. The Abba Father of Jesus is a giver and preserver of life, the father of the crowd is a killer. Jesus is pulling out all the stops to shows them that God is not as they had imagined him. God is not a killer demanding blood sacrifices. God does not sanction the slaughter of enemies. The freedom that comes from God is not power to kill, but the choice to love. Freedom is another word for what Abraham did when he put that knife down and chose not to kill his son.
Now Jesus is really about to lay down the hard truth that sets us free. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Jesus understood that he was sent by his Father to liberate humanity from false ideas about God, including the lie that God wants, requires or sanctions killing of any kind. But even would-be disciples of Christ are mostly not willing to engage in a complete reevaluation of God (be born-again) if it undermines the basic foundation of their world. This frustrates our Messiah, desperately trying to get his message across – Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.
We, still, really do not want to hear that God wants us to rethink what it means to be free. Jesus in this debate with the Judeans repeatedly juxtaposes love and killing, showing that only one leads to true freedom. We still can not and will not hear that true freedom will never be achieved by killing our enemies. Peace on earth will never be achieved by the next war to end all wars. Because war can never end war. War can only lead to the next war. What Jesus teaches here goes against everything we’ve been taught to cherish. What Jesus is teaching is that killing in the name of freedom is just another word for being a slave to systemic sin, the systemic sin introduced by Cain right from the founding of civilization (our world).

murderer from the beginning
To which this crowd responds by insulting the messenger – We were not born of sexual immorality. In other words – we know the circumstances of your birth, at least we are not illegitimate children, like some around here! These people were just talking about following Jesus, now they are calling him ugly names. Doesn’t take long. But now Jesus speaks the whole truth to them and lets the chips fall where they may. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Jesus is pulling back the curtain on the foundations of the world. Jesus is telling these Judeans (and all who would listen throughout history) that in holding to their false violence-based freedom instead of true love-based freedom, they are of their father the devil. They were neither children of Abraham or God, but children of the devil. Jesus describes the devil as a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies. Jesus is referring here to the story of Cain and Abel.

door-blood
Satan was present in the Cain and Abel story. “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Sin, the devil, was crouching at Cain’s door. This is where he got the idea, the thought, that he couldn’t be free until he imposed his will upon his brother. Cain, the tiller of the ground, could not share the land with his brother Abel, the tender of flocks. Something had to give. Cain wanted to be set free. Free from having to love his brother, having to care for his brother, having to share land and territory with his brother. His father, the devil, was crouching at his door, and Cain opened it wide and invited him in. Doing the will if his father the devil, Cain saw his brother as other, as enemy, killed him, buried the body, lied you himself and God about it, and with his hands covered with his brothers blood crying from the ground and his head full of lies, Cain founded human civilization.

the-name-of-Jesus-BRINGS-FREEDOM
To this day, this is the pattern of civilization. When problems or competition with our neighbors comes about, we call them enemies, kill them, and lie to ourselves about it. We justify our killing in the name of freedom and hide the bodies behind monuments and myths, anthems and altars. “They are not us, they are them. In the name of our rights, our land, our nation, our security, our honor, our freedom, it had to be done. They had to be killed.” We do it all in the name of freedom.
But Jesus says that kind of freedom is from the father of lies. It is precisely this satanic freedom Jesus wants to set us free from. And – it wasn’t for a bumper sticker slogan these disciples end up ready to hurl stones at the son of God. The crowd wanted to kill Jesus for uncovering the lies they tell themselves, for uncovering their very own deal with the devil.

i came from god
Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.

light-of-the-world
Jesus began this teaching by saying “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ‭‭John‬ ‭8:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Jesus is free from the darkness of Cain’s system of collective murder and the lies we tell ourselves about it. Jesus is the light of the world, shining his light on the dark system of violence that lies at the foundation of the world. (“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” ‭‭John‬ ‭3:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬).  Unlike us, Jesus is not implicated in the human system of violence. He is untainted by the legacy of the city Cain built. It is only in the light of Christ that we can begin to recognize our complicity in violence and seek a better way.

i am the light
Jesus is completely innocent of all complicity with systemic sin. This is why he can ask the question Which one of you convicts me of sin? Jesus cannot be charged in our systems of foundational murder and the lies that cover it up. Which in and of itself guaranteed that Jesus would himself become a victim of our system. Violence can not stand in the presence of one who owes it nothing, which is why at a stoning, every one must throw a stone. Don’t participate…you might become the next victim. By not throwing a stone, you become a prophet shining a light on the collective sin. The community as a whole must either repent or stone the prophet. (O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! Matthew‬ ‭23:37‬ ‭ESV‬‬).
In the end, Jesus himself was also killed. But his death shames our whole system of what has been called “redemptive violence”. We can finally see that if we use violence as a means for achieving “justice”, we are capable of killing anyone, even murdering God himself. The killing of Jesus brings the entire evil system into the light and exposes it for what it is. (“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” John‬ ‭12:31‬ ‭ESV‬‬). “Seen in the light of the resurrection, the crucifixion of Jesus demands that we once and for all renounce violence as a means for achieving just ends.” – Pastor Brian Zahnd.

jewsamaritan
The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” So much for becoming disciples and following Jesus! Now these Judeans are reduced to hurling racial slurs at Jesus, and have no hint of the irony as they accuse Jesus of having a demon. They’ve turned down the wrong path and have arrived on that dead end street of hatred and hostility. They are sprinting back into the darkness they know so well, the darkness Jesus is trying to save them from. Instead of embracing the truth that would set them free, these shoulda been disciples choose the chains of racism and witch hunts. They loved their darkness more than the light.

judgement
Jesus finishes up this friendly conversation by speaking of Abraham, in whom these Jews took much national pride. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” Jesus was early in his 30s at the time. I guess being the Messiah will put years on you.

I am

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.”

‭‭John‬ ‭8:31-59‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jhn.8.31-59.esv

John Lewis

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Losing our Souls

Losing our Souls

losing our souls

The genealogy of Jesus.  You can’t even begin the New Testament without at least skimming it, putting our best speed reading glasses on and plowing straight through.  At least we might pretend to plow through.  If you’re like me, you might read through, get to the end of it, then wonder if you even read it at all.

genealogy

But plow through it we do.  Because you can’t read the Bible without occasionally going through various genealogies.  And you can’t even begin to read the New Testament without starting, immediately, with the genealogy of Jesus.

Gossip_girls

And what a genealogy it is!!  If we were doing our own genealogy on the many internet websites making millions by providing this service, how many of the characters in Jesus’ family tree would we pretend didn’t exist??   If Jesus were alive today, running even for mayor of one our major cities, how much gossip would he endure?

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Right from the beginning, Jacob.  He would have needed an ankle bracelet for us to keep tabs on him today.   Judah and Tamar are there, Tamar the widowed daughter-in-law of Judah who tricked her father in law into thinking she was a prostitute so he would sleep with her.  Or maybe she didn’t try to trick him at all, maybe he just assumed that’s what she was because that’s what he wanted her to be.  I don’t know, go read Genesis 3, it’s really some story.

judah and tamar

How about David, the giant killer?  One minute, killing Goliath, chopping odd his head and carrying it to Jerusalem.  Writing psalms, giving praise to the lord.  Sparing Saul’s life when he could have killed him and claimed the crown by force.  But on the other hand, sleeping with his captains wife, then plotting to have him killed in battle to cover up his sin.

king david

All these named have a story, and the story is not always clean.  Really, this is the bloodline of the Messiah?  We often wonder and comment on the rag tag band Jesus called his disciples.  We marvel at how he uses simple fisherman to help bring about his kingdom.  We know that if Jesus can use a thug tax collector like Matthew, then there must be something we might be useful for.  If Jesus didn’t reject Judas, knowing he would betray him, then he certainly will welcome us.

follow me

But what about the other side of this.  What did the disciples see in Jesus?  Look at this family tree.  This is the ancestry of the Messiah?  We are going to follow who??  We’re not even sure who who his real father is, are we?

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Yet follow they do.   Jesus gives the call, and they never turn back.  “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Matthew 4:18-22 ESV.   Seriously, what were these guys following?   Jesus, by his own account, was homeless.  “Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”” Matthew 8:18-20 ESV.  He even came from Nazareth, and we know how that one horse town was viewed –  ““Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.” John 1:46 NIV.

matthew

What were these guys thinking?  What did they see?  Peter and Andrew, James and John, these guys at least had their fishing business.  We know Peter, at least, was married.  Matthew, like Zacchaus later on, was one of the wealthiest guys in town.  None of these men, we assume, was homeless.

counting the cost

But they all walked away to follow Jesus.  And Jesus made no secret of the cost.  “Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”” Matthew 8:21-22 ESV.  Right from the start, the cost was high.  The pay was low.  What a group they had, beginning with their leader.  We wonder how he chose them.  But – how in the world did they choose Him?

crucifixion

How are we still choosing him?  2000 years later, we are still waiting for his return.  A crucified Galilean carpenter, we barely comprehend his death and resurrection anymore.  We believe he was raised on the third day, but we can’t quantify it.  We can’t explain it.  And as much as anything, we want to be able to explain it all, tie it in a nice pretty package, put a bow on it, give it to our neighbors as a Christmas gift.

betrayed by the church

We’ve been disillusioned and sometimes betrayed by his church.  We have nice soft pillows to lay our heads on.  We have big homes, we have nice cars.   We have the world, almost literally, at our fingertips.  What do we need him for?

losing my soul

Yet we still seek Him.  Because we know, outside of him it’s all meaningless.  Because we know, instinctively, like it or not, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 16:26 ESV.

having it all

We have it all.  Big houses, nice cars, beautiful wife.  But every day, we come to know this truth discovered long ago – ““Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”” Ecclesiastes 1:2 NIV.  Without Him it’s all meaningless.  We’ve gained the whole world, but we lie awake at night, heads on our soft pillows in our comfortable beds in our big houses, not even able to sleep.  We’ve become so addicted to our stuff, to getting more stuff, to keeping all the stuff we have, we can’t even sleep at night thinking about what we might lose, or might not be able to get if things don’t go just as we want them to.

addiction

We are addicted to stuff.  We are addicted to drugs.  We are addicted to alcohol.  We are addicted to gambling.  We are addicted to food.  We are addicted to sex.  We are addicted to watching other people have sex.

porn-addiction-statistics-2

We have the whole world, but we are losing our souls.

crucifixion1

So, we still seek the crucified carpenter with the questionable family tree.  Just as his original disciples heard the call, we hear the call.   His disciples left all they had to follow him, and they spent the rest of their lives convincing people He was (and is) the King.

lost-souls3

He spent his life dying for people like Peter.  Dying for people like John.  Dying for people like Matthew.  So that we might know, if he had a place for people like Matthew, like Peter, like a woman caught in adultery, he just might have a place for us.

waiting for his return

We might not know what He sees in us.  We barely remember what we saw in Him.  But we do remember he gave His life dying to save us.  Save us from our sin.  Save us from our addiction.  Save us from our fear.  Save us from our tears.  Save us from our pain.

save-our-souls

Save us He did.  If we will only accept his salvation.  If we will only choose Him.

Will we choose Him.  Or will we choose our big house, fast car, and soft pillow?   Will we choose our stuff and lose our souls??

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.”

Matthew 1:1-17 ESV

http://bible.com/59/mat.1.1-17.esv

John Lewis

The End of the World

The End of the World

new day

As always, a new day has begun!!  Let’s see if I can wrap up my points on the Olivet discourse today…

signs in the sun moon stars

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.     Jesus has been teaching on the end of the temple and the temple age.   Remember how impressed his disciples were with the grandeur and beauty of the temple?   “And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”” Mark 13:1 ESV. Well, Jesus was not as impressed.  “And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”” Mark 13:2 ESV.  Then he begins to talk of wars and tumults, tells them they will be hated because of his name.  He tells how they will be arrested, tried, dragged before councils and governors, and some would lose their lives.  He tells them not to worry, though about what to to these councils and governors, for the Holy Spirit would lead them through.  In other words, he told them what would happen throughout the book of Acts.

surrounded by armies

“”But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” Luke 21:20 ESV.  This is the sign.  The sign that the end is coming.   The sign of the End Jesus is teaching about, the end of the temple and temple establishment, along with its hierarchy and control.  At this sign those listening should go, go, go!!   Get out of town!!   It is the sign of the days of Roman vengeance, Rome has had enough!!  The time of the Gentiles (Romans) is about to be fulfilled.

Coming-in-the-Clouds

And fulfilled it was.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.   What does Jesus mean here??  This is a clear reference back to Daniel chapter 7, Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, the beasts of empire.  First a lion, then a bear, then a leopard, then one that’s just monstrous.  But then a son of man comes, a son of man because he will not act beastly“”I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14 ESV.  A son of man to bring the Kingdom of God, given honor and glory and dominion and a kingdom.  A kingdom which will not be destroyed.  Jesus is connecting the end of the temple with the full inauguration of the Kingdom of God on the earth.  It’s the end, but it’s also a beginning.  It’s not the end of the earth, not the end of the world, it’s the end of the temple and the systems of hierarchy and domination that came along with it.  The end of the exclusion of people from the temple.  No longer will people be threatened with their own death for going too far into the temple.  The friend of sinners invites all who would come straight to the new Holy of Holies, his communion table, where to this day we participate in his broken body and shed blood on the cross.

fig tree

And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”   When you see these things happen, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, when finally one stone is not left upon another, when you’ve seen the wars and tumults, been turned over by mother, father, brother, sister to the authorities, when you’ve gone through the trials, been brought before the Sanhedrins and councils and rulers and testified to who I am, when some of you have lost your lives (but not a hair on your head will perish!)  you know that the kingdom of God is near.

heaven and earth

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.    I know you see that.  THIS GENERATION WILL NOT PASS AWAY UNTILL ALL HAS TAKEN PLACE!!  Some of you, maybe most, are trying right now to rationalize this to fit your picture of what the End is supposed to look like, trying to remember why Jesus wasn’t actually saying that the end will come before the generation of people he is talking to will pass away.  Why this generation did not mean this generation.  We have to figure this out, because clearly, the End has not come, because clearly we are still here, right.  But very clearly, Jesus is saying, very directly, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.  This generation, listening to me right now, some will still be alive when what I am talking about will happen.   In other words, he’s not talking about something that is going to happen 2000 years later.  He’s not talking about 21st century politics, he’s not talking about terrorism, hurricanes, nuclear weapons, climate change or anything else we try to fit this into.   I know we have created billion dollar industries based on “end time signs“, someone you know is buying bunkers, guns, ammunition, water, and freeze dried food.  But whatever use they may get out of these things, the end times signs they are based on have come and gone.

jesus

Very simply, Jesus is not a false prophet.  Because every single thing he predicted here, happened.  Not today, not tomorrow, but nearly 2000 years ago.  The End Jesus predicts, happened.  In AD 70 the temple, with its temple establishment, with its systems of power, domination and control, came to an end.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.   The world came to an end for those who were hearing Jesus talk.  Heaven and earth passed away.  The world as they knew it, faded away.

Son-Of-God-Movie-HD-Wallpaper-06

Don’t believe me?   Look at what Jesus said to Caiaphas the high priest just a few days after, the day before he is crucified.   “But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”” Matthew 26:63-64 ESV.   Are you the Messiah??   But look at Jesus response.  You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.   He’s talking to Caiaphas, the Caiaphas recorded by Josephus is history, a specific man in a specific time, and he tells him, you, Caiaphas, you will see the son of man predicted in Daniel (and don’t think Caiaphas did not immediately understand the reference), you will see the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.   Because the temple was going to end, which Jesus has been giving all along as the beginning of the inauguration of the kingdom of God, which is just about the only thing Jesus ever talked about.   This end is not coming 80 or 100 or 200 generations later (isn’t it funny how no one selling you supplies for the end times thinks we have 80 more generations to go?).  This generation will not pass away, and you, Caiaphas, will see the coming if the Son of Man riding on the clouds of heaven.

DESTRUCTION-OF-JERUSALEM

It is clear from the text here that Jesus is talking about the end if the temple and the temple age, not the end of the world as we are looking for it.  Jesus is not talking about the destruction of the earth, as hard as we seem to be trying to achieve exactly that.

end_of_the_world_by_alexiuss-dajaesc

Of course, in Matthews account of the Olivet discourse, he tells his disciples this – “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14 ESV.  What about this, this never happened, did it?   Well, let’s go to the book of Acts and the day of Pentecost.  “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”” Acts 2:1-11 ESV.  That’s a long tract, I’m just going to focus on this – Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.   The Holy Spirit comes like tongues of fire, and the gospel is preached to devout men from every nation under heaven.   Hyperbole or not, the gospel was preached to all the nations.  According to the bible, this is fulfilled.

Dream-interpretation-end-of-world-nuclear-war

Look at how the book of Acts ends.  “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”  He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” Acts 28:28, 30-31 ESV.  The Kingdom of God is among us.  The Kingdom of God has come.

dead are raised

We are Christians, remember?  That means that we, of all people, should have a hopeful vision of the end.  And we do!!   Christ shall come again!!   But, what is the sign of that??   THE DEAD ARE RAISED!!  As we live our lives under the reign of Christ, we seek to embody and enact this Kingdom of God more fully in this life.  As people who anticipate the age to come, we seek to live under the reign of Christ fully here and now.  As we grow old and die, we will be absent from the body, present with the Lord in a place He calls paradise, that’s not the end we are looking for.

Remember the apostles creed?  Maybe you don’t, but it ends this way – He will come again to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.  The sign of the coming of Christ is this – the resurrection of the body.  Again, the dead are raised!!  As evidenced by Jesus’ own physical, not spiritual, resurrection.  He is the firstborn among the brothers of the children of God, His is the resurrection that foreshadows the general resurrection of the dead, which will signal his return.

End_of_the_World_-1024x640

We are heading for the dead being raised and Jesus Christ being fully acclaimed as Lord.  Not doom and gloom, wars and rumors of wars, famine and strife.  The End Jesus was talking about was the end of the temple, the temple establishment, and the temple age.  The Kingdom of God endures and we are part of it.

God-Kingdom

We may (will) ultimately murder each other by the millions with the use of nuclear weapons, but it doesn’t have to be this way.  This is not the End Jesus was predicting.  The End Jesus was predicting happened in AD 70, you can go to Jerusalem to see the ruins, they are still there.

We may cause heaven and earth to pass away (again), the world as we know it will eventually come to an end.  Our world systems, the world we know and the only one we can imagine, will eventually come crashing down.

But the words of Jesus Christ will not pass away.

“”And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Luke 21:25-33 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.21.25-33.esv

John Lewis

Flood the World

martin_john_-_the_deluge_-_1834

Continuing on thoughts from my last post.

Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_-_Appearance_Behind_Locked_Doors_-_WGA06734

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

huddled in fear

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

peace be with you 1

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

refugeees

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

 

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

zombies

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

glad

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

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

The-Commission

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

forgiveness

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

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

give

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

2013 Faith Church Final Words father forgive

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

send-me

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

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

blame game.jpg

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

satan-accuser

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

 

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

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

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

John Lewis

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

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

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“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

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

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

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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

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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