Let It Burn??

Let It Burn??

let it burn

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

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

betterway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭25:1-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Counting the Cost?

on fire

Have you ever been “on fire” for Jesus? Maybe when you first came to Him and prayed that prayer, and felt the Holy Spirit invade you for the first time?
Just how “on fire” for Jesus were you? How excited are you, right now, to know that you have a personal relationship with the creator of the universe, the whole heavens, the earth, and everything in between??

on fire 2
Jesus knew that we would be “on fire” for Him. He also knew that we should be “on fire”, because He knows the deal He is offering. This is no late night telemarketing call full of fine print. The deal Jesus offers is entry into the kingdom of God, the kingdom of the heavens, complete with backstage passes and field access credentials. Full buffet and open bar. Not only do you get to meet the players and sit with the band, you are equal with them. You get to share meals, go into the locker room, room with them on the road trip. Nothing is held back.

buried treasure
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. How excited should we be when we get the deal Jesus offers?? How excited would you be if you were camping in a forest, dug some dirt to smother your campfire, and found undiscovered and unknown gold deposits??!! Or better yet, somehow you went deep enough and found some of that black gold, oil!! On coming out of that forest you find the owner and he says he’ll gladly sell you his 40 acres in the hills for $100,000? Would you mope around thinking about all you had to give up to buy that property? Of course not!!! You would see the opportunity before you, the chance of a lifetime. How fast you you move heaven and earth to get the funds and close that deal. You would cash in the IRA, the 401(k), the checking account, sell the car, sell the house, sell your shoes. You would scramble like never before in the excitement to gain that treasure you had found. You would count the cost and laugh at it, because what you were about to gain was so much more valuable than anything you had to give up to get it.

pearl
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” These days, we’re all searching, searching, searching, aren’t we? We read self help books, seek “spirituality”, consider Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Darwin. We are like this treasure hunter searching the seas who finally found what he’s looking for.  We find the greatest treasure, it’s what we’ve always been seeking. We find that hope diamond, the heart of the ocean (Titanic anyone?). There is nothing we could possibly give up that would be more valuable, is there? We would sell everything we had for the chance to get it all back times a thousand, wouldn’t we?

oil-jed-clampett
Jesus tells us this is what the kingdom of God is. It’s all we’ve ever been looking for, everything we’ve dreamed of. We talk about counting the cost, but there is no cost too high, because the return on that investment is just too great!! All we can think about is the opportunity we see!! We know there is nothing greater we can ever achieve, nothing more valuable, no greater opportunity, no greater dream, no sweeter deal that we could ever hope to get. We see it and our hearts are filled with excitement, hope and joy!!

excitement
No one ever becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ sadly or reluctantly. We have been digging our whole lives, searching out our treasure. We’ve struck gold, oil, and the Hope Diamond all in one. We’ve counted the cost, and it doesn’t matter.

heart of the ocean
Because the cost is nothing compared to the treasure we’ve found.

treasure

“”The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:44-46‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.13.44-46.esv

John Lewis

For All People

For All People

house of prayer

Looking at a meeting on the road of life between the apostle Philip and a certain man who, though excluded from the temple of God, lived his life with reverence and love for God anyway.

Acts_128

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” A few things about this eunuch. First of all, we can know that he was a man who had some wealth and power. In modern times we would call him the “Secretary of the Treasury.” It specifically says he was in charge of all the treasury of Queen Candace, queen of all Ethiopia (which was a much larger and more prominent nation than it is now). We know that this man loved God, because in spite of the fact that he was not allowed in the temple, He had come to Jerusalem to worship. Eunuchs were specifically excluded from worship in the temple (Deut 23:1), yet this man had made the trip to Jerusalem to worship. Not only that, but he had spent a large sum of money (books were very expensive in these days, because each one had to be hand written) on a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. And it is this scroll from which he is reading when Phillip, led by the Holy Spirit, boldly asks him “Do you understand what you are reading?” To which our eunuch perfectly answers “How can I, unless someone guides me?”  

philip-and-ethiopian1
I say this response was perfect, because it shows the humble heart with which this man was seeking the Lord. He was a wealthy man, probably had just about everything wealth could have given him. He was specifically excluded from actually entering the temple. Even at the most outer gate where Gentiles were allowed, this man was persona non grata. And yet, he takes his own time and own money and makes the trip to Jerusalem, spends more of his own money on a scroll which which he then has the humility to admit ha can’t even understand for himself. Perfect!!

Big-Bible
This is perfect, because despite the rugged individualism we have been scripted into in our modern age, the interpretation and understanding of scripture is not an individual project. This eunuch couldn’t do it alone, and neither can we. The church gave us the Bible. The Bible was given by the spirit to the church, and the church then gave it to us. And it is the church, with its long history of interaction with the Bible, that is able to guide us in understanding what we read to this day.

lamb_slain
And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”
The eunuch is reading from what we now know as Isaiah 53, Isaiah’s vision and prophecy of the suffering servant, the suffering Messiah. “Just who is this man?” As it says, from this point Phillip preached the good news of Jesus Christ to a man who loved and worshipped a God who did not even allow him into his temple to pray.

new temple
But there is a new temple coming, something else Isaiah had a vision of. Isaiah did not just gives a prophecy of Messiah as the suffering servant, one who Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent. Isaiah’s vision and prophecy continues beyond that. It is during the time of Isaiah, about 586 B.C., that the temple is destroyed. King Cyrus will eventually give the order to have the temple rebuilt, and it will be rebuilt, but Isaiah has some new ideas for the temple. Not architectural ideas, Isaiah is thinking far bigger than that. Look at what Isaiah says in Isaiah 56 – Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. In Isaiah’s vision of a rebuilt temple, things would be different. Foreigners, and even the specifically extra-excluded eunuchs, will no longer be excluded, but will be included in the temple. They will no longer be outside looking in, but will be inside fully participating. Isaiah continues – “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Temple-Inscription-286x300
To which we yell out a loud “Amen!!” Because, of course, we know that the Temple of the Lord IS a house of prayer for all nations. Because we grow up in 21st century America, and this would be one of those truths we hold to be self evident. Unfortunately, neither Isaiah nor this Secretary of the Treasury grew up in 21st century America. Isaiah’s vision was NOT fulfilled in the temple rebuilt under the order of King Cyrus. The temple was NOT a house of prayer for all nations, foreigners and eunuchs were still excluded.

house_of_prayer
Phillip understands all if this has he sits with this man. He understands that there IS NOW a new temple, and ALL ARE INVITED!! Philip might even have been there when Jesus endorsed Isaiah’s vision at what we call the “cleansing of the temple – “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”  
This is the Good News Phillip shared with the Ethiopian eunuch. It is, in the words of Pastor Brian Zahnd, “Good News for the excluded!” And this excluded Ethiopian eunuch is immediately baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and becomes the first Gentile convert baptized into eternal life in Jesus Christ. The temple Isaiah was looking for was not fulfilled in the bricks and stones of a new temple built by human hands. The temple Isaiah was looking for was built by the life, the blood, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A temple where there is no hierarchy (even though we try every day to restore the hierarchy). There are no priests- except that we ARE ALL priests. That’s right – we are a Kingdom of priests offering spiritual sacrifices and the sacrifices of our own lives before God.

spriitual sacrifice
There are only two things Jesus asks of us.
1). Be honest about your own sins. Don’t wear a mask. Don’t pretend not to be a sinner. We are all saints in the body of christ, this is true. But we are saints-in-process. We are all sinners in the process of becoming saints.

Exclusion
2). Welcome all the other sinners. Don’t try to keep everyone else out. Salvation is not just for “us”. It is for all who would call on the name of the Lord. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” Acts‬ ‭2:21‬ ‭ESV

‬‬whoever calls on the name of the lord
Sometimes we try to keep people away, don’t we? Maybe we see them as “other” or “enemy”, and not as our “brother.” We’ve always done this, all the way back to the time when Jesus was with his disciples. “Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.” Matthew‬ ‭19:13-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We may try to keep people away, but Jesus just says “stop that” and ministers to them anyway.

jesus-children
Because your background, your past, and even your sin does not exclude you from the grace of Jesus Christ. Even those who thought they were excluded are welcome at the table of Christ. If you think you are excluded, Jesus tells you to “come”. All are welcome at the table of Christ, the true temple of the Lord which is the house of prayer for all peoples.  Jesus will welcome you personally.

lords_supper-1024x484

“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”

‭‭Acts‬ ‭8:26-35‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/act.8.26-35.esv

“Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.””

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭56:1-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.56.1-8.esv
“And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭11:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mrk.11.17.esv
John Lewis

No Condemnation

No Condemnation

no condemnation

During my contemplation time this morning, as Pastor Brian Zahnd would call it my time to “sit with Jesus”, I was thinking about beginning the home stretch of my look at the Sermon on the Mount. We’ve looked at Matthew Chapters 5 and 6, and hopefully you’ve followed along and seen that Jesus great discourse is not just a collection of saying randomly thrown together, but rather a single, unified talk (sermon) which has a definite starting point, message, and finish. This morning I was contemplating this little nugget – “”Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Matthew‬ ‭7:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬. This may not be my favorite verse, or your favorite verse. But it just may be the favorite verse in the Bible of those who want to turn things back around on us when we seek to correct them on some point in their life or behavior. It’s used sometimes as a “Get out of jail free card” shielding us from having to listen to correction or think about our own behaviors, isn’t it?

accusation
As I’m contemplating this verse, I am led to the apostle Paul’s writing to the Romans, and our own “Get our if jail free” card. The protective shield we as believers like to pull out if the hat when someone may be correcting us. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1. To which every believer in Christ can give a rousing AMEN and HALLELUJAH!! This is used as our shield and our sword, “We are in Christ and you are not! You are condemned but we are not!!” We may not be able to judge you, but we know there is no condemnation for US. We are in Christ Jesus!

deep water
So let me head into deep water and drown myself. The verse says There is THEREFORE now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Therefore means that Paul has been building from another point to make this point. It doesn’t drop out of thin air. We Christian believers like to pull it out of thin air, but it doesn’t drop from thin air. Because of that therefore, we therefore had better look at what leads up to the point Paul is making. We had better look at the previous chapter, chapter 7.

sin
Let’s look specifically at the last verse of chapter 7, verse 7:25, and connect it with Romans 8:1. So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So, with my flesh I serve the law of sin, therefore there is no condemnation?? Because we sin we are not condemned? Let’s look at more of chapter 7 leading up to this.

torah
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So is it because it is not us but sin that does our sin that we are not condemned? I am not condemned because I agree with the law, even though I continue to break the law? Try telling that to the judge…

shame
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So are we not condemned simply because we want to do what is good? We are not condemned because we can not carry out what we want to do?? I am a sinner, I do the things I don’t want to do, therefore there is no condemnation?

condemnation
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ. It is only Jesus who saves, we can not save ourselves, Amen to that! But still, Paul says he serves God in his mind, but still sins in his body. Just as we strive to serve God in our minds, but still sin everyday. But because of our sin, there is no condemnation?? It doesn’t make any sense if you read it all together, does it?

gavel-judge
The problem with reading this all together, and seeing what it is that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, is that we might have to see that we misinterpret what Paul is saying, probably because it serves us to misinterpret it. When Paul says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, he is actually saying the exact same thing Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-2. When Paul says that sin lives in him, that he does what he does not want to do, that with his flesh he still serves the law of sin, and therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, he is not saying that he is not condemned. He is saying that because, try as he might, he still lives in this life as a sinner, he does not condemn others. This is what it means when he says there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus – the we do not go around condemning other people for their sins!!  Because we are all sinners, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  because no matter how much we live for God we still live in sin, and we  do not point the finger at others condemning them. Judge not, that you be not judged, and there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus are saying the exact same thing.

HolySpiritPeacemaker
Look at how Paul continues after his declaration of no condemnation. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. The law of the spirit of life is what? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭22:37-40‬ ‭ESV‬‬. What is the law of sin and death? It is the “law” of shame, blame and accusation, the “law” of the devil, the false ruler of our fallen world.  As Christians we are called to love God and love our neighbors. We are free from the game shame, blame, accusation and vilification, the game if the the devil – “the accuser” himself. Because there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  If we are not free from that game, if we are still pointing fingers, judging, shaming blaming others for what we see as their fault and failures, we are playing the devil’s game.  It doesn’t matter that we are blaming and shaming in the name of Christ, it’s still the devil’s game, and if we are playing his game, he is winning.  It doesn’t matter if we are right or wrong in our point, if we play his game, he is winning.  The devil doesn’t care that you are right.  The accuser doesn’t care that you use the name of Christ.  If you are playing his game, he wins.

holy spirit
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. How did Jesus condemn sin in the flesh? That’s easy – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭23:34‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Jesus condemns sin in the flesh by praying forgiveness, not revenge, from the cross, revealing the way of revenge as the way of the devil.  Jesus Himself WAS condemned, but did he condemn in return? NO. He offered a prayer of love and forgiveness. He loved God and showed it by living his neighbor, who was, in fact, his own enemy who was crucifying him. Because there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

father-forgive-them
There is a wide gate and a narrow gate. “”Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:13-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬. To follow Jesus is to take the narrowest gate and and the hardest walk. Take up your cross and follow me, all the way through our own torment and crucifixion, offering forgiveness to those who crucify us, was never meant to be easy. Because there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

forgive

“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭7:7-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans‬ ‭8:1-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

John Lewis

 

Appearances

Appearances

pigsnout

Yesterday we began looking at Jesus discussion on anxiety and worry, and specifically our food, sustenance and just whom we are depending on for that daily bread. But while many of us do treasure our food place a high value on it, many others would rather starve than look bad. But the apostle John told us “all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭2:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Your true beauty is not what the eyes see – either your eyes looking out or the world looking in upon you. And without the inner beauty that lives within our soul, outer beauty can just draw extra attention to the beauty that is not on the inside. “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” Proverbs‬ ‭11:22‬ ‭ESV

 

‬‬anxious-add-one-cubit-measure-life-child-christian-wallpaper_1366x768
Jesus understood how much we care about our appearance, and he told us – don’t worry about it. A major point of our physical appearance is our height. We worry about being too short, some (especially women) might worry about being too tall. But the verse which is translated here in the ESV as “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” ‭Matthew‬ ‭6:27‬ ‭ESV‬‬ is translated in the King James as “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” Matthew‬ ‭6:27‬ ‭KJV‬‬. Of course both are true, by our worrying we can’t add a day to our lives or an inch to our height. Regardless of the translation, the same truth remains – we don’t control any of it, never have and never will. In any case, our height has nothing to do with our value as a human being or the true beauty of our soul.

lilies
If you ask most people, they will tell you that true beauty is on the inside. But that doesn’t stop us from worrying about our appearance. That doesn’t stop the hours many of us spend daily on beauty preparation, or the tens of billions we spend annually. Despite which, as Jesus says, Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. No matter how hard we try, we can’t measure up to the beauty that exists in God’s own creation. We can’t even compete with the flowers of the field. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? The flowers are here today and gone tomorrow, yet for all of our time and dollars given towards our own appearance, we can’t begin to compete with what will simply become fire fuel. Jesus doesn’t even mention majestic mountains, where sandy beaches, the sunrise and the sunsets that happen everyday, the northern light, the waterfalls, the clouds, or any of the other stunning beauty we take for granted everyday. None of which we can begin to compete with, yet we fret and worry over what we want and think someone else’s eyes will see. We don’t understand that God created us inherently with all the greatest beauty in the world. We just don’t get that nothing we do will match the beauty God sees every time he looks at you. Or me. “And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” Colossians‬ ‭3:4‬ ‭NLT

share in his glory

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“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:28-34‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.6.28-34.esv

John Lewis

Daily Bread

Daily Bread

dark bread on white

Last time we were in the sermon on the mount, we looked at Jesus’ during discussion on laying up those treasures in heaven, instead of here on earth where moths and rust will eventually destroy everything we ever work for. We saw how our eyesight was connected to our “heartsight”. And of course we get to Jesus famous conclusion to our thoughts that we can have one foot in each kingdom, the Kingdom of God and our own kingdom on earth – “”No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew‬ ‭6:24‬ ‭ESV

birds of the air

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Since we now know that we can not serve both God and money, Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

house of the lord
If we are treasuring the things in heaven and not the things of earth, what do we ever have to worry about? The world is a perfectly safe place for us to be. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalms‬ ‭23:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

hard work
Does this still sound strange to you? It sounds strange to me. I’d like to think I might grow into it someday, this relying on the Kingdom of Heaven instead of fretting and worrying about all the “things” I’m “working” for everyday.

things of this world
In reality, most of us live and see the physical, earthly reality as the only reality there is. So, to treasure anything beyond what we can see is wrong, it is to live your life based on an illusion. As Dallas Willard puts it, “We must be prepared to be treated as more or less crazy unless we value what is “on earth” as supreme for human existence.”

this world
But to value what is on earth, what is seen and touched, is to seal our fate. That fate is anxiety, worry, and frustration. The words anxious and worry both reference being strangled or choked, and that is how we feel when we are anxious – life has us by the throats and we are being choked out. The world is throwing us around, having its way with us, and we just can’t seem to do anything about it but lay up at night stressing over what we can’t control anyway.

anxiety-person
We have the option, though, of relying on Jesus and the kingdom of God. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Life is not about food, the body is not about clothes. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Life is about a place in Gods eternal, immortal kingdom here and now. Eternity is not just some way off place and time to which we will be transported when we die. Eternity has already begun, and our living in the kingdom of God prepared by Jesus Christ begins now.

bird feeding
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Why does Jesus talk about birds here?? What do birds have to do with us? Jesus points to the birds because they do not lay up treasures here on earth. They receive, from God and His good creation, their daily bread as they need it daily. They are an example of “Give us this day our daily bread,” lived out every day before us. We should remember manna from heaven came to the Israelites to be gathered each and every day for their sustenance, which would spoil from one day to the next except over the sabbath.

Group-of-little-kids
Jesus uses children as a similar example. A little child has no ability on its own to store goods and live independently of those around them. Our children just assume that they will be fed on a daily basis. But Jesus tells us regarding children “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭18:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬, and “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭19:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

Manna-from-Heaven
We are told by Jesus to be more like the birds and the little children, but our lives are hard. We have to work hard, without hard work, we just can’t survive in this world in which God himself has placed us, right? Again, look to the birds as an example. Jesus used them as an example of living off the daily food given by God, but does that mean birds do not work. Of course not!! Look at the birds right outside your window. (Maybe this is why Jesus used birds for an example – they are everywhere!). Birds are some of the hardest working citizens of this world. Some are observed to work very hard. But they don’t seem to have to worry about the basic supports of their life, like food, water and shelter. They just seek as they need and take what they find. This is the example Jesus wants us to follow. Having our treasure in heaven instead of building a treasure here frees us to live in the present for our basic needs. We work hard, because life is hard. We care and provide for those we love. But we do not need to worry.  We have food and clothing and God.  As the great apostle Paul put it – “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” ‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭6:6-8‬ ‭ESV

 

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“”Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:25-34‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.6.25-34.esv

John Lewis

Trembling and Astonished

Trembling and Astonished

Amazing Beautiful Earth
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

risen
Continuing where we left off yesterday, with the abrupt, sudden, immediate ending to the Gospel of Mark. And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. This is is original ending to the Gospel story, the Good News of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth whom we call the Christ. There is no expansion, no explanation, no encounters with the risen Christ. Just three women who went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Three women who, after all the events of the week leading up to the crucifixion, the triumphal entry, the cleansing of the temple, Jesus prophesying the end of the temple, Mary anointing Jesus to be king (and for his burial – her anointing was for both, but she didn’t know it), the last supper, the betrayal, the arrests, the trials, the suffering, the torture, and the crucifixion, after it had all started so well and ended so, so catastrophically badly, three women who encounter a young man in the tomb where the body had been lain leave in trembling and astonishment, yes they are left speechless by what they find.
They go up to add spices to His body in one last act of devotion and love, but the stone is moved the body is gone.

empty_tomb
Jesus is risen.

jesus of nazareth
What other response should they have had?? It is a real cliffhanger, isn’t it? Trembling, astonishment and stunned silence seems to me to be the only appropriate response possible to what they found. It’s jaw-dropping. Dead men don’t walk. They had seen his crucifixion. They had watched him breathe his last, seen the spear go into his side. They were there when Joseph and Nicodemus took his dead body off the cross, prepared it for burial, and placed it in the tomb.
But the body is gone. The young man sitting in the spot where his body should have been tells them “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” Yes, he was crucified, we know this because we were there!!

amazing-sunset
Again, what other response should they have had?

Amazing Pictures of Nature_7

Trembling, astonishment, and stunned silence is exactly the right response, isn’t it? It wasn’t time for theology, it wasn’t time for preaching, it was a time to walk away afraid and speechless. It was time to walk away overwhelmed by what they encountered.

silence
Astonishment mixed with fear and stunned silence is the only appropriate initial response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

meeting jesus
American Christianity lacks astonishment. Mark just leaves us astonished and hanging. We know that a longer, less abrupt ending was later added to Mark. Matthew wrote next, he gave us more after the resurrection. Luke gives even more, then John gives us two entire chapters after the resurrection. All these are appropriate and inspired, but the only correct response on hearing the gospel, upon finding the empty tomb, is stunned, shocked astonishment, is it not?

trembling and astonished
We are very jaded today. We are no longer overwhelmed by what we find at the tomb. We should be left trembling and astonished. It is astonishing.

Notre Dame Paris
But instead of being left astonished, we are left with our culture wars, TV evangelists, and commercial Christianity. Something to be bought for $19.95 on late night TV. American Christianity comes across as tawdry and formulaic, like a pitch for some multi level marketing plan.

Resurection-Sunday-iStock
We should be astonished when we meet Jesus. How did you meet Jesus? Have you ever been astonished by him? What happened after you met him? When you meet Jesus for real for the first time, he will change you. You should know going in that not everyone is going to like how you’re being changed. Some people, as you get to know Him and move in ways which seem strange, different, and even weird, are going to become uncomfortable with you.

untitled.png
Here’s a hard, strange truth, many who profess to be Christians will be surprised by this. Christianity is not practical. I’ll say it again, Christianity is not practical. It’s not a practical utility to change your life in 5 easy steps. It is not a self help book. It’s not a device we put in our back pocket and carry around with us. We can’t buy it in 3 easy monthly installments on late night TV. Christianity is not something to be used as we see fit.
We want the church to be popular, we want people to come, we want to show them how great it will be for their lives. We want to make it practical. We need to stop. Stop trying to make Christianity practical, and let it be what it truly is, which is astonishing. Breathtaking. Stunning.

strip mall
We have turned Christianity in America into just another strip mall or big box store. It’s just a utility to use as we see fit. But the Gospel if Jesus Christ is astonishing. It’s as astonishing as the difference between your local Wal-Mart and Notre Dame cathedral.
Exactly what part of “take up your cross and follow me” sounds like a plan to improve your life? Save your soul, yes. Save the world, yes. Make your life better, easier, and more comfortable for the smallest investment possible, probably not.

sistine chapel ceiling facts
The trinity, the incarnation, resurrection, communion are sacred mysteries. They are not a practical utilities to change your life with the smallest investment possible. Christianity is not a cheap trinket for your back pocket, it’s not something we can buy, it’s not a ticket into heaven. It’s a mystery we enter into, a breathtaking gothic cathedral where we walk through the doors, look up and find that Michelangelo painted the ceilings.
Christianity is an ancient faith and a sacred mystery. It’s handed down to us, we don’t get to make it up. If you’re making up your own Christianity as you go along, all you have is a self help book. The rains will fall, the floods will come, the wind will blow, and great will be the fall.

St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
We don’t get to make it up. Christianity is like a great gothic cathedral. We didn’t build it, we couldn’t build it. All we can do is enter into it and be astonished by it.

 

“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. [Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20.]”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭16:1-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mrk.16.1-8.esv

John Lewis