Let It Burn??

Let It Burn??

let it burn

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

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

betterway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭25:1-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Called Out

Called Out

Good Shepherd

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

freedom fighters

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

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

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

american goat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‬‬

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

‭‭John‬ ‭10:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

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

How to Move Mountains

How to Move Mountains

Dangerous Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

knockin'
Because Jesus asked, seeked, and knocked.

peter preaching pentecost

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

‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:31-34‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Do Unto Others

Do Unto Others

Do-Unto-Others

Having looked at the power of the request, both of man and of God, and especially of requesting from God and man at the same time, we come now to what we call the Golden Rule. So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Or, perhaps more simply, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus says that this is the Law and the Prophets, just as earlier in the sermon he had told us nearly the same thing – “”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.

kingdom of heaven is at hand
This is so much the point of the sermon on the mount, that we as Christians would live in such a way that as opposed to using the law and the prophets to condemn and confront the world around us, we instead would live our lives in such a way as to fulfill the law and the prophets and embody the reign of Jesus Christ on earth here and now. Remember the Gospel, the Good News, as proclaimed by Jesus himself was not that ‘I’m here to rubber stamp your life and give you a free ticket to heaven when you die.‘ Instead, what Jesus proclaimed over and over was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”” ‭Matthew‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬. All Jesus ever talked about was the Kingdom of God (Kingdom if heaven in Matthew). His point always the the kingdom was (and is) available here and now. The Jesus Way, laid out in the Sermon on the Mount as well as in his very life by example, is how we gain entrance into the kingdom exactly where we are. It is this Way which Peter betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane when took the sword to the soldiers ear. “And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:50-51‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Peter may not have betrayed Jesus as Judah did, but he betrayed the way of Jesus every bit as much. Jesus restored his enemies ear, loving his enemy, just as he would later restore Peter after his own resurrection. Peter betrayed the Jesus way here, just as we betray the Jesus way every time we lash out in anger and condemnation, every time we accuse, every time we ‘put them in their place’, every time we engage in our Facebook wars.

touched his ear
So, we are to do unto others as we want them to do to us, for this is the Law and the Prophets. What does this mean for us?

lawprophets
What did Jesus taught during his sermon?

argument-cartoon
Don’t want to be insulted on Facebook? Don’t insult on Facebook.
You think someone owes you an apology? Be the one to make the phone call.

phone call
You want someone to let bygones be bygones? Let bygones be bygones.
Don’t want to be cursed out? Don’t curse out.

Gaming-curses
Don’t want your wife or ‘significant other’ flirting around town? Don’t flirt around town.

untrustworthy-woman-flirting-with-other-guy
Don’t want someone to break their promises? Don’t break your promises.
Don’t want to be manipulated? Don’t manipulate.

manipulation1
Don’t want to be paid pack for every wrong thing you do? Then, let it go.

payback
You want your enemy, your bully, to stop taunting you, stop fighting you, stop embarrassing you?? You want those whom you fear to just leave you alone? Then pray for them. Love them. Seek out their best interests. (Whaaat?). You will be sons and daughters of our father in heaven. But we don’t really want that this badly, do we?

Open bible with man and cross
Want to receive all you need? Give to others what they need.
Don’t want to be judged in all you do? Don’t judge others.

forgive others
Want to be a forgiven sinner? Forgive sinners.

jesus-forgiving
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew‬ ‭7:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“”So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. “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 ‭7:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.7.12-14.esv

John Lewis

Giving Pearls to Pigs

Giving Pearls to Pigs

pearls to pigs

 

Sometimes, we just have the solution, don’t we? We just have that moment of clarity when it all comes together. Especially after we’ve “found God”, or “met Jesus”. Not only do we have the solution, but now we have His great commission to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew‬ ‭28:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬. In this case, we’ve found the answer, Jesus Christ, and “received” a command from the Lord Himself to go tell everyone about it!! So then we run full speed to spread our Good News, fully energized by our newly found “answer” multiplied by the “command” we have to go and “make disciples for Jesus!”

make disciples
So then we go out into the world, sharing our “answer” we’ve found which is going to make all their problems go away, and we are often left stunned that “they” aren’t interested in us solving their problem. We may find that they don’t even think they have a problem which needs solving. But we insist, “yes, you do have a problem, I have a wonderful answer for you, why don’t you just let me show you how it works!!” But they in turn insist, “No, I don’t have a problem! And even if I do have a problem, I don’t need no stinking answers from you!” And we walk away with hurt feelings and wounded pride on both sides, a potentially damaged relationship, and new doubts of our own about the “truth” of the “answer” we have.

serious problem
Jesus warns us about this in his discussion on condemnation. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Quick question – what have you always understood this passage (if you’ve heard it before) to mean? What is Jesus telling us?

dog turns
Maybe it goes like this – “Some people just aren’t worthy of what we have to offer (the gospel of Jesus Christ), and we should not be wasting time giving our pearls to those “pigs”. Besides, just like Jesus said, look at ISIS, all these terrorists, we shouldn’t try to share the gospel with them, they just turn around and try to kill us anyway!!” Is this what Jesus is saying? Are there just some groups of people, the “dogs” of the world, who just aren’t worthy of what is “holy”, they are just “pigs” trying to take our pearls, stomp them into the mud, and turn against us?

Beautiful-Picture-Of-God-Jesus-Christ
Of course this is NOT what Jesus is telling us here. That would be exactly the OPPOSITE of everything Jesus ever taught. As Dallas Willard points out – “Indeed, the very coming of Christ, the pearl of God, into the world, would be a case of pearls before pigs thus understood.” Remember what the apostle John told us – “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We, the entire world, are all dogs and pigs who did not receive Christ when He came into the world. He put before us what was holy, He laid all His pearls before us. And pigs that we are, we trampled His pearls underfoot and hung him from a tree, remember?

ISIS-figthers-in-Mosul
So, never forget this – ALL are worthy to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no person, no sinner, no murderer, no terrorist, who is UNWORTHY of the Good News, no person who is a dog or pig who doesn’t deserve to hear that God the Father, who made them in His own image, sent his own beloved son to the world to walk with us, teach us, advocate for us, and ultimately to die FOR us, even if it was our own hands which swung the hammer that drove in the nails.

pearls
So what does Jesus’ “pearls and pigs” have to do with our solutions for everybody else’s problems. If it’s not that those dogs and pigs are unworthy of our solutions, if it’s not somehow for our own safety and security, then what could Jesus mean?
Pigs can not digest pearls. Pearls have no nourishment for a pig. No matter how you dress it up, no matter how hard you try, that pig just is not going to get anything out of those pearls. A dog can’t feed on the holy scriptures, the cross of Christ, or any of your other solutions to the trouble they may or may not find themselves in. Of course, if we keep trying to feed animals things which they cannot digest, and otherwise leave them starving, sooner or later they will turn on you and eat you for lunch. At least you are edible to them.

beautiful-pictures-of-jesus-christ_1
All people are made in the image of God. But not all people know it. And not all people want to know it. Of course, we know that we are made in the image of God. And since we are made in the image of God, since we have discovered and believe in the way, the truth, and the life in Jesus Christ His only son, it only makes sense that the rest of the world needs to hear it. Because we know we are in the image of God, then we should do all we can to make those around us in the image of God. In other words – we should make them more like us, so they too can be in God’s image, right? We bring our solutions to them, whether they want to hear about it or not, whether they are ready or not. And we keep bringing our solutions to them, keep confronting them, even though they can not digest the “water” we are trying to pour sown their throats. It does not help them at all. In reality, what we are really trying to do is control them, using our pearls as a means of forming them to be more like us (after all, we are in Gods image!). And eventually, we are left wondering why they turned against us.

fire heart wallpapers 1
Of course, our heart is in the right place. After all, the world needs our pearls, whatever they may be. If your pearl is the Gospel, that is even the only hope of the world. But the Gospel can be hard to digest, and your pearls might be left on the ground time after time. Eventually, you might wind up on the menu.
Sometimes, our heart really is not even in the right place. Sometimes, we are really just more interested in our own ego or our own will. I’ve known people people to drive an hour and a half each way to pick up people to bring them to a one hour meeting, and the people they brought to the meeting didn’t even want to be there. They resented the effort put in, because it was not done for their benefit at all, but for the benefit of the ego of the one doing the “good work”.

Jesus Rejected
I am not saying we don’t try to help people. We have that desire, and we should do all we can in the service of others. It’s kind of difficult to love those around us without being willing to help. But what matters is our approach and attitude in our endeavors to help others. Are we really trying to be of service, or are we trying to justify our selves and get that pat on the back? What is our motivation? Are we trying to help because we feel superior or because we can see how wring they are doing things? In this case, we will almost never actually be helping.
God gave every human being free will. He then came and paid a high price to arrange for that free will. It’s obviously very important to him. It’s the only way we can be the kind of personal beings he can use for eternal purposes. Earlier in this same sermon Jesus told us “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew‬ ‭5:37‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We are not to manipulate others with our flowery language. Just as we are not not (can not) to harass people into our kind of rightness or goodness with condemnation, or use our “pearls” to manipulate them to be in our image, as we would have them be.

 

“”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. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.7.1-6.esv

John Lewis

The Log In Our Eye

redwood trees

We looked at condemnation yesterday, but there is so much involved in this and in Jesus treatment of it, I have to go there again. Condemnation is very powerful. It cuts to the most vulnerable areas at the core of our being. This is why it hurts so badly when used against us, and also why we rely upon it so heavily for our own purposes. So, to accept and live out what Paul tells us in Romans 8:1 is a major milestone in our lives – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans‬ ‭8:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬. If we really are different from the world around us, this is where those in the outside looking in should be able to see our difference, where our light should shine the brightest. If we’ve really been changed on the inside, if we are truly becoming more like Christ, then we would not condemn those around us, nor would we accept or receive others’ condemnation raining down upon us.

christians-perfect

If we’ve dealt with anger and contempt (which we probably haven’t), then this battle’s mostly won already. When we condemn, we are setting ourselves up as somehow better than the one being condemned, the inference being, of course, that we are not like that. We have gotten all wrapped up in our delicious self righteousness, and therefore feel justified in comparing ourselves and condemning. We have contempt for them or their actions, and we see them as less than ourselves, deserving of our condemnation.

anger and condemnation
Anger almost always leads to condemnation, because anger seeks to injure, and there is not much in the world that injures as quickly or painfully as condemnation. And once we go down the path of condemnation, our anger is then free to multiply, because now we see those on the receiving end as deserving of their suffering and unworthy anyway of any love, protection or respect. To which the one we condemn responds back with amplified anger and condemnation of us, and then it all just goes around in a circle as ever recycled hate and revenge.

log-in-eye

Of course, Jesus does give us his better way. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. It is amazing, isn’t it, how we can always see and point out every fault and defect in those around us, but as soon as our own faults are shown to us we respond with – anger and contempt!!

holy-spirit-comforter1
Jesus declares something very strong, powerful and important here that I don’t want you to miss. He is declaring loudly and clearly that everyone who judges, who condemns others, is a hypocrite. We see the speck of dust in our brothers eye and condemn him for it, while not even knowing we have a “log” in our own eye. Yes, we know that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Is it just because everyone screws it up, we are all sinners, that Jesus says this? Is he merely telling us once again to “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone,” John‬ ‭8:7‬ ‭ESV‬? Actually, no, that’s not what Jesus is doing here. Jesus just understands what condemnation really is, and what it involves.

Cast-the-first-stone
Here’s what we miss here – Jesus knows inherently that all who judge others with condemnation are hypocrites and have a log in their eye because condemnation itself is the log in their (yours and my) eye. Simply the fact that we are condemning someone in this manner is evidence that our hearts are not yet right in the kingdom of God. Our condemnation of our brother blinds us to the true value of our brother. We can’t see how to help our bother, because we really can’t even see our brother as our brother. And until we become the kind of person who does not condemn, we will never know how to really help our brother. We don’t take the log out so we can see how to better condemn our brother. It is only when we take the log out of [our] own eye that we can walk with him representing the Holy Spirit of advocacy and not the unholy spirit of accusation and condemnation.

unholy spirit

“”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. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.7.1-6.esv

John Lewis