Protest and Parable

Protest and Parable

tissot-the-merchants-chased-from-the-temple-746x471

Back in Jerusalem, after the triumphal entry.  Jesus has cried his tears over Jerusalem and gone into the city.   He’s received the hosannas and been warned by the Pharisees.   Upon entering the city, Jesus goes into the temple.   “And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” Mark 11:11 ESV.  Notice it says he looked around at everything.   So the next day, when he actually prophetically blesses the temple, we know that it was a planned action, not a heat of the moment temper tantrum.

Jesus-curses-fig-tree

So on Monday, Jesus is headed to the temple, but first he comes upon a fig tree.  “On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.” Mark 11:12-14 ESV. Now, this is not the season for figs, and Jesus knows it.  He is enacting a parable.  He is making a point, just as the gospel writer is making a point of including it.  Jesus is using the fig tree as a symbolic representation of the temple.  Mark told us he entered the temple and looked around following his entry into the city.  Know he tells us Jesus is looking for fruit on this fig tree, and finds none.  Just as he finds no fruit in the temple.   The next morning, remember, Jesus and the disciples pass by the fig tree again.  As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God.” Mark 11:14, 20-22 ESV.  The withered fig tree which was not producing fruit, on the way to the temple which was not producing the fruit of righteousness and faith in God.

whip for the sheep and cattle

Jesus then goes back into the temple and does his prophetic reenactment of Jeremiah, driving out those inside conducting business during the Passover week.   And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”   And he was teaching daily in the temple.  Notice here it does not mention the whip, and neither do Mark or Matthew.  The only gospel that mentions the whip is John’s gospel, because John is the only one that mentions the sheep and cattle.  The whip was for the sheep and cattle, not the people.

seeking to destroy him

The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.   How about that translation – the principal men!   Those principalities and powers that control society to this day, those men who control the money, the military, and the religious institutions, as well as the spiritual forces behind them.  And what does it say about them?  It says they were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.   

jesus teaching in the temple.jpg

So Jesus is teaching daily in the temple.  Those in control of the money, the power, and religion were seeking to destroy him.  The people are hanging on his words.  Jesus is teaching in the temple about the end of the temple, while those in charge of the temple are planning the end Jesus.   They can’t arrest him during the day,  because they fear starting a riot or revolt.  Jesus remarks on this as he gets arrested a few days later – “And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”” Mark 14:48-49 ESV.

Judas

This is why Judas was so important to the story.  Jesus correctly points out that he was every day right there teaching, in the open.  They could have taken him anytime.  But they feared the people, who were hanging on his every word.  They feared starting a riot during Passover.  But Judas gives them a way, a way to take him into custody in the dark of night, away from the crowds.

Jesus

He gave them a way to fulfill their plot to put an end to this Jesus of Nazareth.  Principalities and powers to this day are trying to figure out how to put and end to this Jesus business.  He’s just so inconvenient.

end of the temple

But none of them could prevent the end of the temple.

“And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.”

Luke 19:45-48 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.19.45-48.esv

John Lewis

They Could Have Been Saved

They Could Have Been Saved

rebuke your disciples

I’m continuing what I started yesterday, looking at Jesus on the road to Jerusalem with the full knowledge of what the outcome would be.   Beginning today with his entry into Jerusalem, that triumphant entry where the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”   To which, of course, the Pharisees responded with this admonition  – And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”   This was actually good advice from the Pharisees to Jesus, because his followers were declaring him King when Israel already had a king.  It was the kind of thing that might get one crucified for treason – which had happened plenty of times before.  Of course, Jesus knows what his purpose is, and the time to fulfill that purpose has come – He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”   Jesus is the king, and the time for his coronation had come.

They could have been saved

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”    The king has come with tears in his eyes.  He knows that in their hosannas there is a darkness still present, a kind of triumphalism which maybe we still share to this day.  Jesus followers were looking for a revolution, and they got one.  They were looking for a Messiah, and they got one.  But their revolution was not of violence, and their Messiah was not a conqueror.  He would not take up the sword and lead his army into a great battle, conquering his enemies by spilling their blood.  No, Jesus knows that despite their hosannas, the crowd cheering him would melt into the crowd jeering him.  They would choose a Messiah named Barrabas (which, by the way, means “Son of the father“) a violent revolutionary who saw the world as that crowd saw the world, as an us vs them proposition, we are right and they are wrong, we are good and they are evil.  They would choose the messiah who believed in violence as they believed in violence.  And some of those crying out Hosanna! on Palm Sunday would cry out “crucify him” as Pilate asked what to do with this King of the Jews.

king-jesus-2

But back to my original point here.  Jesus has come to Jerusalem, to the climax of his earthly ministry.  He has come to Jerusalem with tears in his eyes, weeping as he prophecies The End for Jerusalem and the temple.   Understand the real drama that is going on here, and high drama it is.  Because at the same time the temple establishment is seeking a way to bring and end to Jesus,  Jesus is predicting the end of the temple and the temple age.   His entire ministry, Jesus has preached almost nothing but the kingdom of God.   Kingdom of God, kingdom of God, kingdom of God, it’s all Jesus talked about.  Jesus believed the end of the temple was coming, and that the end of the temple would mark the coming of the kingdom of God.

Kingdom of God

The king had come to Jerusalem.  No longer was he telling his disciples to keep it under wraps that he was Messiah.  He comes to Jerusalem with tears in his eyes, because they simply do not know the things that make for peace!   Things did not have to go the way it did.   For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.   Again, the whole story did not have to play out the way it did, and has.   Jerusalem could have been saved.  If they had recognized their true King when he visited them, they could have been saved.  But they don’t.  And 40 years later, in AD 70, what Jesus predicts would happen, happens.   40 years later, undoubtably with some of those who were in both crowds, before that generation had passed away, the crowd crying Hosanna and the crowd crying crucify him!, the Romans set up siege barricades around Jerusalem, hemmed them in on every side, and tore the city to the ground.  Men, women, and their children with them.  And no, not one stone was left upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.

crucify him

 

They could have been saved had they known the things that make for peace!   

peace

Lucky for us, we can…

FergusonTruth

“And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.””

Luke 19:36-44 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.19.36-44.esv

John Lewis

There is a Temple

There is a Temple

the temple

Been offline for a week (again), was enjoying a nice family vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC.   I’ve been a little inconsistent the past couple of months, for various reasons.   I hope to get back to a little better consistency in writing, pray for me on that, if you will.

Receive-the-holy-spirit

When last I did write, I wrote on John 20:19-23, particularly verse 23, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”   We are all commissioned  by Jesus as priests in his kingdom, commissioned to offer his forgiveness to the world.  Commissioned to flood the world with the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

destroy this temple

If you’ve spent any time in or around church, you probably remember the story which we call the “cleansing of the temple“, when Jesus drives out those doing business in the temple, turning the temple into their own house of business rather that a house of worship.  He did this right in the middle of Passover week, their busiest time of the year, really costing these money changers and businessmen at the time when they would do their greatest business.  Really interfering with the way things are done.  So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”   Who are you do stop us from doing our business??   Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

temple of his body
Jesus challenged those in authority, challenged their economic systems and their hierarchical system of power and control.  When he answered their question about his authority to interrupt their commerce, “The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” John 2:20-21 ESV.  Seems like a logical response to me, they’d been building that temple for 46 years, how in the world we Jesus rebuild it in three days?   Some of us are still waiting for that temple to be rebuilt.  Undoubtedly, some of those Jews thought they were standing in the temple prophesied by Ezekiel hundreds of years earlier.  Ezekiel saw a new temple coming, a temple from which would flow rivers of forgiveness.   The temple Ezekiel saw coming in his ancient prophecy is the temple Jesus refers to when he gives them his response  Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.   The temple Ezekiel saw coming was not a physical temple, but the temple of the body of Christ.

Body-of-Christ

It is from this temple that rivers of forgiveness flow.  Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.   

Trickling water
At first, closest to us, it is just a trickle.  But the temple of the body of Christ is not just one place.  The temple of the body of Christ goes anywhere the followers of Christ go.   And as we go farther and wider into the world, the water begins to get deeper.  Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep.   As we go into the world, out of our locked panic rooms, through our fear and eventually out of our fear, sent by Jesus, we become salt and light in the dark, ugly world.  As we carry the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ into the world, the world we fear and want to escape, the water begins to get deeper.   Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep.   At first it’s just a trickle, then it’s ankle deep, now it’s knee deep.

knee deep

Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.   Now we are swimming in our river of forgiveness.   It eventually swells and grows to overflowing, we can’t get away from it.

rushing-river-1500x1015
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.   The water keeps rising, keeps flowing.   It eventually flows into Arabah, or as we know it, the Dead Sea.  The sea which is at one of the lowest altitudes on the planet, the sea which, I believe, is a hundred feet below sea level.  The sea so salty nothing can live there (which of course is why we call it the Dead Sea).  The water which flows through the desert, healing the desert as it goes, growing trees where no trees grow, makes it into the Dead Sea, turning even that dead space into fresh water.

dead sea

But here’s the thing – the great problem if the world is not the saline content of the Dead Sea.  That is not the point of Ezekiel’s vision.  The great problem of the world is hate and retribution.  The world we live in is a scorched desert of hate.

scorched_desert_1

But there is a temple from which a river flows.  The temple of the body of Jesus Christ.  The temple which was raised after three days.  The body of which all who believe are members.

CA18632

Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.   If we want to stand in the swamps and marshes, we can do that.  We can even build walls to protect our swamps and marshes (or dams.  Or whatever we might build to protect a salty swamp or salty marsh).  Sometimes our salt tastes good to us.  We think everybody should be a little salty like us.

tree producing good fruit

But we are sent by Jesus to flood the world with rivers of mercy and forgiveness.  We are sent to grab rods and go fishing.  We are sent to heal that scorched desert of hate, heal it with mercy and forgiveness.  We are sent to bring water from the sanctuary, to nourish the trees that never fail, to provide good fruit for the world to eat.
raised on the third day
Jesus gave us his sign.  He raised that temple in three days, just like he said.  That temple has water flowing, water that can heal the desert and make the Dead Sea fresh.

living water

Didn’t Jesus say something about water?  “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.””John 4:10 ESV.  The living water is flowing, flooding the world.  Why do we keep trying to dam it up?

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”” 
John 2:18-19 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.2.18-19.esv

“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side. Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.””
Ezekiel 47:1-12 ESV
http://bible.com/59/ezk.47.1-12.esv

John Lewis

Flood the World

martin_john_-_the_deluge_-_1834

Continuing on thoughts from my last post.

Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_-_Appearance_Behind_Locked_Doors_-_WGA06734

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

huddled in fear

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

peace be with you 1

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

refugeees

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

 

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

zombies

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

glad

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

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

The-Commission

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

forgiveness

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

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

give

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

2013 Faith Church Final Words father forgive

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

send-me

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

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

blame game.jpg

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

satan-accuser

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

 

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

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

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

John Lewis

Cause and Effect

Cause and Effect

cause-and-effect-essays

From the scroll of Isaiah, a vision of the end times. Isaiah gives us a vision not of death and destruction, doom and gloom. He gives us a vision of peace, a vision of joy, a vision of hope.

New-heavens-and-new-earth

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.In the end, we will have a new heaven and a new earth. It says I create– God, Yahweh, is still creating. He is the creator God, creator of heaven and earth. He is still in the business of creation, not destruction. His creation was, and is, good, good and very good. But he is not finished. He is still building. He is still creating. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. Jerusalem, "the peace of God", is created to be a joy. In Revelation 21 we see the new heaven and new earth, the new Jerusalem being formed on the earth, God joining with man, living with his creation. This new Jerusalem is what Jerusalem was always intended to be, "the peace of God", which the apostle Paul tells us surpasses all understanding, a peace which we as yet have no comprehension of. Yet this is the peace which, if we are living as disciples of Christ and living out his great commission – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."”Matthew‬ ‭28:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬. This great commission to make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. We forget (or maybe never heard) that in both Exodus and Revelation, we are called to be a "kingdom of priests", and in Revelation it goes on to say we shall "reign on the earth". We are to not just share the Gospel, but to make disciples of all nations.  It's going to take far more than the work of Jonah, going in because we feel compelled, sharing the message of God, then getting angry that the message may or may not have been heard. We are not called to simply share the good news. We are called to make disciples of all nations. Russia. China. South Korea. North Korea. Mexico. India. The United Stated of America.

kingdom of priests
We are his kingdom of priests, called to make disciples of all the nations. Disciples to Jesus Christ. Disciples to the way of peace, love, and above all forgiveness. We are joined with God, Yahweh, through his one true Son in the project of building the new heavens and the new earth. It is upon our completion of this project, with the ever present help of Christ through the Holy Spirit, that we will see Christ coming again. What I'm saying here is that I think we have our cause and effect backward. We are to make disciples of all nationsto Jesus Christ. We tell ourselves that there will never be peace on earth until Christ returns. So we are then to just wait, make sure we make our "fair share" of converts, live our lives as best we can, and hope that if Christ returns tomorrow we will be among those taken and not among those "left behind" (which, by the way, is a MASSIVELY TRAGIC misreading and misunderstanding of Jesus' Olivet discourse).

make disciples
But I'm saying that it's the other way around. We are not waiting for Christ's return in the hope that there will finally be peace on earth. We are called, again, to make disciples of all nations. Not just read the verses, then turn and run. Jesus Christ himself was the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets. “"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The Jewish people, and indeed the whole world, already had the Hebrew Scriptures. It's all in there. If that were enough to get the job done, Jesus would have never come in his incarnation. The point is, we have the Bible. It's all in there. But it is not enough. It's not enough to know the Bible, it's not enough to be able to teach what the Bible says, it's not enough to share the Bible with the world. Just sharing the Bible does not make disciples to Jesus Christ. It will not make disciples of all nations. The only way to bring about the new Jerusalem, to participate in the project of creating the new heaven and new earth, the only way to bring about the return of Jesus Christ in glory, is to follow him. We must do as he told us. We must live as he showed us!! It is not enough to 'tell' people about Jesus. We must 'show' them the Christ in our own lives. We must be the Christ in their lives.  

fishers of men
“And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:38‬ ‭ESV‬‬. " Jes“Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:21-22‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."”‭‭John‬ ‭13:35‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬. I share these verses just as a small sampling of what Jesus taught and showed. But the message we learn from his life is that God is love. We must be the embodied expression of that love in the lives of people here and now. Because this is how we make disciples of all the nations – by showing God's love to the world around us, one person, one believer at a time.

The-Wages-Of-Sin-Is-Death
Because it won't be Jesus second coming that will bring peace on earth. It will be peace on earth that brings the second coming of Christ. We are the instruments of that peace. We've followed the first Adam into sin and death long enough. Yes our world is a broken, sinful world. The apostle Paul told us – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The wages of sin is death, have we not figured this out yet? We know it, we say it, but then we just don't see it. Christ at the cross paid the wages of the sin in the world in his own death. Yet we keep sacrificing all the Abel's of the world at the altar of our own sinful world systems. Blood continues to cry from the ground…we just turn up the radio louder so we don't have to hear it. The endless cycle of recycled revenge is the cycle we choose. We don't get mad, we get even. We do unto others as they've done to us. Sometimes we do unto others before they do unto us. 50,000,000 dead in WWII. Hundreds of millions in various wars in China. The wages of sin is death. Tens of millions killed by the conquest of the Americas after its discovery by Columbus. The endless parade of dead bodies, blood on our hands. Just google wars and death tolls. We fight fight, fight because we are right and they are wrong. The wages of sin is death.

free gift of god
We've followed the first Adam into disobedience, sin, death and destruction long enough. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. So we now lead the world in following the second Adam. It's not enough to tell them, we must show them. If it were enough to tell about it, Jesus never had to come. But God had to show us what the fulfillment of his law and prophets looks like. He had to show us what He looks like. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬. God looks like Jesus. It is in the resurrection of Christ that God the Father affirms – "That's it!! That's how you do it!!" So we follow Jesus, we show Jesus to the world around us. We make disciple one person at a time, until our project is completed to make disciples of all nations.

jesus-second-coming
We participate with him to make way for the second coming of the Lord. Of course, he never actually left us.
“"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain," says the Lord.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭65:17-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.65.17-25.esv

“and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel."”

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭19:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/exo.19.6.esv
“and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭5:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/rev.5.10.esv

John Lewis

Honor Your Father and Mother

Honor_Your_Father_Mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭20:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis

Frogs and False Prophets

Frogs and False Prophets

Bullfrogs

Jesus continuing his sermon on the mount, giving us the hard truth that not all who claim his name will be what they seem.

wolf in sheeps clothing
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. This was a hard teaching of Jesus that remains difficult. Beware of false prophets. Remember the teaching that just preceded this, “”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. Jesus goes right from this into teaching about the false prophets, those who might teach exactly the opposite of this. ‘Follow Jesus – he will give you everything you want!’ ‘If you want to be healthy, wealthy and wise, Jesus has a plan for you!!’   

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. They don’t teach about loving enemies. They don’t talk about turning the other cheek. They don’t teach the hard truths about forgiveness, the truth that most of the time, we are to be the forgiving one, not the forgiven one. These don’t make people feel good, they don’t inspire “generous giving“. They don’t teach the hard things, because while they may look like sheep on the outside, they just come eat the sheep, using us for their own purposes, to fulfill their own desires.

bad fruit
They might even teach the hard things. The thing about the wolf in sheeps clothing, sometimes you just have to ignore what they say, but watch instead what they do. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. What is the state of their own relationships?? How well do they apply the teachings of Jesus in their own lives? Are they forgiving of others themselves? Do you see them holding grudges, bearing anger? Do they respond to evil with evil? Or do they exhibit those fruits of the spirit, “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Do you see the fruit of obedience in their lives??

false_teachers
Now, I just can’t leave this out. Because false prophets still exists today, inside our own churches for sure. But what about the false prophets outside the church. The false prophet we are far more prone to fall for in this day and age. The false prophet of empire…

frog_spirits
“And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.” ‭Revelation‬ ‭16:13-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬. From the mouth of the dragon and the beast, and the false prophet, the spirits like frogs. The frogs of empire. Yes…in Revelation the dragon and the beast are symbols used for empire, those large, rich, powerful nations who claim a manifest destiny to rule the nations and shape the world as they would have it, in their own image. And from their mouths come the frogs of empire, croaking out with glee the anthem of the beast. Every conflict, every riot, every shooting, now more than ever, we listen to the demonic frogs of the empire. We have a 24 hour news cycle, 24 hours of talking heads telling us who’s side we should be on, who’s right and who’s wrong, which “us” we are for and which “them” we are against. This is who we are for, that’s who we are against. They make their own disciples among all the nations, pitting one group against another, all to their own glory and benefit.

24 hour news
Know one thing for sure, we are not called to be disciples of the frogs of empire. The manifest destiny to rule the nations does not lie with the dragon, it does not lie with the beast, or any if its false prophets or frogs. God reserves that power to his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. All those frogs of empire will fade away, but the name of Jesus Christ will go on forever. The beast thought it had him killed, they even had him buried. The beast keeps trying to kill Him. But He just keeps rising again.

frogs of empire
We are not called to be disciples of the frogs of empire. We are called to be disciples of the slaughtered little lamb who defeats the dragons and the beasts of empire by the shedding of his own blood.

Laura Sotka after Grunewald, 2012

“”Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:15-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.7.15-20.esv
“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:29-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/act.20.29-30.esv
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭2:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/2pe.2.1-3.esv

John Lewis