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

Weeping over US

Weeping over US

weeping over jerusalem

It’s Passion week, our Holy Week, the time when we remember the suffering, persecution, crucifixion, and ultimately the resurrection Jesus Christ our Lord. It’s the time when we remember all the events, decisions, and obedience of that week, and there is a lot to remember. I’m looking today at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus riding into the great city to fulfill prophecy and be crowned King, the Messiah of Israel.

triumphal entry

“And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” 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 ‭11:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

hosanna

When Jesus came into Jerusalem from Galilee for his coronation, he came in riding on a donkey’s colt. Jesus was purposefully fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah from about 350 years before – Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. We know Jesus did this intentionally to fulfill this prophecy. As he approaches the city he specifically tells two of his disciples “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'”” Mark‬ ‭11:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. How did Jesus know the colt would be there? I don’t know, but the colt was there, his disciples did as they were told, and Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of the foal of a donkey, probably with his feet dragging the ground because the foal would have been too small for him. The whole scene would probably have seemed ridiculous if CNN was there covering. Picture a crowd of peasants from Galilee, shouting hosanna to their king, who rides in not on a great war horse, but on a donkey. And not even a full grown donkey, but the foal of a donkey. This was quite the piece of prophetic theater orchestrated by Jesus.

pilate on a horse

Pontius Pilate also would have ridden into the city to prepare for the Passover. Not because he was a Jew, but because Passover was (is) the celebration of the liberation of the people of Israel from bondage to the Egyptians, and it was a time that would spark new thoughts of rebellion and liberation from their current bondage under Caesar. It was not in Pilates best interest to stay home in Caesarea during this time. He needed to be present in order to deal promptly with any thoughts of rebellion that might occur during the festival.
When Pilate rode into the city, he came in not on a donkey, but a great horse. A war horse. If you read the Bible in the Old Testament, you will find that Yahweh did not much care for horses. It’s not that God does not like the majestic beauty and power of the horse – of course he loves them. He created them after all. But what he did not like is what mankind had come to use these beautiful animals for. Horses were not used for transportation, agriculture, or any other domesticated purpose, it was the donkey that was the beast of burden. Horses, from the time of the warlords of Sumer about 4500 years ago, were primarily instruments of war. They were the tanks and fighter planes of their day.

Warrior_chariot_war_horses1
This is why it was told specifically to Joshua in his victories over the Canaanites “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.”” Joshua‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Keeping the donkeys was fine, but they were told to hamstring the horses. When we read this, it sounds really strange. Why are they commanded to hamstring their horses?
Maybe we should reread all these passages in the Bible, and everywhere we read the word “horse” re-translate it into what they really were – “war horse“. Better yet, just change it to read “tanks“. Because in the ancient world, that’s what the horse was used as – an instrument of war. So when the Israelites are told to hamstring the horses but keep the donkeys, we can better understand it as being “keep the tractors and destroy the tanks“.

Kuwaiti_M1_Abrams_tanks
Acquiring “many” horses was specifically prohibited for Israel’s kings in the law set down in Deuteronomy- “Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’” Deuteronomy‬ ‭17:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Of course, this was a command ignored by the kings of Israel. We know king Solomon kept over 12,000 horses. We also know that every time Israel relied on their horses in battle, they were defeated, it was only when they turned to the Lord that they were delivered.

N1401-SCN-S94-012

What is the point of all of this? It’s not that God does not like horses, he certainly loves horses. But God does not like the fact that we use horses as war horses. Just like he does not like our tanks, our missiles, our military might. We live in 21st century America, home of the free and land of the brave. But where is our trust? Remember Psalm 20? “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalms‬ ‭20:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Here is my unofficial 21st century American translation of that verse – “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but WE trust in nuclear submarines, cruise missiles, aircraft carriers, stealth bombers and our full nuclear arsenal!!” Let’s see their horses stand up to that!! Of course, they are not relying on horses anymore either, are they?

majestic horse
The prophecy Jesus fulfilled by riding the colt into Jerusalem was from the 3rd – 4th century BC from Zachariah. It was written during the time of Alexander the Great, the greatest of the Greats the world has ever known. All the greats – Alexander the Great, Peter the great, Cyrus the great, many more I’m sure – were pretty much great at the same thing – they were great at war. They were called great because the people who wrote the history after them were on their side. The people who wrote the history were on their side mainly because the people who were not on their side were now mostly dead.

the_aftermath_of_hiroshima_640_19
Rome once spoke of the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome. I think it was Tacitus who said of Rome at the time – “Rome creates a desert and calls it peace.” They would come to opposing territory, kill everyone there, destroy the nation, and say to themselves “Isn’t it peaceful now?” We’ve been fighting wars to achieve “peace” for 4500 years now. Except for war never leads to peace, each and every war only leads to the next war, the next battle.

Alexander on Bucephalus
Alexander the Great rode his Great War horse Bucephalus into every battle he ever fought. In case you don’t know, Bucephalus is probably the most famous animal in history. To this day, we know where this horse is buried. A giant war horse, worthy of a great man. A majestic animal, projecting the pride and power his rider would want to project. But we would do well to remember this admonition in the psalms – “The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.” Psalms‬ ‭33:16-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Remember the for horseman of the apocalypse.  The white horse, the great horse of conquest. Followed by the red horse of war, because people don’t like being conquered and will eventually fight back. Then the black horse of famine, because we fight each other with and for our resources producing scarcity. Finally the ultimate fate of mankind as we trust in our war machines for our salvation, the green horse of death.

 

The prophecy of Zachariah – “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Jesus rode into Jerusalem for his coronation not on a conquering war horse but a peace donkey. While those shouting hosanna were looking for a conquering hero, Jesus the Great, to bring salvation to them from the oppressive hand of the Roman occupiers, their Messiah was bringing the only salvation that can last through the millennia, the salvation that comes from forgiveness and reconciliation. While the crowds shouted their hosannas to the one coming in the name of the Lord and not Caesar, the one who came in the name of the Lord cried over Jerusalem “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” Luke‬ ‭19:42‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

jesus-on-the-cross1

Jesus cries over us to this day, for even as we shout our hosannas to our savior, we still do not know the things that make for peace. Paraphrasing the words of Ravi Zacharias, until we can accept the sacrifice of the only begotten Son of God on the hard wood of the cross, we will continue to sacrifice our own sons and daughters on the battlefields of the world.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

‭‭Zechariah‬ ‭9:9-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/zec.9.9-10.esv
“And Joshua did to them just as the Lord said to him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.
And all the spoil of these cities and the livestock, the people of Israel took for their plunder.”

‭‭Joshua‬ ‭11:9, 14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” 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 ‭11:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mrk.11.7-11.esv

John Lewis

And it Was Good

And it Was Good

earth-god

 

In Genesis Chapter 1 today, the creation account, the biblical account of God’s great creation of the heavens and the earth.
I’m not here to analyze the creation account, I’m not here to compare and contrast every verse of Genesis with all the major scientific discoveries of the past 4000 years. I am very simply looking at the creation account to think about the creator behind it all.
What do you think of God? Who do you think He is? What kind of being is He?

zeus
First…let’s think about one thing in the creation account. Over and over again…we see that God sees His creation as good. He is happy with what He has created.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. 

let-there-be-light1
And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. Our atmosphere. The air we breathe. God calls the atmosphere and the air we breathe Heaven. There’s something to ponder for the next year or two…and I would say He thought that was good also!
God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 

400px-hopetoun_falls
The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

moon-stars-clouds
And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

oceans-fish-2-sb0o4bdrho-1024x768
So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 

clip_image0022
And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

good-creation
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
How’s this for a thought – what if this image we have burned into our minds of God as a Zeus-like character in Greek mythology, sitting up in some far away place, a galaxy far far away, watching us, angry with us, ready to strike us down at any moment, is just wrong?? If you read the creation account, that is not who God is at all. God is happy. God is not just happy, He’s joyful.
He’s happy with His creation, and why wouldn’t He be. It is good! Take a moment and think about your best memory. Or your best memories, hopefully. Think about the most beautiful views you’ve seen. Think about those experiences in your life which you will remember until you die. Your best days.
These are God’s everyday. The sunset at Laguna. The beaches at Maui. The summit of Everest. The sunrise on the Atlantic. The view from an airliner over the clouds. This is His everyday.
We have fish tank in my house. We’ve had it for a few years now, it’s probably got about 6-7 fish and a couple of shrimp in it. We think it’s cool, we still get joy watching these few fish swim around their 25 gallon environment. God has billions of these, everyday, swimming in every ocean, every river, every stream. Just a part of His everyday.

eagle-nebula
Think you’ve seen beautiful cloud formations?? With our space telescopes out there sending pictures, we’ve found cloud formations estimated at 6 trillion miles high, all backlit by multiple stars bigger and more powerful than our sun. Unimaginable to us. His everyday.
We also have microscopic cameras, capable of taking pictures of even our human DNA strand. The intricate designs even of the tiniest parts of us are stunning, appearing like the most beautiful stained glass. Again…His everyday.

human-dna
Dallas Willard says this about our God – “Undoubtably he is the most joyous being in the world. The abundance of His love and generosity is inseparable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness.”
We don’t serve an angry God whom we have to live in constant fear of. We serve a joyous God who loves and enjoys all that He created (including you!). What God created is good and beautiful.
We forget that we live in a world full of beauty and wonder. A world that was created full of beauty and wonder. We have a lot of things screwed up in the way we live and relate to this beautiful world, Gods good creation. We serve a joyous God. Jesus was know for His joy. The early Christians were known for their joy, even up to the point of their own death. Here in America, we seem to have it all. We have money, comfort, technology, all the food we can eat and then some.
We have everything, it seems, except for the joy for which we were created.

 

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:1-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.1-31.esv

John Lewis

Family Business

Family Business

family_at_the_cross

Probably going to get myself in a little trouble, but I’m going  continue my theme from yesterday.
The overarching mission of God is the project to set right through the cross our world gone wrong through sin. Many, maybe most, say Jesus was born to die. I would say He was born to announce, enact and implement the kingdom of God. And the kingdom of God is a peaceable Kingdom. One of our worst problems in humanity is the complete inability to live together in peace. And our quarrels run to our very core, often based on religion, ethnicity, and national boundaries and pride. But this is the hostility no less than the apostle Paul says is overcome by the cross. We may today limit the peace of Christ through the cross to “spiritual peace”, that is not what Paul believed. According to Paul…the achievement of the cross is peace in every sense of the word.

blood-of-the-cross
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The cross brings peace across all dimensions – on earth and in heaven, spiritual and political, personal and global. Of course, that peace has not yet been fully seen! But we should not regard this as an impossible task. It is a challenge for us to much more faithfully take up the cross and follow Christ.

armageddon
Of course…we do see wars and the road to Armageddon in Revelation (told you I was going to get myself into trouble!). “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. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭16:13-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Right off the top, and very simply, I am not prepared to start or participate in any debates on end times prophecy. But just as simply, no theory of the end times frees us to cheer for war and oppose peace. And even more simply – if the devil is leading the nations of the world to war, we do not cheer him on in his work. Whatever theory of the end of the world we think we get from the Book of Revelation, we still are not exempted from the very clear teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount – “”Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬. To be clear – peacemakers are not Antichrist. If we claim or aspire to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, we are called to love peace, declare peace, and work for peace. Peace at every level – in our families or among nations. In our own warring minds. Even on Facebook and Twitter. Our family business as the sons of daughters of God is to help bring about the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.

family-business
Wars do come…but they must never come in the name of Christ. That would be Antichrist. They also should not be assumed to be inevitable or the will of God. And we DO NOT rejoice in them.

who-is-my-neighbor
“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭10:25-28‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Trouble is…we are still trying to answer the question – “Who is my neighbor?”

my-neighbor
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans‬ ‭12:18‬ ‭ESV

‬‬
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James‬ ‭3:17-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

John Lewis

No Room at the Inn

No Room at the Inn

no-room-at-the-inn

The Birth of Jesus Christ, as we say, the reason for the season. Seven verses to change the world.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. Interesting that is says “all the world should be registered.” Certainly all the world that mattered to anyone involved in the story, for sure. All the world that Caesar Augustus wanted to tax and use for military service for sure. Because Jews were exempt from military service, for Mary and Joseph this would have been all about being registered to pay the tax man. Interestingly enough, under Roman custom they would have simply been counted where they live currently…much as we do today. It was the Jewish ancestral traditions that drove them to make the 80 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

mary-and-joseph
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. The Jewish ancestral traditions, all those lineages we find in the Bible. Without these traditions, Mary stays in Nazareth, as well she should have, to deliver her baby boy. Without these lineages, without the importance placed on ancestry, on where are you from, in Jewish life, this prophecy is not fulfilled. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.” Micah‬ ‭5:2‬ ‭NLT

‬‬

Up to that point, Mary was living in the wrong place. But, because of her betrothal to be married to Joseph, she too was now an heiress in the line of King David, so she had to make this 80 mile journey not because she wanted to, but under the rule and force of Roman law. But God…

swaddling
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. So the prophecy from Micah, along with so many other prophecies, could also be fulfilled. “This is the Lord ‘s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” Psalms‬ ‭118:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The tiny village of Bethlehem was apparently overrun with travelers coming to be registered just as Joseph and Mary came. We have the most famous words here “No room at the inn”, but Jesus wasn’t born as we are problem picturing it. Jesus wasn’t born in a barn or some kind of side building to an inn. Bethlehem is riddled with caves, and it is almost certainly in one of these caves that Christ came into the world. We think we even know the cave in which He was born. There are several churches built on the site, and yes, if you make the trip into Bethlehem you can visit the cave in which (we believe) the savior of the world was born.

bethlehem-cave1
Born in a cave because there was no room at the inn. These days, for a very affordable price for sure, we would certainly make room at the inn. We just have no room in our hearts. We have no room in our lives. We would just have something better to do on a Friday night (or whatever night of the week it happened to be. I have no idea what night Jesus was born on). We would be too busy. We certainly wouldn’t be watching the stars to then make a thousand mile journey on foot to bring gifts and worship just another baby born out of wedlock to common teen age parents.

bethlehem-cave
No room at the inn. The only place there was space for Jesus when He came was on a Roman crucifix. No room in Rome for a king with a heavenly kingdom. No room in synagogue for a rabbi who overturned the Torah. No room for a Messiah who’s weapons were love and forgiveness, not revenge and a sword.

christ-crucified
No room in our inn either. No room for a Christ who calls us to love our enemies. After all…He never met our enemies. No room for a Jesus who sleeps with the homeless. No room for a Christ who loves prisoners (or inmates, as we would call them). No room for a Jesus who eats with the hungry. No room for a savior who demands we see each one as we see Him.

people-on-cell-phone

No room for His word.  Despite the fact that the average American adult gets ELEVEN (count ’em!) hours per day on electronic devices (per Nielson reports, March 2015), most of those same adults, including self described Christians, claim to have no time to read God’s word shared with us in His Holy Bible.

the-word-of-god
No room for forgiveness in our angry hearts. No room for mercy in our need for security. No trust in God when we have our 401(k). No time to love others when we have so many (important!!) things to do.

jesuschrist
He came looking for room in the overcrowded hearts of men. His search, and His rejection, continue to this day.

 

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:1-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.2.1-7.esv

John Lewis

Seventy times Seven!

jesus-and-peter

Short and sweet today. Another example of Peter presuming to know something only to be rebuked by Jesus. And a message for all if us as we come to Thanksgiving, a time when all of our powers of forgiveness just might be tested.
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

give-forgiveness-1
There had been some disputes among the disciples, some arguments, if you remember or know, about who would be the greatest among them. Maybe Peter was feeling resentful toward his fellow followers of Jesus, and maybe Peter was tired of forgiving them their trespasses against them. Peter wants to know, just how many times do I have to forgive these jokers?? Forgiving is hard. And besides, they just keep on offending him!! But Peter is feeling magnanimous, and offers up the divine number of seven. Seven being the divine number, forgiving someone seven times must be a divine act, forgiveness to the limit.

forgiveness
No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! Huh?? The divine seven is not enough?? Seventy times seven?? Four hundred ninety times I have to forgive someone??
No, Jesus is not even saying four hundred ninety times. Our forgiveness of others, by the call and demand of Christ, must be unlimited. We are to never stop forgiving someone their sins against us. In the words of Brian Zahnd in his book “Unconditional? The call of Jesus to radical forgiveness” – “Conventional forgiveness, easy forgiveness, reasonable forgiveness is what most rationally minded people are willing to engage in. Christ’s followers are called to radical forgiveness, unreasonable forgiveness, reckless forgiveness, endless forgiveness, seemingly impossible forgiveness. The expectations regarding forgiveness that Jesus places upon his disciples are among the most demanding aspects of Christian discipleship, but these demands must not be ignored.”
Peter thinks his offer of forgiving an offender seven times is out there, over and above the expected. Nobody can expect more than that, and most would not go that far. And he’s right.
Except Jesus does expect more. Jesus demands more. He’s not calling for any forgiveness that comes from simple human decency. He calls for extreme forgiveness. The kind of forgiveness that comes on a crucifix and cries out “…Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”… Luke‬ ‭23:34‬ ‭ESV

jesus-is-lord

‬‬
Jesus is Lord.

“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:21-22‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/mat.18.21-22.nlt

John Lewis