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

“Cogito Ergo Sum”

Cogito-Ergo-Sum-Cat-e1403041889132

“I think, therefore I am.” Or in Latin – “Cogito ergo sum.” As it first appeared in French – “donc je suis.” A well meaning man’s effort to get to the basic of being, of exactly who we are. Rene Descartes was a devout Catholic and believer in the resurrected Christ, but Descartes wanted to be able to know. He wanted to know beyond all doubt why he was here, and that he existed. So, the cogito, as it came to be know, became the basis for just about all modern western philosophy. We believed, and maybe still believe, that this gave us a secure foundation for knowledge in the face of radical doubt. A fuller version was later given, “I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am.” While all other knowledge could be an illusion, imagination, lie, or just wrong, Descartes asserted that as long as one doubts one’s own existence, that at least proved the existence of the mind which doubted, which thereby proves the existence of the entity which has the mind which doubted. It proved the existence of self. And so the enlightenment was born, and we’ve being seeing the world through the lens of our self ever since.

descartes_i_think____theref
But there is one problem with Rene Descartes revelation. Descartes expressed his thought, indeed thought his thought, “Cogito ergo sum,” in a language. Whether it was originally thought in Latin or French, I do not know the inner machinations of the mind of Rene Descartes, but I do know this – he thinks, therefore he is, in a language. A language which he did not create. A language which he did not think up himself. A language which he received from someone who taught him to speak in that language. To think in that language. Because such is the nature of language.  We don’t invent, create, or make up the language we speak. We simply receive it. It is a gift given to us by the community in which we are raised. You can’t buy it.  You don’t work for it.  It is passed down to us, given to us by the society and culture in which we are raised.  It can only come from the generations that have gone before.

learning to talk
What is my point? The point is that, if we think, therefore we are, then even by that self-centered philosophy, without the community around us to give us that language to think in, we do not exist. You can not even think outside of the freely given gift of language from the community in which you were born.  Because without that language, you cannot even form a rational thought in your own mind. That language you did earn, did not work for and did not invent. You just received it, your free gift for being. So, we think therefore we are. But we don’t even exist, we are not, without that free gift of language from the community we are born into.

Glasses on Open Bible
And so it is with our Christian faith. We didn’t invent it. We didn’t make it up. We couldn’t and wouldn’t make that up anyway, would we? We receive it. Christianity, like the free gift of salvation which it offers, is only a received faith. It is passed down from generation to generation. The doctrine of the Trinity, father, God and Holy Spirit. We didn’t come up with, or invent that. That Christ died for our sins…we didn’t make that up. That we may like to go to heaven and not the gates of hell, we did not create that ourselves. We learned that, we received this hope.

justgivemejesus
Yet, so many of us claim that we can do it on our own. ‘I don’t need church, I just need Jesus.’ ‘I have my bible, I don’t need no stinking church or no stinking church people!’ To which we should ask the question, which Jesus, and what Bible? Tell me about them. Tell me about this Jesus which you have your personal relationship with.  

Moses Receiving the Law Exodus 31:18
Because everything we know, and everything we think we know, about Jesus, we know from the community of faith and believers who passed that down through the generation. You didn’t make any of it up yourself. You did not receive it through your own personal divine revelation.  It took the early church at least 400 years, with all the best and brightest minds, using all the methods they had learned from Greek and Roman philosophy, to come up with the doctrine of the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ‘But its in the bible!’ Of course its in the Bible. It always was. But, without the traditions that have been handed down from the church, you would and could not pull that out of the Bible. In other words, if you had never heard of Christianity, Jesus Christ, or any of the stories, you could be locked into a room for a year with the Bible, read 8 hours a day, six days a week. And when you were finished, we could ask you to tell us about God. And you most definitively would not start explaining to us about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You would not start giving us atonement theories. You would not start explaining how we are justified by faith. It’s all in the book. But just reading it on your own, without the stories and beliefs which we have received as believers (and even as unbelievers), we would arrive at none of these conclusions on our own.

trinity
And let’s talk about the Bible. Where did it come from? You don’t need no stinking church – but who do you think created the Bible you claim to rely on? Yes, it was inspired, through 40+ writers, multiple languages, over 1500 years, by the Holy Spirit. But it was compiled, gathered, canonized, and organized by the very church which you claim you don’t need. It did not just fall from heaven into your lap.

love-one-another-crosses
Christianity is not a solo project. A lone Christian is no Christian at all. Christ’s most basic commands would be impossible. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” John‬ ‭13:35‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John‬ ‭13:34‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “”This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John‬ ‭15:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬. So, if you don’t need or want the church, just Jesus – what, exactly, are you to with this commandment to love one another?  This is just a small sample, that command comes over and over again. And again. If you are a Lone Ranger Christian, do you just ignore this? Because it seems it would be hard to love one another without the one another. Reminds me of the old Billy Idol (an apt name) song “Dancing with myself”.

baptism
We don’t do this alone. Our Christian faith is a shared faith. The most basic, sacramental elements of our faith are communal in nature. You can’t baptize yourself, you can’t partake in the body and blood of Christ, broken for you, by yourself.

sacraments
Why would you want to do it on your own? This occurred to me on stage giving a CR lesson last Friday night, a lesson called “admit”. The apostle Paul tells us to “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians‬ ‭6:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬. We obey the law of Christ by sharing and carrying each other’s burdens. And we know the law of Christ – to love God and love neighbor. And of course, this little thing of love one another. But this us what came to me on stage last Friday night – that in following Paul’s command of sharing each other’s burdens, we accept Jesus’ invitation to “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We, the church, are all part of the body of Christ, correct? Correct! So, when we share each other’s burdens, when you share what’s burdening you with your brother or sister, you are sharing that burden with Jesus Christ himself. The way we come to him, is by coming to his body, the church. You come to the church by coming to the individual members, one another.

confess you sins
James, the half brother of Jesus, tells us “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Again, that one another thing. This is how we find healing, how we begin to walk in the light of Christ and our own salvation. This is where healing begins!! We come to each other, one another, we pray for and with each other. We can not do it alone. We weren’t made to walk alone. I don’t care what your radio tells you.

come to me

Accept Jesus’ invitation.  If you are laboring, heavy laden, weary, he will give you rest.  Take his yoke upon you.  It’s where you will find rest for your soul.  Come to church, find the body of Christ, find rest for you souls.  Our yoke is easy, our burden is light.

come unto me
Cogito ergo sum. Except that without the community to walk with you, give you that language, pass down that faith, you can’t even think on your own. About God, Jesus, or anything else.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.11.28-30.esv
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

‭‭James‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jas.5.16.esv
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/gal.6.2.nlt

John Lewis

 

Love and Truth

Love and Truth

truth-in-love-300x270

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 

upper-room-discourse

This is a message from the upper room, where Jesus is distilling the essence of his teaching to his disciples. For three years He has been with them, teaching and showing what God is like, that He like the father of a prodigal son, who runs out on the road to meet his son, even while he is still far off, to welcome him home. For three years Jesus has shown His disciples by example exactly who they, and we, are called to be. This message comes from first communion table, Jesus has just established the sacrament of Lords Supper. In doing so, he has relocated center of God’s activities on the earth from the temple back to the table, where it actually began at the Passover with the Hebrew people in Egypt.
Jesus takes the disciples into the heart of his teaching. He takes his disciples into the very heart of what he’s been teaching for 3 years. What, exactly, is the heart of Jesus teaching?

thing-called-love
Jesus is talking about love.
We have 9 verses here, Jesus uses the word love 9 times. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. You will abide in my love. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this.  

circle dance
God is a trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A communion, a Holy Union. A trinity of divine, eternal, self giving love. John is right to say God is Love. The Father loves the Sin, the Son, loves the Father, the Holy Spirit is that love. Jesus here invites his disciples to participate in this divine dance of love.
Early church fathers, trying to communicate what God us like, liked to refer to the “circle dance”, the ongoing eternal dance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Now Jesus invites to join this dance.

Father Son Holy Spirit
 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Love-of-Christ
We come and bow down before the cross of Christ in worship, we call him Lord, and this is what is appropriate. But Jesus lifts us up and calls us “friend“. While we do accept that Jesus loves us, we find it really hard to believe Jesus likes us. We know he loves us, but we think Jesus plays that word game we sometimes play, especially maybe when we are angry or upset with someone, we might tell someone about another “I might love them, but I don’t have to like them!
What if Jesus really likes us?? It is true.

my friend
Do you remember Jesus calls Judas “friend” as Judas is betraying him? “Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭26:50‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Jesus says this with no irony. He considers Judas a friend. This means Judas can turn at any moment turn toward the light, toward love, and be embraced in the friendship of Christ. But it is up to him.
In John chapter 21, we see Jesus restore Peter to a deep sense of personal friendship. Do you believe that Jesus considered Peter to be his friend??

man-climbing-to-cross
Jesus is always inviting us to join him in his love. Unless you love your life will flash by. Unless you love, your life will flash by, because you will always be chasing some delusion. I am beginning to recognize that I chase a lot of delusions. I chase success, achievement, recognition, security, and yes, I pursue my own happiness, that great American Idol written directly into our earliest founding document. 45 years later, I’m still chasing it. Anxiety, soul killing commutes, sleepless nights, and wasted days have gotten me no closer.
Because, love alone can ground you in the present moment by giving your life sufficient meaning. It’s love that grounds us in the present moment, so that we can be content in the here and now instead of always chasing something else.

friends
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…Jesus throws that IF in there and we all become self judgmental, stressing about this like we stress about our job, thinking we have some impossible task for a harsh taskmaster whose commandments are an impossible demand. Another new “boss” the same as the old “boss”, just waiting to tear us down for not following his ways.

fortheloveofchrist-h1.jpg
But what’s his commandment we are to keep? This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. The commandment we must keep to abide in Jesus’ love is to love. Just like the circle dance of the trinity, Jesus’ great command here is a circle dance of love. If we want to abide in the love of Christ, the way to do that is to love. The commandment to abide in the love of Christ is simply to love.
Jesus gave us 2 commandments. We are to Love God with all our mind, strength, mind, and soul, and we must love our neighbors as ourselves. The biblical test case for loving God is loving neighbor. The test for loving neighbor is loving your enemy.
Christianity not a religion of rules but circle dance of love.
Love is the only valid defense of Christian faith. Love alone is credible. If we defend our Christian faith without Christian love, we are not credible.
It is by our love they will know we are disciples. Living a life characterized by love is what makes us credible. Maybe this is why we seem to have lost all credibility in society today. It seems we are known for everything but love.

635889314596531475679218412_1corinthians13_13
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. As the apostle Paul tells us here, without love we are nothing.
Yet – we viciously attack even each other over our Christian truth. We attack each other for our differing beliefs about how to love and worship our savior. Yes, right belief matters. But right belief about God is less important than love. Love alone is credible.

internet warriors
So internet warriors crusading for their “Christian truth” are not credible.
Treating people cruelly in defense of our Christian truth is a betrayal of Christ’s greatest command. The command that we be known for our love for one another. You may be right in your argument – but still be left behind as a credible disciple of Jesus.

persecution
We make much of the persecution of Christians around the world today. But throughout history, more Christians have been killed by other Christians than by our non Christian persecutors. During the reformation more Ana-Baptist Christians, who believed baptism was for adults and that Christianity should not be joined together with the state, were put to death than all Christians during all of Roman Empire.
From the Middle Ages through the reformation, there is a long history of Christians killing other Christians over “wrong belief.” There is one particular case of a here unnamed Protestant hero that I was going to share, but in the interest of not offending anyone too badly, I will speak in broad terms here. We all know what it means to be burned at the stake.  Don’t fully accept the orthodox view of things, don’t believe in the trinity, don’t accept “our” doctrine….we will kill you!! This was not a problem in the early church, they had all kinds of discussions and disagreements about what the cross meant, about Jesus’ divinity, about all sorts of things. But they didn’t reject the teaching of Christ to defend his truth. That didn’t happen until The Church became completely intertwined with The State.

burning-at-stake_0
When we speak of “combatting for God’s glory“, claiming that we know “the law God would have kept” and that in such combat we are to “forget all humanity“, we are missing the whole point. First of all, how can we forget humanity in the defense of Christianity? We serve a God we rightly believe was fully human, correct? I think I’ve said this before, to be inhumane in our treatment of others is to be against Christ, not for him. You might even call it anti-Christ.
The New Testament tells us God’s glory was defended by the cross. God was most glorified by his one and only begotten Son forgiving his enemies from the cross.

neighbors
Jesus half brother has this to say – “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.” James‬ ‭2:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Loving your neighbor is the royal law according to the Scripture. We would do well to remember this. God’s glory and honor are not defended by burning people at the stake.
The church was and u\is built on the shed blood of Jesus Christ, not the shed blood of heretics and infidels. Exactly what faith was being defended, or will be defended by cruelty and inhumanity? Attacking people under the banner of the cross is the ultimate exercise in missing the point. Because the cross us where Jesus forgives his enemies. He doesn’t climb upon that cross to kill his enemies. Let me ask you, exactly which museum is it that you can find the sword of Jesus Christ?
As Christians, we don’t use force or cruelty to convince others we are right.

greater love
Who have you burned at the stake lately? On Facebook? Or Twitter? Who have you excoriated on social media over their slightly different theology. Maybe they misinterpreted the seventh horn on the third dragon in Revelation. Heretic!!! 
Even worse, who have you attacked because of politics? Elephant and donkey games!!

Don’t be a disciple of the cable news hotheads who make their fortunes burning people at the stake.
Be a disciple of Jesus Christ, who taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves. While we’re at it, love your enemies too.

10-facebook-like-free-cliparts-that-you-can-download-to-you-computer-0Qh2Xq-clipart
There is no Facebook exception.
We will contend for the truth if Christ. But we will always love more.

 

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

‭‭John‬ ‭15:9-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jhn.15.9-17.esv

John Lewis

Show Us The Father

Show Us The Father

4th of July

The day after the 4th of July.  It’s Wednesday, “hump day!”  What greater day could there ever be?? It is a day which has been filled with the presence of Jesus Christ, as is every other day. Because, after all, he “…fills all things everywhere with himself.” ‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

in my mothers womb

The world is burning with the glory of God. We do know this, just as we know that it is he who “…made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalms‬ ‭139:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬. We know his love, we feel the awe and wonder of our creation. But do we understand the nature of the one who made all of nature? Do we understand the nature of the one who knit us together in our mothers womb, yet also created the whole cosmos, of which our galaxy, with its tens of thousands of stars, us apparently just one of billions of galaxies?? And when I say billions, that is as in hundreds of billions of galaxies. We see the wonders on our own, tiny blue planet, and while we can know there are billions of not just stars but galaxies out there, can we even begin to truly comprehend the magnitude of what God created? We think we have a diverse planet. Imagine the unknown, untapped, and incomprehensible diversity in just this galaxy. Then try to wrap our heads around hundreds of billions of galaxies. Just think…there are only 6 billion people on our planet, there might be 50 galaxies for every human being, maybe more. The psalmist had no knowledge of any if this, but he could see enough to ask “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭8:3-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬. What is man, and how can we ever understand the nature of the one who created all of this creation??

lord show us the father
Jesus gives us some insight on a tiring, harsh night with his disciples. Jesus was talking much this night. He had washed the disciples’ feet. He had predicted Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. He had talked much about love and about the father. Finally, Phillip has heard enough, and he just wants to cut to the chase. “Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Can you feel Phillips frustration? ‘You keep talking about the father, the father, the father!! If you would just show him to us, that’s all we would need!!’ To which Jesus replies “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

god the father
Read this again. Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. He’s been with us for so long, yet we still do not know Him. Because we read this, and we just find this to be unbelievable. By which I mean, we just don’t believe it. I mean, do you believe it? Can the nature, the character, of God, creator of the whole cosmos, be the character of we see in Jesus? The answer, if we believe in Him who said so, is a resounding YES!!
What does this mean?? It means that the character we see in Jesus with the woman sitting by the well is the character of God the Father. It is the character of one humble enough to ask the Samaritan woman for water to drink and loving enough to offer her ‘living water’. The character of one who does not condemn her for having has 5 husbands and living now with another who she had not even bothered to be married to, but instead offers her salvation.

jesus-heals-lame05
The character of God the Father is the character of the one who, when he found a man sitting by a pool for thirty-eight years, waiting for salvation that was seemingly always just out of his reach, he doesn’t condemn him, he heals him in the spot. Even though it was the sabbath, even though “the rules” said ‘you can’t do that on the sabbath!!’

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset
It’s the character of the one who, when his disciples wanted to tell the people to go home and fend for themselves, “Jesus said, “Have the people sit down…” John‬ ‭6:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Then he proceeds to feed 5000 men, plus the women and children, maybe 15-20,000 people in all. Did I mention he fed them with 5 fish and a couple pieces of bread? Because, after all, he is the creator of the universe and the master of all molecules!!

Water into Wine
It’s the character of the one who, when wine ran out before the feast was supposed to be over, turned 5 jugs of water into 150 gallons of the finest wine. The party wasn’t over. Get this through our heads. Jesus, in whose name we judge and condemn those who would consume so much wine, did not judge or condemn. He made more wine. Because with Jesus, in whose name has come so much judgment and condemnation, the party never ends. The party still hasn’t ended. It’s found every Sunday at communion tables around the world. It’s found in every believer who’s discovered the truth about Jesus. The truth about the Father who sent him. The truth that with him, and only with him, all the sour grapes, all the rotten water, all the troubles of our lives can be turned into the finest wine. And the party will go on.

he touched his ear and healed him
The nature of the Father is the nature of the one who went to the cross as a common criminal with common criminals on our behalf. It’s the nature of the one who, when his star disciple cut off the ear of one who was coming to arrest him and take him to his own tortuous death, he said “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.” Luke‬ ‭22:51‬ ‭ESV‬‬. It’s the nature of the one who, while dying upon the cross, with the guards shooting dice for the last of his clothing, cried out from the cross not for vengeance but forgiveness. “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke‬ ‭23:34‬ ‭ESV

father-forgive-them-for-they-know-not-what-they-do-janos-vajda

‬‬
He’s been with us so long, yet we still do not know him. Because we just can’t wrap our heads around the fact that yes, God is exactly like Jesus. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John‬ ‭1:18‬ ‭NIV

father and son

‬‬

“Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

‭‭John‬ ‭14:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jhn.14.8-9.esv

John Lewis

Called Out

Called Out

Good Shepherd

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

freedom fighters

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

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

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

american goat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‭‭John‬ ‭10:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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

John Lewis