Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Relentless
A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.11

Matthew 26:45
“Here comes my betrayer”

John was startled awake by the sound of his Master’s voice. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me one hour?” John heard Jesus say. Young John had leaned himself up against a tree and the exhaustion of the day had over taken him. The cool almost wet breeze had lulled him to sleep.
The Lord seemed almost faint with sadness or fear, John couldn’t tell which but he had never seen him like this. Jesus dropped to his knees again to pray and John gasped at what he saw. As the moonlight shown on his Master’s face John could see what looked like drops of blood like sweat on Jesus’ face. Jesus placed his head to the ground and seemed to be shivering. “Abba, Abba, take this cup from me, but not as I will but as you will.” Jesus Muttered.
John’s eyelids again began to fall. “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough!” Jesus yelled. John burst out of a deep sleep once again to see Jesus standing over him. “The hour has come, look the Son of man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go!”
Here comes my betrayer!”
Young John leaped to his feet to look in the direction Jesus now pointed to see a small company of soldiers with torches headed their way. Once they came to where Jesus stood Judas emerged from between them and kissed the Lord on the cheek. John saw Jesus looked into the eyes of Judas with an expression of sorrowful anger. He then looked onto the soldiers. “Who is it you want?”Jesus asked. “Jesus of Nazareth” The soldier at the lead stated.
“I am he!” Jesus replied while advancing toward them.
The soldiers nearly fell backward at Jesus’ advance and willingness to be arrested. “If you are looking for me then let these men go.” Jesus said. The soldiers moved to bind him. Just then Peter unsheathed his sword and swung cutting the ear from the high priest’s servant. Jesus brushed aside the attempts to restrain him and stretched out grasping the place where the man’s ear had been and restoring it fully. “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” The Lord yelled to Peter.

Young John felt his heart torn from him as his greatest friend and his Lord was bound and taken away like a common criminal. It was happening just as Jesus had told them it would. Would he now really be killed, as he had said? Would he rise and be glorified, as he said he would? And just what did that mean, would he see his beloved teacher ever again?
John had been trying to decipher what the real meaning was behind these words since his Master had first stated them. He had asked many questions but Jesus would not reveal it plainly.
When would the new kingdom come? When would his Lord vanquish his enemies and be King as scripture foretold? Young John wept…..



Rant
We, as Christians, are a people that speak often of love but often we are referring to a love that rests very contingent on our own feelings. We all know and agree we are to “Love your neighbor” we agree even that we are to “Love our enemies.” But do we recognize love as more than just a feeling, something to be enjoyed and to enjoy with others? Do we see that love is not about how we feel when we are doing it or about whether we feel like doing it at all? The Bible and the Lord tells us and He shows us here that love is a Command with a capitol C. Actually it’s the Lord’s central command.
The Lord tells us it’s the way people will know we are His disciples and He tells us that God is not in us if we can’t do it.

How many of us have actually loved our enemies? Not just tried at work or in life to get along with them but actually Loved them. When have we ever prayed for someone that is trying to get us fired, or speaks terribly about us to others, or someone that has injured us or a family member? Most of us, if we are honest, will admit that we don’t. Why don’t we? Because we don’t feel like it.
The language used by God in the Old Testament and in the New is such that it leaves no loopholes, no misunderstanding, and no excuses. Are we to obey our feelings, our comforts, or God?

Here the Lord submits entirely to the Father’s will, many of us speak of how Jesus died for us, and He did, but He first died for the Father. His great love with the Father as being an eternal member of the trinity, lead Him to come here to this sin filled place we call earth, lead a sinless life for thirty-three years, and finally give Himself to the scourging post and the cross to not only pay for our sins so that we may have access to the Father and be saved but ultimately so the Father’s righteousness would be upheld.
The blood soaked cross is the greatest symbol of not only love but obedience to that love that has ever or will ever be known to mankind.

What does this example really mean for us His disciples?
I think it means we are to reach out to those we might not normally associate with, to those we feel uncomfortable around, even to those that have harmed us. It means we are to push far past our own boundaries of comfort and preference to give the unconditional love of Christ. Many search for the will of God for their lives but one aspect of that will can be answered very quickly and easily with the Bible. The Father wills that His love, His righteousness, and His glory would be known to the ends of the earth. Meanwhile we have people we work with, people in our family, and people all around us that need to know and do not and we often shrink back at the thought of us sharing it with them, why? Because it would make us uncomfortable, because we don’t feel like it.
If we are to call ourselves disciples, if we are to cover ourselves in the righteousness of Jesus and have joy in the sacrifice he chose to give us here in Gethsemane as He sweat blood but still said “Thy will not my will be done” shouldn’t we be compelled to share what has been done for us, shouldn’t we then strive to break free from our comforts and feelings in order to live by the very real commands of the Father and the Son?
Shouldn’t we put ourselves aside ignore our selfish feelings and place the commands and the love of Christ at the forefront of our lives letting that lead us?
What will it be like the day we stand before Jesus the man, the very real flesh and blood Lord that we can reach out and touch, the very real God/man we profess to follow? What will it be like as we see the spear mark in his side, the healed holes in His hands and feet? What will it be like to gaze upon the bodily physical evidence, as Thomas did, of the sacrifice made for you and for me?
To look upon the Lamb that was willing to put Himself aside to bear the wrath of the Father?

If we work hard at living a life to please ourselves this moment may be crushing even terrifying for us but if our hearts and our lives have been lead by His commands and His sacrificial love this moment will be filled with a glory and joy that will cause us to sing out as we hear those precious words from our Lord, our Teacher, and our Savior.


“Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Friday, August 5, 2016

The feet of Jesus

Luke 10:38-42
At the Home of Martha and Mary
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

As we read through this portion of scripture we can imagine Martha here running back and forth, her hair has gotten out of place, and her face is painted with an expression of serious determination. She’s got sweat running down her forehead. She is busy! Meanwhile her sister has parked herself on the floor before the Lord to listen to his teaching. Martha’s frustration no doubt had been growing for some time before she finally had enough, throwing politeness out the window she confronts the Lord as if to say “Why are you letting her get away with this?” I mean after all these things need done, these tasks need completed, this work is important!

Life is often handing us an endless to do list, we think we are nearing the end of the list and realize it’s grown in length yet again. As we focus on these tasks they seem to get magnified in our mind, there importance grows and soon we can get frustrated with those around us for not seeing the pressing importance in these tasks, this stuff we think must be done, but just how important are these things really?

We can become so swept away in life’s pressures we loose track of who gave us life to begin with. Martha here has needlessly sacrificed the opportunity to be at the Lord’s feet for the task of making him dinner. She has made the making of dinner more important than her all important guest! I can’t help but wonder if Martha many years later thought back on this all important opportunity with sick regret that she hadn’t cherished this time with Jesus rather than fill it with the menial task of making dinner.

In the Gospel of John chapter 1verse 1 John tells us  - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Here John says that Jesus is the Word of God.
Mary could see that nothing else in the world could be more important than to sit and listen to the teaching of Jesus the very Word of God. We can’t sit at the physical feet of Jesus like Mary here but we can still sit and absorb his teaching. We still have those words and teachings here for us today more than two thousand years later in the New Testament. I think we can often take that for granted in our busy lives much like Martha here in this situation.

Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus speak of scripture over and over again, he uses it to point out prophesies that told of his coming, he uses it in arguments with the Pharisees.
Even Jesus, the Son of God, used scripture to defend himself against Satin while being tested in the desert. So it’s easy for us to see that scripture was of very high importance to Jesus.

We can then read of the many times the apostles also went to scripture throughout the book of acts and in all their letters. We see the disciples introduce scripture saying “it is written” this phrase is peppered heavily throughout the New Testament over and over again. Scripture, being the written Word of God, seems to be ever present on their minds and a central part of their lives  .

The Psalmist says in psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

So we can see that Jesus holds the knowledge of scripture to a very high importance. The Psalmist says we need to store it up in our hearts and these men that called themselves Disciples of Christ, no doubt, constantly used scripture in there everyday life as Jesus certainly taught them to.
Mary here thinks taking the time to be taught by the very Word of God is even more important than feeding Him, and Jesus says she is absolutely right.

How do we see it? 
Where is reading the Word of God in our list of priorities today? How much time do we spend at the feet of Jesus?
When we start our day are we too engrossed in our morning tasks, to sit and take in the Word of God? As we come back home do we flip on the television looking for it to provide us with rest?
Maybe we fire up the sweeper and the dishwasher thinking only of our to do list?

The Word of God sits waiting to be used by the Holy Spirit

Hebrews 4:12
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The text sits there like any other inanimate object, still, silent but this great text lives and breathes just as the verse says, much like a living breathing person you can take it at face value with a short superficial inspection or you can choose to get to know it and in getting to know it the Holy Spirit will use it to help you get to know the Lord we serve.
Much like the verse here states, reading it is not like reading any other book, the Holy Spirit within us seeks to use those God breathed words to bring to light the condition of our hearts and to instruct us on the spiritual growth we so sorely need in our lives

This book has gone up against some of the greatest scientific and philosophical minds we humans have had to offer and proven itself over and over again, and why wouldn’t it, it is the very voice of God, and what do we do, we relegate it to our spare time, we give it five minutes of our time here and maybe ten minutes of our time there, taking bits and pieces of truth never fully grasping the entirety and wholeness of what the text seeks to tell us about ourselves and about God.
Many of us in our society today are willing to commit whole years of our lives to a University for the study of a subject that will render us a few decades of financial rewards but rarely think of committing a fraction of that time to the study of Gods Word that will impart to us teachings that if applied to our lives will render rewards for an eternity. And will also equip us to impart Gods love and truth to others who would remain lost without hearing it.

Men and women have been martyred for centuries to bring us this incredible text. Many men were martyred in the effort of bringing it to us translated into a language we could all read. They knew how gravely important it was for each person to be able to read this book for themselves and cared so deeply for the Word of God and there fellow man that they were willing to give everything.

One these men William Tyndale stood before a Roman Catholic Clergyman and said- “If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you!
William Tyndale was publicly executed for being the first to print the Holy Bible in English. 

This book is so powerful many countries, even today, have banned the Bible. Christians even now smuggle the text into those places under threat of imprisonment or even execution because like Tyndale they know how vital it is to have the opportunity to read it for themselves. We can all so easily forget and take for granted just how expensive and powerful this book really is, just how sought after it is even today in places not as free as ours, and just how eternally important it is as well. It often sits in our homes collecting dust while many would give a finger or even an arm to have it.

This text tells those of us that profess to follow Jesus Christ that we have been adopted into a family. In getting to know this book we get to know our Father and our Brother who is also our Lord.

Much like a blind man that might feel a face over and over again, tracing and memorizing it with his hands to get a better picture of what that person looks like in his mind. We must search the scriptures again and again gaining a better picture of our Father and His perfect will. How can we know the God we serve if we do not spend time allowing Him to speak to us through His holy Word? How can we be equipped to spread his Word or give witness for our faith if His Word is not on our lips and in our minds? How will we properly defend ourselves, as even Jesus did against the lies of the evil one if the Word isn’t stored within our hearts?
2 Timothy 4:3
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
The Word of God tells us that a time will come when those even in the church will not listen to the truth and will seek out false teachers that will no doubt seek to twist or eliminate the Word of God. It could be suggested that that time is here or has at least begun for sure, but how will we know when the Word of God has been twisted, how will we know if it’s been changed or even removed if we do not know it? We the family of God are the guardians that have been entrusted with this great treasure that so many have paid so dearly for us to have.

We can all sit and conjure up in our imagination what God might be like, but we must know who He really is in truth not in fantacy.
The lost souls of this world are conjuring up Gods right now that sharply disagree with what this book says about who God really is.
Some dangerously think and proclaim a Loving God would never judge and others would sadly say He is a judge with no Love at all, and still others that He doesn’t really care either way.  The one true God has spoken to us in this text telling us who He is. We have the opportunity to speak for God by using this, His own words; surely this is why He has gone to such great lengths to see that we each have it.

We can tell the suffering about 2 Corinthians 4:17
17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
We can tell those that have lost all hope in themselves and in the world that there is something far greater to put our hope into Luke 1:37  tells us- For nothing will be impossible with God.” 
We can tell those that think they have gone too far for God to ever forgive them about Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God the Father has given us His truth that tells us of His Love, Grace, and Strength. His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Master, tells us in John 8:31 "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
Many of us that claim discipleship haven’t even begun to take in His teaching, how then can we hold to it?

The next time we look at our Bibles let’s imagine Mary there kneeled at the feet of Jesus the Word of the Living God. Let’s start, one day at a time, “choosing what is better” as Jesus tells us here. Let’s make our time with Him, our time in His Word, top priority over all the toil and tasks that seem so important. Let’s let the business of the world around us fade into silence as we sit and take in the all important word of our Father.

One day we will all take our last breath in this world and it will not be the toils and tasks that made our lives worthwhile but how we lived this life by God’s Word and the time we spent at the feet of Jesus.


Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
C.T Studd

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Relentless

A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.10


John 13:15
“I have set before you an example, that you should do as I have done for you”

Young John reclined with a full stomach. His ears were filled with the squabbling of his brother and several others as they again debated who would be first in this new kingdom that seemed days from being established. Thousands had come out to see the Lord as they came into town to celebrate the Passover.
Voices began to be raised and John gave his brother an angry glance that he hoped might finally shut him up. Next to him Jesus suddenly rose to his feet and unclothed himself wrapping a towel around only his waist. The squabbles ceased immediately and the room grew so deathly silent John could clearly hear the nervous breaths being taken as they looked on at their teacher. “What is this my Lord is doing?” John thought.
As Jesus filled a basin with water they now all knew what he intended and some gasped. John saw Peter shaking his head in disbelief and disgust and John understood what Peter was thinking because he felt the same.

Their Lord now looked like a common house servant, chest bare and a towel draped over his shoulder. He moved quietly with the basin and towel and kneeled at the feet of Peter placing the basin on the floor. “You shall never wash my feet!” Peter yelled in confused revile.
“If I do not wash you, you have no part with me.” Jesus said to him flatly. A look of fear washed over Peter’s face at hearing this. “Lord, not my feet only, but my hands, and my head.” Peter stammered out. The Lord took and untied Peter’s filthy sandal and began to wash the grime from his feet that had collected from the days travels.
“What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Jesus said.
The Lord moved then to young John and kneeled. John felt a single tear roll out of his eye and down his cheek as the Lord poured the cool water over the first foot. This Lord, this teacher of his had taken his position as their Lord and teacher and thrown it aside to make himself like a lowly child or a house maid. He used the hands that healed the lame, the blind, and the sick to now scrub the muck from young John’s feet.
Jesus then moved on to Judas. John watched on, his Lord’s back was now to him. Then John saw something as the Lord untied the sandals of Judas, a peculiar almost sickened look of sorrow twisted its way into Judas’ face. Judas turned his head and would not even look toward the Lord kneeled in front of him working to clean his feet. Jesus moved throughout the room, changing the water several times as it grew mucky. When finished he washed his hands and clothed himself.
He stood before them looking around the room meeting the eyes of each of the twelve.
“You call me teacher and Lord, and rightly so for that is what I am. Now that I your Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them.”
Jesus moved back to his place at the table and reclined.
“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen but this is to fulfill this passage of scripture: He who shared my bread has turned against me. I am telling you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

Jesus lowered his head and young John watched a look of great anguish spilled across the Lord’s face. He suddenly seemed very troubled.
“Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” Jesus said in a voice mixed with both anger and sadness.

Rant
Many people recoil or even wish to debate about Jesus’ demand on our lives. We read the parts of the Bible that aren’t so intrusive and convicting and go about mimicking the sometimes lukewarm devotion of the Christians around us rather than really looking at the type of devotion Jesus asks for, and the funny thing is, is that those of us that refuse to give everything over to Him are giving everything over to something else, whether it be a job, a person, a drug, material possessions, or something else that provides for us worldly pleasure, comfort, or false security. We are more than ready to worship any of these things while, if we are honest, we want to use Jesus as kind of a tool.
We often want to add Jesus to the lives we already have, we stick him in our pocket and think “This will be good to have around when times get tough.” Many times without even realizing it we’ve made Jesus our disciple. The plain and simple truth is that this type of devotion does not make us a disciple of Jesus Christ any more than occasionally flying on an airplane makes us a pilot.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking “The bible says all that’s required is that I believe.” This is a lie that the devil has been hard at work propagating for some time now. How often do we hear verses like John 3:16 being pulled out of its deep context and used as a blanket statement wrapping it around the entire word of God?
Its plain lunacy and I can’t say it enough or strongly enough to convey here just how incorrect this is and not, by the way, incorrect by my standards but incorrect according to the text of the Bible. I would encourage you not to take my word for it, please read and see what conclusions you draw yourself.

How misguided this thinking is becomes apparent when we do the same with other verses such as for example 1John 2:6 whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. Now if we were to take this verse out of its context and paste it across the entire bible as the sole meaning of faith in Christ many people that aren’t reading their bible like they should might get the idea that Christianity requires homelessness and martyrdom because that is how Jesus lived.
Why don’t we take any of the multitude of hard verses, rip them out of their proper context and hold them high as a banner for Christianity? Two words personal preference, we don’t like those verses. It’s that simple. Those verses ask too much of us.
We need to keep reading when we come to a verse like John 3:16 just as we need to keep reading when we come to a verse like 1John 2:6. When we do we see that the apostle John isn’t for a second saying all we need to do to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is be able to say “I believe” and then we can go about living the remainder of our lives as we see fit. You cannot read the book of John or even that 3rd chapter in John and come away thinking that, it’s just not possible, but many, some even pastors with P.H.D’s will tell you this is all that’s required.

Jesus Christ left the perfection of His throne in heaven to be born in a manure filled barn, to be the son of a lowly carpenter in a small back woods town. He lived a sinless life until the age of thirty-three and then walked himself into a town where He knew men would scourge Him, beat Him, spit in His face, and nail Him to a tree and on that tree He would bear the wrath of the Father.

Jesus already gave all for you and me, and while He was here on this planet He was very vocal about the kind of devotion was required to be His disciple. When we read the Gospels we can see His reaction to those that were unwilling to give all over to Him. He gave us many parables spelling out, in no uncertain terms, His very real expectations. And what of the Father’s expectations? What might our expectations be if we surrendered our child to be beaten and executed to pay a ransom for which He was not responsible?

The Lord’s brother said “Even the demons believe” might this be also the Lord’s response when we see him and tell Him how we “Believed?”  
Shouldn’t we expect the Lord to be interested in how we’ve lived?
He will be, His Word tells that again and again.

His example here before these first twelve disciples tells us how we should live. Jesus here again casts off any claim to His mighty position as Lord and amidst the selfish squabbling of His followers He takes the position of a Slave scrubbing the grime from their feet. Have you ever really thought about what that would be like, to scrub the feet of twelve men that had spent the day walking practically barefoot through roads and fields where multitudes of livestock roam?
Salvation comes through belief yes but also then repentance. We must die to ourselves, meaning we put aside completely our preferences, our pleasures, and our plans and make Him and His Word central to our lives going forward. We lay all at His feet because He has already given all for us. As He washed clean the feet of the first disciples His blood washes us clean before Father today.
We pray for the Spirit to guide us. The places He may take us might be hard, the truth is that Jesus just might ask us to give it all away but it’s when we are willing to lose all for Him that we truly begin a life of discipleship.

This isn’t easy and we aren’t going to be perfect at it, the apostle Paul tells us so. We will always be struggling and striving to live by the Spirit but struggle and strive we must! Being compelled to struggle and driven to strive for a life more and more free of sin and closer and closer to Christ and to the Father is a miraculous sign of the seal we’ve received in the gift of the Holy Spirit.
He will convict us, instruct us, admonish us, empower, and strengthen us for the very real war being waged.


The war for our immortal soul. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Slaves of Freedom

 

Luke 4:18
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,

There is much to be learned just here in this verse alone not to mention the verses leading up to it and just after it, we could literally be here all day, but what I want us to focus on today primarily is just one word freedom and not just the word itself but what Jesus meant by his use of that word and what type of freedom He offers us here today.

This is a powerful event Luke has recorded.
If we look further down in verse 23 of this same chapter we can read that Jesus had already been in Capernaum

A portion of that verse states- 'Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'"

So we can see that Jesus had already created quite a reputation healing and teaching even though in the text it would appear as though he had just emerged from his forty days in the desert.
So it looks like Luke placed this account here not because of any chronological order but possibly because it made a perfect kind of title to place here at the start of Jesus’ ministry because it encapsulates what His  ministry would be about.

This was likely a synagogue that Jesus frequented as a boy and young adult growing up in Nazareth. At this time in synagogues like this one they would often invite visiting Rabbi’s to teach but this wasn’t just any Rabbi, this was a well known hometown boy returning to His local church.
 Nazareth at this time is thought to have had a population no larger than two thousand people and being the son of a carpenter and then being a carpenter himself Jesus no doubt was well known by many here long before his ministry began.

Jesus opens the scroll to this portion of Isaiah that we now understand to prophesy of His first coming and also His eventual return and He reads it aloud. He then takes His seat, which was customary for a teacher to do before teaching or expounding on the text read. He goes on to tell these folks that He’d known all his life, in no uncertain terms, that He was the Messiah that the prophet Isaiah was speaking of.
 But as I said our focus here today has to do with this proclamation of “freedom for the captives” that was prophesied by Isaiah and begins with the coming of Christ into the world and no doubt continues still today.

So to begin to understand this proclamation we should ask ourselves “What is freedom” and who are the “Captives” Christ spoke about?
 Well I believe if you were to ask a Jew at this time in history it’s reasonable to assume that they would tell you this portion of scripture meant the very real physical release of the Jewish people from Roman oppression by a conquering Messiah leading an Israelite army. We here today however know that’s not the case.

Many in this area of ancient Palestine that would be freed and saved by Jesus were “Captive” to the oppression of the warped use of the law and the lies being hoisted upon them by the Pharisees, but what does this proclamation mean for us here today? 

What is freedom? As modern Americans living in an ever growing secularized culture we are again and again told that freedom is the ability to do whatever we want, however we want to do it, with whom ever we want, wherever we choose.
 We will work where we want, be friends with whom we want, dress how we want, talk how we want, listen to what music we want, be entertained how we want, and marry who we want.

 I think if you were to walk up to just about anyone on the street here in America today and ask them what freedom is their answer would resemble this if not be dead on the same. But is this real freedom, is this what God intends for us, is this the form of freedom that Jesus came to give us?

Did Jesus come and live a sinless life and then die the horrific death of being nailed to a tree paying the penalty we owe for our fallen sinful nature so that we might be free from the law to live a life of unlimited self indulgence and self exaltation? So that we might be free to hoist high up on the ladder of priority our own personal preferences and pleasures and follow those to our own ends?

I would submit to you today that when we look at real freedom, this very real and authentic freedom that Jesus is proclaiming here in his hometown church it looks very much the opposite of what our society tells us freedom is, and it is also often this real freedom that even we who profess to follow Christ reject for our own lives.

Secular society preaches to us a steady sermon of individuality and autonomy. We hear phrases like
“Be your own person, be true to yourself, make your own way, and do it for yourself.” The voices on the televisions and the radios tell us we must “Find out who we are and in finding ourselves we will somehow find happiness.”
 According to our culture we hold all our own truths, we alone decide our direction in life, and the best thing we can do to make ourselves happy and fulfilled is to look inward.
 Is it any wonder as we look out on the current landscape of our society that we see so much depression, suicide, drug addiction, divorce, violence, and promiscuity?
 To hold ourselves to such a high degree, to think all our answers lye in the truths we ourselves get to create is nothing more than another delusional form of idol worship. Simply indulging ourselves and being guided only by our own desires, pleasures, and preferences leads to another very real form of captivity. One of the many forms of captivity I believe Jesus comes to set us free from today.


Truth is not something we as created beings get to create. We can recognize it, we can utilize it and we can adhere our lives to it but we did not and we do not create it, and the truth is we are not independent beings at all, quite the opposite we are dependent beings, and we were created to be dependent beings and going further we were created for a specific purpose.

So when we live as though we are an end unto ourselves, as if all the answers and all the truth we’ll ever need are to be found within ourselves or even found in another fallen sinful human being, we get sick, we get lost, and we get imprisoned. When we remove God from the picture and say we’ve been evolved by forces of chance into a being that is totally self sustaining and completely independent we create a truly unnatural environment for ourselves.
 The idea that we are such dependant beings is very counter cultural and something we ourselves don’t like to here but the Word of God makes it abundantly clear.


Colossians 1:16 all things have been created through him and for him.
Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

These are just a couple out of the multitude of verses throughout the Bible that tell us that not only did God create us but he created us for Himself and it tells us that He sustains our very existence. The action of the atoms and molecules spinning around right now to create a church pew of solid material for us to sit in is being sustained through Him. Each breath we take is being given to us, willed to us by almighty God. 

We are created beings created for a specific purpose and the Word of God tells us what that purpose is over and over again. These are again only a couple verses out of a multitude that tell us of our purpose throughout the Old Testament and the New.

Isaiah 43:21
The people I formed for myself, that they may proclaim my praise.

1 Corinthians 10:31
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Here in his letter to the Corinthians Paul is talking about foods some people abstain from but that others eat and he instructs us that whatever we may be doing we should do it to the glory of God. We were created for God not for ourselves, we were created for His pleasure and purposes not our own, we were created to glorify Him and be in relationship with Him and that is the freedom Jesus offers us, freedom to be what we were created to be and do what we were designed to do.


Paul confronts this modern self fulfilling type of freedom our culture preaches to us earlier in this same letter.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24
23“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

In seeking to do good for others we glorify our Father.

Have you ever used a knife for a screwdriver, or a drill for a hammer? You break the tip off the knife ruining it or you crack the plastic casing on your cordless drill, trying to use these tools for tasks they are not designed for turns out to be bad news for us and the tools involved.

Would it be possible to find an electric drill out in the woods and come to the conclusion that nature with billions and billions of years had put that drill together? Take a look sometime at the mechanics and processes of the human cell and you will see something far more sophisticated and advanced than the simple rudimentary cordless drill. We have much in common though because we and the drill were both designed for a specific purpose. Using these specifically designed tools for uses other than they were designed for always leads to frustration and brokenness. 


Some might here a message like this and think we’re speaking of following a bunch of rules and denying ourselves the things we most want to do. But it’s when we have been indwelled by the Spirit of truth and completely placed ourselves under the joyful authority of God that what we want to do most is what we were designed to do, it is then that we experience real freedom.
We talk to Him, pray to Him, have a deep continuous relationship with Him and what we want most is to be about His purposes and His work.

When we stop looking inward and start looking upward we begin to know and thoroughly enjoy what authentic freedom is. We ask Him where we are to work, where we are to live, and who it is we are to be. And we begin the struggle Paul spoke much about. We train, we run, and we strive to abide in the real and authentic freedom the Lord has graciously provided.

In Galatians 5:1 Paul tells us
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

In John 15:5-8 Jesus gives us a remarkable picture, He says

5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.


Jesus came to this planet telling us He only does that which the Father wills and the purpose of His coming was to make us one with Him as He is with the Father and once we have tasted of the joy that is given when we are being made one with the Father through Christ Jesus we know what true freedom really is, and we begin to see that those who the Son sets free are free indeed! 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Relentless
A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.9

John 11:15 “so that you may believe”

As time passed and the ministry of Jesus continued young John witnessed the persecution being brought by the Pharisees change. They no longer asked his teacher questions trying to trap him but now they hurled accusations and insults saying he was of Beelzebub and out of his mind. They gnashed they’re teeth at him and made threats but the Master remained steadfast and unsurprised.
Young John had begun to realize that the execution his Rabbi had spoke of looked more and more likely and this made John cling to his Master’s side all the more. This prophesy still greatly confused John and the rest of the twelve, the most perplexing part was when he said he would rise again. “How can the dead do anything but be dead? Did the teacher mean he would rise in the spirit or at the last day in the resurrection?” John thought to himself as they walked along the road.
A young boy came running past John and stopped when he reached the Lord. He spoke quickly and the Lord held his shoulder as he gave him his ear, then he was gone again.
Lazarus was sick and if the Lord was to heal him that would mean returning to Judea where the Rabbi had just narrowly escaped before being stoned. “Was this the time Jesus had talked about, would John now watch as his precious Master was stoned to death?” John’s mind reeled. John looked at the dust of the ground as he thought these things so his Messiah might not see his fear. A hand gripped John’s shoulder and he lifted his head and looked into the peace filled face of his Master. Jesus said everything young John needed to hear without speaking a word; his expression alone told John that Jesus knew his fears but that all would be well. Jesus turned and spoke to the others. “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

They went nearby and stayed, resting and reminiscing of days past.
Young John loved to hear his great friend and Master laugh as they retold funny stories about one another they had gathered during their many journeys.
The Lord would guide them through times of prayer and worship so intense that John hated to have them end. Being in the Messiah’s presence was much like sitting close to a fire on a very cold night, only a fire for the spirit and not the flesh.
“Would this fire be snuffed out, would they’re Lord be taken from them?”
This became John’s only fear, it consumed his thoughts.
After two days time the Messiah said to the disciples “let us go to Judea again.”
Peter and John shot looks of concern to one another. “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone you, and you are going there again?” One of the twelve asked. “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
“Lord if he sleeps he will get well.” They said again.
“Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” Jesus bluntly replied.
“Let us go that we may die with him.” Thomas said.

The journey they took back to Judea was an anxious one, filled with silent looks of dread. They had opposed the Lord all they could and to go any farther would invite rebuke from they’re beloved teacher. Many times young John and the other eleven had obeyed even when it went against all they knew and their faith each time was greatly increased; now it seemed they might be walking toward the execution of they’re Messiah and possibly even there own yet they denied all they felt and thought and placed their lives in his hands, they had come to follow him and follow him they would.

The sisters of Lazarus came falling at the feet of Jesus as he came to their home. Young John watched on as his teacher wept and grieved with them, John stood very confused as to why they hadn’t come before Lazarus had died, as the sister’s said. “Your brother will rise again” John overheard Jesus say. “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection in the last day.” Martha said in response. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” He asked “Yes Lord, I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Mary, Martha, and Jesus held onto one another as they made they’re way to the tomb where Lazarus lay. A great number of Jews followed him and the disciples as they went. They stopped at the front of the tomb.
“Take away the stone.” Jesus instructed.
Everything Jesus had said over the past several days suddenly became clear to John as he scrambled for a vantage point at which to view what he now knew his Master was about to do. Some men went to work preparing to roll the stone away. The crowd chattered wildly, some shouted loud complaints about defilement and uncleanness; others like John sensed what this healing Messiah might have in mind to do and uttered questions to one another. “How is this possible? Hasn’t his body begun to decay by now?”
“Lord by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Martha insisted.
As the stone was removed the crowd gasped at the smell of decaying flesh. Some friends of the Pharisees stood at the back and shouted insults and accusations to the Lord.

Jesus looked to the sky “Father I thank you that you have heard me. And I know that you always hear me, but because of the people standing by I have said this that they may believe that you have sent me.”
Jesus set his eyes on the now open entrance of the tomb and shouted
                                        “Lazarus come forth!”

Young John watched as Lazarus stumbled to the entrance, grave cloth dangling from his renewed body and face. Some in the crowd fainted and fell to the ground, others shouted with fear and ran away, many more rejoiced and gave thanks to God and to Jesus.
“Loose him and let him go!” Jesus instructed



Rant
Throughout the Old Testament we read about God acting in our own human history, and when He does He does it in such a way that no other explanation can be given, no glory can be laid upon any human involved. He gives Sarah the ability to bear a child at the age of ninety.
He brings plagues to the Egyptians and He parts the sea as His people march out from Egypt. He tells Joshua to march around the city of Jericho seven times and blow a trumpet. He uses a small weak Shepard boy to defeat a giant philistine soldier. Each time He sets the scene with His all encompassing sovereign will in a way that no human power can be attributed to bringing these events about yet we still see much glory given to the humans God uses. We speak of Moses parting the sea, of Joshua’s great faith and leadership, and of David’s courage. Each of these servants were very flawed people yet God chose to use them and when He chooses to use someone we have the tendency as self-centered humans to then exalt the human when we shouldn’t really make much of the human but of how God was able to use this flawed human for His will. In every story of the Bible we should see only much being made of God.

Here Jesus leaves not even the slightest doubt about this mans death. He leaves him to lay and decay for four long days. He goes to the home of Mary and Martha not in the night or the wee hours of the morning but while many Jews are there from Jerusalem to console the sisters. This is believed to be one of the Lord’s final miracles before His execution. He is giving one last very clear sign as to His identity in an act that can only bring glory to Himself.
Is it any wonder that when we come to Christ and begin a relationship with Him we feel we have really then started to truly live? He is life and before we abided in Him we were as dead spiritually as Lazarus was here physically. Our spirit had become emaciated it had withered away from lack of spiritual nutrients and died from starvation. But then the Lord looked at us and called us forth, He woke us from spiritual death and placed in us a spring of living water that pours forth nourishing and growing our spirit. He placed the Spirit of Truth in us to guide, strengthen, and mature us in this life for preparation of the next.
This change, this rebirth is also something that could never have been brought about by anyone other than He who is Himself life and it is also not something we merited receiving. Are we to believe He chose us because of something we have done, because we were somehow more special than the millions of spiritually dead unbelievers that surround us? No, only God should be praised for this gift of His life we have received. If no human effort or significance can be attributed to this miraculous gift we have been given our great desire in life will be to tell others so that they might themselves be awakened, but if we, as many often do, start to see some worthy thing we think we’ve done or if deep down we think we were chosen because of the “Good” life we were living before we came to Christ we will feel entitled to it and will look on others at times as less entitled to the love and Life of Christ.
Yahweh is the only Hero in the Bible and He must be the only Hero in our life’s story also. He did not require the help of the servants we read about just like He does not require ours but He chooses to work through us, He chooses to act in us, and He chooses to bring to life what once was dead, not because we are entitled at all, not because he needs us at all, but only because of His sovereign will and His great Love for us His children. He acts through us for His own Glory and we, His children, should seek only to magnify that Glory to others and never want or attempt to use any of this glory for our exaltation.
We move and breathe because He has seen fit to will it, how dare we then use this Life He has bestowed to exalt ourselves or to be a stumbling block to the still blind with our great sense of entitlement.

We should beat our breast and cry out “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Relentless
A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.8


Matthew 16:28
"Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

The breeze brought relief from the mid-day sun. Jesus and the twelve recline on a bank at the foot of Mount Tabor, resting from the days walking. Young John sat in deep thought trying to make sense of what the teacher had again told them of his coming death. John was terrified to think of loosing his Messiah who he now knew to be the very Son of Yahweh.
Peter had said what they all were convinced of after watching him stop a storm and clear the skies with the wave of his hand. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
This Rabbi had no doubt in him, no fear, and no sin in his character; he was a complete and sure man like none John had ever known.
Young John was obsessed with trying to reconcile in his mind what the teacher’s meaning and purpose was in telling them he would be executed, after all the Messiah foretold in the prophets would not die but would usher in a new kingdom. “How can the Son of the most high allow himself to be killed?” John thought to himself.
John raised his head and saw that Jesus was looking on at him in his deep worry. A small smile and a look of reassurance painted the Rabbi’s face and John knew from deep in his heart that his teacher could see his worry and confusion. Jesus leaned and placed his hand on John’s shoulder “Gather your brother and come on a walk with me.” John went to James and retuned to the Lord who now stood with Peter. Jesus began up the mountain. “Does he intend to finally answer our questions?” John thought as they climbed. As Jesus continued on it became clear he intended to reach the very top and the three exchanged confused looks, but by now they had learned not to question the Lord’s intentions. The climbing was hard on their weary legs after the journey they’d just finished with. After long hard climb up steep terrain they began coming into a clearing and it appeared the summit was near. Young John walked between Peter and James, they often needed one another for support as they ascended. The Lord was at least five strides ahead. John had his eyes fixed on Jesus as he came into the clearing of the summit.
What Young John’s eyes beheld next he would spend the remainder of his life trying to explain to others.
A light more brilliant than seven suns began to shine from within their Lord, but it was not a light you needed to shield your eyes from but one you couldn’t stop gazing into. The Lord’s robe seemed made from a white light, the whitest white imaginable, his face beamed with an internal light that caused John to fall to his knees and weep. They all gasped when suddenly Elijah and Moses appeared and began to speak with the Lord.
John had no thoughts, he made no movements but sat there on his knees weeping, shaking and looking on. John heard Peter begin to babble incoherently about building tabernacles, and James laying in the grass sobbing.  John understood what Peter meant, he didn’t want to leave but stay here in this place, in this scene always, and John felt the same.

A great cloud descended on them, a cloud like none John had ever seen before, it seemed made somehow of light. Suddenly a voice broke forth “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear Him!
The voice seemed to vibrate through young John’s body; it seemed made of thunder or rushing waters or both, the sound was deafening and the three now lay face down. Moments passed, stillness fell about them, and John with his eyes still squinted shut could feel the breeze once again.
 “Arise and do not be afraid!” Jesus said
John slowly pulled his head from his arms and saw that it was all gone, the sun hung low now in the sky and the breeze blew threw his hair. He looked to the Lord’s face and saw flesh again and took a deep breath, the other two rose to their feet also. Jesus stood with a large peaceful grin painted across his face as they gathered themselves. Then he turned and began descending quickly.
“Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead!” He called back to them as young John struggled to keep up while trying to make sense of what he’d seen. This teacher of theirs held authority over not only the storms and the seas but over the law and the prophets as well.
John had heard the stories of the prophets of old describing the voice of Yahweh and had dreamed of what hearing His voice would be like and now he had and that voice had called their Rabbi His own Son.
 Again this new knowledge caused the same questions to flood back into young John’s mind. “How then could he allow himself to be killed, what did he mean risen from the dead, when would this occur, why not just reveal himself to the Pharisees?”

Peter broke the silence “Why then do the scribes say Elijah must come first?” “Indeed Elijah is coming and will restore all things, but I say to you Elijah has come already and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they wished.” Jesus replied.

Rant
What a sight this must have been, how unexplainable and yet uncontainable. It must have been excruciating to keep quiet about such an event, surely when the three disciples rejoined the others it was visible on their faces that something incredible had occurred, certainly questions were asked but I have no doubt that after being witness to this transfiguration the three didn’t say a peep.
This to me is a glimpse, however small and clouded it might be because of our limited finite perspective from this world; of what it will be like on that day when like a flash the truth is made known to all. I can not imagine the horror it will cause in many as all of us are laid bare by His glorious presence. Their will be no more hiding, rationalizing, or excusing of what we have made of our lives, of what we have made of God’s Son.

There was a time in my life that I really believed I could stand before God and debate Him as if He were an equal or that I could even stand in judgment of Him. We, as these disciples here, have a tendency to pull God down and make Him small, to think we can figure Him out and then begin to think we might do a better job of being the Creator. Imagine a mosquito landing on your shoulder and trying to explain to you how you’ve been getting many things in life wrong and you’ll be on your way to starting to grasp how ridiculous it is to not have complete reverence for God in His immensity and governance. We must read His word and commune with His Spirit daily and allow Him to stretch us, our perspective, our knowledge, and our understanding to begin to see our true position as His created beings. Like it or not we belong to Him completely and on the day we stand before Him we will be struck and convicted wholly with the knowledge that we never were our own, and that every single thing we ever had was given to us by Him alone. Whatever happiness, contentment, or completeness we will have found in this life will be due solely to our life’s response to His Son and nothing else. All the running about to serve our own pleasures and not His Son will be made abundantly clear as we give an accounting.
The chair you sit in reading this is made up of millions of swirling molecules and atoms that are made active by Him. He calibrates the division of cells in your blood now and also the birth of new stars
light-years away, take a deep breath and thank Him for it because He gave it to you.
He is the source of all rightness, goodness, justice, and most of all Love. These are not things He does or traits of His personality they are His essence and we His creatures created in His likeness can only utilize these things because He has bestowed them. Any separateness or individuality we believe ourselves to have is no more than an illusion that we have clutched onto in order to satisfy our own sinful nature. This idea, this lie was proposed in the garden and continues to fool millions today.
To the unchanged person the idea of belonging to someone else will be so revolting that they won’t even entertain the idea, but to those that have been born again, to those that have at least begun to walk with Christ, and have felt His presence, His peace, and His transforming light, this knowledge is much like being held in the strong and mighty arms of a grand Father that has us securely in His grasp and will never let us go.

We no longer seek or find our satisfaction in the things or sins of this world but want only to bathe in His glorious light, to stay forever in His tabernacle that He has built for us through His incredible Son.
One day we will all have an experience similar to these three here and how we have spent what He has given will be made clear to us as it is now to Him. If we have lived by the flesh this may be an experience more horrific that can be described but if we have truly sought with all we are to live by the Spirit it will be a more glorious event than can be described in worldly ways.

Breathe deep….