Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Family

Matthew 12:46-50
Jesus’ Mother and Brothers
46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”


What is Church, is it a building we go to on Sunday? If it is then why do we go to that building, is it the traditional or contemporary style of the sanctuary, is it that they play the type of music we like, or what the facilities of the building have to offer, the parking, or maybe it’s that certain Pastor that just really knows how to craft a sermon? I think these are what church has become for us and I think in a way that can be very unfortunate if that’s all the church is to us.
I believe that every God breathed word recorded in the Old and New Testaments has something to teach us who follow Christ and for a follower of Christ what could be more important than the testimonies given to us by those who walked with him, ate with him, and listened to him preach and teach? I think it is incredibly easy for us as fallen, self-centered humans that have grown up in a consumer culture to place an inordinate amount of emphasis on our own material comfort and preferences and then unfortunately apply that thinking to our spiritual lives and walk with Christ. I think we can read the recorded words of Jesus and if we aren’t careful absorb only the parts we are comfortable with. We can attribute some of what he says to the time and place he said it and leave it comfortably there in that time and place for those people. The problem with that is we believe Christ is God, and if we believe Christ is God then we must certainly believe that all he had to say, all the actions he took, and all he taught his disciples was not only for that generation in that country at that time, but that Christ was simultaneously speaking into the specifics of your life and mine as well. Of course we need to study and pray to find what that means for us but what we can’t afford to do is leave it on the page and not try and apply it to our lives as Christ would have us. So I said all that to say this. The first thing we see Christ do at the start of his ministry is build a Church and even though he himself was a carpenter and I’m going to say being the creator of all things, probably a good one, he doesn’t build his Church with wood and stone, no, Christ built his Church using people.

Most of us have grown up in a family and in that family we all have had difficult times getting along with one another, some more than others. For the majority of us our parents and siblings is where most of that difficulty took place but also it’s where the most growth took place. We were told difficult things we didn’t want to here many times over in many different ways and settings only to later be thankful we learned those things about ourselves and about life. During those difficult moments of growth we couldn’t just walk out of that family breaking those blood ties determined to find a more comfortable situation, we had no alternative but to stay and grow.

Here in these verses we see Jesus being told his mother and brothers are asking for him and he answers by saying that the disciples sitting before him are his brothers and mother. Why would he say this if it was not to set a very important example before them there gathered with him that day and for us reading our Bibles today? Jesus’ mother and siblings thought he had lost his mind at this point. They did not believe that he was the Messiah. However the disciples gathered to him that day did believe and Jesus called them his family. The Lord placed no importance on where they were at all, only the people he was with and what they were to believe and be taught. They met on mountainsides, on the shores of rivers and seas, and in Jewish Temples, but there Church remained the same, it remained as Jesus had built it, made of twelve disciples coming together as a family.

Jesus is showing us that rather than putting a ton of emphasis on the place where we worship what we really should be concerned with is finding a family of believers we can become apart of in that place. These men and women following Christ as recorded in the Bible surely became very close with each other, in some ways likely closer than family and it can be the same for us today. God did not create Adam and stop, no, he created a family. God in his essence is a communal being of three parts Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God is a family and he created us to be in a family. He knows for us to gain spiritual maturity we must be in relationship with one another. We need others to show us at times our own ugly reflection in the truths they force us to realize about ourselves. I don’t know if you’ve noticed when reading the gospels but we never read about Jesus being fearful of making one of his disciples uncomfortable. Jesus rebuked and admonished them many times over, not to make them feel bad about themselves but to point out the truth of their human condition and encourage spiritual growth. He was boldly honest with them and many others and he did that ultimately out of love. He wanted them to hear and know the truth because as he said he himself came to testify about the truth and the truth shall set us free!
This doesn’t mean we should stay at a church that is dead and not spurring on the spiritual growth of its congregation, or a church promoting false teaching or hatred. It does however mean that we should ask ourselves before leaving if we ourselves can do anything to change or resuscitate that church before we just leave it there to die or spread false doctrine. We are so saturated in the consumer culture around us we tend to come to church with a list of things we intend to get, like when we stop at McDonalds, rather than a list of things we can give. After all, the founders of our faith literally gave all for the institution of the Christian church to be here, some will need to give for it to continue.

I believe Jesus is showing us that Church is about forging a fellowship and being in close relationship with one another. This of course doesn’t mean we should change churches every week either but that we should go to a church with the intent of finding or maybe even gathering ourselves a family of other believers we can grow close to and that can grow close to us and most importantly we can grow spiritually with. It doesn’t need to be a lot just one or two other people interested in growing closer to God through study, prayer, and action will get us on our way and once we’ve joined or gathered these brothers or sisters and grown close to them we may not leave the church so quickly when small things like a change in the music or the Pastor happens, or maybe if we do feel a change in the direction of that church has moved us to worship elsewhere we will stay with that spiritual family we have grown apart of. But if we bounce around never really allowing ourselves to become closely tied to other brothers and sisters in Christ our spiritual growth will suffer, we can’t be truly known by others of the faith doing this.  Christ is showing us as he sends his disciples out that you and I cannot do this alone and we don’t have to. I myself am blessed with a great group of guys that gather for Sunday school and again with an awesome group that meet for Bible study every week and I regard these people as my family. We have prayed together, cried together, and learned together. We have disagreed many times on many points and we have all stayed past the disagreements because we share the love of Christ Jesus. We learn from the people we love disagreeing with us, love forces us to stay and challenge our own ideas and sometimes those ideas we have may be shown to us to be wrong and we get to grow a little closer to truth or they are affirmed even more and we become more confident in our belief.
I cannot help but believe from Jesus’ own example and my personal experiences in my Christian family that this is what Christ himself had in mind for his Church, a small family of followers coming together to pray, study, grow and act in their love for one another and most importantly for him.
Although I believe he foresaw it I do not believe that what Christ had in mind for his Church was a building with cushy pews, just the right music, and a perfectly crafted sermon that people could come to every week and consume, get that special “feeling” of the spirit and leave to go back to being a citizen of the world not cracking there Bibles open for another week.
A quick side story- When I was in the fourth or fifth grade my social studies teacher took one look at my book when we were turning them back in at the end of the year and said “Mr. Love this book looks like its never been used!” She was not happy. She was right it had remained closed much more than it was ever opened and I did poorly in that class.

Christ saw his Church as a place to grow and live in a family of his followers, a place for his brothers and sisters to hold one another up in love, in truth, and yes in accountability. He calls us to be our brother and sisters keeper, to love one another, share our lives with one another and act on his behalf with one another and for one another. Christ said he came to serve and not to be served and told his disciples to have the same attitude toward everything they did, so why is it we would come to his Church expecting only to consume? Why do we come being lead by our sense of comfort when Christ again and again called his followers to go way outside their comfort zones?  Being apart of a church is very important but living church, being the church and taking the church to others is what we are called by Christ to do!

I have one brother in particular that I grew close to while serving for Kairos Prison Ministry. Kairos is an experience a lot like Emmaus and if you don’t know what that is then let’s just say they both are very intense Christian retreats; one is for incarcerated men and women where you get to serve and the other is for the average person where you get lead closer to the Lord. I would highly recommend both they have changed my life and can change yours. Going through these experiences has formed a very strong bond between us not only of brotherly love but accountability for one another in our following of Christ. We send each other scripture daily and many times discuss what it means to us, we share our troubles and we push each other on toward the goal of becoming more and more like Christ. I pray everyone would have someone like this in your walk.



Jesus sent the disciples out two by two for a reason, throughout the Bible we can see these pairs of brothers and sisters joined by their faith in Yahweh and loyal in supporting one another on this course we strive to complete. We are like soldiers dropped behind enemy lines wading through this sin soaked world and we cannot do this alone, God doesn’t intend us to, and we do not need to. If you’ve got a wall built up and your keeping others at arms length let the love of Christ come in and tear that wall down, let someone in, don’t walk through this life with a mediocre amount of Joy and peace not growing as close to the Lord as you can. If you’re bouncing from church to church stop looking for the perfect church and find those few people you need to help you grow and that you can help grow. Get close, get accountable, and get a Family! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Irreducible

Complex orders fly from the executive office to the factory floor. Raw materials are gathered from the warehouse and brought to the production floor. This factory can fill orders for products and parts needed for anything from its own maintenance issues there in the plant to products needing shipped out to other locations, also it produces parts for larger products being assembled there in the factory. Once any order is finished it’s off to quality control to make any corrections or final adjustments, then onto the packaging center where the parts will be prepared for further assembly inside the factory or for transport out from the factory. This factory produces its own energy derived totally from the sun and then converts it into fuel for the production plant. It comes equipped with its own maintenance crew that not only disposes of the waste materials but also finds and replaces any deficient parts in the factory itself. This factory is in perpetual production, never shutting down for holidays, repairs, or rest. It must be because it's on a very tight deadline to replace itself. That's right this factory gathers the raw materials, and then completely constructs another factory just like itself, and it does this while still filling all its many other production orders and responsibilities without fail. This amazing factory, while like the one pictured, is a single human cell. 

Over recent decades with the advancement of technology the reality of the incredible complexity in one single cell has been brought into clear view and what has been found is a deeper much more complex set of systems than could have ever been imagined. These systems are Molecular Machines. Machines that have moving parts and that accomplish tasks, they capture solar energy, they build complex protein structures, they bring in food, they allow the cell to swim, they act as cables and pulleys, and haul cargo back and forth. These machines build there own replicas and work to manufacture a complete duplicate of the entire cell structure.
The question this raises is how does evolution stand up to such incredible complexity at what should be such a basic level? In short, it just doesn’t. The Theory of evolution stands silent at the view of the amazingly sophisticated machinery that is working in such an immensely complex way as to keep calibrated the reality of life that we enjoy. Each one of these vitally important machines is in itself so complex they stand up to the modern day machines we have around us and surpass even those in design and efficiency. Each of these machines has an enormous amount of vitally important responsibilities, it would be hard to imagine, even for the molecular biologist, how even one of these workers could be removed from their station or how many billions and billions of years one would need to “evolve” such an efficiently sophisticated and tightly coordinated team of biological machines as we are seeing at the foundations of life. 

Darwin himself is famously quoted saying- If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.

An abundance of evidence opposed to the evolutionary theory exists but the discovery of molecular machines is throwing up road blocks from such a myriad of angles that even the very men doing the work to uncover them are calling it engineering. After all these machines are not only complex themselves but are working to build structures that must be precise in there design, so where’s the blueprints, who’s giving the precise instructions, who is the conductor of this tightly organized orchestra of assemblage?
Even the simple tasks we see being completed all around us every day require information to get them started. When we learned to ride our bike, someone had to impart that information for us to practice and complete that task, and we could fail and try again.
The tasks being performed by these machines are so advanced our smartest minds are left scratching there heads as to how they are able to pull them off, and with these tasks there is no room for error, no practice and try again. When any of these cellular systems isn’t precisely completed, and I mean precisely, serious disease, dysfunction, or death follows. The organism fails with not much chance to “evolve.”

Biochemist and author Michael Behe is quoted saying-
"The complexity of life's foundation has paralyzed science's attempt to account for it; molecular machines raise an as-yet impenetrable barrier to Darwinism's universal reach."

Romans 1:20
 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.


I’d like to end this rant with a quote by Dr. Robert Jastrow who holds a PhD in Theoretical Physics was the first chairman of NASA’s Lunar Exploration Committee for the Apollo missions and after became Professor of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College. He said this, which I love-


"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Father!



Galatians 4:4-7
 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Some of us have grown up having a great relationship with our Father and some of us have not, others haven’t known the presence of a Father in their lives at all. When we use this title for God the Father we are really putting a very human label on a being that is vastly superior to any human father we could ever know and we need to understand that. Many times we can mistakenly take the experiences we have had good, bad, and nonexistent and project those onto the Lord without even realizing it. We can find ourselves expecting the same type of relationship even. If you’ve grown up with a distant father that was very loosely involved in your life you may find yourself expecting the same from the Lord. If your father was involved but that involvement was negative or even abusive you may think of God as an angry disciplinarian that is usually disappointed in you.

Think about being there that day among the multitude of people that had walked with Jesus from many neighboring cities as he healed the sick and lame, gave sight to the blind and then stopped on a mountainside and sat down to teach. As he taught the crowds there how to pray he instructed them to say “Our Father.” This was surely seen as a radical teaching at the time, after all the Pharisee’s of the time viewed any closeness with God as something that must be earned not freely given to the masses.
Jesus is making a statement asking the crowd to pray like this, he is suggesting all the people there in that crowd can come to God and have a very close intimate familial relationship with him. He is saying to this crowd and to us today that we can come to God as a child comes to a parent. God is called father at times in the Old Testament but not in the context Jesus is suggesting here on the mountainside. Jesus through this prayer is offering an invitation on behalf of the living God. He is expressing to those that will hear him the type of relationship God wants from us by instructing us to regard him as “Our Father.”

Are we to see our Father in heaven as a disciplinarian? Is he a God that has set up a system of rules to simply control us and force us into obedience? Is he a God that punishes when we aren’t staying in line? Is God looking down on us with the disappointed look of a parent wishing we’d get our act together? This is very typical relationship between a human father and child so it’s no wonder many that see our faith from the outside and view our God in this way, they will at times even pull verses out of context from the Bible and tout them around as good reason to not believe.
Then there are those in the faith that spend years with this warped view of the Lord. They think of God as having more authority than compassion, as a type of universal detective on the hunt for your wrongdoing ready to administer justice rather than redemption. I cannot help but think that this thinking is much more fueled by the experiences they’ve had with there own parents rather than any real study being done into the Word God has given us. Many can think that we should help this God of condemnation by pointing out the sins of others around us. This is not the Gospel.

Parental relationships are commonly based on a system of work and reward, and rightly so, but we can also carry this thinking into our relationship with God thinking that it’s what we do that will gain his affection, attention, or even prosperity. Some false teachers have zeroed in on this and are touting a message that the masses seem to be flocking to, which is that God wants you to be rich, if you’ll only do these certain things he will lavish you with material possessions, and if he doesn’t it’s something your not doing that’s preventing it.

These false perceptions of the Lord humanize him they bring him down to a lowly view in which he does not belong. His Word tells us again and again that he is not like us, it tells us that God is a being so grand and so deep we as his small creations will spend an eternity gaining the smallest grasp on who and what he is. Jesus was not telling us on the mountainside that he is much like a human father, no. He was describing to us in a way that we might understand it the great love God has for us and the very intimate relationship he wants to give us all.


God has given us rules to live by much like a parent yes, but he has not given us the law as a great set of obstacles we must complete to gain greater affection or rewards from him, no. Nor did he give them to us to produce feelings of perpetual guilt and remorse.
The Lord loved us when we were still steeped in our sin before we ever came to him he loved us just as much then as he ever will. He gave us the laws as a road map or an instruction manual that would lead to our betterment for us not for him. He gave us these laws out of his great love for us. God the Father certainly wants to pour out rewards on us his children but he hasn’t then set up obstacles to those rewards, no, there are ours for the taking, no conditions, no work to be done, if we have accepted his son and fully committed ourselves to walk in faith with him then we can now take and enjoy the full measure of what he wants to give us! We need only to believe and enjoy!
There are some in our faith that have fallen into the thinking that through our obedience we gain these rewards, no, that is not the Gospel, that is legalism and as long as we have this incorrect and lowly perception of God we will not allow ourselves to enjoy the entirety of what he offers us in the Gospel.

We can think with our selfish sin filled human brains “It can’t be that easy, surely we need to do more to get more.” After all we have lived all our lives in a world that works just like that, but it’s just not that way with the Lord, in fact it’s the opposite. The love and rewards he pours out on us in abundance are the very things that produce obedience in us not the other way around. If we do not allow ourselves to believe and accept this gift he wants us to have than we ourselves are the obstacles.
We can say to ourselves “But I don’t deserve it.” Your right we don’t and we never will but thankfully it’s not about us, it’s about him, it’s not about what we do, it’s about what he has already done!

By saying this I am not suggesting that the Christian life is an easy one, it is not and that is why Christ calls us to count the cost. The Christian life however is going to be much much harder if it’s based on you and your abilities rather than based on the Father and what he can bring about in you. God the Father created all there is then created us out of his great love so that one day he could adopt you as his child and lavish you with his great love and joy. Not because you could do something for him, not because you have something he needs, just because he has it to give and wants to give it to you! And more than that he came to planet clothed in flesh, lived in poverty, and died a terrible death being nailed to a tree to buy you, to pay the price to purchase you back from sin, why? So that he could love you for eternity. That is just who he is, so let’s not bring him low and humanize him by suggesting his love comes with a set of expectations and conditions, it does not. His love produces in us a great desire to grow toward the likeness of his son, not to get his love, but because we already have his great love.

If we have truly accepted and committed ourselves to Christ we have access to a joy and a peace that transcends all understanding. He wants us to recline into his Forgiving hands and know that he has forgiven all we have done, past, present, and future. He wants us to recline in his Sovereign hands resting in the complete security of his all encompassing control. He wants us to recline in his Loving hands knowing that we are loved because of who he is not because of who we are. He wants us to recline in his Fatherly hands knowing that he has adopted us as his children and that all that is his is now ours.

Some might say “How can we know we have been adopted by him, or that I am truly now his child?” Paul tells us here in his letter. He will place his spirit in us that then cries out “Abba, Father.” Once we have come to the Lord there is a longing of the soul and of the spirit he has placed within us for the father’s closeness and presence. We seek to grow closer and closer to him, we find ourselves clinging more and more tightly to him like a child wanting to remain in the strong secure arms of their Father. We run to him with our joys, we run to him with our sufferings.


We run to him like a child our arms open, our heads held back, knowing he will lift us up, we will see his face, and be pulled into his embrace our great Cosmic Father, our Daddy, our Abba! 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Living Water

A life giving stream flows through the Word or the Living God.

Psalm 1:3
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither-- whatever they do prospers.

Isaiah 12:2-3
2 Surely God is my salvation;I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.” 3 With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.

Isaiah 43:3
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

Isaiah 58:11
And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

Zachariah 13:1
“On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.

John 4:14
But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 7:37-38
37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

Revelation 21:6
And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Revelation 22:21 

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb

May the Spring of Christ flow through you today

Saturday, February 13, 2016

War

Romans 6:11-14
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

How do we feel about the sin in our lives? Do we look at our sin as if it’s a force that has surrounded us on all sides too powerful and too dug into the many facets of our lives that it just cannot be defeated? Do we see ourselves as a prisoner of a war that was lost by Adam long ago and now we must put up with its occupation of our lives, our minds and our souls until through death we will finally be plucked out from behind enemy lines? Have we been called to merely recognize the surrounding forces for what they are and just continue to take our same dilemma back to the Lord in prayer week after week year after year?

I think we as Christians can find ourselves hunkered down in a foxhole surrounded by the enemy (Sin) feeling overcome and powerless. We’ve lost some battles and have resigned ourselves to getting comfortable in the foxhole. We’ve decided, maybe without even realizing it, that we are done with fighting this war every day trying through faith to gain spiritual ground and force the enemy to back out of our territory, after all we can maintain a certain amount peace without all this work and stay right here in our comfy foxhole.

We can cling to phrases we hear other Church goers say like “We are just sinful beings”, “We will never totally defeat sin in this life” or “Perfection is not attainable.” Certainly all these phrases have a ring of truth but they almost imply we should get cozy with our sin and not be too bothered by it, even that we are such sinful beings we just can’t help it.  I can’t find this attitude of resignation towards sin in the Bible anywhere only the opposite.

I am not a sports fan but I have no doubt that even the teams that are most often defeated that everyone knows about and likes to crack jokes about can’t go out on the field with the attitude that there is no way we will win this today. The coach doesn’t give a speech before the game reminding the players of just how often they loose and the other team wins, he doesn’t say that maybe we can just try and score a few points each game this year so we don’t look so bad. All the greatest sports upsets where the underdog pulled off the impossible did so using one single thing, one single mindset, and one very powerful attitude….Hope!

Throughout the New Testament we are called into a confrontation against our sin, it’s called many things a struggle, a battle, a war. We are reassured in Hebrews that we are free from condemnation through Christ our savior but also it says we must run the race with perseverance. Paul compares our walk with the Lord to strict training in Corinthians. James calls us to submit, John says abide, and Matthew calls us to be perfect. These are just a few from the New Testament; I could go on and on. Like the greatest coaches of all time they are calling us into action, into hope. They all tell us what we know, that we are sinful beings dead in our sins apart from Christ, but they say you have Christ so you have hope, not only in an eternal sinless life spent with Christ but hope in defeating sin here and now in this life and therefore living a greater more meaningful more fulfilling life here in this sin filled world. We are behind enemy lines for sure, we live in a dark world but God’s word doesn’t tell us to get used to the dark because you were born in it! It doesn’t tell us to be resigned to taking on losses it doesn’t tell us to just stay down and try to find happiness and peace amidst the oppressive forces that will always overtake us! No! God’s word tells us to put on our armor. It tells us to live in Christ and Christ will shine a light into our dark world so bright those around us will need to wear sunglasses! God’s word tells us we can win this thing, that Christ has already won it for you and now you only need to abide in him through action and the victory he has won will be made present in your life. God’s word tells us to get up if you get knocked down and soon through perseverance, through training, through action we will be spending more and more time on our feet then on our back.

Let’s take a look at ourselves today, where are we on the battlefield? Have we crawled into a hole somewhere and resigned ourselves to listening to the fight? Have we told ourselves that the forces are too powerful or that we are incapable of defeating the enemy? Even worse have we called a truce deciding that some territories in our lives will have to be left to the enemy?  Have we hit our back and like a boxer that has went ten rounds decided to just stay down? Are we the defeated player returning to the field knowing we will loose?

Let’s get up off the mat and go into the next round with victory in our hearts, let’s get off the bench and get our head in winning the game, let’s return to our feet with a strength and hope given to us by Christ that says “We will not go down again!”

Crawl out of the fox hole there’s a war raging around us, a war between Light and Darkness between Love and Evil. Casualties of this war are lost in the darkness and caught in snares set by the evil one, they need to see hope, they need to see that light exists, they need to see that Christ is alive and well and has won this war already, they need to know they can be released from the snare and see the enemy put on the run. We as soldiers of Christ carry the light and truth of Christ inside of us we just need to believe in it and have the faith to use it. We cannot defeat sin, on our own we are slaves of sin, but through Christ our chains have been thrown off, Satin himself should fear us, darkness will melt away in our presence, paths will be made straight and love will prevail. This war has been won; the enemy’s forces were utterly stomped into oblivion on Cavalry’s hill.


Sin can be defeated in this life and we can be made completely new creatures before the eyes of those still held in bondage. When they see the battles Christ has won in our lives and the enemy retreating from our territories maybe they will take up the fight as well, maybe they will see the hope of Christ in us and get back on there feet, put on the armor of the living God and begin to win the battles they once lost. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Debt

Luke 23:33
33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there

How often do we think of this and how real is it to us?

I have been blessed with two six year old twin sons, and one of them asked me in the middle of a Church service “Daddy why did Jesus let those men do that to him?” Wow, I did not have a quick come back for that one. I told him we would talk about it later and we did. As I tried to explain what Jesus did and why he did it in terms that a six year old might grasp the enormity of his gift and sacrifice washed over me in a new way yet again. Seeing it threw their eyes and watching their concern for Jesus played out in their facial expressions nearly brought me to tears.

How often do we ponder this great gift Christ gave? How real is it to us that this God we serve put on flesh and allowed us, his creations, to murder him so that he could pay a debt we could never pay ourselves. I pray I never get used to it, I pray it never becomes just another fact on a page in the Bible to me, and I pray it doesn’t for you either. As Christ stood before Pilot just before his scourging and crucifixion he said he came to testify to the truth. His greatest testimony was given when he gave his body over to be tortured and nailed to a tree. He came to testify to the truth of the Father’s limitless and relentless love for his people. He showed us through his immense sacrifice how far the Father was willing to go to reach his people and draw them to himself. During his ministry he demonstrated that his people were not of a certain social class, ethnicity, or racial persuasion but that by simple repentance, belief, and obedience redemption was possible for anyone.

Jesus’ disciples were fishermen, tentmakers, tax collectors, thieves, prostitutes, lepers and murderers. He could have certainly chosen more learned and righteous men from the synagogues. Right from the start of his ministry we can see the testimony he is giving. We see him heal a leper by touching him; something at that time was no doubt seen as very radical. Certainly the Lord could have healed the man without his touch but he purposefully chose to lay his hand on him. Someone with the disease of Leprosy would have been completely ostracized from the community. Being seen as unclean if they did venture into the city they were made to announce their uncleanness as they went as to warn others to keep their distance. If a person in the community were to touch an unclean person they too would suffer the same separation from the community and would from that day on be seen as unclean. No doubt Jesus intended to make a statement by touching the Leper.

We see Jesus having dinner at the home of a Pharisee when a “sinful” woman comes and kneels at Jesus’ feet and begins to wash them with her very tears. She even kneels behind him instead of in front him as if she feels herself unworthy to even face him. The righteous Pharisee reacts with disgust and suggests Jesus couldn’t be a prophet or he would know what kind of woman she was and certainly wouldn’t want her touching him.
It is interesting that Jesus responds with a parable on debt asking Peter who would love more in return, the one with much debt forgiven or little?
 He then rebukes Peter his own disciple saying she has already done for him far more than Peter did when he went to Peter’s home. He is telling Peter, the Pharisee, and us that we have much to learn from this “sinful” woman that many would see as unworthy. Christ then forgives her of her sins.

Again and again we see Christ rebuke the self righteous and religious authorities that somehow see themselves more worthy through there own efforts than other people around them and then feel themselves justified in not sharing the Kingdom of Heaven with these unworthy people. He tells them they are doing the work of their Father the Devil, why? Because they are deceiving people about the true nature of the Kingdom of God, they themselves have been so deceived that they have exalted themselves instead of the Father. He tells them in one confrontation that the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of Heaven ahead of them, why?
Because they rightly see their place in the presence of an all righteous and Holy God, they give no merit to their own deeds or think themselves more worthy or more valued by the Father than anyone else, on the contrary, they see clearly what they have been saved from and know they have only the Father to thank.

Christ was very clear that the gift he came to give and the love of the Father which he came to testify about is boundless. Christ hung on the cross and died for yes those that loved him then and those that love him now but also for the ones we wish not to think of. Christ gave his life for the murderer, the Pedophile, the rapist, and among others for the terrorist. He gave himself for us and all those our society would label as unwanted and unworthy. He gave himself for the drug dealer on the corner, the strippers in the strip clubs, the thief that breaks into your home while you’re working. He made his testimony very clear when he chose Paul, a murderer, to be an Apostle, when he called Levi the despised tax collector to follow him, when he reached out and put his hand on the leper, when he forgave the adulterous woman, when turned to the thief on the cross and said “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

So what is our attitude to these people, to these that our culture would call unworthy, to these that our Savior died for?

If we are honest do we find ourselves feeling a little more worthy than others we may see in our daily lives or watch on the nightly news? What is our feeling when we see the parent mistreating their child at the store, do we immediately think of scolding that person, do we compare ourselves to them and think how we would never do such a thing, or do we see ourselves in them, both being sinners? What about the guy tattooed from his toes to his nose, do we cross the street to avoid him? Do we watch the nightly news and call for bombs to be dropped so that entire ethnic groups might be wiped from the earth?

Recently we saw in the news that twenty-one Egyptian Christians were beheaded by ISIS. They videoed the incident and released it. Not long after the brother of two of the slain Christians was quoted by the press saying he wanted to thank ISIS for allowing the Christians to vocally proclaim their faith before they martyred them. He also said “Since the Roman era, Christians have been martyred and have learned to handle everything that comes our way. This only makes us stronger in our faith because the Bible told us to Love our enemies and bless those who curse us.”

This man could have used this air time to call for vengeance, ask other nations to exact justice, or at the very least express his anger and disdain for ISIS but he doesn’t do that. Doesn’t this statement sound like something the Apostle Paul might say? This is a man that knows what his faith is asking of him and he has chosen to practice it. It is incredibly convicting for me, someone that at times has a problem loving the other people I must share the highway with, seeing a man thanking the men that killed members of his family. This man knows the God he serves came and died on the cross to pay a debt even for the men of ISIS. He knows the Father loves his enemy at the same degree as he loves him, the only difference between this faith filled follower of Christ and the members of ISIS is the follower of Christ has been found and the other is still terribly lost.

Isn’t that what we are seeing when we look on to some of the people out in our society, people in various stages of being lost? Some granted are so tremendously lost, such as the members of a terrorist group that they may never return, but lost is what they are. If we were to insert ourselves into the story of the prodigal son just before he had squandered all his inheritance we would see a boy partying his life away, spending all his time with prostitutes, and living a careless unrighteous life. We have all seen this type, some even in our own family or at one time maybe we were that lost person living only for the next party or bit of self gratification. Would we condemn the younger son before he has an opportunity for redemption, or would we try our best to be gracious to him understanding that his father desperately wants him to return? In the story when he does return the older son is angry and jealous, he thinks the younger brother unworthy. He is looking at his deeds and what he has done for the father compared to his younger brother. Do we do this; do we look at our years of faithful service to the Lord and compare our deeds to the lost around us allowing ourselves to feel more worthy?

The first illusion is that we could have anything to offer the Lord. Isaiah 64:6 says our righteous acts are like filthy rags to the lord. The Lord created us and everything we have in this life then paid our incredible debt with his very life. If we give him all that we are and all that we have we would only be returning what he has already given. The second illusion is that we are any different than the murderer. James 2:10 says if you’ve broken one law today your as guilty as anyone who has broken them all. This tells me I stand equal with those I might see as unworthy.

In John 1:29 John the Baptist looks at Jesus and proclaims “Look the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Christ suffered and died on the cross to offer the inheritance of eternal life to that person that’s giving us a hard time at work, the person giving us a creative gesture on the highway, the person at the store with their child that only knows how to parent the way they were parented, the terrorist murdering our Christian brothers and sisters for their faith. What Christ did on the cross was enough to cover all sins, not just ours. Do we want to stand in the way or be indifferent to that prodigal son or daughter returning to the Father or do we want to aid in that returning?

Let’s be mindful that our words and our actions as Christians are presenting the Cross as a one time atoning act for all sins and for all people!
Let’s start saying hello to those people we maybe would normally avoid, let’s offer our help rather than our judgment; let’s love past the hate.

In doing this we will allow the power of the Cross to shine.