Thursday, April 28, 2016

Relentless

A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.3

John 2:4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied “My hour has not yet come.”
By now Jesus has a following and has gained some notoriety. John’s Gospel tells us that he and his disciples were invited to the wedding at Cana in Galilee. A wedding banquet was a seven day party in this ancient Hebrew culture. Inviting a notable teacher was a common practice.

I imagine the disciples and specifically John standing near Jesus as the wine grows less and less. To run out of wine before a wedding banquet had ended would have been humiliating for the bride groom and caused the entire celebration to come to an abrupt end breaking many unwritten laws of Jewish hospitality.
Did the mother of Jesus know he could work a miracle, had she seen this before? Jesus seems to understand that she is implying he should use his supernatural abilities “My time has not yet come.”

There are a couple different camps of thought here on this subject. After all we see the family of Jesus coming to gather him in the Gospel of Mark because they think he’s lost his mind, so even if Mary had witnessed or known about what he was capable of she did not know or at least accept the idea of her son being the Messiah that he some time later he would begin to lay claim to more publicly. This is after all a very public event, the entire town would have been involved and would in turn know that Jesus had provided the wine through a miracle, and Jesus seems to be of the mind that it is too early yet to make such a public announcement, but he listens to his mother anyway.

John and the other disciples have spent time in counsel under the no doubt astonishing teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. They have seen him in interactions like the one with Nathaniel where he seems to know the unknowable. They have become more and more convinced that he is what the Baptist claimed, Phillip tells Nathaniel after they have spent just a short time with him that “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law and the prophets also wrote.” But they have yet to see “greater things” which they are about to begin to witness.

The disciples stand nearby and listen intently as Jesus tells the servants to fill the jars with water. Six very large jars that could hold about thirty gallons a piece was a bit of work. I can imagine the looks of confusion and worry not only on the faces of the servants about to do what this newly prominent teacher is asking, but on the faces of his disciples also.
Will he look like a fool and make them who have been following him look like fools also? What does filling water jars used for wash water have to do with wine? What on earth is he thinking?
Surely this is just a few of the thoughts and fears running through the mind of young John and the other students of Jesus. Their doubts and fears mounting as the servants go about the work of filling the wash jars. A fever pitch of anticipation had culminated in the disciples as Jesus tells them “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
Could they see its violet color as it was drawn or did that heated anticipation continue until it was delivered to the master of the banquet?

John and the disciples exchange anxious fear filled whispers and looks as they watch the cup delivered to the banquet master as he stands surrounded by guests, surrounded by the entire city of Cana. I can imagine Jesus looking on at his students, beholding their great lack of faith. The disciples see Jesus’ eyes on them and straighten their backs changing there cringing twisted faces into sure confident looks as the banquet master sips from the cup. His face explodes into an expression of pure pleasure, eyes wide, cheeks fully lifted in an ear to ear smile. Relief and wonder fill the disciple’s facial expressions; Wine runs down the chin of the banquet master as he slaps the bridegroom’s back telling him how impressed and happy he is with this marvelous wine!

Young John looks on at his teacher still standing near the wash jars now filled with not just wine but the best wine, the young boy’s eyes wide and mind racing as his assurance and confidence grows in who it is he has left the Baptist to follow, excitement welling up in him as he thinks on things to come.

Rant
We are raised in a world that professes chance as the way of the universe, the way life itself managed to come together and create the very intricate systems we see everywhere we turn, so when we as Christians refute chance and claim that a plan is being laid, that details are being ordered by the guiding hand of God the unbeliever sees us as a fool.

Whether we know it or not once we’ve been open to our friends, family, and coworkers about following Jesus people all around us begin watching and listening. They are interested to see how we will handle not the good stuff but the tough stuff, the trials of our faith. It is very easy to be vocal about our trust in the Lord but do we show it?

Do we trust the Lord enough to remain kind to a person giving us a hard time at our job? Do we trust the Lord enough to be the honest person while surrounded by a crowd of dishonest people? Do we trust the Lord enough to be different, to stand out, and to say no to going along with things we know are not the will of God?

Because when we loose our temper at that person at work, when we agree to go along with something that is not on the up and up, and when we find ourselves alone in a room full of worldly people and there is really no distinction between their speech and ours, there’s really no difference between their goals and our goals, and really, if we are honest with ourselves, the only difference between those people of the world and us is the cross necklace on our neck, or where we sit on Sunday we don’t just hurt ourselves we hurt Christianity.

We prove to that unbelieving lost person at work looking on as we loose our temper that this Christianity thing is just another social club. When we walk around professing Christ and our language is littered with profanity, lustful talk and all the material things we want and can’t live without, we are proving to that unbelieving family member that this Christianity thing is just one of many silly religions people like to claim, that there isn’t anything real behind it, just myth and fairytales. When we claim Jesus as our Savior and then walk through our lives worried and anxious about the economy, consumed by politics, or obsessed with the sins of the lost cutting down and condemning people who are without God we have proven to the on looking unbelieving people around us that this Christianity thing isn’t really about much else than the fish stickers on our cars and the crosses around our necks. 

We can be that person at work or anywhere that is nice to the person being nasty.
We can be that person that says no when asked to go along with dishonest behaviors or activities.
We can be that person who isn’t constantly cursing, or lusting after the things and other people of this world.
We can be that person that isn’t full of fear because of the economy, politics, or even our own personal financial struggles.
We can be that person that makes people feel better for having interacted with us that people see as the calm person even in the midst of trouble, as the strong person unshaken by worldly circumstances.

When people see that they will want to know why we’re different, how we’re so together when things are falling apart. But that’s not going to come through willpower; it comes through a real relationship with Jesus Christ by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Change is not where we sit on Sundays or the stickers on our cars or even the volunteer work we do, no, change comes from inside through a rebirth of the Spirit.

Lets stop being afraid to look like a fools and be confident that if we do the work the Lord is asking of us he will change the fear we’re filled with into strength, he will change the anger we’re brimming over with into love, he can and will change our very worldly ways into his ways just as he changed this very worldly water into heavenly wine.


We need only be willing to be filled, we need only do the actions necessary and he will provide the miracle. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Relentless

A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.2

John 1:37 “What do you want?” Jesus asked when seeing the two following him. “Rabbi, where are you staying?” They asked.
“Come and you will see.” Jesus replied
Being a disciple of the Baptist a sense of eagerness has grown in John and Andrew to see this Messiah. For a one Rabbi like the Baptist to recommend his own disciples follow another teacher was very unorthodox at this time. Becoming a disciple under a Jewish teacher and Rabbi took a willingness to put aside your own thinking, admit your need for a teacher, and be willing to actually do the things this teacher will instruct, not only were you asking for instruction by becoming a student but you were making a commitment to that teacher that your answer to that instruction is already “Yes Rabbi.”
Surely with such a heavy reliance on the Baptist they had grown very close. I can easily imagine the Baptist’s disciples watching with fear and admiration as he plainly, and I’ll bet loudly, told the Pharisees to come and be baptized, the thought of what kind of facial expression this brought about from the Pharisees makes me laugh.
Now being the humble servant of God that he is he insists his own students leave him “He must become greater I must become less.” John 3:30

It may seem odd to us for two strange men to walk up to another and ask where he is staying but this was a common and polite way of asking someone for a place to sleep for the night. Remember it is four in the afternoon and it’s gotten too late to walk far. This is also John’s way of explaining to us in his Gospel how one is to come to Jesus, they ask him where he is staying so they might stay there as well, they are saying we wish to go where you go and where ever that is the answer for us is already “Yes”
Notice John doesn’t say here in his Gospel that Jesus then turned and told him in detail where it was they were going, how long they’d be there and what would happen while they stayed, no, he just says “Come and see.”
He makes it clear from the beginning that they will need to make a commitment to trust and follow without always knowing where it is he is taking them.
What must it have been like to sit at the feet of the Baptist taking in the teaching of the coming Messiah and then to go to him and spend the day? At this point your expectations would be high, did Jesus fulfill them?

This was a carpenter that came from a very small town called Nazareth. No prophet was to come from Nazareth and it has been lately discovered that not only was Nazareth a town with not such a great reputation it may have also been a town the Romans used and occupied heavily, which also would have cast it in an unfavorable light.

Despite these things these first disciples cling to Jesus and begin collecting more followers. 
What would it be like to speak to a man so complete, a man of perfect character, a man of no sins and of complete assurance in the present and the future, a man of no worries or concerns, and a man that speaks with complete authority?
Surely as they are being taught by him this remarkable facet of his personality comes through abundantly. I believe as these first few men began to gather around Jesus they no doubt started quite a buzz among the other people about how he taught and likely how it even felt to be near him. There was something astonishing about this man without yet seeing a miracle because Andrew runs to tell Cephas (Peter) and upon him meeting Jesus he is given a nickname, Peter, which was common of Rabbi’s and their disciples at this time, but the interesting thing is that Peter’s following seems decided at there very meeting by Jesus imparting this name to him which means “Rock.”
We know by reading the other Gospels that John seemed to be maneuvering for what he thought at the time was a high position in a new coming earthly kingdom. We can only wonder if young John stands here watching on a little jealous or even angry at the naming of Peter. Names were given for purpose and meaning and they likely would have known the meaning of this nickname.

Rant
 We of this day and age are far removed from the level of trust and obedience displayed here by these first followers. They don’t know where Jesus is going, what’s going to happen, or what he may expect of them, and yet their answer without knowing is “Yes.”
We here in our society have been hearing a sermon of “Self” being preached to us from birth that tells us to use our preferences as our guide to life, to use our five senses to direct our choices, to find our own truth by “finding ourselves.” We pick up Gods Word and we pick out the verses we prefer and we ignore the hard verses that may make us take a closer look at what we are doing. We tell God where he can help us at and where we’ve got things under control. Many people can attend church weekly, get involved heavily, and pray religiously but because they have been so corrupted by this message, this lie being heaped upon our culture they don’t realize they are asking Jesus to come sit at they’re feet, that they are trying to instruct him the author of life.
We can feel at times the Spirit pressing or pulling, or we can feel the Spirit telling us to rid ourselves of a certain behavior and our reply is “Yeh but” or “Not now.” We come to Jesus picking and choosing as if he has set us up a buffet of options in order to best suit our preferences. We can easily read throughout the Gospels to see how Jesus responds to this attitude.

In Luke 9:62 Jesus tells a man that just wants to return and say goodbye to his family that "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

What if this man stayed at the back of the pack of disciples and followed on his own terms, following when he had time or when the teaching being given seemed something he could use in his life. He was dedicated he was committed but only to the periphery. He felt good being near Jesus and even being near some of his disciples but his level of dedication and commitment stopped before it made it to making any real changes in his life and actually by all outside appearances no change was evident. This man might even call himself a disciple, learning many details of the healings Jesus performed, of the teachings he had given, and the details of Jesus’ life but would Jesus recognize him as a disciple?

We must come to the feet of Christ realizing that we need his direction and his instruction.
Like John and Andrew we must be prepared to believe that what the Baptist has told us is true, that he is the Messiah that he is our Messiah. 

We must come to offer our family, our job, our possessions, and ourselves entirely and say “Lord what will you have me do with these?”

To that he will surely reply “Come and see!” 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Relentless 
A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.1


Introduction;
What could make a man’s beliefs so strong, so rock solid, and so relentless as to suffer an entire lifetime of hardship and persecution.
Imagine that, ponder that, you’ll be all day on it, I was and more. This man spent years, many years being mistreated, manhandled, imprisoned and once even boiled in oil!
He endured and suffered like a piece of iron though, beaten but not budged, weathered but not weak, like a pillar of granite John stood with Christ his best friend and his Lord and could not be shaken from him.
Even the most devout atheist should be rocked by this, after all could an atheist stand in his commitment of unbelief while standing before a vat of bubbling boiling hot oil that he is about to be delivered in to?
John is unwavering because of what he knows, what he has seen, and who he has indwelling him.

I think we can often pass by the life of the Apostle John “The one Jesus Loved” without taking some time to live with him a little while, see what he saw, smell what he smelled, and try, as difficult as it is, try to put ourselves in line with his perspective by really looking at and trying to live in the details that we have about his extraordinary testimony of faith.

At the same time we need to be encouraged and empowered ourselves for the same Spirit that John did these things by resides in us today. John was after all just a human with flesh and blood and even with quite a temper at first being called a “Son of Thunder.”  He was a flawed human like you and me, but with a perfect God, an ordinary man with an extraordinary Savior.

Part 1.
In John we see a beautiful rebirth. From a young man seeking, what he thought would be a position of power and authority from Jesus of Nazareth, to a man that through his own Gospel written by him at around the elderly age of eighty-five, didn’t even bother to mention his own name. When we read John’s Gospel we see that he only refers to himself as “the one Jesus loved” or the “other disciple.”

We first see John as a disciple of John the Baptist. John the Baptist sees Jesus walking by and exclaims “Look the lamb of God!” John 1:35
At this John and Andrew begin to follow Jesus of Nazareth.

Sixty years after this fateful meeting John can still recount the time it occurred, “four in the afternoon” John 1:39
We have all experienced profound sometimes life changing events where we can remember where we were, who we were with, even the smells and the details of the day many years later. This no doubt is the event in John’s life as it would’ve been in ours, the event that would write the story of how the rest of his life on this earth would play out.
John being a follower of the Baptist was already a man after God, a man seeking the truth. The Baptist’s entire existence on this earth was purposed only in one thing, “make straight the way for the Lord” to point to the Messiah, so John the Apostle had no doubt already learned quite a bit about this coming Messiah and how he was to become greater than the Baptist because we see John move without hesitation to leave the teaching of the Baptist to begin this new following.

Rant
How ready and willing are we to go wherever Jesus may lead us? To put it all in His hands and really let go, relinquish control and wait for the Spirit’s instruction? We live in a society here in the U.S. that largely identifies itself as Christian but the statistical evidence of the number of people that would claim this brand versus the number of people sitting in the pews or active in some faithful organization is vastly different numbers.  The word “believe” does not mean what it once did and it means less and less daily I am afraid. Many people do not make the connection between a vocalization and how that should transfer to your actions and behavior. This is just not the case in this ancient Jewish society of John the Apostle. They professed a belief and they viewed that as having direct consequences for their actions and behavior.
John could have professed his belief vocally and remained running his own life as he saw fit, and likely lived a life free from imprisonment and beatings but to John that would not have been real belief or real faith and it shouldn’t be to us either. We profess Christianity and do not even go as far as to inform ourselves on what we profess. Many people when asked about God’s coming judgment think it will not apply to them because they have professed a belief or uttered a prayer with their lips but when you ask them what they have actually done, what choices they have made in their own lives that pertain to that faith they have little to say.
Truly without reading the Word of God for ourselves we cannot be adequately informed on what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, not just a “Christian” but a disciple.  If we who profess “Christianity” as our faith are not even willing to read when men like John and many others including our Savior were willing to die that should give us an indication of where we are spiritually, and that’s coming from a guy that was there once.

We slap a fish sticker on our car and a necklace around our neck, maybe even read a couple small fictional books about the faith and go about trying to look and conform ourselves to other “Christians” when all the while something so infinitely better sits on our table collecting dust waiting until next Sunday to be opened, after all we have to carry our bibles like everyone else, right?
This is why we have “Christians” today that carry picket signs proclaiming God hates people of a certain sexual orientation.
This is why we have Christian extremist’s that think its good for them to threaten harass and even physically assault abortion doctors.
This is why we have ignorant “Christians” calling for the slaughter of all Muslim people because of the acts of a few.
This is why we have a religion full of people that think we “Christians” were sent here to judge the unbeliever and tell everybody what their doing wrong. We sit in bible studies focused on our criticism of the sinner rather than the growth or lack there of we’ve made in Christ and how our looking and Loving more like Christ might attract the lost into faith in Christ.

We have a religion full of people terrified of who will get elected next, of what will happen with the economy, and who are perpetually offended by what lost people do, even when they themselves were once lost. These behaviors seem small and silly at best when compared to the disciples in the bible, when compared to what real “Christians” once looked like.

This condemnation of the lost is NOT in the bible and is NOT condoned by Jesus Christ.
 Jesus would see this behavior akin to the very Pharisees that had him executed. “Christians” today accept the ungodly behavior of there brother or sister in the pew and focus all there criticism of the lost.
This is opposite the actions and behavior directly taught by Jesus and all the first disciples and if we don’t think that’s going to make a difference when we meet the real man Jesus, who called people like this the children of Satin himself John 8:44, than we are delusional. If we profess Christ as our Lord and then go about criticizing, condemning, threatening, and perpetrating or advocating violence our lip service will not save us from the damning evidence of our actions. Jesus said in Matthew 15:8 “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

I am not your judge or theirs and do not claim to be but one is coming who will be.
I am just an ordinary man that was once guilty of some of these behaviors but has now read the Word of God for myself and knows that if you claim to be a “Christian” and follow a man/God named Jesus Christ that he tells us to Love the lost unconditionally and that will woo them in so that they may be willing to hear the truth of the Gospel. He also condemns the religious leaders of his time because they use the truth as a hammer on the lost and they twist the Word to suit themselves rather than apply themselves to the Word.

We “Christians” are to emulate Christ and we can’t know Christ or follow Christ by following the actions of a human that claims they know Christ, by being spoon fed the details someone else wants us to have. We are not called to just go to church, we are called to be the church and we cannot possibly begin to get that right until we let Jesus himself describe it to us.

We get God Wrong, we get life wrong, and we get eternity wrong, and beloved eternity is a long time to be wrong!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

What is there to be warm about?

Revelation 3:14-16
Revelation 3:14-16New International Version (NIV)
To the Church in Laodicea
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.



Do we really believe that what we profess to believe is really real, I mean really real?

I spent many years lost in addictions and during the last few years of that imprisonment I would have freely admitted to you that I “believed” I had a problem, but my actions were unchanged. I believed in my mind what was plain for me and others to see but that belief had not made it deep inside me, it had not penetrated the depths of my soul and so I remained in purgatory for a little while longer. Then I came into relationship with some people that forced me to fully ingest the truth about myself and the world around me and once that truth ceased to lay on the surface and sank deep into my inner most self I was then confronted fully with the truth and had no alternative but to allow that truth to change my actions.

The deep reality of our depravity as humans on this sin saturated planet can be illusive, hard to fully grasp. The effect it easily has on our minds and then on our actions can be hard for us to recognize because we are so surrounded by it and soaked in it. Being sinful beings living in a sinful world we can so easily lie to ourselves and put on a superficial disguise, professing words, going through motions and rituals, and even fooling ourselves about what we believe when our actions tell a different story.
We can also start out with a deep conviction and even having a profound spiritual experience that shakes us to the core of our being and then as we walk through life we focus our gaze on the routines and goals of this world, doubt, fear, and anxiety seep in and our belief begins to corrode like an old car sitting in field long forgotten about.

Our outward appearance hasn’t changed but inside, whether we know it or not, our lamp has grown very dim covered over with a layer of filth so thick the light can barely escape.

We might notice that we are not where we used to be spiritually but we shrug it off as “normal” and continue on with our ever increasing worldly life telling ourselves we are still doing better than some others around us or that we will make an effort to get back to where we once were as soon as we have time, after all it’s not like we don’t “Believe” anymore, right?

The Lord is not a subtle Master, we of this world have in many ways tried to ignore verses like this one and many others that just can’t be softened or interpreted in a way that please our itching ears. It is blunt and it is meant to be. The Lord tells the church of Laodicea, a rich and beautiful city that appears faithful, that even though you look well on the outside to everyone else I am about to reject you. Not because they have outwardly left the faith and completely rejected God , no, because they have let the world and it’s desire creep back in and corrupt their connection with Him and in turn they have gone warm. We of this world can become so busy keeping the outside of our dish clean we forget that inside has grown filthy, but the Lord knows and he sees our hearts, and no matter how much we wish there were a gray area that we could snuggle into and feel comfortable there just is no such place with God and He tells us that throughout His Word.


Satin does not always come with shouts and pleading like the salesman that he is, he also comes with gentile loving whispers that say “you don’t need to care so much, you don’t need to do so much, you deserve these things, no one else is doing this much.”

We begin to compare ourselves to others, and many times to those in the world that live for themselves and it begins to look appealing to us, our focus changes and we begin to look like those we are now focused on. Our gaze has fallen off Christ and onto his creation. Our worship has ceased to magnify God and begun to magnify the world.
Where has our belief gone? It has been stolen, but not without some consent on our part. By allowing our focus to fall from Christ we have removed our armor and laid it aside, we have opened the doors to our home and left it unsecured, we have issued to satin an invitation and opened our hearts to the corrosion that was once removed.
Remaining in Christ is a daily discipline, sometimes an hourly discipline, but it should be a joyous discipline, a wonderful love affair like no other that consumes you and sweeps you away, but the Lord will not hold us hostage in this love affair, we must employ the Spirit he has put in us by a continual effort to stay connected, to remain abiding in His love. When we make that effort the Lord comes to us stoking the fire that burns for Him reinvigorating us. He reminds us of who He is and in that who we are and that’s a lot to be excited about. How easily we can go through our day without even thinking about it.

The question is do we believe this, do we really believe down to the core of our being that Jesus is the Son of the living God, that He was sent here to give his life to defeat satin, defeat death, and purchase for himself a people that through abiding in his love would be drawn into him to live forever? Do we believe that the Father loves us so much He would choose us specifically before the creation of the world, that He loves us so much He would Himself suffer to save us, and that He would make us His children and coheirs with His Son, coheirs of an immense current Kingdom and His incredibly glorious Kingdom to come? Do we believe that we now have residing inside us the Holy Spirit of truth who is also God Himself that will come and counsel us, empower us, and renew us? Do we believe that as we die to ourselves daily we can then allow Jesus Christ Himself to come and live for us through that Spirit?

So why would we shrink back at difficult situations, why would we grumble about the inconvenience of doing God’s work, why would we ever trade the most amazing love affair a human can be involved in for the business of the world, the lust of the flesh, or the trinkets sold in stores?
Satin has been smashed and defeated at the cross and he cannot come in where he is not invited. Fear and selfishness are two of his most powerful agents but when we are abiding they are flimsy arrows that bounce from our armor and are broken under our feet as we move forward gaining and growing in Christ Jesus.

Even death is no longer a reality for those of us that can confidently proclaim ourselves as the children and the living God, the sibling of the very Christ, and the humble faithful student of the Holy Spirit!


So I ask you, what is there to be warm about? 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

1 Peter 5:2
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them- not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.


If we are truly children of God, the Spirit will place instruction on our hearts we need only be diligent in listening and watching, ready to receive that instruction, that direction. When we do receive it we must do all we can to follow, putting our hand to plow and not looking back!

Our fire, our eagerness for the Lord and his work does not need to grow cold it can be rekindled by him each day through fervent prayer, study of his Word, and meditation.


If we are to be his disciples we are responsible for his flock, they are under our care and this should be a joyous love filled work. He has placed His Spirit in us so that we may grow mature in the faith and go out to serve, to go out and be His Shepherds. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Spirit of Truth

 

Ezekiel 11:19-21
19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.

Your in deep conversation with a brother or sister of the faith, your in a group study or in a worship service, maybe your just sitting alone staring at the star laden night sky wondering where to go from here, the hairs on your neck stand to attention, your heart warms inside your chest, a peace accompanied by an almost giddiness envelopes you, the Spirit has made Himself known.

What a gift that has been given to us the Disciples of Christ Jesus. Quite often He is not discussed or focused on enough. Jesus called him the Spirit of Truth in John 16:13 and he tells us He will be our helper, our teacher, and our counselor. Paul tells us He helps us in our weakness in Romans 8:26, he explains the fruits that come from the indwelling we receive in Galatians 5:22-23, and tells us that our bodies are not our own but a temple for Him the Holy Spirit.
He certainly makes Himself known in many more ways than I have described above and can be experienced differently in different people but His presence, His guidance, and His love should be a central part of a followers walk with Christ. Although we are not consistently seeking to remain sensitive to His continual presence He is consistently with us choosing to reward us at times for righteous action, convict us of wrongful doing, and lead us if we will only give Him authority in our lives.
Are we giving Him that authority, do we even really and I mean really want to know what God has planned for us, or would we rather try and tune Him out and play it safe?
Jesus gives us the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 The Master entrusting each servant with various amounts of gold, returns later to make an accounting for how these talents have been spent. Here we see the hard line Jesus draws for the difference between the fearful lazy servant that hides his talents making no effort to have them grow his Master’s wealth and the servants that spend wisely the talents given to them helping to grow the Master’s fortune.
This tells us the Lord has endowed all his children with a number of talents, some more some less, but all equally required to use those talents for His Kingdom while we are here. He has given us also an allotted time to spend those talents, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we knew how much time that was?
We walk around convinced there will always be more time until a friend or family member passes unexpectantly or worse a child. These occurrences grab us and force us to see that death can come to any of us at any time. How quickly that thought evaporates though and we go back to spending our time as if it will never run out.
This however is not the case, time for us on this earth will run out and we do not know when, it can come at anytime, and whether we will go immediately to the lord or sleep until the end of time and return of Christ there will be an accounting. This life is but a pop quiz for the next, the Lord has given us all varying degrees of personal wealth in our abilities and like it or not His Word tells us he does have expectations as to how we might spend these abilities.
Will we use them only for our own betterment or self-glorification, or strive to spend them to increase the wealth of His Kingdom? He has left the choice in our hands.

The Spirit of Truth pushes and we push back and retreat from the call, why?
Fear, fear of change, fear of uncomfortable situations, of what those around us might think or do, of financial insecurity, of all the “What ifs” that crowd our minds when we feel the pull of the Him the Spirit. We say to ourselves and others “I don’t know enough, I’m not good at that, I could never do that or that would be uncomfortable for me” and while yes some people are more gifted in some areas than others some of our gifts are unknown to us and need our willingness to be discovered.

At some point in this marriage we have entered into with Christ we must count the cost as he calls us to do, the cost of what he wants from a disciple and the cost of what we are willing to give and then we must ask ourselves what we will have be our authority in this life because certainly we are being graded on that very thing. Belief has become regarded as a very loose and flimsy term in our current culture. Most seem to regard it as a mere vocalization, no commitment, and no action intended. But as disciples we are called to much more than that. Abraham believed God and when that belief was made manifest in his actions it was attributed to him by God as righteousness.

The Holy Spirit also convicts us of wrong doing and character defects and we can choose to take His counsel repent and turn back in obedience or ignore His instruction. When we choose not to forgive others, ask for forgiveness from others, or repent confessing our sins to our Father who already knows them, that light that shines on our path gets a little harder for us to see, as our hearts harden from our lack of obedience we begin to walk in darkness yet again, not because God’s love is a condition of our obedience, no, His love is immense and unending, it’s due to our own inability to any longer see that love that light upon our path because we have lost our focus on it and on Him. He can only give what we will open up and receive, if we close ourselves off He being Love will not force us to take His gifts or His instruction.

The Spirit of Truth showers us with the peace of God in times of great turmoil; we come through these periods and marvel at His work in us and through us. He strengthens us for times of great tension and pressure that can be hoisted upon us, He guides us through the mine fields of life, He energizes us for the work of the Kingdom and He brings to light our gifts and abilities that we may spend for the glory of Yahweh, the one and only giver of gifts and Lord of Lords, the one that gave us His Son, our brother and our King. We serve a triune Lord, Savior, and Spirit that is in his essential being Love. He creates, He saves and He is with us till the end of the age. This sovereign triune God of ours is also truth He judges, He instructs, He convicts, and ultimately he will condemn. With out His Love we would remain today without the choice of salvation, the hope of grace and without His truth we would be utterly lost and eternally hopeless being guided only by our almost entirely depraved minds and souls.

Let’s shout His love from the roof tops and declare His praises to all we encounter! Let’s embrace His truth for us even when it causes fear or pain knowing that His perfect will is reliable and ever faithful. Will we spend our bags of gold only for ourselves here in this place or will we use them to glorify Him here while storing up treasures there where moth and rust cannot destroy?

What if today is the day, what if the quiz comes to an abrupt end today, what if this is our last day to seize and use the Holy Spirits instruction, to pour ourselves out for Him as a drink offering, to be married into an eternal commitment that will mean taking eternal actions that will be felt by others until Christ comes again? 

We here today share the very same Spirit of Truth that indwelled the prophets, apostles, and disciples throughout God’s word. Christ talks to us through Him often telling us to take actions that seem impractical, uncomfortable, insurmountable even, but who will be our authority in this life, us, our depraved minds, our selfish desires, our own self created truth or the God that brought down the walls of Jericho from an army’s simple obedience, the God that empowered a small boy to kill a twelve foot giant, the God that strengthened John the Baptist to proclaim the coming of the Messiah even when it could get him executed, or the God that would send His own Son to die in our place?

Why would we dare to feel comfortable relying on our own understanding when we have access to the timeless and all powerful understanding of the Creator?



The Father sent the Son to be born in a muddy manger among a poor and enslaved people to live a faultless life for us. He sent his Son to weep with us, to suffer with us, to heal all the people that would come to his hand only to be violently beaten, spat upon and nailed to a tree so that we, you and I, may live His life, so that we may enjoy His inheritance, so that we may receive the ever guiding and loving direction of Jesus Christ through the Spirit of Truth!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Go!


Acts 4:18-20
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Jesus has given his disciples his final command before ascending back to the Father’s right hand. Having seen him defeat death and now having the Holy Spirit given to them at Pentecost they take to the streets to do as their Master has commanded them but quickly they find themselves here standing before the very council responsible for the execution of their Lord.

John and Peter were Jews raised in a culture of Jewish beliefs, traditions, and laws. Their families, their friends, and the customers they had as fishermen were Jews indoctrinated by and practicing what the Jewish authority and culture their taught.
But John and Peter had an experience that forced them to change becoming very different than the culture around them. They could no longer pretend to hold to the Jewish beliefs they were raised and indoctrinated into. The social pressure for them to conform was immense, more than we today can imagine.

Certainly by this point Peter and John had lost family members and friends, surely their livelihoods were also greatly affected by their choosing to follow this executed Rabbi. Things from this point forward begin to get even tougher as they would begin enduring beatings and numerous imprisonments.

Things would have gone so much easier for them and the other disciples had they just conceded to keep there mouths shut. But they would not, actually as they tell the Sanhedrin here in this verse, they can not keep quiet about it. They rejoiced at being worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus Christ. They say the will do what is right in Gods eyes not what is right in mans. Certainly they felt the spreading of the Gospel more important than even their own lives.

The Pharisees and the Sanhedrin hated to hear this message that was being preached by the disciples, why, because they lived lives of power and comfort based on the very lies this message sought to destroy. Without even realizing it they had chosen comfort and self exaltation over the very God they professed to worship.

The culture we live in today, while being very different, is in the grip of a lie just the same as this ancient Jewish society was. The people of our current culture have been and are being indoctrinated into a belief and a lie of comfort and self-centeredness.

Friedrich Nietzsche once said-There are no facts, only interpretations.
I believe if our culture today were given a slogan this would be it. We are told that truth is however we choose to see it or feel about it. You can have yours and I can have mine.

Our culture and sometimes our own upbringing have conditioned us to base everything on self gratification. The idea of living a life with any other authority than our own self pleasure, much less an authority that tells us to serve rather than be served tastes like bitter medicine to anyone that’s been living only to please themselves.

Much like the Sanhedrin, they don’t want their lie destroyed so our culture and our media tells us to keep our beliefs to ourselves, but is that what we should do?
Is that what God would have us do?

And let’s ask ourselves this also- is that what our culture and the media are doing?

Of course not, our media exalts violence for ratings, idolizes people living very unhealthy lifestyles, and preaches to us the constant sermon of consumption as a means of self fulfillment! They seek to evangelize and devour anyone who’ll listen!

Who will counter this message, who will confront this lie being hoisted on the people around us if not the church?
There is a war going on and for many years now the church as a whole has been kind of like Switzerland, neutral, or worse in retreat and surrender of this ever growing cultural message until it now threatens to devour our churches as well.

This isn’t a war we fight with anger, judgment, pointing fingers or picket signs, no, but with the very thing Jesus said himself was the most important distinguishing characteristic of being one of His disciples. The most powerful tool we have against this invading culture of lies.

In John chapter 13 verse 35 just after Judas has run out of the upper room and just before Jesus is to be put on trial and crucified he tells the remaining eleven “by this they will know you’re my disciples if you love one another as I have loved you.” A very hard challenge but given to us by our Lord as loose advice or a suggestion but as a command.

This is exactly what these disciples set out to do and it changed the world. They see love as an action to be called to; they begin to love each other and there surrounding community so much that it draws people in with an almost irresistible pull.

Remember when you first met the person your married to? We get consumed with love for this person, we are swept away doing silly foolish things and at times looking pretty silly to others also, but we don’t care, we’re not even totally conscious of how we are being seen by others because we are so in love.

John and Peter are in love here, they have been consumed and swept away by the greatest love mankind can ever know, the all encompassing love and peace of Jesus Christ, a love that gives and transforms, but also makes demands.

They have seen Jesus defeat death and now have dwelling inside them the Holy Spirit that raised him back to life.

We too know through our study of scripture and the same Holy Spirit dwelling inside us that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the Father.
So shouldn’t we be just as empowered?

The Psalmist says it best in Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom should I be afraid?

We live in a world surrounded by drowning people. They are drowning in the lies this culture is preaching. The lie entered the world at the tree in the garden and has since been told a million different ways but all of them are of the same theme saying the same thing- it’s all about you.

We as Christians get suckered by this also. When it comes to evangelizing we say “well I don’t feel comfortable telling people about Jesus” or “I don’t want to offend anyone” or my favorite “they won’t listen to me anyway.”

We let how we feel or how we think others may feel have rein over our actions when John and Peter would tell us we should do what’s right “in God’s eyes” not in our eyes, not in mans eyes! This is certainly what they and all this first church do, even to their deaths.

They did not want beatings,
they did not want to be ostracized by their friends and family, and they surely did not want to be martyred
but they didn’t live their lives based on what they wanted or what the world told them they should want, they lived for Christ and threw worldly comforts aside for the ultimate eternal comfort they would have with Christ when this life was over!

Jesus spent no time on this earth building a church of brick and mortar he built his church from disciples, living stones Peter calls them in 1 Peter 2. In that same chapter Peter calls these disciples a Royal Priesthood that have been chosen to declare the praises of God even while living in an unbelieving society.

Jesus saw the lost as captives and slaves to be freed by the truth, not any truth, His truth. He came here with a very specific mission, to save, and he passed that mission on to anyone that might call themselves His disciple.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments we see the Prophets, Apostles and disciples all taking action. They do not keep what the Lord has given them only to re-share it among themselves over and over again.

The Lord tells them to Go. Go love, Go serve, Go and give this message.

When the Lord calls Isaiah he tells him to go and preach to people while telling him at the same time many will not listen or understand what he says, “For how long Lord?” Isaiah asks. The Lord replies instructing him to keep talking till it’s all gone and nothing remains. Why?

The Lord wants every opportunity to be given to his children, as we would also if they were our children. Even if only a few might listen and turn to him he wants us to make the effort.

Love is not sedentary it calls us to action and as James said in James 2:17 “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord ask
“who will go for us”

Isaiah replied “Here am I, send me”!

Surely this sums up the replies of all Gods people through the entire Bible including that of John and Peter here in this verse.

Imagine what would happen if all of us reading this today began to strive and strain to Love the way Jesus loves. Imagine if we took that love out into our community and surrounding communities.
The God we worship here today is an all Loving Father that watches out the window waiting to see the lost prodigal return. He has set us on a mission to SAVE!

Who will lead them to that road?

Who will tell them that it doesn’t matter what they’ve done or where they’ve come from?

That it doesn’t matter what color their skin is, what clothes they wear, or what gods they’ve worshipped before?

That is doesn’t matter what sins or addictions they’ve been enslaved by?

Who will tell them that the Father loves them and only wants desperately for them to come Home?

If one of our children were lost how far would we go, how loud would we yell, how many people would we recruit to help search for that child? How much money would we spend? How uncomfortable would we be willing to be?

This is the pursuing Love of the Father, the triune God that wishes none to perish. He is asking us, he is begging us, he wants to know “who will go for us?”

I hope today you will hear that plea and answer it by saying- Here am I, Send me!


The Father surely has a direction for us to Go!