Thursday, December 6, 2012

Who can stand?

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, a woman was there who had a spirit that had disabled her for eighteen years, and she was bent over and not able to straighten herself up completely. 12 And when he saw her, Jesus summoned her and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability!” 13 And he placed his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, answered and said to the crowd, “There are six days on which it is necessary to work. Therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the day of the Sabbath!” 15 But the Lord answered and said to him, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you untie his ox or his donkey from the feeding trough on the Sabbath and lead it away to water it? 16 And this woman, who is a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan bound eighteen long years—is it not necessary that she be released from this bond on the day of the Sabbath?” 17 And when he said these things, all those who opposed him were humiliated, and the whole crowd was rejoicing at all the splendid things that were being done by him.” (Luke 13)

I cannot express to you how immensely reassuring these verses are to me.  By now I hope you know to look for the gospel in every chapter, verse, word, jot and tittle of the Word.  It’s there and in this particular story the good news just drips off the page like honey based medicine.

One of the reason’s it’s so sweet to me is a footnote in my Bible that says the phrase, “that had disabled her,” is literally, “weakness.”  She had a spirit of weakness for eighteen years and could not stand up straight.  Isn’t that just the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?  It is to me and here’s why.

The chasm.  The gulf.  The vast, empty, impossible void between what I should be as a beloved son of God Most High and what I am.  Paul’s rant in Romans seven describes it.  He knows what he should do, he is willing but unable to do it! 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  We are supposed to stand firm in our faith, to put on the full armor of God so we might resist the evil day and having done all, to stand.  But who can stand?  12 because our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6)  We’re going up against Angels of Hell, no wonder we fall!  But at that time when you did not know God, you were enslaved to the things which by nature are not gods.” (Gal 4)  We are Satan’s slaves, in bondage!  The Bride of Christ is chained with a spirit of weakness!

Ah, but “is it not necessary that she be released from this bond on the day of the Sabbath?”  Not, “Is it good?”  Not, “Is it right?”  But, “Is it not necessary?”  The Sabbath was a mini-festival.  A day set aside by God to rest.  To rest in God and His work, His provision.  Every seven days there was a Sabbath Day.  And every seven years there was a Sabbath Year.  And every seven Sabbath Years was the Year of Jubilee, the Super Sabbath!  The day all slaves were set free!  The day all land returned to its owners.  The year everyone went HOME.  These were not suggestions.  They were not just laws.  They were gifts!  Wedding gifts from God to His Bride.  Time set aside just for them!

And who is Jesus?  And he said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”” (Luke 6)  The Lord of the Sabbath!  Jesus is our Sabbath!  Here is our Master at last!  Here is our Bridegroom!  He is our rest from the toils and slavery of our former master we sold ourselves to, from the curse on the land, from the duty of the law and performance, from the old man I am!  Jesus sees us; he places his hands on us and frees us!  Suddenly… We. Can. Stand!  Not in our strength, His!  The gulf closes.  The void is filled with Jesus’ body, Jesus’ righteousness.  On the Sabbath there was no work, not even to prepare bread.  God prepared enough the day before.  Now, we lift not a finger to accomplish our salvation, our justification and our redemption.  Jesus is the Bread and the Living Water provided for us.  Feast upon Him.  Jesus is the Bridegroom who delights in His bride, cleanses and dresses her and longs to take her to Himself!  Run to Him!  Or if you feel you cannot run, if you are still bound to your yoke of slavery, to the old master, to the sin that will not let you go, to your guilt…

Then crawl to where He is, fall at his feet and wait, cry out, He will see you, He will touch you, He will lift you up…

And you will stand!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Disaster movie

And he told this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. So he said to the gardener, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and did not find any. Cut it down! Why should it even exhaust the soil?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, leave it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put manure on it. And if indeed it produces fruit in the coming year, so much the better, but if not, you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13)

Disaster movies pretty much follow a formula.  Establish an array of main characters by following their lives for a few minutes each.  One of which will be our protagonist.  Protagonist will be the only one who believes disaster is imminent.  First half hour or so of movie will be protagonist trying to convince authorities, general populace and love interest that disaster is imminent while disaster gives everyone ominous hints and foreshadowings.  The turning point of the movie, the hinge, the pivot is the disaster manifesting.  Now that everyone believes what they see with their own eyes, the second half of the movie is them scrambling to survive the disaster’s effects with varying degrees of success or horrific failure.  Despite the fact that they are rarely done well, they are perennially popular movies to make and I think I know why…

We are in a disaster movie.

Luke twelve and thirteen are a synopsis of this.  Jesus, our Protagonist, is trying to warn everyone of what’s coming.  He’s pointing to all the hints, the signs of imminent catastrophe that we’ve had along the way and are yet to come and by and large everyone is scratching their heads, tilting them to one side and concluding he’s a kook.  And it’s so easy to sit back, scratch our well fed bellies and conclude that Jesus rose, the movie’s over and they’re all idiots.  Here’s the problem with that…

We’re still only in the first act.

Jesus has not come back yet.  The imminent catastrophe hasn’t hit.  And that means we’re still in the first part of the movie.  Jesus’ parable is about how we’re getting a second chance.  He has come himself, the True Noah and done all that is necessary to save us, to build the Ark of Salvation so to speak, his own body, and now is the time to get on board.  The great Day of the Lord is coming and no one knows how long He will delay.  

13 Now at the same time some had come to tell him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And he answered and said to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were sinners worse than all the Galileans, because they suffered these things? No, I tell you, but unless you repent you will all perish as well! Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them—do you think that they were sinners worse than all the people who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all perish as well!” (Luke 13)  The great philosopher Moffatt pointed out to me the other day that in our minds people fall into two Carlinian categories: Idiots and Fanatics.  Anyone less spiritual than we are is an idiot.  Anyone more spiritual than us is a fanatic. 

But Jesus makes no such distinction.  To him there are only sinners: sinners on the boat and sinners too proud to board.  The rains won’t fall until all have had a chance to board but they will fall, make no mistake.  God is pained by our behavior, God is hurt and grieved by us.  We have no concept of how much!  It is suffering for Him to withhold justice, it is suffering for him to see the weak starve, to see the young abused, the elderly ignored or shunted aside.  It is suffering to Him to see his children kill each other, it is true agony when they don’t forgive one another, it is adultery when we deny Him as our husband, our lover, our God.  And the worst of all is when we, the church, the ones already on the boat are the perpetrators!  We who should know better still sin!  He forgives us for Jesus’ sake alone!  So we have no room to condemn anyone!  For our sin is the worst of all!  45 But if that slave should say to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time to return,’ and he begins to beat the male slaves and the female slaves and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in two and assign his place with the unbelievers. 47 And that slave who knew the will of his master and did not prepare or do according to his will will be given a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know and did things deserving blows will be given a light beating. And from everyone to whom much has been given, much will be demanded, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will ask him for even more.”  (Luke 12)  We hurt God every day and only His goodness and long suffering and strength allows Him to postpone the terrible Day when He steps in and cleanses the world of our wickedness.  He is patient, He is longsuffering, Sodom and Gomorrah He would have spared for just ten righteous citizen’s sake.  If there is fruit, He will delay.

But Jesus is saying, 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not think he will come.” (Luke 12)  This is no game.  There are no idiots and fanatics, there is none good; there is none righteous, no not one.  There are only those who deny, denounce and decry the Day coming and those who know their accuser is going to drag them before the Judge and they are doomed…

But Jesus.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Whose slave are you?

42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful wise manager whom the master will put in charge over his servants to give them their food allowance at the right time?” (Luke 12)

From head to heart then, the road we must walk, the path we must pave.  From knowledge to action.  From philosophy to propellant.  It does us no good to know what we are to be, what we are to do if we do not do it.  47 And that slave who knew the will of his master and did not prepare or do according to his will will be given a severe beating.”  Jesus began this text with warnings against hypocrisy.  Here he returns to it.  Over and over, Jesus keeps saying the same things in differing ways.  Live genuine.  Live as a slave of God.  If you do, people will hate you.  Live genuine.  Live as a slave of God.  If you do…  Why? 

Because we’re shtoopit, cuz why!  Because we don’t believe him.  Because we see the world and the way it works and we think, no matter what we say we believe, we truly act as if this is all there is!  We spend the first half of our lives as if we will never die.  We spend the last half of our lives afraid of dying.  We hoard and collect the perishable as if that were the only goal to life.  We worry incessantly about things far beyond our control and spend exorbitant amounts of resources and energy trying to gain control of them anyway.  It’s madness!  Noisy, wasteful, arrogant, self-centered insanity and this season, Christmas, is the greatest illustration: blinking lights; incessant background noise; business, business; drive, push, imperatives to spend all we haven’t on the worthless and unnecessary and for what?  For fear we will be thought unloving, unkind, unpatriotic?  Which is another way of showing we fear if we don’t perform as intended we won’t be loved.

As constant and persistent as a bubbling brook set back in the forest far from the furious rage of the strip mall strewn highway, Jesus whispers, “For this reason I tell you, do not be anxious for your life, what you will eat, or for your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens, that they neither sow nor reap; to them there is neither storeroom nor barn, and God feeds them. How much more are you worth than the birds? 25 And which of you by being anxious is able to add an hour to his life span? 26 If then you are not even able to do a very little thing, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they do not toil or spin, but I say to you, not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed like one of these. 28 But if God clothes the grass in the field in this way, although it is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he do so for you, you of little faith? 29 And you, do not consider what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not be anxious. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek his kingdom and these things will be added to you.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give charitable gifts. Make for yourselves money bags that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven where thief does not approach or moth destroy. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Who then is the wise servant?  The one who acknowledges he or she is a servant in the first place.  One who knows that all he or she has belongs to someone else, to someone greater.  But Jesus tells us one who, unlike earthly masters, loves us.  A master who wishes to come and give us all things.  A master who wants to come and serve us!  37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he returns! Truly I say to you that he will dress himself for service and have them recline at the table and will come by and serve them.” 

I know you see the world as it is.  I get it.  No one’s more cynical than me.  Here you must earn your keep.  Here you must perform or be cast out.  Here you must protect what little you have or someone or something else will take it.  Here we are constantly put in boxes and categories.  Here no one knows you.  No one takes the time to know you because they are too busy trying to get you to notice them.  The master of this world puts you on a treadmill.  The master of this world doesn’t love you.  Owes you nothing.  You are food to him.  The miracle is: Jesus sees it too!  He’s not saying the world isn’t this way.  He’s saying, we don’t belong to the world!  We belong to Him!  And in His house, things work a little differently!  You’ve been purchased from the master of this world by the Master to come!  The King over All.  Stop serving the old master!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before people, the Son of Man also will acknowledge him before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before people will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him, but to the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven. 11 But when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious how or what you should speak in your own defense or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that same hour what it is necessary to say.” (Luke 12)

Unforgivable Sin. 

If the word “sin” offends you, the word “unforgivable” next to it must be obscene.  How could a God of love not forgive?  How could an all-powerful God have a sin He was restrained from forgiving?  Does His forgiveness roll off of it?  Is it the Teflon sin?  Forgiveness won’t stick.  If you commit this sin as a child, are you done?  Should you just check right into hell, do not pass Go, do not collect your two hundred dollars?  How does one know when they’ve committed it?  How can we who do believe in sin and have a healthy fear of it avoid it?

What is it?

That part, I think, is actually easier than we’ve made it over the years.  I’m not a smart man so I hope and pray what I’m about to say is actually from the Spirit.  If you have been baptized with Jesus into his death and raised, through him, into new life, then you are born again of the Spirit and have the Holy Spirit in you.  You have the Word.  Between the two, you should be able to determine the truth of what I say.

Before we can know what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is, I guess we need to know what blasphemy is.  The dictionary just throws out words like “profane” and “sacrilegious.”  Not particularly helpful unless one has a healthy sense of what “holiness” means.  Which I think is a real problem for humans, particularly for Post-Nietzschien Westerners.  We come to the part of our minds and souls which should detect holiness, the reverence and awe sensing glands and …bupkiss.  Nothing.  Those organs are shriveled and atrophied like little, wrinkly stones.  I think this in some way explains the draw of High Church Liturgies.  People sometimes want to recapture that holy fear and defibrillate those glands back to life.  The sense we get when we encounter something far too big for us: Sequoias, the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rainier, Tax law. 

For the sake of illustration, let’s say God was the Grand Canyon.  What then would blasphemy be?  Calling it the “Pretty Good Canyon”?  Turning your back to it and taking pictures of the people looking at it instead?  Mooning it?  I suppose, in a way, those would all be true.  None of those however sound unforgivable though, do they?

Numbers fifteen describes it this way, 29 For the native among the Israelites and the alien that dwells in their midst, there will be one law for anyone who commits an unintentional wrong. 30 But the one who acts presumptuously from among the native or alien blasphemes against Yahweh, and that person must be cut off from the midst of the people. 31 Because he despised the word of Yahweh and broke his command, that person will be surely cut off and bear the guilt.’”   “Cut off,” here is a euphemistic way of saying, “hit on the head with rocks till squishy.”  Sounds pretty unforgivable, eh?  “Acts presumptuously,” that’s a little more helpful!  And it gets more so when we read the little footnote that says the phrase could be literally translated, “acts with a high hand”! 

High handed.  Pride.

We cannot, this verse tells us, commit blasphemy unintentionally.  So all those of you who thought you might have done it as a child, you can stop holding your breath now.  Blasphemy requires the Knowledge of God and His Law!  In fact, God’s law is always harder on the man who sins intentionally.  A man who murders by accident can flee to a city of refuge and reside there, protected by the Levites until the death of the High Priest. (Nu 35)  Sound familiar?  But the man who murders with a will, he shall not find refuge.  He shall be killed by the avenger of blood.  With his own life, must he pay for the life he took.  And therein is the lesson.

Don’t you see?  We are made in God’s image.  We are God’s witnesses.  Who was the witness?  The ultimate face of the Father to us?  Jesus!  Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Am I with you so long a time and you have not known me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak from myself, but the Father residing in me does his works.” (John 14)  We witness by being like the Witness.  We are to be like Jesus, our model, our high priest.  We bear the Father in us in the form of the Holy Spirit!  How do we bear that image?  By speaking the words He gives us to speak and doing the works He gives us to do! 

Now it makes sense the unforgivable sin was sandwiched in between four verses about bearing witness to Jesus.  “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev 19)  The Holy Spirit bears witness in us and for us to deny it, to live in a way counter to it, to disobey the God we profess to love, to bear a false witness before men about Jesus and therefore about God the Father, is to raise a high hand at God!  “My will!” was Satan’s cry of defiance!  Right. To. God’s. Face!
18 Before destruction comes pride,

    and before a fall, a haughty spirit.” (Prov 16)
We are all sinners before the holy God.  We are all guilty before the law.  Even if your holy glands are solid pebbles, even if you cannot imagine a holy God, He is.  You may have never seen the Grand Canyon.  You may doubt it’s grandeur but that doesn’t change its existence, it does not diminish its quality!  And it doesn’t change the outcome if you choose to step off into it.  God is holy!  We are sinners.

But Jesus!  Jesus died.  You killed him.  Now, the choice is this: did he become your sin?  When you killed him, were you the blood avenger, wholly righteous in your act, removing sin from the community and the presence of God?  Or did you raise the hammer in anger and become the murderer of God’s beloved Son?  When you meet God the Father, will you come, forgiven, redeemed by the death of the Great High Priest in whom you took refuge?  Or will you meet the avenger of Jesus’ blood who will never forget, never forgive?

What does the spirit within you say?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Life Well Lived

A life worth living.
A life well lived.
By Jesus
(according to Luke 12)

Out of the gate the first thing a life must be is a real life, a genuine life, the same inside as out.  (vs 1-3)  What you show on the outside must come from what is inside.  It will anyway.  If you love the praise of men and mask yourself to become something men love and praise, at some point it will fall apart, the mask will come off and all will see you for what you really are.  If you love people genuinely and want to serve them, people will know that too.  If you love yourself and guard yourself above all, then no one will know you and by that they will know what you are.  And if somehow you come to the end of your life with everyone fooled… you haven’t fooled everyone after all.  For God will strip away all that isn’t real and naked we came into this world, naked we will stand before Him.  So the next logical thing in life is to…

Live a life in fear.  But!  Fear of the right things.  “And I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after these things do not have anything more to do. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear the one who has authority, after the killing, to throw you into hell!”  Makes sense.  Life is at best one hundred years.  Eternity is forever.  Life, no matter how bleak and abusive your life, is lived with at least the partial blessings of the Lord.  “because he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust.” (Matt 5)  There is still the possibility of love, of hope, of redemption.  Hell is the absence of all God’s blessings.  It is total separation from God and the knowledge of that separation!  So it only makes sense to fear the God who has the power to send you there.  But what is the fear of the Lord? 
If you, O Yah, should keep track of iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?
But with you is forgiveness,

so that you may be feared.” (Ps 130)
Fear is… knowing God forgives?  Even though we don’t deserve it?  That’s fear?  Really?  That sounds more like…gratitude!  Maybe even love!  Certainly respect! 

So we’re living out of our hearts and our hearts are cultivating this spirit of thankfulness for what Jesus is doing for us, so if we do not fear death and man, then we will not be able to stop ourselves from acknowledging Jesus!  “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before people, the Son of Man also will acknowledge him before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before people will be denied before the angels of God.”  Jesus is how God can forgive us.  “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev 19)  So we are to be prophets!  Well, no wonder Jesus didn’t want us to fear death and man.  Prophets, as he goes on to explain in verse eleven, have a nasty habit of getting themselves dragged before men who kill them.  But we live out of our hearts and in verse twelve, we see our hearts have become a temple of the Holy Spirit, speaking through us.

So a life well lived is that of a prophet!  Genuine, fearless, grateful, full of the Spirit!  But that life is still lived in this economy…
“the ground shall be cursed on your account.

    In pain you shall eat from it

    all the days of your life.
18 And thorns and thistles shall sprout for you,

    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow

    you shall eat bread,

until your return to the ground.

    For from it you were taken;

for you are dust,

    and to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3)
But Jesus!  He has tried to break our fear of men and death and now in verses 13-34 he wants break our fear of money!  He says, 29 And you, do not consider what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not be anxious. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek his kingdom and these things will be added to you.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give charitable gifts. Make for yourselves money bags that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven where thief does not approach or moth destroy. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  He’s promising to take care of us!  How crazy good is this God?  Forgiveness, provision?  What are we so freaking scared of?  31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, together with him, freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring charges against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. 34 Who is the one who condemns? Christ is the one who died, and more than that, who was raised, who is also at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will affliction or distress or persecution or hunger or lack of sufficient clothing or danger or the sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“On account of you we are being put to death the whole day long;

    we are considered as sheep for slaughter.”
37 No, but in all these things we prevail completely through the one who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8)   No wonder Paul can go on this tirade!  It’s praise!  It’s joy!  What are we so freaking afraid of?  The rest of the chapter is Jesus showing us what will become of those who live like this and those who don’t.  We who know so much, have been offered so much, have no excuse for not living a life of genuine prophecy!  The gifts are already ours!  We don’t have to wait until death, until Christmas or until Sunday!  We live this now!  Anything else is a betrayal!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Jesus ain't a faker

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12)

Hupokrinesthai: Big fat greek word which pretty much means to “act a part, to pretend,” in short: to lie.  Lying is a form of hiding.  Ancient Greek actors even used to wear masks portraying their characters.  You’ve seen Comedy and Tragedy?  Jesus is telling us in Luke 12 we do the same thing, to each other and to God.  Charles Zimmerman, the pastor at Calvary Souderton has said, the Christian four letter word is, “fine.”  “How are you?”  “Fine and you?”  “Fine.”  Pleasantries dispensed.  Strangers remain.  Move along citizen, move along.  You don’t care about me.  I don’t want to care about you.  Love complicates my life.  Better to be unknown and unknowable except by a chosen few.  To this I say, to live in fear of being hurt is love only one’s self.

But justshane, we have to have defenses, don’t we?  We shouldn’t cast our pearls before swine, right?  Won’t some people use the knowledge and access we give them to hurt us?

Yes.  Yes they will.  For proof look no further than Jesus.

When I look at Jesus, I don’t see him hiding.  I don’t see him limiting access until after a person has chosen to mock or attack him.  Even then he politely excuses himself only when the stones get picked up. 

Haha!  Got you now, justshane!  Jesus taught in parables!  Parables are riddles!  Riddles are hiding!  Yes, yes they are.  Matthew 13 picks up the transition between Jesus’ plain teaching and the beginning of the parables.  When the disciples asked him about the stylistic changes, 11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;

    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”
He had been dispensing secrets in buckets. This is after the Sermon on the Mount, y’know, where he said, 39 But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer, but whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 And the one who wants to go to court with you and take your tunic, let him have your outer garment also. 41 And whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.  43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…” (Matt 5)  He goes from this to “a farmer walks into a bar…”  What changed? 

The reception.  Matthew 13 begins with these words, “That same day…”  well, what day was that?  Look in Matthew 12.  It was the same day the Pharisees and Herodians began plotting to kill him.  The same day he was accused of casting out demons by demonic power.  The same day him mom and brothers came to collect him because they thought he’d lost his mind.  Jesus never stops revealing the truth, he never stops putting himself out there but he’s been struck and now he’s turning the other cheek and that cheek is: he now strategically hides the truth in a field of a story so only those willing to look for it will find it.  Those who “have” the grace to go deeper will be given more.  Those who want to know and be known by Jesus will meet the real Jesus.  Those who choose to squint from behind eye-slits and filter his voice from beneath the mane of their masks of pride and self-righteous indignation have the same access, the same information, the same Jesus.  They have only blinded and deafened themselves.

But Jesus, he doesn’t stop.  He doesn’t change.  He constantly engages total strangers on personal levels. He continues to speak truth in love to everyone, even his enemies.  He doesn’t only reveal himself to people like himself.  There is no one like him! The men he bares his soul to the most, Jimmy, Jack and Pete, are so bewildered by him, so star-struck by him, the best reaction they can come up with when he gets all naked-and-unashamey with them is to take a nap.  They close their eyes and ears and disengage from him too!  “Whoa, Jesus!  TMI, dude!  We’re just here for the free bread and fawning crowds, man.  We’re just looking to get an inside track on the future kingdom.  Frankly, we were sick of fishing.  All this mushy, heart-to-heart, sensitive-male stuff is a bit unnerving and enervating, y’know?  Gonna crash now.  Peace out.”  How they must have wept later at the missed opportunities.  How they must rejoice now in an eternity of greater opportunities!

Monday I focused on how we are all now one bread, one body in Christ.  How can we be that if we hide from each other?  How can we be that if we don’t want to know each other?  If the flour and the water and the oil and the herbs all refused to mix, there’s no bread, just flour, oil, water and herbs burning in a pan.  All the law is summed up in love.  Did you ever love a liar?  Did you ever love someone you found out had been lying to you all along?  Did you ever love someone who, while they didn’t lie openly, they kept you at arms’ length?  Did you ever feel like giving up?

So does Jesus.  Be glad he doesn’t.  Did you ever love the idea of someone without actually taking the time to get to know the real person?  Then you didn’t love them.  21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many miracles in your name?’ 23 And then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt 7)   Four words I never want to hear, “I never knew you.”  They are the words of a divorce.  They are the declaration of a lover scorned, a lover who was never loved.  20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar, for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen is not able to love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this is the commandment we have from him: that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (1John 4)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Jesus is a baker.

12 During this time when a crowd of many thousands had gathered together, so that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware for yourselves of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. But nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, and secret that will not be made known. Therefore everything that you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12)

So there you go, someday we will know for sure who killed JFK. This passage however is not about dirty laundry.  Dirty laundry rests on top of the skin.  Even soiled undergarments are external.  They are only unclean because of what has come out of us.  Incidentally, the first time “inner rooms” is mentioned is in Judges 3 as a place where one does one’s private, defecatory business. 

But that’s not what Jesus is talking about either.  For, “Do you not understand that everything that is outside that goes into a person is not able to defile him? 19 For it does not enter into his heart but into his stomach, and goes out into the latrine”—thus declaring all foods clean.” (Mark 7)  So what, justshane, besides potty talk, was with the first quarter of the Bible, all those sacrifices and clean and unclean foods about?  Why all the attention to bodily discharges if that’s not important?

Because God is trying to get to things unseen and invisible.  He gives us marriage to illustrate what our relationship with Him is like.  He gives us children to further the illustration.  And he gives us food: eating, digesting and yes, even expulsing to illustrate … our hearts.

From the moment Adam’s dust coagulated into a working stomach, food has been an issue of biblical proportions.  It is no accident the first sin is punctuated by a eating a fruit.  The heart lusts and the body consumes what it desires, the spiritual and physical are linked.  Who knows?  Maybe there was no real magic in the fruit at all, only a simple realization by Adam and Eve that they had made an irrevocable choice which changed everything.  Sin isn’t the only use for perishable goods however, likewise, the model of our redemption comes through eating as well.  The sin offering, the guilt offering, the fellowship offering, were all food; food meant to be consumed, some by the priest, some by the sinner.  It could be eaten for two days, on the third however, anything left was burned; completely consumed by fire. Over and over, the Bible uses food to teach lessons and illustrate the covenant we have with God and more importantly, God has with us.  Emeril Lagasse!  Ezekiel and John were both told to eat the Word itself!  Jeremiah said God’s Word was like fire in his belly if he shut his mouth.  God must cook with habaƱeros! 

But Jesus, Jesus is a baker.

Jesus is baking bread.  Specifically, one loaf of bread.  Well, maybe not so much a loaf because you see, Jesus doesn’t want this bread to rise and puff up on its own.  He’s baking flatbread.  Humble, utilitarian flatbread.  What you see is what you get.  Nothing hidden.  Adam and Eve were naked and they were unashamed.  This applied both inside and out.  They hid nothing from each other and could hide nothing from God.

Then they bit it.  You see, ever since the first bloody pulp of the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil hit Adam’s stomach, like leaven: a fungus that grows and spreads throughout a lump of dough fermenting it, sin worked through Adam’s insides until it filled him, changed him…on the inside.  Outside, he was still just a naked dude but the change within affected a change without.  He was now a naked dude with shame!  With sin!  He had tried to become God and all he found out was he wasn’t God.  The very first thing he tries to do is hide.  Hide what’s inside!  Hide his nakedness with fig leaves.  Hide his body and soul in the garden.  Hide his deeds with blame-shifting.  Hypocrisy!  Everyone is at fault but me!  I’m okay!

And that pinch of leaven, that pulp of fruit has worked its way through the whole loaf of humanity, every fruit of Adam’s loins has been born with sin percolating inside already. “20 And he said, “What comes out of a person, that defiles a person. 21 For from within, from the heart of people, come evil plans, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, 22 adulteries, acts of greed, malicious deeds, deceit, licentiousness, envy, abusive speech, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a person.” (Mark 7)   We’re defiled.  It’s already in us.  Like the Pharisees, all our best efforts now, all our religion, all our self-justifications are fig leaves crudely sewn together to hide our shame, blame shifting and denial of what’s inside. 
And we all have become like the unclean,

    and all our deeds of justice like a menstrual cloth,

And we all wither like a leaf,

    and our iniquities take us away like the wind.” (Is 64) 
Do you know what you do with flatbread dough which has begun to ferment?  Do you know how to recover it?  You don’t cuz it can’t.  You chuck it and start over.  There will be no sin in paradise.  There couldn’t be, it wouldn’t be paradise if we were still there mucking it up!  All of us will be chucked into the fire outside the gates.

But Jesus. 

Instead of chucking us, God chucked Jesus.  The only incorruptible, unleavened lump of dough there was became our sin.  He was slain.  His body consumed and after three days God raised him up and seated him on a throne, And the one seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” (Rev 21)  (I)n the same way we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another…” (Rom 12)  We now take his body into us and the process is being reversed!  We are being added to his dough and he is not corrupted, we are instead, healed!  Like a potter molds clay, Jesus is kneading us together, mashing us up into a community, one body, one bread.  The Bread of Life.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

From Handwringing to Heartbreaking

18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. 19 By this we know that we are of the truth and will convince our heart before him, 20 that if our heart condemns us, that God is greater than our heart and knows all things. 21 Dear friends, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God, 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what is pleasing in his sight. 23 And this is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he commanded us. 24 And the one who keeps his commandments resides in him, and he in him. And by this we know that he resides in us: by the Spirit whom he has given to us.” (1John 3)

I have a new heart.  God’s Spirit resides in me.  How can that be?  I still sin.  I still lust and covet.  I’m still selfish and greedy.  How can I have Jesus’ heart.  How can I have the Spirit within me?

To which I ask, would you know you sin, lust, covet without Jesus’ heart beating within you?  Would you see your blood-red selfishness and greed without it being splashed all over the clean, white linen of the Spirit?

God is paradox to wee lil’ beasties like thee and me.  We can no more comprehend His bigness with our feeble littleness than a slobbery mutt can grasp his master’s calculus.  F’rinstance, God is completely outside of time.  It has no bearing on what He does anymore than the color wheel affects the painter’s breakfast or music theory affects the maestro’s laundering of soiled undergarments.  They are merely tools and parameters they use when they are working in a particular field.  The painter uses color but is not governed by it.  The maestro creates with the nine notes but they do his will, not he theirs.  God made time to govern His creation but the Creator is not beholden to the created. 

Remember this and pluck up courage!

    Call to mind, you transgressors!
    Remember the former things from a long time ago,

for I am God and there is none besides me,

    God and there is none like me,
10 who from the beginning declares the end,

    and from before, things that have not been done,

who says, ‘My plan shall stand,’

    and, ‘I will accomplish all my wishes,’” (Is 46)

The minute God conceives of a thing, it is as good as done.  When God dreamt up Adam, he saw Adam’s last descendant too.  He didn’t know all of humanity instantly, because “instantly” would imply there was a limitation of time on Him.  He simply knew us, each of us, right down to the teensiest quark.  Probably even teensier than that.  Quarks are only as small as we can imagine.  And as He knew you, He knew His plans for you.  He saw His Son give His life for you.  He put His Spirit in you, even before Adam was formed from dust.  It. Was. Finished.

This is why you can be cleansed from sins you haven’t committed yet.  This is why the heart in you aches from not being like Jesus …yet.  The kingdom is already and not yet for God is, was and is yet to come.  He is in all things, all places, all times.  This is how you can come to Him, repent and gain a new heart and yet you cannot come to Him and repent unless He has given You a new heart.  This is why Zeke can quote God saying, “I will give to them one heart, and a new spirit I will give in their inner parts. And I will remove their heart of stone from their body, and I will give to them a heart of flesh,” in chapter eleven and yet quote him saying, 31 Throw away from yourselves all of your transgressions that you committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and new spirit,” in chapter eighteen.  They are not mutually exclusive; they are complimentary in a paradoxical reality we cannot yet imagine.  This is our future.  A time outside of time!  When both can be true at once!  We participate with Him and we cannot do anything to save ourselves.  We are actively passive participant slaves.  We have everything to do with the nothing we can accomplish.  Clear it up any?

Is your heart moved towards Jesus?  Does your heart move you to love?  Then fear not and ask for whatever that heart desires!  For it is doing the work of Jesus in the world.  Does something in you ache when you don’t love?  Does your conscience prick you with your sin?  Then do not resist.  Repent.  Rejoice!  This means the Spirit is working.  Come to Him, fall on him and be broken and I promise, no, that would be worthless, He promises to do the heavy lifting…

Even to your old age I am he;

    even to your advanced age I myself will support you.

I myself have made you,

    and I myself will carry you,

and I myself will support you,

    and I will save you.” (Is 46)

Sorta takes the pressure off, don’t it?