Friday, September 28, 2012

Happy (Belated) Yom Kippur

(This was obviously written a few days ago.  So apologies for posting it late here)

29 “And this shall be a lasting statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth of the month, you must deny yourselves and you must not do any work, whether the native or the alien who is dwelling in your midst, 30 because on this day he shall make atonement for you to cleanse you; you must be clean from all your sins before Yahweh.” (Lev 16)

Yesterday I asked why pray?  Not a segue I would have chosen for Yom Kippur but I’m not in charge.  Today, is the Jewish Day of Atonement.  The one day of the year the High Priest was allowed, no, required to enter the Holy of Holies, the Sanctuary, the Holy Presence of the Only Real and Almighty Creator of the Universe, there in physical form in a cloud of glory and make atonement for the sins of the people.  If that isn’t the picture of prayer, I don’t know what is.  Face to face with God!  Sprinkling blood for his own sins.  Sprinkling blood for the people’s sins.  Bringing in coals from the eternal fire.  Burning incense, its recipe prescribed by God, the smoke the visible symbol of prayer going up before the Cloud of Glory upon the Mercy Seat.  All a picture of the throne room of God where we will someday come face to face with our Creator.  That’s Prayer!

Leviticus 16 goes through the rite.  This was no joke.  Aaron’s sons had been slain for doing it wrong (Lev 10).  God will not be mocked by those who should know better, particularly to His very face,Therefore Moses said to Aaron, “This is what Yahweh spoke, saying, ‘Among those who are close to me I will show myself holy, and in the presence of all the people I will display my glory.’  Since the very first day we sinned, God’s been showing His amazing grace in even this most simplest of ways: by hiding His Holy Face from us, so we would not be consumed by His Holiness.  He has to hold back or we would be scorched right off the face of the earth!  Even Moses was only allowed to see His back.

So… Wow!  God of the Old Testament, eh?  Mr. Angry God.  Really scary dude.  Different God than we got now.  Right?  Jesus is the kindler, gentler God.  Guess God went soft in his old age or something, eh?

Wrong.  Same God.  Even Balaam knew it,
19 God is not a man, that he should lie,

    nor a son of humankind,

that he should change his mind.

    Has he said, and will he not do it?

And has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num 23)
In our soft focus, baby kissing, blue eyed, feather haired Jesus era it’s easy for us to forget that Jesus is God.  The same God who struck down Nadab and Abihu.  The same God who opened the Earth and swallowed Korah.  The same God who ordered the complete destruction of every man, woman and child of Canaan.  The same God who drowned the Earth and all but eight of its inhabitants.  Some say it was Jesus himself who spoke with Abraham about Sodom and Gomorrah.  Why am I pounding this point?  Am I just an angry guy?  Am I trying to diminish the soft focus view of Jesus?

Heavens forfend!  I am trying to make it all the more wonderful!  If God changed his mind, if God himself could change, then what glory is that?  A little, maybe.  But if God the Eternal, God the Immutable, God the Unchanging came to Earth to offer Himself for our sins??  If our sins are every bit as punishable as Nadab’s, Abihu’s, Korah’s, the Canaanites, the antediluvians, Sodom’s, Gomorrah’s, then how great is His love, how great His mercy, how great His grace that He made a way for us to be saved!? 

16 For people swear by what is greater than themselves, and the oath for confirmation is the end of all dispute for them. 17 In the same way God, because he wanted to show even more to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of his resolve, guaranteed it with an oath, 18 in order that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge may have powerful encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us, 19 which we have like an anchor of the soul, both firm and steadfast, and entering into the inside of the curtain, 20 where Jesus, the forerunner for us, entered, because he became a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 6)

Melchizadek.  You know what this mysterious priest-king of the Salem (Peace) brought out for Abraham?  Bread and wine. (Gen 14)  Jesus, God became our High Priest!  But more than that, He was our sacrifice!  A perfect, spotless lamb.  A truly pure human, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life.  14 “I am the good shepherd, and I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep which are not from this fold. I must bring these also, and they will hear my voice, and they will become one flock—one shepherd. 17 Because of this the Father loves me, because I lay down my life so that I may take possession of it again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down voluntarily. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take possession of it again. This commandment I received from my Father.” (John 10)

Now go back to Leviticus 16 and read it as what it is, the promise of Jesus.  Washed; dressed in pure white; his blood making atonement; his body slaughtered and burned and taken outside the camp; our sins on him to wander the desolate wastes forever, far from us; entering the Holy of Holies to see God face to face!  Only now, he doesn’t do this for one day only.  He does not sin, so He has no need to leave the presence.  He is there eternally!  Eternally, every minute of every day, asking God for mercy for us!  His blood atoning for our sins, every minute of every day!  Now, now we have peace with God!  27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you—not as the world gives, I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You have heard that I said to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am.” (John 14) 

And because His sacrifice is perfect and eternal, because we have this peace with God, we are now made right with Him, we are adopted Sons and Daughters.  The veil is torn asunder.  There is now no division between us and the Holy God!  We may enter the sanctuary where our sacrifice and our High Priest plead for us!  Every day is Yom Kippur!  Every day is Passover!  Every day is Communion.  We are in the Holy of Holies!  Why would we pray?

How could we NOT?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ask for what?

“9 And I tell you, ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11)

Quick, what good gift is the above quotation telling us to ask, seek and knock for?  Anyone?  Here’s another one…

18 Now early in the morning, as he was returning to the city, he was hungry. 19 And seeing a single fig tree by the road, he went to it and found nothing on it except leaves only. And he said to it, “May there be no more fruit from you forever, and the fig tree withered at once. 20 And when they saw it, the disciples were astonished, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will do not only what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,” it will happen! 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, if you believe, you will receive.” (Matt 21)

Whatever you ask for?  Does God really give us whatever we ask for?  Do we want Him to?

15 He caused rocks to split in the wilderness

and provided drink abundantly as from the depths.
16 And he brought streams out of the rock

and caused water to flow down like rivers.
17 But they sinned still further against him

by rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18 And they tested God in their heart

by asking food for their craving.
19 And they spoke against God.

They said, “Is God able

to prepare a table in the wilderness?
20 Yes, he struck the rock and water flowed

and streams gushed out,

but can he also give food

or provide meat for his people?”
21 Therefore Yahweh heard

and he was very angry,

and a fire was kindled against Jacob,

and his anger also rose up against Israel,
22 because they did not believe God,

and they did not trust his salvation.” (Ps 78)

Do you really want meat to eat “until it comes out from your nose and becomes as nausea to you” (Num 11)?

Did Jesus get everything he asked for?  39 And going forward a little he fell down on his face, praying and saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “So, were you not able to stay awake with me one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray that you will not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!” 42 Again for the second time he went away and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will must be done.” 43 And he came again and found them sleeping, for they could not keep their eyes open. 44 And leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same thing again.” (Matt 26)  Did Paul?  “Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, in order that it would torment me so that I would not exalt myself. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would depart from me. And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, because the power is perfected in weakness.” (1Cor 12)  Did David?  16 David pleaded with God on behalf of the boy and David fasted. He went to spend the night and lay upon the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood over him to lift him up from the ground, but he was not willing, and he did not eat any food with them. 18 It happened on the seventh day that the child died…” (2Sam 12)

The Israelites whine and get what they ask for and it makes them sick.  David, Paul and Jesus ask and do not receive.  What the heck?  Why pray at all?  If we dare pray, what should we pray for?  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

God's or gods?

26 And God said, “Let us make humankind in our image and according to our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of heaven, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every moving thing that moves upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the likeness of God he created him, male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of heaven, and over every animal that moves upon the earth.” (Gen 1)

Why did God make people?  I could tell you but then I’d be a heretic.  I don’t know but I’ll bet it stems from His Love.  Once He conceived of us, He loved us.  Then I’ll bet He couldn’t conceive of NOT making us!  Even knowing all of what we would become!  He made an entire Universe, a beautiful, perfect world and then, knowing we would turn on Him, knowing we would side with the Devil and try and become gods in our own right, by our own might, knowing we would spit on Him, mock Him, beat Him, scourge Him, and then kill Him…

He gave it all to us anyway!

Do you see the irony?  We were masters of the world!  Made in the likeness and image of God!  The animals obeyed us, everything we saw was ours: We were as near to gods as we’ve ever been!  And we gave it all up to be god.  And the worst part is… we’re still doing it!  We keep trying to kill God so we can be god!  When Jesus died so we could be true Sons of God!  We will sit on thrones!  We will be in the Holy of Holies, in the very presence of the Eternal God Almighty! 

But we want to live our seventy or eighty years here our own way because God can’t be trusted you know.  What if we suffer a little bit?  What if people don’t treat us nice?  What if we don’t get the promotion?  The dream job?  What if we get sick?  What if our parents get divorced?  What if something happens to our children?  What if we don’t get children?  What if she dumps me?  What if he sleeps around?  What if he won’t wait for me?  What if she thinks I’m a geek?  What if they come for me?  Torture me?  Take my children?  Take my wife?  Take my life?  What if I die???

Then you go to be with Jesus in the throne room of God.  You decide whether you go there as a competing god or as the Son of God.  26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3) 

How do we know the difference?  What do gods do?  In a phrase, every god does, “what is right in his own eyes.”  I am the boss of me.  I am the definer of morality.  I am the center of my world.  I am not to be mocked.  I am not to be shamed.  I am not to be slighted. 

What do Sons of God do?  In a word, “Worship.”  “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing from himself except what he sees the Father doing. For whatever that one does, these things also the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself is doing.” (John 5)  God made everything and gave it all away to undeserving people.  People who were his enemies!  God chose a people, separated them, cleansed them and made them holy.  He gave them Himself, taught them worship, love and obedience and dwelt with them.  He fed them, clothed them, blessed them.  Why?

And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great. And you will be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I will curse. And all families of the earth will be blessed in you.” (Gen 12)

So they could teach us to love the Father!  And why did God choose, separated, wash and consecrate you in the blood of Jesus?  So you could be another temple of the living God.  He has taken up residence in You!  23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and will take up residence with him.” (John 14)  19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God with your body.” (1Cor 6) 

We are priests, we are temples, we are the very sons and daughters of God!  Every single thing we do is to be done in worship.  Our jobs, our relationships, our art, our hobbies, our charity, our coming and going done to point back to our Father.  In grace.  In love.  In gratefulness.  In little baby, practice-grace steps, not earning but learning to do what Daddy does!  Not trying to become gods, but learning to be God’s.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ass for Jesus

And I tell you, ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11)

         “And that’s it?” Raucus asked.
         Ponderus blinked, “And what’s it?”
         “That, yer ask-and-get formula.  You just send in your petition and wait for the blessing to roll in?”
         “Well, it’s what he said…”
         “Just ask?”
         “mm, yes.”
         “Don’t have to sacrifice a puppy or something?”
         Ponderus smiled, “There it is!”
         “Are you sure?  You don’t have to give your first born male child to the priests?  Favorite wife to the emperor’s harem?  Go on a raid and capture forty and four slaves, have them washed, scrubbed, combed and fed to lions?”
         “No.  I’m fairly certain there were no lions mentioned.”
         “Pity,” Raucus picked a piece of grain from the side of the road they were marching along and started to chew.  “I rather like lions.  From the relative height of the stands of course.”
         “Oh, of course.”  They marched in silent thought for maybe a mile, then the man carrying their baggage stopped, threw down his load, spat on it and marched off mumbling. They watched him go with a host of his countrymen also pressed into service by the legion.  Then Raucus asked, “Care to test it?”
         “Test what?”
         “Your formula.  We seem to be in need of baggage porters.  Now seems an excellent test of your Judean rabbi’s theory.  Conjure us up some asses.”
         “You wouldn’t rather another troop of locals?  You do seem to derive much pleasure in demeaning them?”
         “I wasn’t specific as to the breed.  This being a first test, I’ll accept any form of ass as proof, as long as the load gets carried.”
         “I don’t think that’s what he meant.”
         “Ah, there it is!”
         “There what is?”
         “Every time some philosopher blows a new wind in the ear of you gullible moongazers, it’s all brick and mortar and solid while he’s talking but as soon as his breeze hits a real, solid wall made of real, solid bricks and mortar it vanishes like smoke.”
         “You don’t understand spiritual things.”
         “Of course I don’t!  For the same reason your gods don’t understand flesh and blood things!  It’s all high and very well to spend your time going on about things that can’t be seen or felt but this here lump,” Raucus kicked the load lying in the dust of the road, “can most certainly be seen and its weight can most certainly be felt but it’s not going to be felt by me so unless your spirit is going to come and whisk it away for me, I say it’s all gas!”
         “But he’s not a spirit, he’s a man!  He calls himself the Son of Man and some men call him the Son of God!  Think of that, Raucus!  God come in flesh!  God who does know our struggles, our pain and yet knows the joys of heaven!  Knows God as Father!  God who loves us!  Spirit and flesh together!”
         “Well, if he loves us so much, have him come and carry my bags!  Otherwise I say it’s all a long fart.”
         “You’re incorrigible,” Ponderus bent down and picked up his own bags as the other soldiers in the column were doing.  Raucus however sat down on his.  “What are you doing?”
         “Come off it.”
         “No.  This is it.  I’m doing this for you.  You will know, really know if there is a God and if, for some reason only the Humors could imagine, his son was born in the armpit of the Empire and whether or not spirits can affect the real world.  It’s a perfect test.  It is for this, we have been brought to this moment!  All the subtle weavings of the universe have conspired and hammered and wrought us this bag, this road and this test.  Soon we shall have our answer.  All we need do is ask.”  Raucus smiled up at him from his seat.
         “Were you dropped on your head as a child?”
         “Don’t change the subject.”
         “Fine!  Have your test!”  The rest of the column formed up again and with a bellow from the equestrian, they marched off.  All but two of them.  Ponderus and Raucus watched them stamp off round the bend.  Raucus started humming to himself.
         “Annnnny minute now.”
         “So you would like to see spirit move a solid lump?”  Ponderus reached out and shoved Raucus backwards.  He fell in an ungainly heap a little off the road.  Ponderus picked up Raucus’ bags and slung them over his own shoulder and then helped Raucus back to his feet.  “Let’s go.”
         “What are you doing?”
         “Answering your prayer.”
         “That’s cheating!”
         “No, it’s belief.  The spirit in me loves you; that could only be God’s love in me for heaven knows how unlovable you are!  Besides, you said yourself you weren’t particular about the breed of ass.”
         “So you would make yourself an ass for this Jesus?”
         “Apparently so.”
         “God help you.”  Raucus shook his head and fell in beside his friend as he struggled to catch up with the column laden down like a packhorse with both their baggage.  “Here, give my bags, ass for Jesus, for some strange reason I can’t stand to see you suffer for your belief.”  Raucus took his bags from Ponderus, “What are you smiling at?”
         “I am smiling because God must have heard my prayer too!”

Saturday, September 15, 2012

And how do we do that, pray tell?

11 And it happened that while he was in a certain place praying, when he stopped a certain one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray,” (Luke 11)

This, as the commentator Matthew Henry points out, is already a very good prayer.  “Lord, teach us to pray.”  What makes us different from the animals?  Even monkeys with nearly the same number of chromosomes, who dressed up could pass for some of us?  We have been given the ability to know our Creator.  And He tells us to call him…


God is our Father!  Our Father the King!  We are princes; we are princesses; we are loved!  We are family.  How can we not talk with our Father?  And lest we get too big for our britches, we remember, 17 Truly I say to you, whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a young child will never enter into it.” (Luke 18)  Prayer is our declaration of dependence.  We’re not full grown.  We only get the plastic play tools and we have to watch Him to learn how to use them.  19 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing from himself except what he sees the Father doing. For whatever that one does, these things also the Son does likewise.” (John 5)  And we do what we see the Son doing.

“may your name be treated as holy.”

 He’s still God!  Our intimacy with Him, our familiarity with Him should never slide into contempt.  Keep your feet off the coffee table.  Never forget we were adopted, bought at a price.  Yes, we are loved so much Jesus traded places with us!  Astounding!  Amazing!  But it also, very, very humbling.  We were on the chopping block; the slave block; we were caught in adultery, naked, ashamed; we deserved whips, mocking, beatings, death; no one would have to bear false witness against us!  Our own words, our own actions are enough for a guilty verdict!  The jury wouldn’t even deliberate, they’d just look at each other, nod and put out twelve thumbs down.  Our joy at being children of the most loving Father should be equally mingled with our respect and awe at His generosity, with admiration and love for His Son who took all of that for us!

“May your kingdom come.”

This is what we’re about!  We’re not working for our own kingdoms anymore.  We’re looking for His!  20 Now when he was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with things that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Behold, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17)  What is the kingdom of God?  It’s on the move (Mark 1:15), yet we can own it (Mark 10:14), yet it’s a place we enter (Matt 21:31), or does it enter us (Mark 4, Mark 10:15)?  We’re close to it when think on the commandments of God (Mark 12:28-34).  But we enter when we realize we can’t keep those commandments and fall on His mercy and He saves us, redeems us and makes us new being born of Spirit, Water and from above (John 3)!  What good news!  We are to be proclaiming it (Luke 16:16), why wouldn’t we?  Even pressing people into it (Luke 14:23)!  It is here and yet coming, it will be a glorious day for some and a day of terror for many.  Even so, Lord, come!  Make Your people ready!

“3 Give us each day our daily bread,”

Not tomorrow’s bread.  Not oil and wine.  Not artisan bread.  Just what we need for today.  If He gives us more, then He entrusted us with someone else’s daily bread.  Don’t lend, give!  Go find them.  Don’t get paid back?  No worries.  Why worry?  He is eternal and faithful and will provide bread tomorrow too.  He provided pizza?  Give thanks!  No bread?  Then go and ask your brothers and sisters, maybe God gave them your bread to give to you.  Community, trust, faithfulness, justice, charity.  So much wrapped up in Bread.  And not the least of these, Nay!  The most of these!  The Sun to their birthday candles is Jesus!  The Bread of Life! (John 6)

And forgive us our sins,

    for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”

The mark of someone who knows forgiveness is sharing what they’ve been given.  If the bread thing didn’t make it plain, this should, God despises stinginess, selfishness, hoarding!  God is most interested in the heart!  True treasure is eternal!  So how can we keep salvation to ourselves, forgiveness to ourselves, love, peace, joy to ourselves!  Christ allowed himself to be slaughtered, for us, his enemies, to make us his brothers and sisters, with his dying breath, begging God to forgive us who were killing him but that guy in the office, he deserves death?  That parent who denied you love, they don’t deserve love?  You have been forgiven everything but Muslims need to be exterminated?  I’m sorry, what?  I get it, but try telling it to the bloody, beaten pulp on the cross.

“And do not lead us into temptation.”

Well, duh, right?  God doesn’t lead us into temptation.  13 No one who is being tempted should say, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each one is tempted when he is dragged away and enticed by his own desires.”  (Jam 1)  No, 23 Yahweh is my shepherd;

I will not lack for anything.
In grassy pastures he makes me lie down;

by quiet waters he leads me.
He restores my life.

He leads me in correct paths

for the sake of his name.
Even when I walk in a dark valley, I fear no evil

because you are with me.” (Ps 23)
Literally, this is, Lead us OUT of temptation.  AWAY from.  We’re already in it, day and night, Lord, get us out!  We can’t do any of the things on this list?  Oh wretched people are we!  What are we to do?

Well, duh!  Pray!  Go on, Dad would love to hear from you.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Martha, Martha

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things! 42 But few things are necessary, or only one thing, for Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10)

33 Whoever listens to me will dwell in security

    and rest securely from dread and disaster.”
My child, if you will receive my sayings,

    and hide my commands with you,
in order to incline your ear toward wisdom,

    then you shall apply your heart to understanding.
For if you cry out for understanding,

    if you lift your voice for insight,
if you seek her like silver

    and search her out like treasure,
then you will understand the fear of Yahweh,

    and the knowledge of God you will find.
For Yahweh will give wisdom;

    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov 1,2)

Before there was facebook, I had no idea of the epidemic proportions of worry in our country.  Each day it is veritable pool of angst, need and complaint.  Even the requests for prayer sound desperate to my ears.

Maybe our enlightened, scientific, Western minds have shrunk God. We rarely think of ourselves this way anymore but we are beings of worship.  The altar of our lives, the throne will be occupied.  Either by the true, benevolent Father who loves us or by a tyrant of our own choosing.  When God becomes small in our minds; problems, cares, responsibilities, even religious duties become disproportionately big, eclipsing the Son in our eyes, hearts and lives. 

This is no small matter.  We can shunt God to a corner on Sunday morning but we do so to our detriment and we miss out on so much.  Our God is a jealous God who will not share His throne or His wife, His child or His people with another.  Particularly as He knows how abusive, how dehumanizing, how destructive our mistress is!  No one can love us like Jesus loves us!  If we would, like Mary but fall at his feet…

Blessed be the person who trusts in Yahweh,

    and Yahweh is his trust.
For he will be like a tree planted by water,

    and to the stream it sends its roots,

and it will not fear when heat comes,

    and its leaves will be luxuriant,

and in the year of drought it will not be anxious,

    and it will not cease from the bearing of fruit.” (Jer 17)

Hot on the heels of all this talk of hospitality and deeds showing what is in the heart.  Almost as if God knows our propensity toward faith by works, we have this homely story of Martha and Mary.  Martha is doing nothing evil.  She’s trying to provide for her guests, a bunch of scruffy Galileans from out of town and their itinerant rabbi.  She’s arranging their lodging, maybe, their dinner, perhaps.  Good things.  Things that show a servant’s heart.  Things which Jesus blesses.

But Jesus… Jesus has other priorities.  When he was thirsty by the well in Samaria (John 4) he asked for a drink.  This sparked a conversation with the Samaritan woman.  The conversation sent the woman running home to bring her neighbors to meet Jesus.  The people came and Jesus taught them.  Did Jesus ever get the drink??  It doesn’t matter.  Jesus has other priorities.  32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples began to say to one another, “No one brought him anything to eat, did they?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is that I do the will of the one who sent me and complete his work.” (John 4)  Jesus isn’t worried about getting fed.  Martha could place the most exquisite kosher, culinary masterpiece ever concocted in all Judea and he would be no more honored than if she had nuked some mac and cheese after he was done teaching.  He will accept it, knowing it is her form of worship perhaps but his choice of the words “better part” when referring to Mary’s posture clearly shows which honors him and blesses us more.  This is a guy who could turn stones to bread, water to wine and multiply food with a touch.  Something tells me Martha may have missed a miracle for trying to create one herself! 

Her fear of people’s opinions of her.  Her identity wrapped up in her good name and honor as a hostess lead her to anger at Mary’s lack of participation.  Which leads to her shrewish behavior before her guests.  Sin upon sin.  But worst of all, it causes her to miss out on God in her midst!  In her very living room! 

The most often repeated commandment in the Word is, “Fear not!”  What are we missing by ignoring this commandment?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Messing with Jesus

33 But a certain Samaritan who was traveling came up to him and, when he saw him, had compassion. 34 And he came up and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine, and he put him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10)

Wouldn’t it be cool if every post I write could explode from a profound, earth shattering, inspirational thought?  Yeah, that’d be sweet.  Alas, tis not to be.  Tis not the life of a biblical illustrator.  For you see, Jesus seems to like things simple. 

21 At that same time he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to young children. Yes, Father, for this was pleasing before you.” (Luke 10)

Getting a little godly wisdom lately?  Been feeling pretty smart?  Hmmm?  Well, good!  Great even!  A gift not to be despised but keep this in mind… 26 For consider your calling, brothers, that not many were wise according to human standards, not many were powerful, not many were well born. 27 But the foolish things of the world God chose in order that he might put to shame the wise, and the weak things of the world God chose in order that he might put to shame the strong,” (1Cor 1)   So pack the pride away and boast in the Lord, for any wisdom we can boast to isn’t ours and God is apparently speaking to us in small words.

But as humbling as accurate assessments of our academic acumen by our loving Father in Heaven are, they are nothing when compared to today’s grand thought!  Are you ready?  Are you prepared for this shocking revelation?  No, you’re not but get ready to kiss your crash test dummy butt on the cheek cause here it comes!

Everyone you meet, everyone in your home, neighborhood, commute, store, place of business, place of worship, public place of ease, on the train, on the plane, on the stairs, on the stoop, on the street, on the news, everyone in your bed this morning, everyone in the bar last night, everyone, everyone, everyone is Jesus. 

I know, right?  Thunderbolt out of the blue, isn’t it?  As it’s Monday and I am not wise nor am I intelligent on the best of days, I’ll explain a little, y’know, for Justin Case.

What this doesn’t mean is everyone is god.  The briefest inspection of the nosepicker next to you should be enough to verify that casual observation as solid fact.  Every word you hear today will not be divinely inspired.  Thank God!  You may meet many people who think or function as if they are god, but they are astoundingly mistaken.

What it does mean is more along the lines of what my old partner the Duke of Fluke used to mean when he’d get up right in your face, go slightly cross-eyed and say, “You mess with my family, you mess with me!”   Or as King David said, Against you, only you, I have sinned
 and have done this evil in your eyes,
 so that you are correct when you speak,
 you are blameless when you judge.” (Ps 51)  Now David had had a guy killed after knocking up his wife.  I’d say, if we asked Uriah, he’d feel pretty sinned against.  And David would not disagree.  But David knew a thing or two about sin and more importantly, he knew God. 

When we sin against any child of God’s, anyone made in His image, He takes it personally.  An attack on the King’s image, the King’s man, the King’s woman, is the same as an attack on the King himself!  No wonder anyone calling his brother a fool is in danger of hell fire.  We read and wonder at the temerity of the Pharisees in mocking Jesus.  We have done far, far worse!  It is only by the grace of God, the long suffering of Jesus, the immense love the Father has for us that we haven’t shared the fate of Korah. (Num 16) 

Likewise, to deny succor to a servant of the King is to deny succor to the King.  Yahweh owns the cattle on a thousand hills but He has lent them to his servants.  He has leased them to us.  And He has certain standards for how they should be stewarded.  When we are fearful, selfish or stingy with them, we deny how gracious, loving and open He has been with us!  Likewise, when our fearful, selfish, stingy hearts are forced open by the sweet love of Jesus; when we give all away to those in need; when we share what we have, our time, our resources, our skills and wisdom with the least of these children of our Heavenly Father He not only sees and knows but takes it as if we have done it for God Himself!

Occasionally this is literal, as in Genesis 18 or as Hebrews 2 and all four gospels show.  And we could leave it there as a parable to keep us guessing as to who might be Jesus in disguise so as to ensure our hospitality and moral behavior.  But that would miss the muchly, much-much more exciting point!

All of these verses, Matthew 25 and so many more try and show us that this Jesus of ours, so identifies himself with the needy, with the lowly, with the undeserving, the incapable and the unfortunate, the inept, the alien, the sojourner, the mourner, the forsaken, the forgotten, the disenfranchised, the disabled, the dependant, the depraved, the poor in spirit, the poor in pocket and with the pooh bears of very little brain; in other words, Jesus so identifies with US, that we know, we KNOW we never, NEVER suffer alone!  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Can't buy me love

17 And as he was setting out on his way, one individual ran up and knelt down before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do so that I will inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10)

Why did God accept Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s?  It’s always bothered me.  Oh, I’ve heard explanations but none of them sufficed.  None of them truly explained it in my mind.  Both are worshiping God yet God looks with favor on Abel and Cain gets the hand.  Whassup witdat?  Can we worship God wrong?  How will I know if I’m doing it?  Seems like a pretty important question, doesn’t it?

It almost sounds like the essence of the rich young ruler’s question in the above passage from Mark.  I’m doing this, this and this, what more do I lack?  Maybe he asks because he’s read Genesis four and he wants to make sure he’s doing it right.  Maybe he has done these things and he still feels that nagging loss.  The incompleteness that creeps in at the end of a day of business in the form of a question, “I worked so hard today but what did I accomplish?  I was so good, but was I good enough?”  Maybe, what he really longed to hear was Jesus say, “Dude!  You’re golden!  God told me to tell you, good on ya, keep on keepin’ on!”

Jesus doesn’t say, “Good on ya,” partly, I’m sure, because Jesus is not Australian.  But also partly because it was not good on him and it was not good for him. 

I write a lot about what we are to do, what we Christians, we followers of Christ, we the Bride of Christ are to do.  Lately, where it concerns evangelism: who gets into the Kingdom, who inherits eternal life and who does not.  Why should we tell folk?  How should we tell folk?  If no one can come unless they are called and God gives a measure of proof to all and faith is a gift, why should we talk about Jesus at all?  And here’s the crux of what I have to say…

If you’re asking the question, “Why should we talk about Jesus?” you shouldn’t.  In fact, please don’t.  Because you don’t know him.

Why didn’t God accept Cain’s offering?  I don’t think it was because it was grain and produce.  God told the Israelites to make all kinds of grain and produce offerings.  Why did Jesus tell the rich, young ruler to give all he owned to the poor?  He didn’t tell Nicodemus or Zaccheus to impoverish themselves.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, David, Solomon, were all actually blessed with riches.  God’s not anti-wealth.  So what’s the deal?  Why did Jesus in Luke nine tell the guys, “Let the dead bury their own dead,” “Foxes have dens and birds have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” and “He who puts his hands to the plow and looks back is not worthy of me.”?  Why is it whenever people seem most enthusiastic about Jesus and his new movement, he says something calculated to skeeve them out and make them angry, upset or confused?  Why did God put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden?  Why did God not tell Job what it was all about?  Why do we suffer and God seems strangely silent?  Why am I asking so many questions and not giving any answers?  Why am I not going to stop?

Why wouldn’t you pay for a husband?  Why do we not knock women on the head and drag them to our caves to be our wives?  Why is it we could not be satisfied with a Stepford Wife?  Why isn’t wine better than a man?  Many jokes come to mind but the answer is only one question away…

Why isn’t God pleased with religion?


Love is a relationship.  Love is total submission to the other for the good of the other!  The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father.  God loves you and what’s best for you is to be drawn into the relationship He has within Himself!  It’s what He made you for!  It’s what you’re searching for when you acquire things, when you long for love, when you work, when you seek health!  Nothing else will satisfy.  Not even religion.  Why?  Because religion is love of the self.   Cain’s sacrifice wasn’t for God.  It wasn’t from love.  It was to get something from God.  The rich young ruler wasn’t keeping the commandments because he loved others; it was because he loved himself.  He wanted righteousness, rightness for himself.  To put God in his debt.

“Good Teacher,” he says, you who have achieved enlightenment.  Show me how to get where you are.  To make myself like the Most High!  “I am good,” is only one letter away from, “I am god!”  Spiritually, it’s the same thing. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”   And there is only one God in heaven and earth. Why did God not accept Cain’s offering?  Why did the rich man go away sad?  Why do self-righteous people go to hell? 

Because they take the Bread of Life and the Wine of the Covenant that the Father offers them, the marriage proposal he gives to the World, the offer of eternal love, life and joy in Him, they slap them from Jesus’ outstretched, nail scarred hands and say through clenched teeth, “I don’t want pity from you!  I want to BE YOU!”  And God sadly, lets them go their way, to a place where they are god alone.  You think the world is bad now, imagine a place without any mitigating limits on people’s selfishness, without any blessings from God at all.  Total separation from everything good.  Imagine what they’ll be like when they realize how much of what they loved was a blessing from God they didn’t deserve.  Rage.  Furious, impotent, all consuming rage and despair.  Fire unquenched and worms which never die.  That’s hell.

Now imagine being drawn into the most loving relationship there ever was, ever is and ever will be.  True love.  Not transactional, not based on the worth of the loved but on the worth of the lover!  For in this way God loved the world, so that he gave his one and only Son, in order that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life.” (John 3)  Why won’t you perish?  Because you have Jesus!  Jesus IS LIFE!  He is bread!  He is water!  He is Love!  You can’t come to the Father except through him because he is the Way to the Father!  He’s not being exclusive!  He’s being honest!  The Father loves Jesus, Jesus is the only one who can stand in God’s presence because Jesus. Is. God!  Even the angels hide their faces from God!  But He loved us so much he came to us and died for us!  And when he took our sin, our unworthiness, our unrighteousness on himself, he gave us HIS WORTH, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, his status as the SON OF GOD!  The best pagan is worshiping what they do not know!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a man to enter the kingdom of God.  But Jesus!  Nothing is impossible with God.  They are trying to get to God and we know God Immanuel, God has come and is trying to get to us! 

Why would you tell someone about Jesus?  Why wouldn’t you???