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.