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!