Sunday, December 26, 2010

What Would Jesus Do? Part 5 [Truth 1]

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.  (John 18:37-38 KJV)

Pilate’s question seems a bit rhetorical, perhaps insolent, or maybe even contemplative.  There are many ways to interpret this verse, but the final result was still the same.  He rejected truth in favor of satisfying the demands of men, resulting in the death sentence of our Lord.   It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Truth is something that people still struggle with, even to this day.

There are three basic ways that truth is handled:  Some receive it gladly, and are saved.  Others reject it summarily, while others yet philosophize over it until it becomes irrelevant in their lives.

The grand irony of Pilate’s question is, that it had already been answered previously by Jesus Himself:

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (Joh 14:6 KJV)

To reject the truth, is to reject Jesus.  He is the very embodiment of truth.  In His time, many rejected Him and His teachings, while yet others , received Him with gladness of heart.  Others, like Pilate, and later Herod Agrippa (Acts 26:28) tried to apply human reasoning to Him and missed the point entirely.

In contemplating this next installment of the WWJD series, it became apparent to me rather quickly that this is one aspect of Jesus’ personhood that defies summing up briefly.  It will be necessary to take this one in smaller bites, in order to avoid creating a massively bloated post.  Truth is a subject that has become so twisted and subjective, that the average person has no hope of recognizing it.  The one sure way to know the truth, and keep from being deceived is to know Jesus intimately and be a disciple of all He taught.

Do we do this?  It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves daily.  If not, the truth is only as far away as the nearest copy of the Bible.  The Bible is the nearest thing we have today to the physical presence of Jesus.  Copies are easily obtained here in the western world, yet is one of the most things taken for granted.  Strange philosophies have crept into the Church and have supplanted the truth of Jesus’ teachings.  People are actively exchanging the truth for a lie.  It’s a sign of the times.

Just today, several people got up and left our church today, when our pastor announced that he would be speaking on the truth.  Rather than stay and learn, they left.  One even deposited a nasty note for him in the lobby as they left.  They rejected the truth, rejected Jesus.  This happens all the time.  People cling to falsehood and become angry when it is challenged.

Jesus dealt with this in His day too.  In one day, a large part of His following left Him to follow no more.  He did not go after them or try to placate them.  He continued to teach and embody truth.  He asked his closest disciples, the 12, if they wanted to leave too.  Peter responded by saying that there was no other place to go, for He had the words of life. 

Do we have this kind of determination?  If not, it’s time to take inventory.  Can we have our beliefs challenged by the Word, and be transformed?  Or do we seek to rationalize our behavior?  Do we get angry and attack God’s messengers?  Or do we receive judgment in the house of God?  All vital questions that need to be answered  circumspectly.

Jesus did not preach messages in order to satisfy people’s feelings.  He loves humanity far too much to soften the blow.  He angered many, including his own followers from time to time, yet He loved them.  Can we receive this kind of love, or do we seek a church that is a little easier to take?

Truth is truth in any age.  How willing are we to be changed by it, by Him?  If we are struggling with truth, it is NOT His fault.  He is the pure truth.  To say or do otherwise is to place His veracity into question, and that is never a safe place to dwell.

Hopefully during this season of the year, you will resolve to get to know Him, if you never have.  If you do know Him, determine to get to know him even  better.  This is an investment that pays huge dividends.  Eternal dividends.

In our next posts, we will examine in more detail some specific instances where Jesus spoke the truth.  This should prove to be interesting, surprising in some instances, and hopefully transformational.

Join us, won’t you?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What Would Jesus Do? Part 4 [Compassion]

There is a video on that has made it’s way around the internet , entitled Get Service.  It portrays a young man as he prepares to go about his daily routine, except that it seems that everyone who crosses his path is out to inconvenience him or otherwise delay his progress.  That is until a mysterious gent gives him a pair of glasses that enable him to peer into the lives of the people that he comes into contact with.  Needless to say, it changes his perspective in short order.  Go see it!  It’s worth the four minutes or so of viewing time.

Compassion is not an attribute that we normally associate with masculinity in today's culture. Satan's counterfeit,  machismo, wars against this Godly characteristic, and all to often wins out. This is based in selfishness, or  a self-seeking mentality.  Machismo dictates that one look out for himself with total disregard to the comfort or well-being of others.

We have an example to follow by which we can gauge true manliness, Jesus Christ.  Often we ask, or are asked, “What would Jesus do?”.  As we have noted in previous posts, this is a topic that can cover a lot of ground, so let's look at this often misunderstood characteristic, one that the Master expects us to emulate Him in.

His Compassion was universal

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (Mat 9:35-36 KJV)

Jesus saw the people just as they were, confused, hurting, and wayward.  That sounds like so much of society today.  They were the guy that cut you off in traffic, or the one that was rude to you at Walmart.  They were the ones obstinate and obtuse by choice or ignorance;  In short, they were people behaving in much the same ways as they have in any generation.

But rather than act out with disdain or dismissiveness, He was moved with, or driven by compassion.  Are we driven enough by compassion? If not, then we have work to do.  It is the way He was.  I want to be this way.  It is what I long for Him to change in my heart.

He had compassion on ALL of them.  He saw people as unique individuals, every one precious in His eyes.  Much like the fellow wearing the glasses in the video, I believe Jesus could discern their individual trials.  He did not view them as the masses, He cared very much for each and every one of them.

How often do we view people as objects or obstacles?  Annoyances?  A necessary evil?  I dare say we do it (to our shame) far more than we would be comfortable admitting.  But that was not the way of the Master.

He made no distinction between those 'worthy' or 'unworthy', rich or poor, clean or dirty.  He simply wasn’t interested in class struggles.  He would have given no favoritism to the guy carrying the cardboard sign saying ‘will work for food’, or the one driving the BMW past him.

You get the picture...

His compassion brought healing

When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. (Mat 14:13-14 KJV)

Here, Jesus had taken leave of the people to pray, yet they followed Him, in order to hear His teaching, and to be touched by Him.  They had interrupted His purpose in praying and rejuvenating His own Spirit.  He immediately changed His plans, due to His great compassion and ministered to them.

What do we display to people in need when they interrupt what we are doing?  Even when we are doing something spiritual?  Even when we are attempting to tend to our own spiritual needs?  Compassion? Or contempt?

Are we following in the Master's footsteps?

Christ like compassion heals physical needs, spiritual needs, as well as emotional needs.  It also addresses social needs:

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Heb 10:25 KJV)

I believe Jesus was a people person.  He was willing to engage people when at their lowest points in life.  I believe he still is, and is our supreme example.

Compassion compelled Him to heal the sick.  He healed them ALL:

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Act 10:38 KJV)

See also: Matt 4:24, Matt 8:16, Luke 4:40

His compassion brought vision

So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him. (Mat 20:34 KJV)

Compassion compelled Him to do the impossible.  Modern science can restore blindness, but it is a very expensive and risky procedure.  The results cannot be guaranteed, many times surgical attempts fail.  But Jesus restored sight to all the blind that He ministered to.  This is exceptional, a 100% recovery rate.  Medical science can only envy that statistic from afar.

How often are we driven to do the impossible, or even the difficult but possible?  The inconvenient?  The easy?

Why are signs not following those that believe? (Mark 16:17)  Are we believers?  Are we moved by compassion?  These are sobering questions that seem to raise the bar ever higher.  Still, we are to strive to go higher and higher.

Compassion drove His desire to heal

And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. (Mar 1:41 KJV)

Perhaps one of Jesus' most poignant statements was, “I will”.  In a more modern paraphrase, He might have put it this way:   “I am willing”, or “It is My will”, or “That's what I want for you”.  In those times, the leper was a pariah, shunned by all, often forced to live in camps removed from populated areas.  Jesus had no tolerance for leprosy either, but he had compassion for the victims.  Rather than shun them, He healed them.

Do we really believe that healing is His will for today?  If His compassion was universal then, it still is today.  Perhaps if we did not struggle so mightily in believing that for ourselves, we would be more driven to minister to others...

He was willing to heal.  He still is... through us

He desired to heal.  He still does... through us

It was His passion.  It should be ours

It was His mission.  It is ours too:

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (John 20:21 KJV)

His compassion brought comfort

Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. (Luk 7:12-14 KJV)

He comforted those in sorrow.  He did not offer pep talks, or false Cheer.  No empty cliche's, or awkward platitudes.  He brought only Truth, and He brought life.  Do we bring life into situations?  Do we speak life to people, or do we tend to speak destruction?  Yet more sobering questions…

His compassion was un-biased

But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (Luke 10:33 KJV)

The back-story here is Jesus’ famous parable of the Good Samaritan.  I believe it is no accident that Jesus used a Samaritan as the central figure in this illustration.  His critics had often referred to Him in an uncharitable fashion, as a Samaritan.  He had, after all, been raised in Nazareth, and based His ministry in Capernaum of Galilee.  Jews in those days did not view Samaritans with the milk of human kindness.  Racial prejudice is no new thing in human history, and was alive and operational in Jesus’ time.  Yet it was one of these ‘dogs’ that ministered healing to a Jewish man whilst others ‘of his kind’ shunned him.

Jesus was unconcerned with racial boundaries.  He touched those in need, often breaching social taboos.

In the story, this outland benefactor gave of Himself, not only financially, but of His time and talent.  He became personally involved despite the fact that He didn't have to.  He embraced the victim of a horrible crime, administered first aid, using his own supplies.  He transported his charge at his own expense, on his own animal, to an inn.  There, he paid from his own purse for the man’s lodging.

He committed Himself to someone else's future.  He promised the innkeeper to return after a time, and check on the man.  If there was more time required, he vowed to pay more, whatever it took to see the man restored.

No wonder this parable has touched such a chord among so many throughout the generations.  Many, many people know little to nothing about the life of Jesus, yet know something of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  There must be a reason why so many hospitals are named for this ageless example of Christ-like compassion.

As I wrap up this rather lengthy post, I would like to conclude by referring you to yet another blog post.  This is written by a very talented and insightful young lady in my church.  It is called The Kingdom Journal, and in it she sums up rather eloquently all the things that God has been placing in my heart as I prepared this installment of The Berean Report.

I hope you will read it, as well as join me again for the next post.

And remember, keep on asking yourself, “What would Jesus do?”.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What Would Jesus Do? Part 3

What DID Jesus do?

Well, there is the thirty-four dollar question.  The Bible has much to say about what He did, what He said, how He acted, who He was.  It’s amazing to me how many different ideas there are out there about who Jesus is and what He did.  Actually the entirety of the Bible is about Him.  The Old Testament foretells of Him, the New Testament gives an account of His life on Earth, as well as expounds His teachings.  It also tells of Jesus in an aspect not seen in His previous advent.  This is a very deep well to plumb and would be well beyond the scope of this blog to simply sum up the life and nature of The Master.

Yet, there are all the things we have come to know and love about Him.  Chief among them was His heroic sacrifice of atonement for our sins.  There are also the accounts of His compassion on the masses, healing, delivering from demonic oppression, even feeding them.  He is our Savior, our elder Brother, our friend, our Kinsman Redeemer, our Avenger of Blood.

The Witnesses

The best way to get to know someone whom you have never met eyeball to eyeball, is to investigate accounts of those who actually did spend time in His company.  In our New Testament, we have four: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  According to Old Testament law, truth is established in at least two witnesses.  We have twice as many as is required.  We might consider a fifth if we include the Apostle Paul, although his witness of Jesus is primarily post-conversion.

Matthew was also known as Levi, a tax collector.  Likely not a very well liked guy, yet the Master chose him as a disciple.  It is thought that his account is more than likely the most verbatim of the Gospels, due to his training in clerical skills.  He knew shorthand and could take dictation very rapidly.  He was very Jewish, and as such his account majored on Jesus’ lineage and His right to rule.  He also majored on the Messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.

Mark, also called John Mark was among the disciples, though he is not recorded until the book of Acts as a travelling companion to Paul and Barnabas.  He is believed to have penned the Apostle Peter’s account of the Gospel.  It is a book that is bold and to the point, much like we see Peter portrayed elsewhere in scripture.

Not much is known of Luke, other than he was among those who traveled with Jesus.  He wrote his own account of the life and times of our Lord, then wrote a history of the early Church, in the Acts Of The Apostles.  He was a physician, and as such had care and compassion for the suffering.  He recorded the kind, compassion aspects of Jesus, portraying Him as the Son of man.

John’s portrait of Christ is bold, declaring Him as the very Word of God.  This vignette shows Jesus in all His glory and power as He ministered on the Earth.  Yet, love is a very strong theme of this writing.  John also wrote three epistles (letters), and the Apocalypse, or Revelation.  We will examine this in more depth in another post.

These all recorded the life and ministry of Jesus, by divine inspiration.  But they also had their own unique perspectives.  Many of the specifics are recorded by at least three of the Gospels.  It would be a good idea to do a comparative study of them.  Alternatively, one could find a good outline harmony of the Gospels and attempt to read them in chronological order.  At any rate, the gospels, along with the book of Acts should be studied as a whole in order to get to the depths we are attempting to plumb.

What He Did

This can be best summed up in the following passage:

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Act 10:38 KJV)

  • He was anointed of the Holy Ghost. (This was before Acts Chapter 2)
  • He was anointed with power
  • He went about (He was pro-active)
  • He did good
  • He healed ALL (Not just those who were ‘deserving’ or who He ‘chose’ to. ALL)
  • He freed the people from demonic possession, oppression, and bondage.

Aside from his mission to redeem mankind from sin, this was His principal mission.  This is a pretty good template to follow for those who would Do What Jesus Did.

The Myths

Time to kick over some sacred cows. 

There are a lot of misconceptions out and about concerning the personage of Jesus.  There is one sect that calls itself Christian, yet relegates Him to the ranks of angels, denying His Godhood.  This very seriously breaches many passages of scripture that clearly place Him in the Godhead.  Don’t be fooled by these pseudo-Christian doctrines.  The Bible calls them doctrines of devils.

Astoundingly, many of the world’s major religions venerate Jesus, but only as a very wise man, or a great prophet.  He was both of these things, yet He was more.  A wise sage, or a great oracle cannot atone for the sins of the world.  He did so, and arose having defeated even death itself.  He ascended into Heaven and is still alive to this day, sitting in the council of God Himself!

There are some who espouse the ideology that Jesus came preaching ‘love and acceptance’.  Generally speaking, it has been my experience that this is the mantra of someone who is trying very hard to rationalize poor and irresponsible (anti-scriptural) behavior.  While Jesus is the embodiment of love, and his invitation to salvation is universal,  The subject of most of His messages were about neither.  Upon closer examination of the Witnesses, you will discover that He preached primarily of the Kingdom Of God.  This is another huge subject to tackle, and may be the subject of another blog series.  But the main point of all this, is that He laid out principles in all of His teachings of how we as disciples are to behave within the Kingdom.  He offered grace, but not the greasy-grace that seems to be associated with the aforementioned statement.

He spoke the truth, in love. (Eph 4:15)  Many received His teachings with gladness of heart.  Others chafed at His words.  Yet the message remained the same.  He was not ‘seeker-sensitive’.  He loved the people far too much to teach them half truths.  Many of the religious ruling class were offended at His words, but some of them, after reconsideration came to Him.  He received them, but His was not a message of compromise.

Our Example

He is the model of what we are to aspire to.  Some might find this a bit too lofty a goal, or may even be a bit put off that we should actually emulate Him.  But this is what He requires of us:

It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.  (Mat 10:25a KJV)

And this:

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (John 20:21 KJV)

In light of this, WWJD takes on a far bigger aspect than the fad that came around in the ‘90’s.  It becomes a golden standard to live by.  It also places the responsibility squarely upon our shoulders to find out what He is all about and behave accordingly.  It’s a sobering thought.  How are we measuring up?  Need some work?  It can seem a daunting task, but He would never require it of us if it were not attainable. 

Let’s all make this our life’s mission, shall we? To be more like Him.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What Would Jesus Do? Part 2

The obvious response to this question, is “What DID He do?”  The gospels contain many accounts of what he did, how he preached to the masses, healed the sick, raised the dead, and freed demoniacs from oppression.  This is the aspect of the Master which we all cherish in our memories.  These accounts seem to trump all the others and stand out in our recollection.  And yet there are other chronicled, ones less popular, or perhaps harder to receive or understand.

How many times have we heard this old axiom, “Jesus came preaching love and acceptance.”?  It is usually bandied about by someone who is attempting to browbeat others into accepting their own bad behavior…   While true that the Gospel is an open invitation to all, Jesus had much, much more to say about other topics than simply love and acceptance.  If you read through the gospels, you will find that he taught principally on the Kingdom of Heaven;  What it is like unto, how to participate in, how to receive, and presented examples of the types of people who would inherit it.

Conversely, He pointed out the contrasts between what He, versus what the religious/political leadership of the day was teaching.  He was compassionate to the needy, and those seeking Him, while cutting and scornful of the hypocritical cadre of religious rulers.  On many occasions, He was none too gentle with them.  There were also times when his response to His own disciples obtuseness, or lack of faith, seemed a bit terse.  Many Christians become offended by far less spoken by their own pastors, and leave churches, or start church fights.  Someone recently said that Jesus is not seeking converts, But He is seeking disciples.  I believe this is true, followers who don’t quit when the going gets tough, or when they get their iddy biddy feelings ruffled.

I know this presents a view of Him that tends to make some uncomfortable.  Then there is the sermon on the mount!  You can’t read through it without finding some place to squirm…  Yet, He is the very image of the heart of God.  Since we know that God is Love, then we have to accept that any and all of Jesus’ actions and words were spoken and done in love.

Some would tend to view these things as self contradictory.  I prefer to think of them as paradoxes.  Contradictions have no resolution, while paradoxes can usually be resolved.  As we progress through this series of meditations, we will be examining some of these, teasing them apart for further in depth examination, in order to better know our Lord.

Then when asked, ‘What would Jesus do?’, We will know, and we will be able to give a better answer.
Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What Would Jesus Do? Part 1 [Introduction]

It’s a fair question, perhaps the most important question.  If we apply it correctly, of course.  I remember when the fad started.  It was everywhere; T-shirts, bracelets, hats, coffee mugs, you name it.  It was intended to be a poignant reminder of how we as Christians ought to act.  Then some slick marketers caught the wave and no doubt made small fortunes.  Eh, that’s OK I suppose.  I’m not adverse to free enterprise, but the problem I have is with the aftermath.  What happens after all the hype has died?  Are we still seeking to follow in the Master’s footsteps, or has WWJD just become a catch phrase to chide someone who has rubbed us wrong?

It was a valid question a decade or more ago, and is still a valid one today.  What would Jesus do?  I hear that phrase bandied about, but do we really know what He would do?  That will be the topic of this particular series of posts.  I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about Him, but I do know a lot, and am learning more every day.  The ONLY way to be able to answer this persistent question is to go to the leading authority, the Bible. 

In this series we will explore, well- what He did.  But more than that we will take a look at what He did not do.  There are a lot of common misconceptions surrounding what people think He was about.  We will also take a look at what He will do, what the prophets had to say concerning Him.  In order to answer the question, we must accept Him, the whole package, not just the parts that suit our agenda at the time.

I have been confronted with this question several times recently.  In some instances, it was aimed at me sort of like a weapon.  Yet, the more I considered this, the more excited I have become, in my meditations of it.  There are many aspects that must be taken into account.  Many concepts that he either reinforced, or conceived.  So, this series is born.  I don’t know at this time how long it will run.  I will work it until the Holy Spirit says I am done.  In the meantime, explore with me, won’t you?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Fruitful Life: The Challenge

Welcome back!  This week we will wrap up our series.  We have been discussing the comparisons between a fruitful, and unfruitful life.  This time we want to challenge you to move from unfruitfulness to fruitfulness.  To that end we will examine some Biblical principles as well as some practical means to live the proper abundant life of the Christian.

Challenge:   To rise to the next level in the Spirit. If the fruit of the spirit is OF the Holy Spirit, then it behooves us to seek Him more and more in our every day lives.  Allow him to teach and guide you.  One way is to actually pray in the Spirit and seek interpretation.  This is a solid scriptural principle, and I can attest personally to it's effectiveness.  I have often gained profound insights into myself, God, and found answers to problems by doing so.

Abide in Christ:  This is crucial.  You simply cannot go it alone.  Jesus provides the fruitfulness in is that is genuine, and people can spot a phony pretty easily:

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (Joh 15:4-5 MKJV) 
Notice that abiding in Him does not merely bring forth fruit, but MUCH fruit.  Hallelujah!  Pardon me for a minute while I do a stomp dance!

The consequences for not abiding in Him are dire:

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered. And they gather and cast them into the fire, and they are burned(Joh 15:6 MKJV) 
This verse echoes the curse given to the fruitless fig tree we looked at last week.  Jesus plainly lays out His plan for His people.  They will be fruitful... or else!

The benefits, on the other hand, are WONDERFUL!

If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you. In this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you shall be My disciples. (Joh 15:7-8 MKJV) 
You shall ask what you will!  And it shall be done unto you!  Saints, does it get any better than that?  Abiding in Christ is THE key to answered prayer.

Let's look at some practical ways to live a fruitful life.  Seek opportunities to display your fruit to a starving world: 

A kind word will often change the way a person's day is going.  I have seen it done many times.  I have done it many times.  Consider the person working the cash register for instance.  That person in front of you may have just ate her lunch and popped the bag.  But you can make the difference when it's your turn.

A random act of kindness will always bless people.  There are as many ways to do this as the human imagination will allow.  I had a friend that used to get a kick out of going through fast food drive through's and pay for the car behind him in line.  It was certainly a blessing to the recipients, but he always found it to be a blessing to him as well.

Crucify your flesh.  This does NOT mean beat up on yourself when you fail. Whenever the flesh rises up, that's an opportunity to put it under by showing the love of Christ.  Let that other guy go first in traffic.  Bite your tongue. It's not about letting someone get away with something.  It's an chance to exercise that fruit of the Spirit called self control.

Give. You can't take it with you when you die anyways.  And besides, the scriptures teach that a giving heart will receive in great increase in due time.

Stop complaining. Complainers really are a drag to be around.  You and I are no exception.  So stop it.  It's like an empty rain cloud...

Don't stir up strife. Strife is the enemy of fellowship.  Strife destroys relationships and has no place in the life of the believer.  The fruit of the Spirit to replace strife with, is love.

Treat people the way you want to be treated:
Therefore all things, whatever you desire that men should do to you, do even so to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Mat 7:12 MKJV)
This is an all inclusive directive.  In ALL things do good to others.  Jesus' angle on the laws of reciprocity go far beyond 'live and let live'.  His approach is proactive.  However you wish to be treated, you do it first.  This is a faith principle and is taught all throughout the Bible.  It is the act of sowing a premium seed.

Forgiveness! It is of utmost importance to forgive.  Our earlier text concerning Jesus and the fig tree continues, and Jesus instructs his followers to forgive.  He links it inseparably to prayer and faith.  You cannot receive answers to prayer without it!  Be quick to give forgiveness when wronged.  Be equally quick to ask for it if you have wronged someone.  It's the Master's way.

Seek for the the good in any situation or person. The faults that you find in others should be prayed about, NEVER repeated to others. Problems should be prayed about, not grumbled about.

These are just a few things that can get you started on the right track.  Scripture is full of ways to implement these principles into your life.  The Holy Spirit is also an ever present teacher and guide.  Seek His wisdom constantly.  He ALWAYS delivers.

Please the Master.  Do it in FAITH.

WWJD? Find out, in the Scripture, Then DO IT! JUST DO IT!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A cure for fruitlessness

Last week we discussed God's view of an unfruitful life.  We concluded that it is an accursed thing, and is to be avoided.  This week we will take a look at the flip side.  In the Bible, wherever there is a problem, there is surely a solution.  Isn't God great?

There has been much said in the body of believers about what it means to be fruitful.  Some equate fruitfulness with the number of souls they have won. Example: Billy Graham- LOTS of souls won.

While this is of supreme importance, I think this impression misses the heart of the matter. It is altogether to easy to get way off track and gauge your own fruitfulness by this metric.  It can be misleading.  However, a fruitful life will lead to soul winning.

The Biblical definition of fruitfulness is found in the scripture:

But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23 MKJV) 
Any pilot knows that the most important piece of equipment in his flight bag is the check list.  There is not one item in this book that is permissible to skip.  It is absolutely essential to safety of flight.  Many of them refer to it as their 'bible'. It is a tool designed to keep their thinking and logical  processes in the right order to properly pilot an aircraft.  It is drafted and written by the aircraft manufacturer and is subject to the laws of aerodynamics and the proper governing authorities.  It is considered sacrosanct.

Here is a nine point checklist for Christians, in order to avoid a spiritual crash. Like the items on a check list, these things are NOT optional, They are REQUIRED. These are nine metrics in which to take your own spiritual temperature.

If you are lacking in any of these areas then it is time to press in closer to God and get it right! There is good news.  God will always forgive, restore, get you back on track, and teach you.  All you need to do is reach out to Him.

Is it possible to win souls without these fruits evident in your life?  Theoretically possible, but not likely. I have seen many attempts to win souls without a fruitful life end in failure, or at very best a cursory, "repeat after me" sinner's prayer.

Is a coerced sinner's prayer really sincere? Only God knows.  But is there a better way?

Does fruit entice? Lots of birds, and bugs, and other animal life think so.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not particularly fond of fruit, at least the kind you buy at the store.  Sort of reminds me of wind and clouds, without rain...  

About a year ago I was waiting to get a load (truck driver) in Fernley Nevada.  In the traffic island across the parking lot from me was a skinny, scrawny little apple tree.  It was so sorry, it had to be propped up with a stick.  But it had fruit.  Big fruit.  I tried for some time to ignore it, but after a while I caved in and went to investigate.  It was the BEST apple I've ever had!

The lesson in nature is clear.  You don't have to be the biggest or best, or have a huge ministry to bear good fruit.  You just have to bear good fruit.

As that apple was an enticement to a fruit agnostic like me, shouldn't our lives be an enticement to the sinner, rather than the other way around?

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him. (Psa 34:8 MKJV) 
Everyone wants to be blessed, even the sinner. If they can see His blessing in our lives, won't they want to taste and see? It has been aptly said that our lives are the only Bible some are likely to ever read.  We need to be living Epistles as the scriptures admonish us to be.

Next week we will wrap up this series by looking at some Biblical and practical ways to live a fruitful life.

Join me, won't you?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A curse for fruitlessness

This week we will continue our mini-series that began with Clouds and wind, but no rain.  In the last two installments we have discovered that empty boastfulness (bloviation) and fruitlessness are often embodied by those who would be termed apostate.  We find that these people are not very fruitful in their Christian testimonies, yet seem to find ways to blend in seamlessly to the Body of Christ.  Jude, the younger brother of Jesus blew the whistle on them.  He used several instances of destructive forces of nature to compare them to.

We will focus on this week, the one where he likened them to unfruitful trees.  We know that Jesus spoke often of these types of things.  He used a very powerful object lesson, that is couched into one of our favorite instructional passages on prayer and faith.  The gospel of Mark relates it thus:

And on the next day, they going out of Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing a fig-tree with leaves afar off, He went to it, if perhaps He might find anything on it. And when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season of figs. And Jesus answered and said to it, No one shall eat fruit of you forever. And His disciples heard. (Mar 11:12-14a MKJV) 
We often look at this passage in light of His discourse on faith, and praying in faith. vv. 22-25, It is a very important, foundational principal.

It always sort of confused me about Jesus cursing that poor old tree.  We can reasonably assume that He was not one given to fits of temper, or pique.  Yet, He cursed the tree, seemingly for little reason.

Yet we know He never did or said anything without a purpose. This passage is a veritable gold mine of symbolism, but the underlying principal is God's disposition toward fruitlessness. Simply put, it is an accursed thing.

WOW! Is fruitlessness in the life of a believer akin to apostasy?  Judging by the Master's response to the fig tree, one would have to conclude that it is.

There is a curse associated with apostasy, and apostasy is accompanied by a fruitless, hypocritical life. Jesus berated the leaders of the day often and repeatedly for hypocrisy. Those who call themselves believers, and are not bearing fruit, are categorized with the apostate.

This is very, very unstable ground to find one's self in.  We don't want to find ourselves in that position.  Next week, we will look into the concept of fruitfulness in the life of a believer.  You won't want to miss that one.  

See you next week!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

For They Are A Rebellious House...

Note:  This post is out of cycle, and is not a part of the current series.  Thanks for reading! 
And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. (Eze 2:5 KJV)
As I begin reading the book of Ezekiel I find that this is a refrain repeated three times in the second chapter.  Now we all know that if God says something even once, that it is of utmost importance.  But here, in the prophet's commissioning He repeats it thrice.  That's huge.

Even more significantly, He repeats that characterization ten more times throughout the book.  It might be said that  the God of the universe is trying to make a point.  If He is, then it is one that should be taken well by all peoples in all ages.  Thirteen reiterations to the man of God, concerning a nation should be sufficient.

You see, Israel had been weighed and found wanting.  They had forgotten the God of their fathers, and had habitually, and insistently pursued their own lusts for many generations.  At the opening of this book, they had been in captivity thirty years.  The great Diaspora had only just begun.  They had been admonished by prophets, beginning with Moses, to remember God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His statutes.  We find the greatest summation of all this in Deuteronomy 28.  In it, all the blessings for keeping God's ways are delineated.  Likewise the penalties for transgression are also laid out.

This was God's own people.  His chosen ones.  The apple of His eye...

If they were not exempt from His blessings or His judgement, then how can any other nation be?  It is a sobering thing to witness America drift further and further from her Godly founding principals.  We who study the scriptures are alarmed at the downward turn our nation has taken.  

It's true that among the rich and powerful are evil people doing evil things that are leading the populace astray.  But what's even more damning is that so many are completely ignorant of God and His ways.  In an era where the written word of God is so readily available, the masses largely remain ignorant.  The Bible is still the all time best seller (incidentally, the most stolen too).

This is a serious point to ponder.  Like Israel, this nation seems preoccupied with forgetting the One who made them great.  It is thankless, and shameful.

But there is hope yet.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2Ch 7:14 KJV)
Here, we find a four step national recovery program, all rolled into one verse.

  1. Humble ourselves, that is, acknowledge that without Him we can do nothing.
  2. Pray. I think many people even believers know little about prayer.  But that's another posting.
  3. Seek His face.  How many decisions do we make without Him?  A point to meditate upon.
  4. Repent.  Do we who are called by Christ's name practice wickedness?  We must walk circumspectly.

The promise is that if we, who are His follow these steps that He will hear.  He will forgive.  He will heal our land.  We simply cannot, CANNOT rely on government to keep us safe, happy, and prosperous.  Our forefathers were quick to acknowledge this.  They debated it, wrote about it, and codified it into our founding documents.  How very different it is today.  Do we see many of our nation's leaders consulting with God about how they should govern?  There are some, but you most likely never hear of them.

But we as Christians do not have to be elected to an office to abase ourselves before God, to pray, to seek Him, to repent on behalf of ourselves and our nation.  We only have to do it.  Are we?  Are you?

Let's begin to turn our hearts to the God of OUR fathers, and let the healing begin!

No water, no fruit

This post is a follow up to last week's post, Clouds and wind, but no rain. To recap a little bit, we examined two portions of scripture:
A man boasting himself in a false gift is like clouds and wind, but no rain. (Pro 25:14 MKJV)
The brother of our Lord, Jude repeats this sentiment in his tiny, yet powerful little book over in the New Testament: 
These are sunken rocks in your love feasts, feasting together with you; feeding themselves without fear; waterless clouds being carried about by winds; fruitless autumn trees, having died twice, having been plucked up by the roots; wild waves of the sea foaming up their shames; wandering stars for whom blackness of darkness has been kept forever. (Jud 1:12-13 MKJV)
The link between these passages is obvious even to the most casual reader.  I dare say that Jude had read the aforementioned proverb at least once in his lifetime.  He probably had heard it quoted by his big brother Jesus, many times.  There is an important point to be made here. Jude addresses fellow believers:
Having made all haste to write to you about the common salvation, beloved, I had need to write to you to exhort you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. (Jud 1:3 MKJV) 
He wrote this little book as a dire warning TO fellow believers.  He warned about those in the midst of the Body, having been fellow Christians, or those merely posing as such.  Jude's book deals primarily with apostasy. What is an apostate? Webster defines it thus:

Apostate APOS'TATE, n. [Gr.] 
One who has forsaken the church, sect or profession to which he before adhered. In its original sense, applied to one who has abandoned his religion; but correctly applied also to one who abandons a political or other party. 
APOS'TATE, a. False; traitorous. 
He likens apostate believers to sunken rocks which are a dire navigational hazard.  They are out of sight, and mind until they puncture the hull of, and sink a boat.

Waterless clouds as we have discussed previously can be a major disappointment, especially during times of drought.

Fruitless trees are also disappointing, and as we shall see in our next installment receive special treatment within the pages of scripture.

Waves of the sea.  Having been a sailor myself, I have witnessed the awesome destructive capability of raging waves.  As yet, there has been no real advances of technology to efficiently harness this energy.  They remain largely a destructive force of nature.

Wandering stars are a curious idiom of this passage.  Without going too deeply into orbital mechanics or some other deep scientific exploration, the implications thereof are profound. Stars are massive celestial bodies, boasting huge gravitational pull. Wandering stars are those that are out of their proper place, and not doing what they were designed to do.

Do apostates tend to draw all men unto themselves? One only has to look around to witness the answer to this question.

All of these similitudes have seriously negative connotations. They are destructive in nature. They have no practical use.  They are unproductive.

Interestingly enough, two of these ideas are logically related:  Clouds with no rain, and trees without fruit.

There is no fruit without water.  And without fruit, there is no harvest.

In the next post of this little series, we will be examining this aspect a little closer, so stay tuned!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Clouds and wind, but no rain

A man boasting himself in a false gift is like clouds and wind, but no rain. (Pro 25:14 MKJV)
Clouds and wind without rain is something that we in the deserts of the southwest are are fully acquainted with. During the monsoon (fancy name for rainy season), we get a great display of weather, usually in the afternoons.  Great thunderheads build over the mountain tops and all around. The wind picks up and you can perhaps even smell the promise of moisture, nourishment, plant growth, and a little bit cooler weather. 

It causes disappointment when all that meteorologic activity fails to produce anything other than high heat and humidity. In this part of the world, that disappointment is especially poignant, considering the typical aridness of the region.

Here, King Solomon compares natural events to human failings. Like clouds and wind, a big talker builds big expectations. We can all think of someone who has crossed our paths that remind us of this idiom. Perhaps we have actually been that person.  Lord help us from our pathetic ways!

A word, borrowed from that FOX news luminary, Bill O'Reilly, is 'bloviation'. To bloviate, means to: Orate verbosely and windily. This term seems to fit this Biblical similitude to a tee.  Do we do that in our daily testimony?  Heaven forfend!

It as been aptly said that 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the people.  While not necessarily a scientific conclusion, it does seem to point to an underlying principle.  No matter where you go, there seems to be dead weight enough to provide enough drag to eventually slow down any movement of God's Spirit in any church.

Jude, the younger brother of our Lord put it like this:
These are sunken rocks in your love feasts, feasting together with you; feeding themselves without fear; waterless clouds being carried about by winds; fruitless autumn trees, having died twice, having been plucked up by the roots; wild waves of the sea foaming up their shames; wandering stars for whom blackness of darkness has been kept forever. (Jud 1:12-13 MKJV) 
This paints a gloomy picture of these types of people.  We will be examining this verse in greater detail in the next few blog posts.  But for now, the message is cautionary; Don't BE that person!  I don't want to be, and I dare say that many that are, do not, in their heart of hearts want to be either.

For more on this, stay tuned the the next post.  We shall continue!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Don't Be Destroyed

The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy. (Psa 145:20 KJV)
I recently came across a graphic that some creative soul spent way too much time creating.  I won't give it any dignity by linking to it, but the general gist of it was this:  A comparative chart showing the number of people God killed in the Bible (some 2,000,000 plus), versus those whom Satan killed (only 10).  Predictably, this sort of irked me, being somewhat of a Biblical student.  This prompted me to make a few observations of my own:
  1. So what?  What's their point?
  2. If the person that created this little graphic actually took the time to make this kind of research, they have too much time on their hands.  It would be better spent on some serious study of God's Word rather than a feeble attempt to undermine it.
  3. The person that created this little graphic really took no time at all to research their claim, and has no idea what they are talking about.
  4. If the person that created this little graphic went to all the trouble to research the figures by searching them out of the Bible, then they really missed the point of the Bible altogether.  What a waste.
Actually I find no recorded incident where Satan actually took anyone's life, much less ten.  I did find however, copious scripture references to God destroying the wicked, evildoers, and His enemies, too many to enumerate here.  The principle is there.  God destroys the wicked.  I didn't say it, He did.  That doesn't go down too well in today's politically correct society, but the principle remains.

There is a school of thought that makes the assertion that God only exists if you believe in Him.  I'm not sure where that theology comes from, but it is certainly not from the Bible.  God transcends all, even our own pitifully small ideas of Him.  You simply cannot disbelieve Him out of existence.  He has said what He will do, and you can make bank on it.  If you are an enemy of God, He will destroy you.  It may not be today, but it is an absolute truth.

Who is an enemy of God?  Those who actively oppose Him.  Those who are in disobedience of Him.  Essentially, anybody who does not love him.  Those who are at enmity with His people.  These are the ones that God will destroy with the brightness of His appearing.  There were a number of people throughout the Bible, who found themselves on the wrong side of things and were destroyed.  God does not change.  Wickedness, evil, and unrighteousness cannot stand in His presence.

So all this kicking about how unfair God must be, is really pointless.  These kinds of arguments and debates are fruitless, and will never change His mind.  They will never change who He is.  To continue to rail out is utter foolishness.

Now that I've completely rubbed the fur backwards let's look at the flip side.  God's mercy, love, and compassion is just as complete as His justice, and righteousness.  As much as He will destroy the wicked, He will save to the uttermost, those who love Him.  It is so simple, people have to get help to misunderstand.  The way of escape from destruction and judgement is so simple.  His Son, Jesus, made the way.  To love and embrace the Christ, is to love God and not be at enmity with Him.

A deep heart check will reveal all I have said here as truth.  Take a moment won't you?  If you are an enemy with God, switch sides.  It's very easy.  Jesus said:

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. (Joh 6:37 KJV)

God has already given His son all the Earth and everything in it, all you need to do is make a choice.  It's the best one you'll ever make. Get on the winning team.  God does not reject losers, but he destroys the obstinate

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What Kind Of Leader Are You?

I was recently engaged in a discussion with an individual who made assertion to the effect that leaders are born, not made; That some are meant for leadership while others are destined merely to be followers. This might have passed me by unnoticed, but for the fact that I had heard a similar statement to the same effect by someone different. Being the sort that I am, when something rings hollow, I begin to measure it against the Word of God.

My conclusion: Pure rubbish. At least in the life of a believer, it is.

To that idea, this verse came to mind rather quickly. When that happens, it is usually the prompting of the Holy Spirit. When this occurs, take note, He is trying to say something.

Jesus appears in all His glory, and addresses His Church. This is the writer, John’s, preamble:

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and made us kings and priests to God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Rev 1:5b-6 MKJV) also: 1Pe_2:9 Exo_19:6

Jesus has made us all a kingdom of priests. Many have split theological hairs over whether the rendering is properly “kings and priests”, or “kingdom of priests”. It matters little, as both denote a position of supremacy, or leadership. Allow me to share with you some commentaries on this verse from some great churchmen who have preceded us:

Albert Barnes:
In 1Pe_2:9 the same idea is expressed by saying of Christians that they are “a royal priesthood.” The quotation in both places is from Exo_19:6; “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests.” This idea is expressed here by saying that Christ had made us in fact kings and priests; that is, Christians are exalted to the dignity and are invested with the office, implied in these words. The word “kings,” as applied to them, refers to the exalted rank and dignity which they will have; to the fact that they, in common with their Saviour, will reign triumphant over all enemies; and that, having gained a victory over sin and death and hell, they may be represented as reigning together. The word “priests” refers to the fact that they are engaged in the holy service of God, or that they offer to him acceptable worship.
Adam Clarke:
The regal (kingly) and sacerdotal (priestly) dignities are the two highest that can possibly exist among men; and these two are here mentioned to show the glorious prerogatives and state of the children of God.
Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel paraphrases it thus, "and ye shall be before me", מלכין, "kings" crowned with a crown, וכהנין, "and priests" ministering.
Matthew Henry:
He has made them kings and priests to God and his Father. Having justified and sanctified them, he makes them kings to his Father; that is, in his Father's account, with his approbation, and for his glory. As kings, they govern their own spirits, conquer Satan, have power and prevalency with God in prayer, and shall judge the world. He hath made them priests, given them access to God, enabled them to enter into the holiest and to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices, and has given them an unction suitable to this character; and for these high honours and favours they are bound to ascribe to him dominion and glory for ever.
Do any of these attributes put you in the mind of someone who is destined for mediocrity? I think not. There is no-one in the Kingdom of God who is not a leader in their own right. From the youngest at the tender single digit age sharing scripture with his neighbor friends, to the eldest pastor, all are leaders in God’s estimation.

We MUST be cautious in accepting man's wisdom as absolute truth. Many things sound reasonable and truthful on the surface, but are mere foolishness designed to lead people astray.

How can we know the difference? The principal thing is to know God. The best way is to know the scripture. Spend time with Him, strive to develop a relationship with Him. Only THEN can we know who we really are in Him.

Do you have followers?

Whenever you take a stand to do right, to be right, live righteously; Someone is watching. As you grow, as your testimony increases, others WILL follow. That makes you a leader.

We all look to those older than ourselves as examples, this places responsibility on our elders:

Likewise, younger ones, be subject to older ones, and all being subject to one another. Put on humility. For God resists proud ones, but He gives grace to the humble. (1Pe 5:5 MKJV)
But are young people leaders? The Apostle Paul said this:
Let no one despise your youth, but be an example of the believers, in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (1Ti 4:12 MKJV)
When God called the prophet Jeremiah, he was a mere stripling, yet the conversation went thus:
Then I said, Alas, Lord Jehovah! Behold, I do not know to speak; for I am a boy. But Jehovah said to me, Do not say, I am a boy; for you shall go to all that I shall send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. (Jer 1:6-7 MKJV)
We can see that all in the body of Christ have a measure of leadership. Take caution howver: Good leadership does not always have an accompanying title or position, at least at the beginning. Good leadership will bring about promotion by God:
For lifting up comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge; He puts down one and sets up another. (Psa 75:6-7 MKJV)
So, wait for it. Don't be impatient. Don't try to “make something happen”. Put Godly leadership into practice first, it is after all, an act of faith.
But we should not lose heart in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not faint. (Gal 6:9 MKJV)
Good leaders, have been and are, firstly, good followers
Remember those leading you, who have spoken to you the Word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conduct: (Heb 13:7 MKJV)
Ask yourself:
  • Are you a good follower?
  • Are you submissive to your God-appointed leaders?
  • Can you receive correction and Godly wisdom?
  • Or are you a scoffer? (One who condemns without investigation)
  • Do you have staying power?
  • Or do you quit when the going gets tough?
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If all the body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If all hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body as it has pleased Him. (1Co 12:14-18 MKJV)
Are you a good leader or a bad one?

I have seen cars with the fish logo on the back, while the driver displays the middle finger. As Christians, we are called to be ambassadors:
Then we are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as God exhorting through us, we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2Co 5:20 MKJV)
We represent the Kingdom of God, on the earth. Although it is possible to shirk our duties, shouldn't we strive to be salt and light, as the Master has directed? Is a fish easier caught by using enticement, rather than yelling “I'm a fisherman!” at it?

We are all called to be leaders, to follow our leaders as we all follow Christ.
Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ. (1Co 11:1 MKJV)
We need to strive to be the best representation of Him we possibly can. We need to lift Him up:
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to Myself. (Joh 12:32 MKJV)
The rule of thumb still stands: What would Jesus do? He is our ultimate example, so let’s be the leaders He intended for us to be.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Whose Fault, Any Ways?

Reposted from one of my earlier blogs at Easter season.

When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. (Mat 27:24-25 KJV)
This was the verse that was omitted in the movie ‘The Passion Of The Christ’, or was it? Actor/producer Mel Gibson, when confronted with the very real possibility of anti-Semitic fervor arising from the film elected to drop the subtitling for that particular line. But being a purist, desiring to produce an accurate as possible a portrayal of the last hours of Jesus’ life before His crucifixion, allowed the line to remain spoken. If the average viewer could understand Aramaic, now a dead language, one would be able to hear the infamous words ‘to aima autou kai epi ta tekna hmwn’.

This has sparked a firestorm of controversy amongst the liberal media critics. Their hypocrisy has never been more transparent. They cry, ‘what about the Jews? Won’t this fuel the fires of anti-Semitism?’ The irony cannot be ignored, for it is the same media who continually place an anti-Semitic spin on news reporting from the middle east. Whatever their agenda may be, they may have actually done those of us who believe in Jesus, a great favor! This is a great opportunity to share the Gospel.

Are the Jews responsible for the death of Christ? It’s a fair question. They were there, as was Jesus (Himself a Jew), as was Pilate and the Romans, and the Herodians. The answer, simply put, is yes. The Jews are indeed responsible for the death of Jesus. There. Now it’s said, and I’m not sorry having said it. But before you relegate me to the ranks of racists and bigots, please read on. If after you have finished you still think me prejudiced, then think what you will.

You see, the question lies not in who killed Jesus, but rather, who is to blame. The answer to the first question is nobody. He had taught this to his disciples earlier in His ministry speaking of His life:

No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:18 KJV)
Jesus in a candid moment with Pontius Pilate reveals this fact in a most personal manner:

Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. (John 19:10-11 KJV)
In these two passages, He reveals the truth to both Jew and Gentile. Nobody killed Jesus. He willingly laid down His life. Why would he do this? My wife relates to me that before she was saved, well meaning Christians would tell her, ‘Jesus died for you’. As an unsaved person, this puzzled her. She felt somewhat touched by the sentiment, but until she was saved, she never understood why He would do that. Perhaps you, the reader, share in that confusion.

The answer goes all the way back to the beginning. When God told Adam and Eve that they could eat of any tree in the garden save just one, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he forewarned them of the consequence of any disobedience on their part. As we know, they disobeyed and brought death and destruction to the family of man. Death, as we know it seems limited to the cessation of bodily functions, but from God’s perspective, it is eternal separation between Him and mankind. Man’s loss was great. The only solution could be a substitutionary, sinless sacrifice. But God, not to be caught unawares had a plan in mind all along, for he gives a promise concerning the woman, her Seed and Satan:

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen 3:15 KJV)
This is a scene we see dramatized in the opening scene of the film. Jesus is depicted stomping the head of a serpent. He was on a mission from the Father.

Now back to the question, are the Jews to blame for Jesus’ death? Yes, as are the Romans and the Herodians. All peoples of the world were represented there that day. The Jews were guilty. The Gentiles were guilty. You and I are guilty. It is said that Mel Gibson answered this charge in perhaps his only appearance in the film. In the scene where the nail was placed in the palm of the Savior and hammered to the wood, that was Mel’s hands bearing the iron. It was his way of saying ‘It was MY sins that placed Him on the cross’.

Yet, there is another irony at work here. That controversial verse that was dropped from the subtitling bears closer examination.

His blood be on us, and on our children.
This was shouted arrogantly by the Jewish religious leaders, presumably on behalf of the Jewish nation. This was foolish as well as presumptuous. There were many, many Jewish followers of the newborn Christian faith. In it’s early days, the Church was comprised entirely of Jews. Caiaphas and the other leaders, unwilling to accept Jesus as the Christ, called His Blood down upon their heads as a curse.

But as believers, that Blood is something we want upon our heads and those of our children. For as the redeemed, it is safety, rest, and redemption that we find under that Blood covering, not a curse. We sing songs like ‘O the Blood of Jesus, it washes white as snow’, and many others, because we believe there is ‘Power, wonder working power, in the Blood’. What was spoken so long ago as a curse by evil men, we seek as a blessing. The message of the Blood should never be diminished. It should be pled daily over our lives and the lives of our children.

A simple personal illustration to the absolute power of the Blood covering is this: My family and I had decided to take a day in the country and have a picnic. We drove not far away to the mountains where there was a nice little park with a picnic area and a playground. We arrived, got our things spread out and was enjoying ourselves. Another party of picnickers arrived at the space next to us. Within minutes, the peace was shattered. They were loud, obnoxious, and obviously inebriated. The language and filth that issued forth from them was discomforting and embarrassing. To make matters worse, they had the car stereo cranked up playing some new-age chant music. This went on for perhaps ten to fifteen minutes, while they very methodically got out all the accouterments of picnicking. Needless to say, I was seething in one of my more fleshly moments. Wives are often the wiser creatures in such situations. She simply, quietly began pleading the Blood of Jesus over us. That would have been sufficient, I believe. But not to be outdone, I actually pled the Blood over them. It was as if the woods were suddenly ablaze. Without any spoken agreement, they literally threw their belongings into their vehicles and bawled their tires getting out of there. Something supernatural took place that day.

If God cared that day enough for us to preserve our peace and tranquility, to answer a plea for the Blood, how much more does He care for the weightier issues in life. He cares immeasurably about the things that overly concern us, health, well being, yes even wealth. He cares the most about our spiritual well being and our eternal future. It was the focal point of His Son’s mission to earth. The problem is, we often forget the Blood, and fall prey to the petty arguments of petty people seeking to divert blame to the Jews. We are all to blame, but paradoxically, we who believe have access to blessing because of the blame.

As we head into the Easter season, let us reexamine the roots of our faith. Let us daily renew the plea for the covering of His Blood. Let us lavish in it. It is there for us, and it never runs dry.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Legacy

This is a post I made on another blog about 6 years ago. It has been reposted in a number of other places. I felt it to be just as appropriate today as I did when I originally wrote it. Please enjoy, "A Legacy".
It’s Father’s Day. As I contemplate, memories come unbidden. In the fall, I turn 42, and have had the honor of fathering two sons and raising a third. I can remember hospital waiting rooms, diapers, bottles, walkers, bikes, skateboards, video games, more things than I have the room to mention. Like my Uncle Fred said, when he unknowingly gave my mother the name for her book, “There are hard times, but no bad times.” As I sit and ponder on what it means to be a dad, I am prompted to examine the legacy that my own father left me.

No reflection is complete without a trip through the past. I was born during the days of the Cuban missile crisis. Dad was in the Air Force Reserve. He had completed active duty, and was subject to call up. Mom was very pregnant with me. I later remember him saying that his biggest fear was that he would be called away to war and possibly never see his baby. Thankfully, he was not recalled, and the crisis was resolved without war.

I remember very little about my youngest days. I suppose a lot of people are like that. However my earliest memories are of us as a family spending lots of time together. We frequently took trips together, picnicking, whatever. As a young boy, I don’t remember the first time we went fishing. It seems like something I’ve always done. Growing up, I suppose we were poor by the standards of the day. There were many of the finer things we did without, due to the tightness of money. Dad worked full time at the newspaper, mom did sewing at home for people. In our spare time Dad and I did odd jobs and light hauling with an old pickup. We cut and hauled firewood to heat the house during the winter.

I don't mean to portray the old dirt-poor, walk 5 miles to school in the snow, barefooted, uphill both ways, scenario. We were far from that, but what is striking to me is how they seemed to make happen just what needed to be done. It seemed that everything was done with careful planning and deliberation. It just had to be that way. Now, at my age, with kids of my own, I have a full appreciation of what sacrifices my folks made. In addition to keeping my sister and me alive, feeding, clothing, and housing, they wove into our everyday lives a rich heritage, that I carry with me to this day.

Was it all rosy? No. There were times of discipline. Dad was strict, and no mistake about it. His word was law in our home. There were many times I thought him unfair and I even resented him and chafed under his authority. There were many times when I had transgressed the law that I was even afraid of him. I did not understand at the time that that fear could be channeled into forging character for myself. Unbeknownst to me, he was shaping me, forming me into the man that I would become. Was it perfection? Surely not, but now I also understand the dilemma he must have faced. Raising kids of my own, I often agonize over the decisions that I must make, whether they are understood or not. He must have done that too.

Of all the examples that dad set for me one stands out above the rest. In this day and age, marriages are entered and abandoned without much thought being given to the implications thereof. Mom and Dad have been married now for 42 years. There was never a time when my sister and I were kids that we had to look at the prospect of living without one of our parents. This is not to say that Mom and Dad were never challenged in their relationship. Many trials confronted them. But after all was said and done, they were determined to keep our family together.

Big deal, you might say. Or you might even be persuaded to laud them for that. But Dad gave us more than he ever had as a kid. He never got to know his dad, until he had started a family of his own. His folks divorced when he was a small boy. Dad was raised by an abusive step dad. He was physically, mentally, and emotionally abused. As soon as he was old enough, he joined the Air Force and left home. Seems a pretty dismal genesis for a soon to be husband and father. But things took an unexpected turn. A fellow airman invited Dad to church one day, and Dad agreed to go. In short, Jesus came into my father’s life at a young age. Involved in church as a new convert, he soon met my uncle who was stationed nearby with the Navy. They soon became best friends, brothers in Christ. Mark soon introduced Dad to his baby sister. They corresponded through the mail. He was stationed on Okinawa. When Dad shipped back over stateside, he made his way directly to my mother, and soon after, they were married. Almost a year and a half later, I was born.

The greatest single thing I can say that Dad did for us, was he gave us Jesus. For as long as I can remember, he always strove to put God first. Our household was a sanctuary, a Godly place to live and grow, and he defended it staunchly, sometimes even from us. There were many things we were not allowed to do, and we never missed church. Mom and Dad were involved, and taught us to be involved too. There were many times I chafed at this. I didn’t always want to go or to participate. But they were faithful. They raised us by the principle:

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Pro 22:6 KJV)
This has proven true in my life. As a younger man, I am shamed to say that I strayed from the faith and the things I was taught. But the things of God had been so deeply ingrained in me that I could not help but return to Him. In fact as I sampled the things of the world, I always knew I would return. When I did, Mom and Dad were there, not judging, but welcoming me back. You see, they too knew I would return, they had God’s promise.

As a child I never understood what a struggle Dad had raising us. He never had much of a father figure to relate to. It is a problem that is common to us all I suppose. We tend to relate to God as a Father, in much the same way we relate to our natural fathers. It must have been immensely difficult. But there are always hidden blessings. God always makes a way. My Mom’s Dad was a Godly man, and had ministered the gospel for many years. When Mom and Dad married, Granddad took my Dad under his wing and mentored him as he would have, and did, for any of his four other boys.

Granddad led by example. He was an early riser. He was often up before dawn, studying his Bible and praying. He prayed for each of his children and their spouses, grandchildren and great grandchildren, naming all by name. What a blessing he was for us all. He went to be with Jesus in 1991. Dad was so influenced by that example that he has taken up the mantle. He rises early, prays and studies. I know he prays for his progeny, because we have discussed many matters between us.

I share so much of my family’s history because I know that there are many men, fathers, who feel like giving up. Some have already given up and turned away from the responsibilities God has given them. Perhaps much damage has been done. But God transforms lives. He took a boy that had been beaten and belittled and made him the patriarch of a family of Godly people. Both of his kids and all of his grandchildren are Christians and are heaven bound.

A final illustration of the power of God is this. Dad was able to forgive his step dad and become burdened for his soul. He prayed for his step dad and all of his unbelieving relatives back home. This impacted the family so much that they have almost all come to Christ. The hateful step dad that treated my Dad so cruelly, passed away several years ago, but not before being redeemed. He is now waiting for us in heaven. What a legacy!

If you are discouraged, thinking about leaving your wife and kids, men, it’s not too late. God, the perfect Father, has the power to change lives. He can take your situation and turn it into a rich legacy for your future generations. Turn to Him. Seek Him. Ask Him to make you the Dad you were meant to be. I can promise you the payoff is priceless.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Love: The Best Way

He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends. (Pro 17:9 MKJV)
Quoth the wisest king, Solomon.  As one who has walked this sod for nearly a half-century, this is a lesson and a missive that I strive to keep in the forefront of my thinking all the time.  We are immersed in  a society that is out for number one, even if it means selling out others, even our friends.  But the wisdom of God, speaks out through the voice of the king, reminding us of another way.

This phenomenon also seems to find it's way into and amongst believers.  We Christians are too often known for pointing the finger at others, even if only with the intent of 'fixing' things.  Often these criticisms are not well received and strife is born.  It has been said that the church is the only army in the history of the world that shoots it's own wounded.  I think this is a sad, but mostly true indictment.  I have been guilty myself, and I repent before the Lord for it.

Should we be complicit in cover-ups for the bad behavior of others?  I don't think that is what the writer implies. Rather, it seems to embody that old saw that our mothers taught us at her knee;  "If you can't say something good about someone, then say nothing at all".  Yet we seem to find this concept supremely difficult to put into practice.  Questions from others, awkward moments, silence, and innuendo literally scream out to be answered, and we say something that should not be said.  This often strays across the lines of common decency and becomes gossip.  And that, my friends, is the enemy of peace, harmony, and love.

Relationships are then sacrificed upon an altar of flesh.  We see this happen all the time.  Many have left the church, pulled back, or have perhaps left ministries, hurt and wounded because of these types of things.  Then as if it weren't enough, they become attacked by the very people who should be reaching out and restoring them.  Lord please forgive us!

In my prayer and meditation about this recently, the Holy Spirit brought to my remembrance the words of our Lord; "The poor you will have with you always."  This was striking, given the context of my thought train and line of prayer at that time.  But to God, poverty is not measured by what's in a person's bank account.  That is to say a person isn't poor because they lack personal wealth.  Rather they suffer lack because they are poor.  Poverty is a spiritual condition.  Pain, offense, and regret inhibit a person's growth and create spiritual lack.  To put a practical spin on this, we don't just kick a homeless man in the slats for being poor.  Neither should we be un-charitable to someone who is struggling spiritually.

The apostle Peter puts it like this:
And above all things have fervent love to yourselves, for love will cover a multitude of sins. (1Pe 4:8 MKJV)
As I have come to realize at this stage in life,  not every situation needs to be commented upon, discussed, or repeated to others.  Even in the name of 'prayer'.  Given the choice between an awkward silence, or giving cause to strife in the Body, I choose silence.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

An Ordered Existence

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and He delighteth in his way. (Psa 37:23 KJV)
I was recently fascinated and amazed to discover that despite decades of scientific, mathematical, and statistical research that researchers have failed to find true randomness. What's the big deal you say? For cryptology experts, it is the holy grail. With a way to generate true random numbers, they could create the first un-crackable cypher. Many scientific research projects rely on psuedo-random numbers in order to proceed in testing. Similarly computerized gambling machines could never be figured out with a true random number generator.

The problem is this: Any algorithm used to generate random results is still based in an ordered algorithm, thus creating non-random results. To get around this, they use computers to create huge volumes of these pseudo-random numbers, in order to get a small usable slice. It all leads to an uncomfortable conclusion for nihilistic scientists; The universe has order.

This presents many, many problems for modern cosmology and the origin of the species, so to speak. The lack of randomness wreaks havoc with all of these theories that underlie modern thought. Yet man-millenia of research continues grinding along to no avail.

We are immersed in a world where these junk values are passed along in the culture as factual, or at very best is taken for granted as such. Take the concept of luck or fortune for example; We toss the dice and hope for the best. We make life decisions in much the same way. Yet the scripture has this to say:
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD. (Pro 16:33 KJV)
And that has been in there all this time! There really is no such thing as random! Do you mean that God controls the very roll of the ole knuckle bones? According to the scripture He does.

I always used to wonder at Godly men back in the old testament resorting to casting lots to determine the will of God in situations. It seemed odd to me to use seemingly random methods to determine the will of a very precise God. Apparently these ancient sages had no concept of luck. Everything that happened was causative, and that cause was God. We do well to meditate on this and follow their example. Not that I am advocating the use of devices in order to seek direction in life, we have the Holy Spirit for that in this age.

When I look around at the world and see the low station it has been brought to, It is comforting to look to the scriptures and be reminded:
The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. (Psa 16:5 KJV)
No matter how crazy things may look on the outside, I can truly say along with Horatio Spafford, It is well with my soul. No matter what happens, the future of His own is assured. Let me leave you with one final verse of solace:
A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. (Pro 16:9 KJV)
Afraid to take a step? Fear not, rejoice, for the steps of a righteous man are ordered of God. He will lead. He will direct. He will keep. His word is on it, and that's priceless.