Archive for the ‘Gospel of Mark’ Category

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“ONE SHADE OF WHITE” – Feb 12

February 12, 2015

“And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, out of the heart of man, comes evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  Mark 7:20

50ShadesofGreyCoverArtI appeal to you brothers and sisters in Christ, do not watch the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. If you do not know anything about the book and movie, Fifty Shades of Grey, you may count yourself blessed.  The book, has sold more than 100 million copies and the movie adaptation will be released on Valentine’s Day.  I have not read the book and I have no plans to watch the movie.  My appeal to stay away from this latest Hollywood offering is based on the same rationale as staying away from pornography. There are many good social and relational reasons not to read or watch Fifty Shades of Grey:

It glamorizes and legitimizes both sexual and domestic violence.
It normalizes humiliation, degradation, and torture in sex.
It cultivates a rape and sexual culture.
#FIFTYSHADESISABUSE

One might imagine that those are reasons enough not to support the erotic message of Fifty Shades of Grey but that is not the basis of my appeal. Similarly, there are a lot of good social and relational reasons not to read or watch pornography:

It may shrink my brain. (Is Porn Literally Shrinking Mens Brains)
It may reprogram my brain structure and function.  (Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated with Pornography Consumption)
It drives sex trafficking.  (The Connections between Pornography and Sex Trafficking)
It degrades women.  (How Porn Dehumanizes)
It may cause it not to work like it is supposed to. (Erection Problems? This May Be Why)
It may ruin my marriage. (9 Reasons Why Porn Will Ruin Your Marriage)

Those are reasons enough not to watch pornography, but that is not my reason for staying away. For me, all the physiological, social and relational rationale could be solved for both pornography and the more acceptable erotica of Fifty Shades of Grey and I still would not be able to partake for these forms of media. My problem with erotica in both its soft and hardcore forms is what comes out of me as a result of it going into my mind. I cannot watch or read that stuff without evil thoughts coming out of my heart.  It causes me to lust.  The definition of erotica is literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire.  Erotica’s purpose is to make me lust and when it does its job, evil thoughts defile me.

I don’t want to be defiled. 

Bathsheba Goes to King David I am saddened that appeals to Christians often have to be made to all those other rationales.

Have we lost our concern about being defiled?

 Have we lost our fear of sin?

Have we lost our desire to please God more than our libido?

Consider David’s lusting over Bathsheda:

A marriage was destroyed;
A husband was killed;
A baby died.

All of those are ample reasons for David not to have lusted after Bathsheda. But what if he had not gotten caught? What if all those bad results had not happened? It still would have defiled David; that result should break the heart of every child of God.

But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.  (2 Samuel 11:27b)

Softcore and hardcore erotica produces in me evil thoughts.  Those evil thoughts that come out of my heart defile me.  Like David, that defilement displeases the Lord. That should be reason enough for anyone claiming to love Jesus to stay away from that which they know will cause the displeasure of the Lord.  I have heard many justifications for the romance end of the erotica spectrum. I am particularly skeptical of the justification that reading or viewing such romantic erotica such as Fifty Shades of Grey only arouses sexual desires for a spouse.  You are playing with fire.  We all know that the fire of passion can escape the ordained realm of marriage in an unguarded instant.  All it takes is a thought.  Why would you want to risk it?

As Christians, we have been called to One Shade of White.  We have been called to righteousness. 

Fifty Shades of Grey and all that genre’s variations are a thousand shades of defilement.  Consistent defilement is not the characterization of a follower of Christ.  We are to strive toward acceptable spiritual worship that pleases our Lord.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  (Romans 12:1)

Obedience to the Word of God is our easiest means of pleasing God.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  (John 14:15)

I appeal to you therefore, for the love of God (literally), stay away from the Fifty Shades of Grey! “If the church cannot extend grace to sexual sinners, we’ve lost the heart of the gospel. And if we cannot tell people to stay away from 50 Shades of Grey, we’ve lost our minds.”  ~ Kevin DeYoung, No Grey Area

PRAYER: Father, you know how often I have defiled myself in the cesspools of erotica. Thank you for your repeated forgiveness. Thank you for all the times that you have saved me from temptation. Forgive me for all the displeasure that I have heaped in front of you. Thank you for your continued love when my actions have not matched my intentions. Help me to walk in obedience. Give me wisdom and strength to stay away from those things that I know will cause evil thoughts to flow from my heart. Help me to abide in you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“MIRACLE OF SALVATION” – Feb 20

February 20, 2014

“And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.”  Mark 10:26-27

English: Ambulance 5

Imagine  you are in your home and start to feel light-headed and nauseous.  The concern in your spouse’s eye is evident as she picks up the telephone to call for an ambulance.  As you ride in the ambulance to the hospital, you hear the muted words of a paramedic saying to the driver, “You had better step on it,” as your eyelids descend over your consciousness amidst the sensation of increasing speed and the noise of a distant siren.

When you open your eyes, you find yourself lying in a hospital bed within a body that has been transformed into something weak and foreign.  Tubes and wires tug at tender skin with the slightest movement.  Nurses scurry in and out of the room interrupted only by periods when they poke and prod away your dignity as quickly as it emerges from a groggy past.

You strain to focus on the faces of those assembled around your bed.  The recognition of those whom you love slowly seeps through an unexplainable confusion.  They are smiling joyfully with faces that bear the fleeting remnants of tears and fatigue.  You have no idea as to why they are so joyful.

Five days have passed since your last memories.  You are told that you nearly died.  You are told  you have been through something impossible.  You are told that you have experienced a miracle.  Yet, you don’t remember anything.  All you know is that you are uncomfortable and want to go home.  You have no idea how far you have come but you are aware of how far you have to go to get back to the person you last remembered yourself being.

Discouragement descends like a wave despite all those celebrating around you.

This has been my Dad’s experience over the last couple days.  I posted in “PRAYER REQUEST – My Dad” and “MY DAD – An Update / Answered Prayers” regarding my Dad’s brush with death.  My Dad has been recovering remarkable well.  He is out of the hospital and currently at a rehabilitation center to continue his recovery.  I know that he is discouraged because he is not where he wants to be.  When I first heard that he was discouraged and grumpy about being in the hospital it irritated me.  His response seemed so ungrateful given what I know he had been through.

I asked him what was the last thing  he remembered.  His last memories are of the ambulance ride to the hospital.  His negative response was not that surprising when I realized that he did not know what he had been through.  He does not remember any of it.  Therefore, we have been explaining to him everything that has happened over the last week but I know  it all feels so surreal to him.  On Sunday, I read to my Mom and Dad the blog posts and many of the prayer-filled comments that were posted.  I think that helped.  They are deeply appreciative of all the prayers that were offered on behalf of my Dad.

Discouragement is going to be a struggle for my Dad in the coming months as he continues to recover and your continued prayers for him are appreciated.  We will continue to remind him of how far he has come rather than the distance he has to go.

I am reminded of our salvation.

Why do we lack joy when Christ has saved us?
Why do we grumble when we are a new creation in Christ?

abcdz2000 / Foter / CC BY-SA

I think  we often fail to live a life of gratitude because we don’t realize how far we have come.  Like my Dad, we don’t have a memory of how bad our condition truly was without Christ.  Even those who have walked an overtly sinful life before coming to Christ probably don’t have a perfect or complete understanding of the vileness of sin.

I have never seen the glory of God.
I have never physically felt the burning holiness of the great “I AM”.
I have never physically stood in the throne room of God Almighty and seen the pure righteousness of Christ.

I can become discouraged by the persistence of my own sin and the long road of sanctification I know I have ahead of me.  I can become impatient and irritated when my life does not work out the way I want it.  I can be pessimistic about the circumstances of today.

Fotografik33 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I fall into these un-joyful traps when I fail to appreciate the gift of my salvation.  I was dead in my sin.  I was justly condemned to eternal punishment.  I don’t have a distinct memory of being spiritually dead, but I believe what the Bible tells me about my fallen sinful condition.  My attitude turns to gratitude when I am reminded of how far the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ has brought me.

I have been brought from death to life in Christ Jesus.
I am a new creation in Christ. 
The old has passed away and the new has come.

The new is even more miraculous when you are reminded of the old.  I cannot help but be joyful when I focus on what God has done for me.  I cannot help but be grateful when I consider what my Lord has saved me from.

May we as children of God live in the glorious revelation of the miracle of salvation.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for saving me.  Thank you for giving me eternal life.  Thank you for opening my eyes.  Forgive me for not appreciating the miracle of my salvation.  Forgive me of my ungrateful attitude.  Lord, give me the joy of my salvation that washes over my entire life.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“MISSING THE GLORIOUS” – Feb 8

February 8, 2014

“And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.”  Mark 3:2

English: Yosemite Valley Tunnel View 2010

I was traveling for three of the five workdays this last week.  If you have to be away from home, traveling to Yosemite National Park is not a bad place for a business meeting.    A main conversational topic of our first day of meetings was the drought that California is currently enduring.  While that is bad for California, my co-worker and I planned to take advantage of the clear skies to behold the grandeur of Yosemite on the morning before we had to travel home.  Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with our sight-seeing endeavors.

English: Yosemite Valley in winter

I awoke to the drizzle of rain cascading from rooftops.  The prayers for moisture had been answered by a storm front that moved in while I slept in my hotel room.  When I peered from my window, I could not see more than 100 feet beyond the pane of glass.  A thick fog has settled upon the valley.  It was not going to be a good day for sight-seeing.

My co-worker and I had nothing better to do, so we went into Yosemite Valley despite the poor visibility.  The rain turned into snow as we made our way into Valley.  It was beautiful to see trees coated with snow in the spirit of Christmas.  However, that was not what we had come to see.  A canopy of clouds obscured the colossal glory of El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and all the other sites that loom above tiny observers in the valley below.

English: El Capitan in Yosemite National Park ...

We stood in one of the most beautiful places on earth but were blinded to the very manifestations that make Yosemite special.  We were blinded because we could not see above us.  I would never know what I was missing, if I had not been to Yosemite before.

I think  many people  stumble through life never knowing what they are missing.  We stand in the valley of our reality, believing only what our eyes can sense, oblivious to the grandeur that surrounds us.  We are continually surrounded by colossal glory but blinded to the miracles that make our lives truly special.

I know of no better example than the Pharisees who were trying to accuse Jesus.  Consider what Jesus was doing:

He was healing people.
He was instantaneously cleansing men of leprosy.
He was casting out demons.
He was causing paralytics to rise, pick up their beds, and walk home.
He was controlling storms.
He was making wine out of water.
He was creating food out of nothing.
He was restoring a withered hand.

Yosemite National Park overlooking the mountai...

Yet, the Pharisees were more concerned about when he was doing the miraculous rather than acknowledging what He was doing.  They refused to look up.  If they acknowledged what He was doing, then they would have to acknowledge who He was.  They were blinded by the hardness of their hearts.  They were experiencing the most spectacular events of all time but they were oblivious.  They were in the presence of the King of Kings, but could not recognize Him.

They were blinded by their religion. 

We all can become blinded by very good things.  The Pharisees valued the keeping of the law more than the fulfillment of the prophecies that were literally happening before their eyes. The law was a wonderful gift but it was never greater than the Giver.  We have been blessed by so many gifts from our heavenly Father.  All good things have the potential to lower our eyes into the valley when we should be looking up into the glorious.

May we never miss the colossal grandeur that continually surrounds us by being content with good things.  Let us always set our eyes on the Great.

PRAYER: Lord, Your Word is light to us. It is power and life.  It clears away all that blinds us.  Lord, let that light, that life, that power, that truth break upon the darkness of my heart.  Keep my eyes set upon you.  Whatever hardness of heart may be in me, let your light shine, may the light of the gospel, the glorious gospel, shine in and through my heart; softening me to see all that you are and the glorious that surrounds me   I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“REALPOLITIK OF THE CROSS” – Mar. 30

March 30, 2013

“Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man.  Seize him and lead him away under guard.”  Mark 14:44

Passion of Christ at Ginosa (TA) (Italy)Last night my family and I went to the re-enactment of Christ’s trial and crucifixion that several Churches in our community performed.  It was well done and I appreciated the reality of it.  However, I cannot say that I liked it.  I guess the reason that I did not enjoy the play was because it is so negative.  I don’t like to ponder on the negative. I don’t like to ponder on the despicable, on betrayal, on conniving and the plotting of the destruction of another person and then the crass implementation of that strategy.

I look at Christ’s betrayal and arrest and I realize that this is just another example of how broken our world is.  What happened to Jesus is really not unique to human history.  The fact that this was the betrayal of the Messiah makes it wholly unique.  However, the betrayal of a perceived revolutionary is nothing new.  The plotting of the downfall of a charismatic leader for the protection of the establishment is a common theme in the history of civilizations.

That is how the world works.  This world is broken.  It is broken because of what Judas did – what the Sanhedrin did – what the Romans did.  What they did is exactly how the world works.  It is ‘Realpolitik’ in action.

‘Realpolitik’ is essentially a very pragmatic view of the world as it really is and the use of power and strength to manipulate events for either stability or to strengthen those in power.

Have you ever considered the Sanhedrin’s actions in terms of realpolitik?

We must remember the Sanhedrin’s responsibility.  The Sanhedrin was the supreme judicial and administrative council of the Jews.  They had responsibility for the smooth operation of both religion and the State.  They had responsibility for both.

The Sanhedrin was responsible for a nation under occupation.  Rome had subjugated Israel but allowed the Sanhedrin to exist solely for the purpose of maintaining the peace for the Romans.  The Sanhedrin was responsible of keeping the status quo – maintaining the stability of the existing balance of power in a powder keg of a nation.  The Sanhedrin was the institution with the practical view on the situation.  They knew that Israel was in no position to defend itself against the sole superpower of the time; the Roman Empire.  They knew what would happen if they did not keep a lid on the unrest that was continually swirling as an undercurrent in Israel.

The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.Just consider what did happen when the Sanhedrin finally failed in quelling the unrest.  In 66 AD, the unrest finally did boil over into open revolt.  The Romans responded in force retake the country.  The final act of suppression happened in 70 AD, when they destroyed Jerusalem, the temple and eliminated the Sanhedrin.  The number of Jews that were killed during this rebellion has been estimated at 1,340,000. (Josephus, Flavius ; Whiston, William: The Works of Josephus : Complete and Unabridged. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1987, S. Wars 6.414-420)

What would you do if you were on the Sanhedrin Council in 65 AD, the year before the rebellion broke out in Caesarea?  You are one of the seventy-one members of the highest court in the land of Israel.  You are responsible for protecting your people from the oppression of the greatest power in the entire world.  You know what the Romans are capable of.

What if you hear about a guy by the name of John of Giscala and another guy by the name of Simon Bar Giora?  They were the leaders of the rebellion in the north that started everything in 66 AD.  They were also the ones who took the war within Jerusalem that led to the prolonged siege and ultimate destruction of Jerusalem.  It is conceivable that if you are able to remove these individuals from the events of 65 AD that the unrest in Caesarea may not boil over into open rebellion.  If that doesn’t happen, then the Emperor will not send 60,000 Roman legionaries to Galilee, Jerusalem will not be destroyed, and 1.3 million people will be saved.   If you could get a spy into the inner circle of John of Giscala and Simon Bar Giora; a spy who would tell you where they were and identify them to the arresting authorities, would you do it?  Would you get your spy in place, gain the information, and arrest and put on trial John of Giscala and Simon Bar Giora if it would mean even the possibility of saving 1.3 million people?  Would you do it?

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Image: US National Park Service ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s say it is the year 2000 and you are the President of the United States.  You have the opportunity to turn a member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle.  You can find out his location.  Do you send in  Seal Team 6?  If you send in Seal Team 6, you can take out Osama bin Laden and possibly the 9/11 attacks don’t happen or can be stopped.  2,819 people could be saved – billions of dollars of destruction averted, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq possibly prevented.  Would you do it?  Would you send in Seal Team 6?

We can play this “what if” game all day long.  What about Lee Harvey Oswald; Pearl Harbor; what about Adolf Hitler when he was in Austria before he came to power; the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that started WWI; what about John Wilkes Booth; on and on we can go.  The US has an entire agency established, the CIA, whose clandestine service’s purpose is to turn the Judas’ of the world.  The Judas’ of the world are usually the means by which the potential tragedies of the world are averted.  It all depends upon ones perspective.

That is the world that we live in – the world of realpolitik – a world that has not changed since the time of Christ.  The reason it has not changed is because this world is broken.  Am I right?  Is this not how our world works?  I realize that I am a cynic and that I certainly don’t look at our world from an idealistic point of view.  Our world is filled with conflict – our lives have this pull of competing interests at every turn – this is true in our families, communities, business, governments, and nations.  I look at history and I see the predominate characteristics of realpolitik at work.

That is the question that I have asked myself – why?  What is at the source of this struggle – this realpolitik – that I believe that we all engaged in – in one form or another?  I propose that the fundamental reason we are all practitioners of self-interest is a misplaced love.  We love ourselves and our families and the things of this world more than God.  Our will is more for those things than it is for the will of God.

The world of realpolitik is built upon the principle that people will actively pursue their own self-interest and they usually do.

Christ came to explode that principle.  On the night that He was betrayed, prior to the mob showing up, Jesus was praying for another way.  He prayed “not what I will, but what you will.”  He did not have to wait very long for the Father to answer His prayer.  The answer to Jesus’ prayer is very clear.  God’s will had not changed.  His Son would be rejected, hated, abandoned, betrayed, denied, condemned, spit upon, flogged, mocked, pierced, and killed. That all happened according to the Father’s sovereign will.

Jesus was obedient to his Father’s will, which is the exact opposite of realpolitik.

He could have run.  He could have fought.  In Matt. 26:52-54, He said to Peter that He could call twelve legions of angels to come and rescue Him if He wanted to be rescued. That is seventy-two thousand angels.  Can you imagine what kind of destruction seventy-two thousand angels could do, when in the Old Testament one angel killed 185 thousand Assyrians? Seventy-two thousand angels could do some serious damage and most assuredly could have freed Jesus.

Jesus did not do that.  Jesus shows us a unique motivation and heart condition.  He sought God’s will over His own will.  He pursued His Father’s interest above His own interests.  Some have called the cross “divine child abuse”.  That is an absurd accusation.  The Father did not impose His will on His son.  The Son chose the Father’s will.  The Son preferred the Father’s will over His own.

Christ’s actions are a beautiful display of love and obedience.

That is the contrast between Christ and the world.  The world that we live in does not operate on Christ’s principles.  It cannot understand the concept of preferring the will of God over selfish interest.

Maybe that is at the heart of the Christian life; understanding that our true self-interest can never be fulfilled by anyone or thing other than God himself.  I think this is where John Piper and Christian hedonism get it right.  God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.  Our problems all start when we insist on seeking our satisfaction outside of God; when we revert to the self-interest games of this the world.

The brokenness of this world will only be fixed when you come to the cross and fall on your face and you realize that the cross is not another example of realpolitik. The cross is a work of God and the love of God on full display. It is when you receive Christ’s sacrifice as His highest gift and value that above all else, then you will be saved and Christ will be glorified.

That is what will heal this broken world that we live in.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for coming and saving us from a broken world.  Our world is beyond repair.  We cannot fix it.  Thank you for making a way for us to escape to you.  Keep me from reverting back to my old ways of personal realpolitik.  Help me to walk in your footsteps and follow You with all of my heart, soul and mind.  Amen

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“THE RIGHT CHARGE” – Mar. 29

March 29, 2013

“But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  Mark 14:61-62

Jesus before high priestThe trial of Jesus was a sham.  The whole trial of Jesus was unjust according to their own law.  How they did it; where they did it; when they did it; the witness alone; all were against their own law.  Those who prosecuted and convicted Jesus broke their own law in their passionate pursuit to kill Jesus.

However, they got something right.

Remember, Jesus is in complete control of these events.  They did not turn Judas; Jesus sent him.  They did not forcibly arrest Jesus; He allowed them to arrest him.  In His trial, He did not answer any question that He did not want to answer.

He answered only one question in His trial.  Have you considered why?  I believe the reason that He answered this question from the high priest was because He wanted to.  So, why would He want to answer this specific question?  Jesus could have been convicted by any of those other questions in his trial.  I don’t think Jesus answered those questions because He did not want to be convicted on any abstraction of the law.  Remember, Jesus intends to be convicted.  Jesus was not answering questions so that somehow He will not be convicted.  He came to Jerusalem with the intention of being convicted.

What is very important if you plan on being convicted?  The charge!  Jesus wants to be convicted under the correct charge.  That means the question has to be the right question.  Jesus had done a lot of things in his ministry that they could have convicted Him on.  I think He was waiting for the right charge, which means He was waiting for the right question.

He was waiting for this question.  Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?

Matthias Stom's depiction of Jesus before Caia...Jesus had been waiting for the direct question, this is the first legitimate aspect in the trial, it is a legitimate question. It does not call for self-incrimination, but merely a truthful response. Jesus knows the intent of the question but He answers because He has a higher purpose and that time has come.

“Are You the Messiah, the anointed One, the promised One, and the Son of the blessed One?” Jesus answers with, Yahweh, the name of God; I AM.  He says clearly “I AM”;  It is an answer to the direct question and at the same time it is a proclamation of who He is.  However, He does not just leave it there.   He does not try to reduce the impact of what He just said, rather He escalates the reality of it. “Yes I AM the Messiah. Yes I AM the Son of God. And you will see Me sitting at the right hand of power, that is at the right hand of God, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

There are some people out there who assert that Jesus never claimed to the Messiah, the Son of God.  That is a lie; there are some who say that Jesus never said He was God; that Jesus was a good teacher and a peaceful, loving, and moral man, but He never said he was God.

He did. He repeatedly, emphatically, clearly said He’s the only God.  You cannot get clearer than His intentional statement in His own trial.  I think that Jesus was waiting for this particular question so that there would no question about who He claimed to be.  The Sanhedrin understood what He was saying.  He was not speaking in parables; He was making it very clear as to who He was.

The Sanhedrin’s goal for this trial was to get a conviction.  This entire trial was a sham.  It was a complete miscarriage of justice.  However, there is one sliver of legitimacy to this trial.  “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  The Sanhedrin had to make a judgment on Jesus’ answer to that one question and so do we.  We all have to make a judgment upon Jesus’ answer to the trial question.

This is the most important judgment that anyone can make, “is Jesus the Christ?”  The way you answer that question is the most important decision that any person can make. There are some who will deny that He is… there are some who will believe what He says… there are some who will say that they don’t know… there are some who will say that it doesn’t matter.

Thomas Freidman wrote in an op-ed piece for the New York Times about what many try to assert: ”All faiths that come out of the biblical tradition — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — have the tendency to believe that they have the exclusive truth… The opposite of religious totalitarianism is an ideology of pluralism — an ideology that embraces religious diversity and the idea that my faith can be nurtured without claiming exclusive truth… Can Islam, Christianity and Judaism know that God speaks Arabic on Fridays, Hebrew on Saturdays and Latin on Sundays, and that he welcomes different human beings approaching him through their own history, out of their language and cultural heritage?”

What that denies is the truth of Jesus’ statement.

Jesus’ answer leaves us all with only two choices regarding what we believe about Him.

  1. His claims were false and He was not god.  If the claims of Jesus are false and He knew they were false but knowingly misled people, taught them things He knew were untrue, then He is the greatest liar the world has ever seen.
  2. His claims were true and He is God.  If the claims of Jesus are false and He believed them to be true, then He needed medication. It would take someone of great mental imbalance to do the things that Jesus did and say the things that Jesus said.

Neither of those options are a person who anyone should follow.

If the claims of Jesus are true then He truly is God and He is Lord. This reality forces us to make a judgment. Either we accept Him or we reject Him. The choice that all of mankind has.  It is a choice that you and I have.  Everything that we read in our Bibles leads up to this moment.  Are the actions described in the Gospels the actions of a mad-man?  Are they the actions of a master con-artist?  Or are they the actions of the Son of God?

Peter's Denial by Rembrandt, 1660. Jesus is sh...Who is this Jesus?

He is the Son of David, the Son of man and the Son of God. Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, God almighty, the Great I Am and the great Amen.

Who is this Jesus?

Bread of life, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth, Prince of peace, wonderful counselor, Immanuel – God with us, the righteous one, the Lamb of God, the lion of Judah, the light of the world, the living water, living stone and the living word of God

Who is this Jesus?

The Savior of the world, the suffering servant, One who died and rose again, one who was and is and is to come, He is the eternal image of God , Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ and the anointed one of God. Jesus is the king of kings and Lord of Lords.

Who is this Jesus?  That question is before us all; just like the question that was asked Peter and the Disciples.  Christ is asking all of us, “who do you say that I am?”  We can read how Jesus answered that question.

Do you believe Him; do you trust Him; do you know Him; will you follow Him; the Son of God, the great I AM

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for being so clear as to who You are.  Thank you for your obedience to the Father.  Thank you for coming to bear the punishment of my sin.  Lord, you are the Son of God who will be seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.  I look forward to seeing you in all of your glory.  Amen

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“RENTER OR LANDLORD” – Mar. 18

March 18, 2013

“And he began to speak to them in parables.  “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased to tenants and went into another country.” Mark 12:1

For RentThe company I work for does not own its office space.  We lease the building from a most unreasonable landlord.  This landlord has no compassion or understanding for our condition.  These economic times have been difficult.  Yet, our landlord still expects a lease payment every month. 

We are the ones who take care of the building.  It is by our labor that value is created in this building.  If it wasn’t for us, this building would be a vacant shell.  We are doing him a favor by occupying this building for him.  He needs us but has never even thanked us for what we do for him.  He just expects a slice of the pie that he has never earned.  We have been in this same building for so long, most people think that we own it.  No one around here even knows this landlord.  He lives in another state and has not even been to the office in years.  He is just sitting back profiting from our hardship. 

I have had enough of this nonsense.  I have convinced the partners of the company that this oppression needs to end and we should stop making our lease payments.  We have been here long enough that this building should be ours.  Our landlord is just going to give this property to his son when we are the ones who have earned it.  We should be the ones who inherit this building.

The landlord sent us a friendly reminder when we missed our first payment.  How rich was that?  He then tried to telephone us when we missed our second payment.  There was no need to even answer that call.  He then sent one of his flunkies to come and talk to us when we missed our third payment.  We told him what was what and sent him on his way with a swift kick to the backside.  When we missed our fourth payment, our landlord sent his son.  The guy who is going to inherit our building; the one who is claiming what we have earned.  We settled things once and for all. 

Yet, here I sit in this prison cell.  I still don’t understand how the jury could not recognize our right to the inheritance of our building. 

In reality, the landlord of the office where I work is a very nice man.  The underlying motivation of a renter like the one described above is a desire to be the landlord.  It is the same issue for the tenants of the vineyard in Mark 12.  They wanted to own the land.  They wanted the inheritance.  They didn’t want to be obligated to give up anything that they had grown.

This attitude is a rebellion against the rightful owner of the property.  Property rights are not transferred even when tenants act as if they do not have a landowner.  They can go all the way to the extent of killing the heir of the rightful owner but even that does not transfer ownership.

This is what the rejection of Christ’s claim to our lives looks like at its core; it is a rejection of God as the landlord of our lives.  It is a rebellion against God.

Do you live your life as a tenant or as a landowner?  

A person who thinks they are Lord of their life will say, “It’s my body. It’s my life. It’s my money. It’s my house. These are my possessions. I don’t owe anyone anything. I worked hard for all of this.  This is my reward for being smart or clever or entrepreneurial; Its all mine.”  Landlords can make those types of decisions.  That’s not an attitude of a tenant.  That is not an attitude of gratitude.

That is the attitude a thief that is taking possession of something that is not rightfully his own.

The ownership of the fruit of our lives is a battlefield over who will be Lord of our hearts.  When we fight to keep the fruit of our life, we are declaring our lordship; landowners keep the fruit.  We are pretending that we are the owner of our own life.  There is no man who can nullify the rightful claim of his Creator.

Do you have a history of thinking that God is very far away;

Do you think that God doesn’t care about fruit;

Have you convinced yourself that God needs you;

The owner, in Mark 12, expects to get some fruit.  The premise here is that God holds accountable His servants for making fruit, spiritual fruit, based on what they have been given.  A follower of Christ fights the battle within their own flesh to live ALL- IN for God.  A follower of Christ desires to love God with everything that they are.  They love God because he did send his Son – while they were still a rebellious tenant – He sent his Son to be rejected but through that rejection he would become our salvation.  That is why we long to be good tenants.

I think that we all know that we can be better tenants.  I don’t want to be the type of renter that has to be constantly hounded because of late payments.  I don’t want to be the type of tenant that needs collection agents sent every month to make sure I am not trying to steal from God.  I do not want to be the type of tenant that has to be reminded that the things I love so much are not really mine.

I want to be the type of tenant that is producing fruit in abundance and willingly giving back to my Lord in gratitude for what He has given me.

However, it is so easy to start assuming the role of lord of my life.

 What am I doing with my body?  Am I glorifying God with my body?

What am I doing with my family?  Am I glorifying God with my family?

What am I doing with my money? Am I glorifying God with my money?

What am I doing with my time? Am I glorifying God with my time?

All of those areas are not mine; they belong to God and I am going to have to give an account.

I want to be a fruitful vine.  Here again is the good news.  I can’t be a fruitful vine on my own.  God is here to forgive us, to correct us, and to instruct us.  He has sent his Spirit to rebuild the unfruitful parts of our lives so that they might be fruitful.   That is God’s will for our life – our sanctification that we may produce fruit that is glorifying to him.

Our first step is to understand that He is Lord and we are tenants.

PRAYER: Lord, I know am prone to wander, I know that I am prone to leave the God that I love; I know that my nature is to claim all that I have.  Lord, bind me to you.  Remind me that all that I have has been given from you.  Father, make me into a grateful servant and a fruitful vine.   Amen

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“CURING BAD THEOLOGY – A Big God and Open Bibles” – Feb. 20

February 20, 2013

“Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?”  Mark 12:24

New Directions (The Meters album)I made an error  awhile back.  I realize that will shock many of you.  We were traveling to my son’s flag football game in a nearby small town.   We turned right rather than turning left and proceeded several miles in the wrong direction.  My wife had gotten on-line and printed out the directions; we diligently followed the direction but still ended up in making an error.  The consequences of having bad directions was for us to get a little lost and either be late to the flag football game or to miss it entirely.  I would argue that getting on-line and printing off the directions was probably a reasonable amount of effort given the potential consequences.

Now, consider if the potential consequence would have been that we would have driven off the face of the earth into a massive black hole that only exists in Marsing, Idaho.  I have a very strong opinion that a little more research is merited due to those consequences.  I would want satellite imagery. I would probably insist on following someone who had  special black hole sensing equipment.  I would insist upon a competent, experienced guide who had been there before. I would have not turned down any road that I was not absolutely confident in.  Actually, I think that I would have decided that risking death in a rural black hole for flag football glory was not really worth it.  I think that is a pretty normal thought process.

What sort of research do you think eternity merits?  How much are you willing to risk?

What do you think the consequences of an error regarding God are?

That is a statement that not everyone agrees with.  There are some people who believe that you can’t get theology wrong.   There are other people who believe that there are not any significant consequences to getting theology wrong.

That is an opinion that Jesus did not hold.  Jesus was very clear that people can get theology wrong.  The Sadducees could get theology wrong.  The Pharisees could get theology wrong.  Seminary professors can get theology wrong.  Best-selling authors and speakers can get theology wrong.  You and I can get theology wrong.

This passage is telling us that earnest, passionate, committed religious people can get theology very wrong!  These intensely committed religious people had their theology so wrong that they missed their Messiah.  That is a very significant consequence.

It does not take much searching to discover that people don’t always agree on their theology.  If you go out into the wider Christian world you will find groups that disagree significantly upon theology.  There are many people who claim the distinction of Christian whose theology are wildly different.

Have you ever wondered why this is; how can this be?  How do earnest, passionate, people come up with errors in their theology?

Jesus believes that we can get theology wrong.  Jesus did not say – “Hey Sadducees, you are being too linear, too propositional, these sort of questions are irrelevant. What really matters is the experience in your heart, or don’t waste your time on this stuff .  All that matters is that you focus on the Jesus way of living, or you can’t really know all these things – it is all hidden by cultural bias – no can really know the true meaning or the right answer is whatever your community affirms.”

Jesus did not say any of those things. Jesus gets straight to the point in verse 24 – you are wrong.  In verse 27, he tells them they are quite wrong.  Jesus believed that some theology is bad.  This is very important.  We can get theology wrong.  Theology has eternal consequences.  Therefore, we should want to listen to what Jesus has to say so that we will not make an error that has eternal consequences.

The great aspect of this passage is that Jesus doesn’t simply demonstrate that the Sadducees are wrong.  He tells them and us how they made the error.  He tells them how they came to the incorrect conclusion.   In verse 24, Jesus tells us the reason that the Sadducees were wrong – “the reason you are wrong is because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.”  Jesus gives us two reasons the Sadducees got it wrong – quite wrong.  They knew neither the scriptures nor the power of God.  I believe that these two reasons for making spiritual and theological errors is as relevant today as it was for those Sadducees.

We do not have to look very hard to see individuals making conclusions and decisions with massive eternal consequences based on their not knowing the scriptures and not believing the power of God.

What do you use to inform your life; what do you use to make moral decisions; what do you use to make the discretionary decisions in your life?  We can do the same thing as the Sadducees. We can get trapped by our religion when we become so committed to an ideology, a method, a pet topic, what someone important to us said, what someone with credentials says, that we allow those other things to inform our lives.  We need to realize that there are many modern-day Sadducees out there who will lead us astray.  The idea of much liberal theology is that Christian theology should be interpreted from the stand point of modern knowledge and experience.

Jesus is saying that this should absolutely NOT be the case.  The scriptures alone are the primary source for informing and guiding our lives.

We can allow a lot of things to supplant the proper role of scriptures in our lives. We can allow other non-religious things to inform our lives – parents; friends; movies; music; media; scientific theories; teachers; professors.  We can allow all of that to inform the way we view the world and our lives.  These are all other ways not to have scriptures over our lives.

We must always have scriptures first; that is a question that I would like you to honestly evaluate in your life.  What informs your life?  When you have a decision to make, what do you use to inform your decision?  What you have to consider is that if the scriptures are not playing any role in your life, then how do you decide these questions:

How to interact with your family?

How to treat my spouse?

How to parent my kids?

How to respect my parents?

How I spend my money?

What activities to be involved in?

Where do I invest my life?

What do I care about?

If the scripture are NOT playing a role in those decisions then you are prone to making errors.

The second reason – Do not know the Power of God.

This is where all those Sunday school lessons really pay off – the parting of the Red Sea to let the Israelites cross; a giant dust cloud by day and a fire ball by night leading God’s people; the day being lengthened to allow God’s people to win a fight; all the miracles in the Gospels – a storm stopping with a word, five thousand people being fed, leprosy being immediately healed, a dead child being raised to life… If you believe that God made a sea split down the middle, that a stone brought forth water when it was struck by Moses, that five thousand people were fed from a Happy Meal, then you believe in the power of God.

Some Christians will try to de-mystify the scriptures by saying those things could not have happened.  They error because they do not know the power of God.  What you believe about these miracles and these stories counts for everything because it says what you believe about the God of the Bible. . . the God you worship.  Is he a God with Power?

2 Tim. 3:5 “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” 

That was the Sadducees.  We are told there in 2 Timothy to avoid such people.

What we believe about God’s power translates into every aspect of our lives.  Does God have power to see you through suffering; Does God have power to overcome sin; Does God have power to convert people; Does God have power to answer prayer.  Nothing is too hard for our God.  We serve a big God – we are the ones who place limits on Him.

Think about how much time you are willing to spend researching the consumer reports for the new plasma flat screen TV?  How much time are you willing to spend researching for your next car?  How much time are you willing to spend researching hotels for your next vacation?  Why are we willing to spend so much time doing that research? It is because you do not want to make a mistake.

How much time are you willing to spend considering the things of God that have eternal consequences?

There is an afterlife.  There are consequences of eternal magnitude that are based on our theology and we can make errors in our theology and what we allow to inform our lives.  God has given us the tools to remove those errors. He has shown us the way.  We just need to take it.  We just need to do it.

We remove those errors from our lives by serving a big God with open Bibles.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for giving us your word to guide us.  Thank you for giving us your Spirit to teach us all things.  You are all powerful and nothing is impossible for You.  Father, teach me to know your ways.  Show me your scriptures and write them upon my heart.  Show me your power that I may live in the confidence of You.  Lord, you are my all in all and it is by your scripture that the path of my life is set.  Keep me in your way.     Amen

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