Thursday, January 17, 2019

Looking For Life In All The Wrong Places

I remember being a teenager and thinking, 'Life is out there and once I get away from here I'll find it and be free.' I didn't put it in just those words. It was more like a kind of 'angst'. I see it everywhere. People live for the weekend. They long to be married if they are single. They want to retire if they are working.

"Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water." - Jeremiah 2:12-13 ESV

Oppression can cause depression and people seem to lose the ability to retain joy. Life seems to seep away and we go looking for it or perhaps we lose hope. We despair and think we will never have what we had before. We will never find that thing that will complete us or satisfy us.

"In him was life, and the life was the light of men." - John 1:4 ESV

I talk about Jesus a lot. You may have noticed. I'm not looking for a soulmate or the fountain of youth because I have Him. I have come to believe He Is that thing that was missing in my life. The Greek New Testament informs me that this is so and I have found it to be true. I still get dissatisfied with things, places and institutions. There is much I don't understand or even agree with about how life seems to be but He adds flavour to every dish. He floods my heart with joy when it becomes a barren wasteland. He causes me to love people even after having to drive next to them on the highway.

"But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." - Acts 13:51-52 ESV

Actually, It is the Holy Spirit who does this. He Is this filling and is involved in it because of Jesus and Christ is the focus of it.

"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me." - John 15:26 ESV

People who have everything and those who have lost everything can still have this and this is no 'second place' thing. The stuff won't mend that cistern. People can't either. God may use people in the process but Jesus is the key ingredient.

Jesus says things like this...

"All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." - Matthew 11:27 ESV

That is why I talk about Him so much. He is my favourite subject and I also worry about people who seem to be happy (and unhappy) without Him.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The First Chapter Of The Gospel Of John

I'm reading this again and again. God became personal.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, 'This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.' ') For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." - John 1:1-17 ESV

Not much to say really.

I just want to buy 10,000 little gospels of John and give them out saying, 'Please just read the first chapter and if you have any questions just ask me. I put my contact information on the back page.'

Just these 17 verses are so loaded with truth.

This is truth we could never get by looking at nature or exploring the inner reaches of our minds. We had to be told this.

The English translations don't even do some of this justice. The Greek is so much more elegant and specific.

I love how the writer doesn't even give Jesus' given name until verse 17. He leaves it mysterious. The ideas are so large and expansive. Light and darkness. Creation and nothingness.

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God," - John 1:12 ESV

The writer isn't going to say his name until verse 17 but at the same time he is saying His name because he is explaining the 'nature' of this person we call Jesus.

Every word here is pure. It is like divine poetry. I would sell all that I have to have this. That is the worth of this information and yet God gives it to us freely.

Thank you God. Thank You for showing us a relationship that was happening before you spoke the universe into existence. Thank you for revealing 'the life' that is the light of men.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Some Won't See It Coming

"...you did not know the time of your visitation." - Luke 19:44b ESV

Just thinking about God's 'visitation' and it's qualities. It seems like one of it's characteristics is that some people see God in the circumstances and others don't. God visits Abraham's tent and Abraham gets that this is God but Sarah laughs in the tent. Jesus arrives in Jerusalem and people pull palm branches off the trees and throws coats on the ground he is about to ride by on but others are criticizing him.

The fact that some people 'miss' the visitation appears to be evidence that there was a visitation.

It just seems to be a trend but in a way, it is a vexing one because unstable people 'see things that no one else does' also and make claims that God visited them and showed them things.

God's visitation is like a large wake that forms behind a big vessel passing by. That wake disturbs the otherwise calm water in a very linear way. God's wake brings hope, freedom from guilt or shame, forgiveness and healing. It is orderly.

"They said to you, 'In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.' It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." - Jude 1:18-25 ESV

Yes. Wow.

We are looking for something not everyone is going to see and perhaps is easy to miss if our focus is on other things. We are looking for a 'visitation'... not a subjective delusion. We stay built up and kept in the love of God. We 'wait' on mercy while 'having' mercy for those who doubt. God is able to keep us. All glory belongs to God. All majesty, dominion, and authority do also.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

An Old Show That Made Me Laugh

I last week I was watching some older television shows while I recuperating from an illness and I caught an episode of Stargate SG-1 (a somewhat 'hard science fiction' show from the 90s). I like some 'hard science fiction'. It tries to stay true to what is known but adds some technology or ingredients to bring out human nature under those new or extraordinary circumstances.

This episode just happened to have Dom DeLuise (famous comedic actor from the 70s and 80s) on the show. It turns out his son Peter directed the episode and his two other sons also worked on the series.

I love Dom DeLuise. He has this disarming innocent stammering kind of humor. He passed years ago (IMDB says 2009) so I wasn't expecting to see him and I had no idea he ever appeared in the show. He played an innocence computer program embedded in minds of the SG-1 team who just wants them to have fun and eat food so it can record (and enjoy) those experiences and bring them back to the place they visited to get downloaded. They just want him out of their heads. A bit goofy and farfetched I know, but he owned the part and I smiled more than once.

The bottom line was that I was just glad to see him.

"So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David." - 1 Kings 2:10 KJV

"I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven," - Matthew 8:11 ESV

I don't know if I will see Dom DeLuise in Heaven. I hope so. Contrary to popular belief the bible does not make the claim that everyone will be there. I'd like to think that someone who could make people laugh and could play an innocence so well was washed in the 'blood of Jesus' but I know it doesn't work that way. He would have needed to make a decision about Jesus as Messiah and believe that 'sin' and his personal sins were paid for and taken care of on the cross... a fact that most hard science fiction omits by the way.

What a funny man. It was good to see him.

One day people who we think of as 'sleeping' will be very much awake and revelling at tables celebrating God's accomplishments on the Earth. It is going to be a grand reunion. They seem 'gone' now but we will see them again and it will be fresh and surprising.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Counting On A Resurrection

This second part of the next passage (starting in verse 11) is in a section called 'Postponed Kingdom' in Fruchtenbaum's 'Ariel's Harmony of Gospels' and it reminded me of back before I was a believer and I thought of Christianity as a weak person's theology. I remember thinking that some people needed to believe in a future Heavenly reward so that they could endure the hardships of life so they just invented it.

This next passage takes place right after they leave the house of a man who was miraculously changed.

"And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return." - Luke 19:8-12 KJV

Jesus is very clear in what He says to them. This kingdom isn't 'pie in the sky'. It also isn't all here of Earth. That day must have seemed magical. They came into town. Jesus calls a man out of a tree. These blue collar working class men eat the best food in a rich man's house who becomes a brother and changes his ways after a short time with Jesus. It must have been a very good day.

Then Jesus hits them with this 'nobleman goes into a far country' parable. Here is the full text.

"As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, 'A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, 'Engage in business until I come.' But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to reign over us.' When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, 'Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.' And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.' And the second came, saying, 'Lord, your mina has made five minas.' And he said to him, 'And you are to be over five cities.' Then another came, saying, 'Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.' He said to him, 'I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?' And he said to those who stood by, 'Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.' And they said to him, 'Lord, he has ten minas!' 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.''

And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem." - Luke 19:11-28 ESV

Notice the last verse says that He went on ahead. I bet He did. That parable must have hit them hard. They lagged behind and the wind of the 'good day' must have gotten knocked right out of their sails.

Jesus was the nobleman. The far country was death... a horrible death on a cross.

It is very natural to look at the world and say, 'We had better just make the best of what we have.' but Jesus paints a different picture. He is counting on a resurrection. He is living His life relying on the hope that He will be raised from the dead and He is teaching his disciples a theology that relies on them being raised from the dead also.

Jesus isn't teaching the 'If you are good boys and girls you will all get lollipops in Heaven later' doctrine I falsely thought before a was a believer. These are adult ideas involving trust, responsibility, honor and most of all faith.

The 'heros of the faith' chapter in Hebrews 11 is a long one so I will only quote the last part of it.

"... and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:" - Hebrews 11:35 KJV

Do we believe in a better resurrection?

If we do then Jesus' doctrine will make perfect sense. We will be able to celebrate the good days and endure the hard ones with a joy and peace deep inside us as the storm rages outside.

Jesus will return from that far country and there will be rewards for those who have invested wisely.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Small Statement From A Holiday Gathering

Two thoughts are on my mind this morning. I am reading and thinking about them.

The first is 'impatience'.

The second is a small phrase that a host of a holiday gathering said that stuck with me. They had serval groups of people in their home. We were at a table and she looked at us as she passed by to greet yet another group as they came in with baked goods and coats that were coming off their bodies.

She said, as she turned to face us, 'I know I'm ignoring you.' and took a coat to find a place to hang it up.

All at once I felt we both knew the opposite was true. She wasn't ignoring any of us. We were known. She cared how we all felt. She wanted everyone to feel at home and get attention. We weren't second-class citizens. I think of this passage.

"Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed." - Proverbs 19:17 ESV

In a way, we know God isn't ignoring the poor and He won't ignore us. He considers generosity to others 'a loan' but at the same time, it looks like He has ignored the poor. He hasn't. He isn't. It looks that way but it isn't true.

Ok.

Back to the first idea of impatience. We are to be 'in the world' but not 'of the world' but impatience is an 'of the world' mindset. We want to control, orchestrate or just approve of the way (or speed) something is done but things can often spin out of control. Do we have peace? Peace is an 'out of this world' thing. Calm may be natural but not deep peace. Peace is something of God and 'sourced' in God. It passes understanding.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." - John 14:27 ESV

Wow.

What did Jesus have? Where did He leave his peace so we can find it?

I think it is in the knowledge of the attention and personal acceptance of our Father in Heaven. It looks like He isn't listening but He Is. We act in love trusted in His love and He sees it and treats it like a loan because He cares.

No one should condemn themselves for being impatient. No one should find a reason to condemn themselves ever but impatience is a symptom that we need to find the peace that Jesus left behind. One we find that peace we can be an oasis of peace and hospitality without striving.

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Friday, January 4, 2019

The Long Vacant Job Posting

"And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none." - Ezekiel 22:30 ESV

Yesterday I saw very clearly, in my mind's eye, the role of 'Savior of the World' as a job vacancy. Many times when a job is 'posted' there is already a candidate groomed in the wings to fill this position. Jesus was chosen before the foundation of the world but Adam could have filled the position. All he had to do was resist the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit offered by Eve. He could have waited until the next morning and spoken to God at the appointed time that they met every day. Conceivably, He could have died in her place. He didn't.

"And a ruler asked him, 'Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' And Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." - Luke 18:18-19 ESV

This wasn't just theoretical. History up until this moment had proven this to be true.

Jesus was challenging this person. Do you know me? I am manna from Heaven but do you see it?

" 'As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.' I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, 'You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.' Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him." - Psalm 2:6-12 ESV

Scholars say this is the Psalmist peering into Heaven after Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to sit at God's right hand. The interviews were over. Jesus had passed the background checks. God was welcoming His Son back to Heaven to take His rightful position as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

"No one is good except God alone." - Luke 18:19b ESV

Why should we strive to be good? The position of the 'good One' has already been filled.

"Then they said to him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.' " - John 6:28-29 ESV

Salvation is very simple really. We accept that a position needed to be filled to save our soul and instead of claiming to fill the position ourselves we agree that God chose Jesus for that role and that His work of the cross was enough to accomplish the task.

Simple but also impossible unless God speaks to our heart and brings us to a place of decision and we use our will to decide.

Finding a 'soul mate' isn't going to save us. Raising good children won't. A government can't. We can't. Our own transgressions disqualify us from saving ourselves or anyone else. That position has already been filled.

"In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" - John 7:37-39 KJV

Yes. Believe in Jesus and receive the Spirit who will wash you. That is why Christ came. No man or woman met the qualifications of the job that needed to be done but then Jesus came to build a bridge back to the Father and send a cleansing rain to wash your soul and mine.

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