Friday, April 28, 2017

Wandering Immortals

There are several myths and legends that center around Christ's passion week. They imagine that a person who mistreated Jesus in some way (the Roman soldier who pierced Christ's side, a supposed Jewish merchant who struck Him on His way to the cross, etc...) are cursed with physical immortality. Some point to this passage as justification.

"From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, 'Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.' But he turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.' Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.' " - Matthew 16:21-28 ESV

'...Some will not taste death...'

However, This concept doesn't line up with God's character and a careful reading of the scripture reveals that Christ came into His kingdom at the ascension. It isn't a scripturally supported idea. But we do see a temporary immortality that the disciples enjoyed during Jesus' 3 1/2 years of ministry.

"And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled." - John 17:11-12 ESV

"So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, 'Whom do you seek?' They answered him, 'Jesus of Nazareth.' Jesus said to them, 'I am he.' Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, 'I am he,' they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, 'Whom do you seek?' And they said, 'Jesus of Nazareth.' Jesus answered, 'I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.' This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: 'Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.' " - John 18:3-9 ESV

The only disciple recorded to have died was Lazarus and Jesus came and raised him up. But if we follow this line of thinking other passages begin to stand out. Here is part of Martha's (Lazarus' sister) conversation with Christ.

"So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' Martha said to him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?' She said to him, 'Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.' " - John 11:20-27 ESV

There was this sense of invincibility around Jesus. Jesus was keeping people safe.

There is no record, other than the Lazarus account, of any disciples dying or even or getting hurt during Jesus' ministry. That is amazing.

Jesus was going to lead the way into death but what He tells Martha has great meaning to us doesn't it. People aren't just safe in close proximity to Him. He IS the resurrection and the life. He plunged into death but came out again on the other side alive forever more.

If you believe in Jesus you will have eternal life. There is no fear of death because you can't die until God allows it to happen.

All believers are 'wandering immortals'. We aren't cursed with it. We are blessed with it. Our life has no beginning (because Christ has no beginning) and no end (because our destiny is forever intertwined with the everliving One). If death has no power over us fear also has no power.

Let's be bold. Why be timid if this is our heritage. They called James and John 'sons of thunder' (see Mark 3:17) because of their lives of wild abandon James was the first Apostle to die and John was the last. We have the freedom to live that way also. Let's plan like we have a long future but live like we have eternal life.

"Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."" - Luke 10:20 ESV


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Our Focus

Powerful focused people control what they pay attention to and they ignore what is deemed non-essential.

In social circles, attention and snubs are used as cues for the group. None of us really need to be taught this. Exposure to social circles at an early age reveal this to us. There are some people who talk to everyone and make everyone feel important but most only have so much attention and they have been taught to focus on the ones they care about and repel those they don't as a defensive (or offensive) mechanism. Shy people get misunderstood because of this. Focused people can see them as aloof or stuck up (a phrase I don't see used much these days).

We can look at Jesus and see who He focused His attention on and learn so much. He was (and Is) extremely generous with His attention.

"...but Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.' " - Matthew 19:14 ESV

"The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children." - Matthew 11:19 KJV

We don't see Jesus paying attention only to those who can 'do something for Him' but it is almost the opposite. We see His focusing His attention on the helpless and invisible members of His society. The powerful and focused had to get His attention.

"And the high priest stood up and said, 'Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?' But Jesus remained silent." - Matthew 26:62-63a ESV

Wow. I imagine that was a man who rarely got ignored.

Becoming a believer has changed who I pay attention to. It has changed my value system. I want the people to know how valuable they are because God places great value on them but I also want to ignore the things that are worthless.

I want to pour out even when I feel weak because I know that conserving energy in this way isn't a protection. God fills empty vessels and stale wine just gets bitter in a half empty container.

If we ignore what is valuable we are 'ignorant' people. We will be snubbing what shouldn't be snubbed.

God make us wise. Fill us with Your love. If You are our focus we will have power and focus for that which is truly valuable.


Heaven and Earth will all pass away but souls and scripture have value beyond measure.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Turn To The Kingdom That Is At Hand

Isaiah chapter 30 is an amazing chapter...

" 'Ah, stubborn children,' declares the LORD, 'who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation. For though his officials are at Zoan and his envoys reach Hanes, everyone comes to shame through a people that cannot profit them, that brings neither help nor profit, but shame and disgrace.'..." - Isaiah 30:1-5 ESV

The Bible shows us mindsets, doesn't it? It reveals the middle ground we can have a tendency to stand on that can turn quickly into a perilous place.

As a believer we are nomads. Our home is Heaven. Nomads live a certain way but Eygpt can begin to look attractive at times. Stability. Opportunity. Conformity that has acceptance.

This morning another passage seems to be a fitting contrast...

"Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.' " - Mark 1:14-15 ESV

Turn because God's kingdom is close by. The time for running away is over. Now is the time to draw near to the One who is drawing near to you.

Just one thought sparked from reading a chapter in Isaiah. I plan to read and reread this chapter through the day so that the mindsets that are expressed become familiar to me. Then if they pop up in my thinking I can 'turn to the kingdom that is near me' and not spend hours, days, weeks or years 'adding sin unto sin' in a frame of reference that provides no real relief.

"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;" - 1 Peter 2:11 KJV

"...they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." - Hebrews 11:13b-16 ESV

Nomads. That is what we are. Heaven is our real home. This is only a temporary dwelling place... a season of life.

God, Keep our focus. Help us to navigate our wants and desires in holiness. Thank you for setting a place for us at Your table and giving us eternal security in our relationship with You.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Touching On Support Systems

This morning I'm thinking about time and support systems. We all need people. Some of us have great support systems and some of us don't. There seems to be a myriad of reasons why that is. Having people who care around in hard times is a real gift.

"Peter began to say to him, 'See, we have left everything and followed you.' Jesus said, 'Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.'" - Mark 10:28-31 ESV

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 'Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.' " - Matthew 6:31-34 ESV

The things in these passages have spoken to me in the last week or so. They are support system items, aren't they?

Then there is time...

"But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, 'Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.' Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." - Ephesians 5:13-16 ESV

One of the things I see about Church is that if it is done with God's  heart it becomes a hot house for support systems to be nurtured and created. Missions, family and people who have little in common on a natural level form into an interconnecting root system of support and it is amazing.

Time. How will we use it? I want to use it to strengthen and create new branches of support. I see the value of it not only for the needy but the young and strong also get a great benefit from being involved.

My prayer is that God would give us creativity and insight. That He would strength the weak areas and give wisdom involving the pitfalls of interconnectedness. His Kingdom and His righteousness will form eternal bonds of supply. That is so amazing to me.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Another Scoop

There is a market near where I work and a place in that market makes some wonderful rotisserie chicken wings. I went there last week and ordered six wings. The kind woman behind the counter smiled as she handed me the bag and said, 'I put in a few extra.'

It blessed me. The wings were delicious... especially the free ones.

As I read my booklet this morning this passage was quoted.

"Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching." - 1 Timothy 5:17 ESV

I decided to look into the Greek of the passage and see what 'double honor' meant and it basically translated into 'extra chicken wings with a smile'. The concept did at least. The Greek words would really actually be more like 'an extra scoop of value'. Wow.

I hesitate to speak of this passage because in a way a leader speaking about double honor is like a husband talking about how 'wives should honor their husband.' The motives can seem suspect. 'Why is this person saying this?' and 'What do they expect?' come to mind.

I love the concept of honor. It is a noble idea to place a high value on people. I have seen this applied in strange idolatrous ways and also in beautiful ones. Every human being is worthy of honor. To make a person know that their value is high is so vital and needed.

I like how the passage in 1 Timothy is worded. It doesn't say 'give double' it says, 'considered worthy of double' which is a mindset of adding value then adding more value.

Can we have honor between us? Can we say, 'You are valuable.' 'You are twice as valuable as you think you are.'?

If my honor is small then doubling it doesn't add very much. Zero multiplied by two is still zero. But, If our honor is great doubling it is a great blessing. Let's have great honor. If we see God as He Is will be in awe of His attributes. Then if we look at what He has done for people in Love our honor will be amplified again and again.


Detective Stories

Detective stories amuse us because they make us feel smart. Clues are fed to us by writers and we get to think we 'discovered' the truth. It is a thing that rarely happens in real life for most of us. Life isn't that cut and dry.

If we spend our life looking to uncover a plot and identify a villain we will be taking a real detour and we may inadvertently sabotage our relationships with people.

The Gospel is the true story of a hero. That hero isn't us. It is Jesus. Once we come to the right conclusion about Him... a conclusion we would never arrive at ourselves it changes our life and perspective. We start looking for the Hero in each situation, not the villain.

I plan to find my Hero again today. He has already gone before me. He Is the one who saves lives and cleanses minds.

He has taken this villain's blame upon Himself.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Low To High

This morning I'm thinking of perspective and leadership because of this passage...

"Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:" - Ephesians 4:8-12 KJV

In a way, this concept is beyond us but Jesus 'fills all things' because He has experienced the lowest position and now occupies the highest position. Why would that be so? He was and is God. Still, This is what the Bible declares.

I find it interesting that God uses this concept to transition into talking about leadership. God's power structure for His Church isn't based on power or resources it is based on knowledge and perspective.

Jesus dove deep into humanity and after His death into Hell itself. He went where we are and then down to where the souls that died were and experienced what they experienced firsthand.

Now He has chosen leaders like that. He has men who came from the lowest places and commissioned them to talk about the highest loftiest truths. These people are gifts from a King who is seated on a throne.

"For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." - Isaiah 53:2-3 ESV

Jesus didn't look like a King when He was on Earth and let's face it the men He sends often don't look like leaders. They are proclaimers, gatherers and teachers. The leadership is shepherd leadership. Instruction is the gift and it isn't always valued.

Jesus fills all things now. His experience spans the length and breadth of human experience and the gifts He gives are based on that experience.

The world is full of leaders. Every area has it's local and regional politics. People also claim spiritual leadership roles. Many who do aren't what they seem to be.

If I find a person winning souls I mark them as a leader. If a person gathers when everyone else is scattering... if words of wisdom point me to God and present Him as better than I thought He was and use the Bible as their text as pointing to Jesus as the reason they do what they do... if that is what is happening then there is the sense that those people are gifts from God.

If the One who fills all things is doing a work in the world I want to recognise and support that work. It may look like 'a root out of dry ground' but it is more than it appears to be.