Seems to Me: God’s Loss is the Only True Loss

God is the one who Alone must really suffer the loss of life. To come to this conclusion, let’s try to think about this topic having forgiveness and God’s wish for the continuance of life in mind.

For God to forgive, means that He gives life in the face of sin. God overpowers sin with His very person which is perceived as weak to the unbeliever but is really love. The power of God to do this is revealed to be perfect through His Son Jesus. In the weakness of His humanity, when through death He loved humanity, He condemned sin. (see Romans 8:3). God does not want to suffer our loss; therefore, He fights for us through Jesus. This is the way of God… giving life. His enduring nature supplies relational open-hearted sacrifice that makes a place for mercy. Whereas judgment based on law alone demands punishment; resulting in loss and in death. Nevertheless, with God, there is always first an offer of mercy. The eternal death that results from sin is unnecessary for human beings. Since we can surrender to God’s mercy and there need not be the loss of life.

Seems to me, that the loss of life, is God’s loss and His intent is the only undeserved true loss.

Scripture tells us God is unwilling to lose any soul, but wishes all the have life in Jesus (see 2 Peter 3:9). So, since God does not deliberately have in mind death for unrepentant humans who live in sin, their loss of life is God’s loss of a relationship. This is a relationship that God desired to have in an everlasting manner. God wants to be free of any loss. I am pointing to the fact we human beings lose nothing… it is all gain for us since even life itself is a free gift that God alone possesses and gives. Life is God’s, not ours. When we take ownership of our lives through God-given free will, we seal our fate to suffer a total loss of life. The life lived was a gain for the person who lived it, but God’s loss because that relationship never finds fulfillment in communing with Him.

We human beings focus and worry so much about what we come to have and lose in our lives that we do not give due respect to God. He alone possesses life in Himself and as sovereign shares it with us. He cares or worries for us if you will. What can our self-concern add to God’s care for us? I did not say we need not be responsible, but rather, we need not worry. Of course, there is a reason to be concerned about our quality of life, but we need not worry about the loss of life. We need not pursue self-gain, but rather pursue the nature of God. I am saying, let us focus on relating to God more than maintaining our present fading bodily concerns. True life is to know the person of God as revealed in Jesus Christ (God Himself) because everything else just ends in death (see Matthew 6:22-34 and Matthew 16:24-26). The loss of life for the unbeliever is a total loss of life for them, but also for God. It is His loss because they cease having a relationship with the Possessor of Life. The real loss here is with God! He loses because it was God who gave the life!

On the other hand, for the believer in Christ, the life they have is in Christ and what is gained is everything that God desires. What does God desire? Namely, relationship. Humans can never own life because life is God’s alone, but God will share the life in Himself through a relationship in Christ, the Lord of Life. In Christ life results in continuance (see John 3:16: Romans 6:23: John 10:10).

In conclusion, whatever we do God has the victory or put another way, has the life. But to reject God thwarts lasting relationship which is God’s desire and a loss he bares forever, it not being His will to force himself on us. So, as beings created in His image, we can use our God-given status in a way that hurts God or in a manner of gratitude and hopefully love towards God. We have all grieved God, but there need not be a loss of life if we believe in Jesus Christ.  The good news is that the person who confesses sin, in a spirit willing to learn the better way of living (see John 14:6) and keeps that attitude in loyalty to Christ, gains God’s desire for a lasting relationship. Relationship of course under God’s headship resulting in God living out the fullness of His life. HIS LIFE.

BMD

Second Effort: The Prevailing Will of God

second effortHave you ever noticed that, in the Bible, God brings what He wants through a “second effort?” It always seems like the second time or second person God calls gets the job done or brings forward God’s will. This happens in many Bible stories and in the big picture of humanity’s story. There is a pattern. God holds everything together (even in the face of death) for the second effort.

Let’s start with the story of Cain and Abel at the beginning of Genesis. In that story, God is pleased with a sacrifice Abel gives. Cain, the firstborn, is angered at God’s affirmation and kills his brother. God then promises Adam and Eve a son to replace Abel. Later, Seth is born. God was displeased with the firstborn Cain. He was pleased with the second… Abel. Moreover, God didn’t let the murder of Abel’s line cease, but rather Seth was born to replace him. The death of Abel did not stop God’s will. God’s replacement (Seth) of the second (Abel) is part of the family line of Jesus (Luke 3:38). This seems to indicate Abel would have been in His line had he not been killed and here we see revealed God’s prevailing will.

In Genesis 25, we find that the “older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23) in the case of Esau and Jacob… so much so we don’t say their names like that… it is Jacob and Esau. Jacob was the second born.

There are many other examples of God’s will being manifest through the second effort. It was not the first generation of Israelites that went into the Promised Land, but the second generation (Deuteronomy 1). It was not Moses, the first leader of the People of Israel that brought them into the land, but Joshua (whose name means “Jehovah saves”) (Deuteronomy 31).

As the history of Israel rolled on, we see the same pattern with Israel’s kingship. Saul son of Kish is anointed king (1 Samuel 10:21). He displeased God. God then sent the prophet Samuel to anoint David son of Jesse as Israel’s king (1 Samuel 16). It was King David who is described as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). Again, not the first, but the second one pleased God.

We see this same truth in covenants, types, and metaphors in the Bible. The Old Covenant (ritual sacrifice) was a shadow of what was to come in the New Covenant (relational sacrifice). Jesus is called the “last Adam” in 1 Corinthians 15:45 showing that the first Adam was a disappointment and the will of God was done in the second Adam. Adam displeased God. With Jesus, God was “well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, Matthew 17:5, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22, 2 Peter 1:17). Humanity under Adam is not pleasing to God but is pleasing to God under Christ. Again, not the first, but the second.

Even in the Book of Revelation, the first Earth passes away to make way for the second (Revelation 21). It will not be the world we live on now that pleases the Lord and exists into the Age to Come, but a redeemed new Earth.

What does this teach us?

I think it teaches us that it is not by a forceful effort that God’s will is done, rather God’s will is accomplished by effort in submission to His order. Force brings chaos. Submission brings order. It is not through the natural human-focused way, but in the spiritual God-focused way that His will prevails. Not in strength, but in weakness is the power of God’s will revealed and made perfect on earth.

The will of God does and shall prevail in all situations.

It is through the weakest (often the second effort) that God’s power is made perfect and it is in that way that Heaven and Earth live in relationship with Him happily ever after.

BMD

SEEMS TO ME: BIBLICAL JUSTICE BREEDS LIFE

IT SEEMS TO ME: THIS IS WHAT BIBLICAL JUSTICE IS…

justiceI need to start by saying, that life is a free gift, not immortality of the soul mind you, but life in terms of God given existence. Immortality of the soul is conditional based on faith in Christ Jesus WHO ALONE LIVES JUSTLY. Human existence is a free gift. Human existence is our lives. Our lives are a free gift that produces deeds. Our deeds are us exercising our freewill… also given to us by God. I would point out we are responsible for our deeds but not our existence.

With that in mind, I do not see the necessity to conflate immortality and justice. I understand the reason people do. That being the assumption that all human souls are or will be made to have immortality, but even under that assumption there is not a need to conflate justice and immortality.

With that said let’s move on…
The Scriptures tell us we will be judged for what we do in the body:

2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (ESV)

Matthew 16:27: “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.” (ESV)

You may also see Romans 2:1-16 on this same subject expressing the same Truth.

Now, this Judgement is rendered by God in accordance to His character/nature. The Scriptures tell us clearly that all have fallen short of the glory of God (His nature) or as we usually hear it, following God’s Word (Romans 3:23). God’s Word is the standard of being a righteous and just person. God’s Word reveals accepted faith leading to life or rejected faith leading to the consequence of death.

JUSTICE IN THE BIBLE: LEX TALIONIS

Now the only standard for justice in the Bible we are given is “Lex Talionis.” A simple way to express this is “justice rendered with equivalent or similar type and degree.” Even simpler… “eye for an eye.”

We must be clear that it is the behavior (immoral deed) that is dealt with, not the free gift (our lives) that the behavior is manifest through. I am attempting to stress that human beings have existence (which is free) in the same way (free from God) both before and after sin entered human reality.

JUSTICE IN THE BIBLE: GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS

We must also be clear and keep with the teaching of Scripture that God is no respecter of persons (see Deuteronomy 1:17, Deuteronomy 19:21, Exodus 21:25, Leviticus 24:20). I like Colossians 3:25 where the Scripture says that wrong-doers will be repaid wrong without partiality (paraphrase mine). Favoritism in no way is at play in bringing people to account for their deeds. Favoritism plays no part in drawing people into a relationship with a just-loving God. Therefore, the standard is made plain and anyone who breaks  it will be brought to account. Nevertheless, God’s love for you is at play. He has given law to reveal his justice standard with loving and drawing you to himself in mind.

Matthew 5:38-41 reflects this when Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (ESV)

JUSTICE AS WE LIVE

Living justly towards others always involves suffering and bearing others’ wrongs (see Matthew 5:38-41 above). Why? Because God’s Nature is perfect, unchanging, and life-giving and this is what biblical justice is based on. Our nature, on the other hand, is everchanging and imperfect. This is extremely important and why only leveling out deeds or gratifying feelings never amount to Biblical justice. God is not focused on that… ever. God’s energy is focused toward redemption and maturing us because He is a Life-Giving Spirit.

Again, I must say, God is a Life-Giving Spirit. God never stops offering life even when sin is in the picture. However, I think we need to see God’s life giving in the light of “relational debt paying” over and against “transactional debt paying.” In the relational, Christ purifies what we cannot. He has life to give. We do not. He gives in a manner that transcends the Law because He is Lord of the Law; being without sin. What the Law requires brings with it the just standard to live by, but not forgiveness. You need a person to have forgiveness. Justice is found in the Godman because Christ alone is a Just and Righteous human.

Once we understand this, we can better understand the penal purpose of Jesus Christ and His death for humanity. The ultimate reveal of Justice. His death shows justice far beyond what “Lex Talionis” can bring to our understanding because Christ brings redemption. He died to bring a new life under a new order that sin’s power has no place in or can ever enter.

JUSTICE AS IT RELATES TO CHRIST

Now back to where I started. Life is a free gift. Based on that, it seems to me that there needs to be a differentiation made between the existence God gives us and the life we lived with that gift. That is to say, we don’t retain our existence because of our deeds. We are, however, responsible for them. Regardless, existence remains a free gift to all, but God will not force existence on us.

God, as our Maker, takes on our shortcomings because He is unchanging in His Just-ness and in His Life-Giving character. We see this clearly revealed in Jesus Christ bearing the sin of Mankind. God also sets everything right and lays the foundation of the Age to Come (eternal life). Christ’s death renders justice (God’s will) on Earth. Therefore, Christ’s death redeems mankind’s stewardship, conquers sin, and conquers all powers in rebellion to His Will. Christ reestablished order as a human being in His death by releasing the power of forgiveness to all who repent (turn to God’s ways). However, God did not kill Jesus to achieve this redemption. Rather, God condemned sin in Christ through His love for us. God died as a human rather than leaving humanity to die. This keeps with Matthew 5:38-41 which we read above. Jesus saved us by living justly, or maybe better put, He was just being Himself.

CONCLUSION

It seems to me… that God gives life and then commands how to live. Man always falls short (“sins”) in response to God’s direction. Man is then cut off from reflecting God correctly. Man is then cut off from reflecting God justly due to sin. We find later in the history of the Bible that God gives the Law to Israel (His people) and through them comes into the world in the person of Jesus the Messiah. Jesus comes to establish a righteous rule based in His own character and in so doing bears and condemns sin once for all. Therefore, overcoming His enemies with love and satisfies Gods’ command for justice by living justly as a human before God.

-BMD

Emotions of the Cross

Emotions of the Cross

Human beings are emotional.  Emotions involve our minds and our hearts and sometimes our bodies as well.  We feel anger and our blood pressure goes up or our face gets red.  We feel anticipation and our mind races and it is hard to concentrate.  We can feel awe in a place or at a fine piece of art or just looking up at the sky.  Curiosity can lead to discovery, but it also killed the cat.  Panic means we sweat buckets and talk fast and at times cannot think.  Emotions are also complex.  We can feel happy and sad at the same time.  We can feel lonely in a crowded place.  Self-confidence is powerful, but one comment can shatter it.

What emotions were present when Jesus hung on the cross?

What do these emotions tell us about our atonement?

DEFINITION OF ATONEMENT

Atonement is what Matthew 27 is about.  I don’t want to get too far before we define that word.  “Atonement” is a word we do not use often and is quite possibly just a word we use in Church.  Keeping God, the Bible, and the Christian faith in mind, “atonement” is “the act by which God Almighty Himself restores a relationship of harmony and peace and forgiveness between Himself and human beings.”

Matthew 27:33-42 says, “They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).  34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, He refused to drink it.  35 When they had crucified Him, they divided up His clothes by casting lots.  36 And sitting down, they kept watch over Him there.  37 Above His head they placed the written charge against Him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.  38 Two robbers were crucified with Him, one on His right and one on His left.  39 Those who passed by hurled insults at Him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! Come down from the cross, if You are the Son of God!”  41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked Him.  42 “He saved others,” they said, “but He can’t save Himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him.” (NIV 1984)

EMOTIONS OF THE CROSS, VERSE 33: FEAR

Jesus of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) was executed by crucifixion.  A convicted criminal was usually expected to carry the horizontal beam for his own cross to the site of execution.  There the cross was put together and the person hung on it.  Verse 33 tells us that the place at which Jesus was crucified had a name.  It was a name that instilled fear of anyone who heard it.  Golgotha means “the place of the skull.”  It could be that the hill had skull type formations on the side of it and this made it a great place for executions.  Golgotha also seemed to be the regular place of executions for the Romans, so it was always associated with death.

Golgotha was a place of fear.  You don’t want to end up in Golgotha because nothing good ever happens there.  I can imagine places in our world have some of the same effects and produce nothing but fear.  Auschwitz.  Dachau.  Chernobyl.  Alcatraz.  San Quentin.  When we think of these places, we think of fear. Golgotha is a place of fear.

Atonement for me and for you can only happen if Jesus marches right through the fear and endures the cross.  Jesus cannot submit to fear if you and I are going to receive grace from the Father.  You and I need Jesus to be courageous and brave and strong if we are to have the presence of the Holy Spirit with us. Atonement for you and for me only happens if Jesus fights fear and dies for us.

EMOTIONS OF THE CROSS, VERSE 34: SUBMISSION

Once Jesus Christ arrived at Golgotha, they would have laid the cross beam on the pole and attached it.  Then they would have nailed Jesus to the cross.  His feet were nailed together at His ankles at the bottom and His hands nailed at the wrists to the cross.  Then they would have lifted Jesus into place and He would have hung.  In order to breathe, one must lift up on the nails and take a breath.  Eventually your strength gives out and you suffocate after many days.

For some reason, Jesus is offered wine mixed with gall.  This was probably something to kill the pain, but that doesn’t make sense unless they wanted the one on the cross to feel less pain so they lasted longer.  It could have been some kind of poison as well.  Whatever the purpose, Jesus was unwilling to take it.

Jesus was submitting to the will of God.  That meant suffering.  That meant pain.  That meant blood flowing.  That meant submitting to scorn and disgrace and feeling a broken heart.  What was happening to Jesus was no accident, but was all part of God’s plan.  How do we know?  It was predicted.  Psalm 69:19-21 says, “You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies are before you.  20 Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none.  21 They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.” (NIV 1984)

Jesus was feeling submission to God and would do nothing to impede the will of God.  He would not eat or drink anything to lessen His pain.  He would not eat or drink anything to lessen the punishment.  He would not impose His own will above God.

Atonement for me and for you can only happen if Jesus willingly dies.  It was free will that got you and I into the mess with sin and it is only free will that would pay for us.  John 10:17-18 explains to us clearly that only Jesus had the power to lay down His life.  Atonement for me and for you can only happen if Jesus willingly dies.

EMOTIONS OF THE CROSS, VERSE 35: SHAME

Verse 25, we are told that the soldiers played games to divide up Jesus’ clothes.  We often skip this part of the crucifixion, but… does that mean… Jesus was… naked on the cross?  Yes, it probably does.  Again, this was all foreseen long before it happened to Jesus.  Psalm 22:16-18 says, “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.  17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.  18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” (NIV 1984)

Do you remember what happened immediately after Adam and Eve sinned?  What does Genesis 3:7 say?  It says they sinned and immediately felt shame because of their nakedness.

The feeling of shame would have been palpable in this place and as Jesus hung there.  Not only was Jesus naked, but so were the two criminals beside Him.  People walking by could see them.  The soldiers stared at them.  In the Bible, nakedness is always connected with sin and shame (Genesis 9:22-23, Exodus 20:26, Deuteronomy 28:48, Isaiah 47:3, Lamentations 4:21, Ezekiel 23:29, Hosea 2, Amos 2:16, Micah 1:8, Nahum 3:5, Habakkuk 2:15, and many others).  I cannot adequately explain to you the amount of shame that would have been washing over Jesus as He hung on the cross naked.

Atonement for me and for you can only happen if Jesus endures the shame of the cross.  He did just that for us.  Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NIV 1984) Jesus Christ endured shame that you and I might have the shame of our sins covered.

EMOTIONS OF THE CROSS, VERSE 36: CRUELTY

Jesus was not alone at Golgotha as He hung on the cross.  Verse 36 shares with us that the Romans did not just hang the people on crosses and then let them be.  They watched.  They made sure that no one could come and rescue someone crucified.  They made sure the people were suffering.  The soldiers would monitor the crucified and if they lasted too long or needed to move onto others, they would break their legs with large hammers.  The Romans had perfected their art of death and watched with cruel intent over those they were punishing.

Crucifixion was cruel.  It felt cruel.  Nails in hands and feet.  Birds flying by and pecking at you.  Nakedness.  Pushing up and down to breathe.  Blood dripping.  For Jesus, imagine the pain of the thorns pressing into His head.  Imagine the pain on His whipped back as He slid up and down the cross to breathe.  His arms and legs would have been burning with hurt and tiredness.

Atonement for me and for you can only happen if Jesus faces this cruelty and endures.  He must also overcome it.  I can imagine that the cruel nature of what Jesus was enduring made Him feel defeated or worthless.

EMOTIONS OF THE CROSS, VERSES 37-40: ANGER

Many of the verses that describe the death of Jesus describe anger that was directed towards Him while He was on the cross.  It was not a peaceful or quiet time, but rather constant anger directed at Jesus.  Above His head, the Romans placed a sign to make fun of Jesus and also to make the Jewish people angry.  This made people as they passed by all the angrier.

I think the anger towards Jesus came because the people felt threatened by Him.  They did not understand His teachings and parables.  They did not understand how He could heal and do miracles.  They had not seen a prophet in generations and had not heard from God in many centuries.  Their lack of understanding produced anger.  Jesus challenged their assumptions and this caused anger.  Jesus made the people assess themselves and this caused anger.  Jesus made them evaluate their relationships with God and this caused anger.  Therefore, they struck out in anger at their target.

In their anger, they verbally attacked the Son of God.  Oddly enough, they challenged Jesus that “if” He was the Son of God, He should come down off the cross.  It is precisely because He was the Son of God, that He did not come down off the cross.  If Jesus came down off the cross in response to the anger of the people, you and I do not have atonement for our sins.  If Jesus survived the crucifixion in some way, you and I do not have atonement for our sins.  Jesus is surrounded by angry people who hurl insult after insult at Him while He is slowly suffocating to death.

 Atonement for me and for you can only happen if Jesus endures the anger from others and ignores the challenges and insults and curses.  He must die for us.  He must stay on the cross for you and I to be covered by His perfect divine death.

EMOTIONS OF THE CROSS, VERSES 41-42: CONTEMPT 

Verse 41 begins with the phrase, “in the same way” which shows us that anger was present in many forms from many different types of people.  The picture we get is that those who passed by and may not have known any better were angry.  We find in a few more verses that those who should have recognized Jesus and understood the prophecies from the Bible and been able to hear the voice of God had nothing but contempt for Him.

What is contempt?  Contempt is a mix of anger and disgust with a side of resentment.  These people who were chief priests and those who taught the Scriptures looked down on Jesus.  I find it very interesting that in verses 41 and 42 that the word “save” happens twice.  You and I know that Jesus came to “save us.”  I think they knew that too and they looked down on the idea that Jesus was there to save them.  They heard it, knew it, thought about it… and rejected it.  In contempt, they looked down at Jesus at what He was offering.  They said “no” to Jesus saving them.

Atonement for me and for you can only happen if Jesus endures the contempt by those that claimed to love God the most.  He had to ignore the challenges and insults and curses.  He must die for us.  He must stay on the cross and fulfill the plan of God and prove to everyone that He was Who He said He was.  Coming down off the cross proves absolutely nothing.  Coming down off the cross dooms us all to Hell forever with no hope.  Jesus must accept the contempt washing over Him and keep His focus on doing God’s will to save us.

EMOTIONS

Fear, submission, shame, cruelty, anger, and contempt were all emotions that Jesus experienced while dying slowly and painfully on the cross.  All of these emotions were blowing around Him like a storm.  I imagine each horrible emotion like a gust of wind that broke His heart and shook Him physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  You and I know these emotions.  We have experiences when we felt these things.  These emotions are real.  Emotions are powerful.  Emotions can make us do something or spur us on towards a goal.  Emotions can also stop us or keep us within a boundary.  Emotions are not something just in our minds, but we feel them in our bodies as well.  Intense emotions like fear, submission, shame, cruelty, anger, and contempt can make our bodies hurt.

EMOTIONS OF THE CROSS

What do these emotions tell us about our atonement?

The fear of the place Jesus was at was real because Jesus really did die in the most horrific manner.  The death of Jesus was not nice or peaceful or a gentle sail into the next life, but pain-filled and agony and done in a place most of us would avoid.  Our atonement cost so much.

The amount of submission Jesus was beat into was astounding.  He allowed so much to happen to Him.  With a thought, He could have changed it all.  With half a thought, He could have altered the plan of God.  Yet He laid down His life for us willingly.  Our atonement was a willing death by a perfect person.

You and I understand shame up to a certain level.  It is my opinion that not only did Jesus endure the shame of being on the cross, but as He took on our sin, the shame of all our sin was heaped on Him as well.  He endured all the shame from Adam and Eve until the end of time on the cross.  That is more shame than any of us have in one lifetime.  Our atonement takes away our shame of sin and replaces it with the covering of grace.

The cruelty of the Romans at crucifixion was perfected to a fine-tuned art.  Jesus Christ endured a horrible death for us.  His blood was shed.  His muscles were torn.  His skin was shredded.  His whole self was out of joint.  All of that because you and I do what we want when we want and how we want.  Cruelty extended to those who even passed by Jesus.  Sin is serious and brings with it cruel consequences and Jesus Christ took on all of that cruelty to be our substitutionary payment on the cross.

There was so much anger surrounding Jesus as He was beaten.  There was so much anger as He marched through the streets of Jerusalem.  There was so much anger as He was hanging from the cross.  Anger was heaped on Him all the while God was heaping shame, wrath, and consequences onto Jesus.  Jesus endured even baseless anger to save you and me.

Not only was there anger around Jesus, but people passed by and looked down on Jesus with contempt.  What Jesus was doing should have been praised or recognized or something… but not looked down upon.  Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, willingly allowed Himself to be hung on the cross to offer us grace and mercy and forgiveness through His blood.

EMOTIONS OF THE CROSS, ADD ONE MORE EMOTION

I’d like to add one more emotion to our thoughts.  It will be predictable.  Just because it is predicable doesn’t make it any less true.  After considering all that Jesus endured and all of the emotions surrounding Him, it is quite logical to ask: Why would He do all of that?

Why would Jesus move through fear?

Why would Jesus submit to so much?

Why would Jesus take on all that shame?

Why would Jesus endure such cruelty?

Why would Jesus soak up the anger?

Why would Jesus be beat down by contempt?

Love.

John 3:16-18 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (NIV 1984)

-TMB

Excusinator Maximus Meets Graciator Deo

Excusinator Maximus Meets Graciator Deo

How did Moses become the leader of the people of God?  How?  It was not an easy process and was one in which God formed Moses through a lot of grace.

“Moses!  Moses!”

Those were the words being called out from a burning bush.  This man Moses was being called by name in the desert from a bush that was burning, but was not being burned up.  It was not being burned up because an angel of the Lord was in the bush causing the miraculous event.  The fire indicated the holy presence of God.  What a miracle!  What an extraordinary event!  “Moses!  Moses!” were not the only words being called out from the bush.

God also said in Exodus 3:6-10:

I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.  7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey– the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.  10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (NIV 1984)

What a call to service!  The God of the Universe is calling Moses, the boy set adrift in a basket when he was a baby, to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.  The God of Israel is calling Moses, the man who fled Egypt because of murder, to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.  What is God calling Moses to do?

God is calling Moses to go to Egypt and command the Pharaoh (king) to release his nation of slaves.

God is calling Moses to lead that nation of slaves to freedom in a new land.

God is calling Moses to lead God’s people into a new way of living based on His law.

God is calling Moses to spend the rest of his life leading God’s people.

We might think that when Moses was called to serve God that he jumped in with both feet to serve God and do as He commanded.  He did not.  Moses was in the presence of the voice of God burning commands into his heart and Moses balked at serving God.  I find his unwillingness completely amazing.  Moses is in the presence of the Holy God and through the course of his calling gives excuse after excuse why he could not and should not and did not want to do as God was calling Him.

Moses lays out 5 excuses over the course of his conversation with God why he cannot serve.  Now, to be honest, I feel like these excuses are pretty good, but in the end, God does not accept excuses when it comes to calling us to serve.  He didn’t accept Moses’ excuses and He does not accept ours.

I AM NOBODY (3:11)

In response to the call of God, Moses excused himself because he felt that he was nobody.  Exodus 3:11 says, “But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (NIV 1984).

Moses is thinking that there is no way he could accomplish what God had laid out before him.  Moses did spend the first 40 years of his life in Egypt, but he fled in disgrace and never wanted to go back.  Moses had spent the last 40 years after Egypt being a shepherd and living a simple life.  He had a wife.  He had family responsibilities to his sons.  His life was not one of a national leader, but a simple desert dwelling shepherd that focused on family.  Moses knew he was not the person for the job.

God did not accept this excuse for one reason.  God shares with Moses very simply in verse 12: “I will be with you.”

Moses needed to understand the same thing that we do.  When it comes to the calling in our lives to serve God, it has very little to do with us.  Moses was right… he ain’t nobody.  God was right… He is Who matters.  The presence of God in our lives enables us to serve God in the way that He has called us.  The presence of God gives us direction in decisions and strength to step forward and the presence of God nullifies any doubts we have about ourselves.

God always works this way:

To Jacob God said (Genesis 28:15): “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (NIV 1984)

To Joshua God said (Joshua 3:7): “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.” (NIV 1984)

To His people through Isaiah He said (Isaiah 41:10): “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV 1984)

To Jeremiah and His people, He says 6 times (Jeremiah 1:8): “For I am with you and will rescue you.” (NIV 1984)

To believers Jesus says (Matthew 28:20): “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV 1984)

I HAVE NO AUTHORITY (3:13)

In response to the call of God, Moses added the excuse that he had no authority to go before the people and begin this process of getting them free.  Exodus 3:13 says, “Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (NIV 1984)

Moses felt like he would be showing up out of the blue stating that God has spoken to him and was releasing them from 400 years of slavery in Egypt.  He felt he would be ignored.  He felt no one would listen.

I honestly think he was right.  The Israelites had been under the authority and thumb of the Egyptians for over 4 centuries and one man showing up from the desert spouting freedom talk is going to do nothing for them.

God did not accept this excuse for one reason.  God shares with Moses in verses 15-22 that the authority to do any of this does not come from Moses, but from God Himself.  God gives Moses His name which is “I AM WHO I AM” (YHWH).  The name of God is incredibly important and deserves a sermon all in itself.  God is the Creator.  God is the Forever Father of Israel who keeps promises and God is sending Moses to keep those promises.  None of what needed to be done would be accomplished through authority Moses had, but rather because of God’s will and God’s will is always accomplished.  It was God’s will that His people be freed therefore it would happen based on nothing else but God’s authority.  Moses needed to understand the same thing we do and that is that God’s will is accomplished in all ways perfectly.

God always works this way:

Psalm 40:8 reflects, “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (NIV 1984)

Proverbs 16:4 reminds us, “The LORD works out everything for his own ends– even the wicked for a day of disaster.” (NIV 1984)

Proverbs 19:21 tells us, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (NIV 1984)

James 4:15 teaches us, “You ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (NIV 1984)

I HAVE NO POWER (4:1)

In response to the call of God, Moses added another excuse!  Please note this is excuse 3 of 5!  The next excuse is that Moses had no power to force the issue or no way to overcome the objections of the Egyptians.  Exodus 4:1 says, “Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” (NIV 1984)

Moses knew that the proposition to allow all the slaves in Egypt to go would be a proposition not welcome by Pharaoh (the king) and the people of Egypt.  400 years is a long time and we are talking about instant social change.  Moses knew Pharaoh would say no.  I would take strength and power to move the hearts and minds of the Egyptian people to let the Hebrews go.  Not only that, he would have the doubts of the Israelite people to deal with.

God did not accept this excuse for one reason.  God shares with Moses in verses 2-9 of chapter 4 that He would give Moses power to do amazing things to grab the attention of the Pharaoh and to express the power of God in the command to let His people go.  God gave Moses the power to change his staff into a snake.  God gave Moses the power to change his skin from leprous to healed.  God gave Moses the power to change the water of the Nile to blood.  If you know what happened during the process of getting the people out of Egypt, you know that God used Moses to bring miraculous plague after miraculous plague on the people of Egypt starting with the Nile turning to blood and finishing with the death of the first born.  Each plague showed God’s power and His supremacy over the gods of Egypt and that God is ultimate in power.

God is always omnipotent:

Job 37:23 states, “The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.” (NIV 1984)

Jeremiah 32:17 reminds us, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (NIV 1984)

Romans 4:17 speaks about Abraham and then God, “As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed– the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.” (NIV 1984)

I HAVE NO ELOQUENCE (4:10)

In response to the call of God, Moses added another excuse!  I have to tell you at this point in the conversation, this now being the 4th excuse, I would have smote Moses to a pile to dust and then went and picked someone else.  God is not like that.  God is slow to anger and wonderful in His grace to us.  God is gracious when we are frustrating.  God is patient when all we have are excuses.  God lavishes His grace on Moses even though the next excuse that Moses gives is that he can’t speak well.  Exodus 4:10 says, “Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (NIV 1984)

The job that God was calling Moses to do required him to speak well.  Moses would have to speak well to the people of Israel and convince them that he had been sent by God.  He would need to address group after group to accomplish this.  Moses would need to address Pharaoh (the king) in court to persuade him to let the people go from slavery and from the country.  Moses would need persuasive appeal, political shrewdness, and a charisma that would enable him to lead well.  Even after leading the people from Egypt, Moses would need skills to address the people and keep them on the right track.  It was a tall order.

God did not accept this excuse for one reason.  God shares with Moses in verses 11-12 that He made Moses and will give him the skills, talents, and words needed to lead the people well and to persuade Pharaoh to let the people leave Egypt.  God as the all-powerful Creator who is still personally involved in His creation is able to accomplish this.  God is personable and knows us.  He knows what we can do and what we cannot do.  God also gives skill and blessing and talents to accomplish what He assigns us.

God always works this way:

Psalm 25:12 tells us, “Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.” (NIV 1984)

Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (NIV 1984)

Luke 12:11-12 teaches us, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (NIV 1984)

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (NIV 1984)

I DON’T WANT TO (4:13)

In response to the call of God, Moses has one final thing to say and it is probably what he should have said first.  Moses has offered excuses about him being nobody, about having no authority, about having no power, and about not being an eloquent speaker.  Now Moses gets right down to it with his last excuse.  Moses honestly says he just doesn’t want to do it.  Exodus 4:13 says, “But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (NIV 1984)

I believe that Moses was comfortable in his life away from Egypt.  For 40 years, he had dedicated himself to his wife and sons and family and shepherding life.  He did not want to do what God was calling him to do.  He finally asked God to send someone else.

I would like you to notice verse 14 right after Moses says to “send someone else.”  Verse 14 says: “Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses…”  God did not accept this excuse for several reasons.  God became angry with Moses because of his excuses and his whining and his objections to what God was calling him to do.  God shares with Moses in verses 14-17 that other people are counting on him.  Not only that, others that God will bring into Moses’ life will be talented and will help.  God tells Moses He will provide all that Moses needs to accomplish the task.

God always works in this way:

Psalm 34:10 teaches us, “The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.” (NIV 1984)

Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–  9 not by works, so that no one can boast.  10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV 1984)

Philippians 4:19 reminds us, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (NIV 1984)

SERVING GOD

Here is the Truth about serving God that we find from Exodus 3-4.  There are tasks, events, relationships, ministries, volunteer efforts, and groups of people that God calls us to serve.  God called Moses to lead His people out of slavery to the Land of Promise.  God also calls us to serve Him in many different ways.

Who is God calling you to serve?

What is God calling you to do with your time?

When are you listening to God to find out what He wants you to do?

Where does God want you to serve Him?

Why are you perhaps not serving Him?

How has God gifted you to serve Him?

Excusinator Maximus Meets Graciator Deo

God desires that His servants be willing to do anything for Him in advancing His kingdom or making Him known to those who do not believe.  God has a specific plan for us.  He gifts followers (us) to serve according to His will and makes us equal to the task He gives us.  It doesn’t work to not listen or to offer excuses.

We must lay aside our excuses when it comes to serving God.  We must lay aside our will when it comes to serving God.  We must trust that if God is pushing or pulling us in a direction that He will make a way for His will to be accomplished.  God will see to it that you have the skills and talents needed to serve Him.  Excuses don’t work.

You and I are great at giving God excuses as to why we cannot serve Him.  We may use the excuses that Moses used.  We may use our own very inventive excuses.  We like Moses are often “Excusinator Maximus” (yes, I made those words up).

“I am nobody and so someone else should do it”

“I have no authority to do that kind of thing”

“I don’t have the spiritual power to do something like that”

“I can’t speak well in front of others”

“I really don’t have the time to serve in that area”

“I have never done it before so I won’t do it”

“That’s the minister’s job”

“I already served and now it is time for someone else to take a turn”

“I still don’t know enough or have enough experience yet”

“I am too young”

“I am too old”

“I have been hurt before so I want to avoid that”

“I am too busy doing other things”

Excusinator Maximus Meets Graciator Deo

The thing about excuses is that God does not accept them.  God does not accept them because He is “Graciator Deo” (yes, I made those words up).  God in His grace to us equips us, motivates us, and gives us words and talents needed to serve Him.  God eliminates excuses in His Kingdom because He empowers us through His Spirit to serve.

-TMB

Writings of John: Walk Down the Street with Jesus

Writings of John: Walk Down the Street with Jesus

Let’s walk down the street together.  You, me, and Jesus.

We’ll have a walk around my church.  I’ll describe it as best I can.

As we leave the front doors of the church, we find ourselves on a semi-busy street.  Manhattan Avenue is a semi-busy street in my book.  The sun is shining.  There is a small breeze blowing which is nice.  We take a left and walk along the property of the church.  Cars and trucks whiz by.  A few people honk because they recognize us or more truthfully they probably recognize Who is with us.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I am not sure how many people these days recognize Jesus if He walked on water in front of them.  I guess in the end I am not sure why they are honking.  Maybe my good looks.

Anyway, we aren’t even off of the entry sidewalk when someone pulls into the church parking lot in their car.  At that moment, I get a text.  Immediately I pull out my phone and check my message.  Not really an important one.  You know what is important… facebook and twitter.  I am standing there and the person walks by me headed for the door of the church.  Facebook is great.  Twitter is great.  I suddenly realize we aren’t walking!  Let’s go for a walk.

Jesus just kind of looked at me and stared and looked back at the door of the church with the person standing there.

We haven’t even gone very far on our walk when the next thing that we come to is the church gazebo on our left.  The gazebo is where the greeters sit and give out bulletins and communion for the drive-in outdoor service we have each week.  Now you need to know that recently our gazebo is getting a bit tattered.  You see, at night apparently there are homeless people sleeping in it on a regular basis.  They are eating and drinking and making an absolute mess which is causing bugs and other critters to gather.  A few of the bench parts are broken now.  Not only that, there is graffiti appearing in the gazebo.  I assume they are messages from homeless people to homeless people that it is a safe place to sleep.  Sometimes they even leave their sleeping bags and backpacks in it.  They tore down our no trespassing sign.  To be honest, people are being a nuisance all of a sudden and are messing up our stuff.

As I am walking along and come up to the gazebo, I notice an older man sitting in the gazebo.  He is just sitting there.  He is not eating or drinking or sleeping, but just sitting there.  “Well Jesus,” I say out loud, “there he is.  He must be one of the ones who are messing up our stuff.  You know what I think I will do… I think I will tell him to move.  After all, he is obviously the one who is causing a mess and causing issues.”

I walk over to the man.  In a firm and authoritative voice, I tell him that he has to move.  After all, I am the minister of the church and we can’t have people sleeping in the gazebo and messing it up.  We won’t have it to use if the homeless people break the benches, fill it with graffiti, and cause it to be overrun with pests.  We have to be good stewards of what God has given us.  I am nice.  I am firm.  I even comment that the Church of Christ next door only has a service once a week and never has anyone there and he is more than welcome to hang out around their building.  He was very polite as he corrected my assumption that he was homeless.  He mentioned that he lives across the street and was on his way back from Winn Dixie.  His ol’ legs weren’t what they used to be and he needed to rest.  He bent over and picked up his grocery bags which I had not seen and got up and left.  He kind of limped as he went along lugging his groceries.  He had three or four bags in each hand and it was amazing that the old guy could carry so much. I watched him for a few steps.  I looked at Jesus and nodded with approval of my own actions.

Jesus just kind of looked at me and stared.

I looked at Jesus and said, “I suppose You are thinking that I should have let the old man sit in the gazebo?  I don’t know.  Or maybe I should be helping him on his way home across the street by carrying his bags.  Maybe, but I am on a walk with my friends and with You.  I shouldn’t get distracted by what people need.  I need to focus on You.”

Jesus turned around and looked at the older man as he was walking.

I walked down the street some more.  A few more people honked and waved.  The doctor’s office is on the left.  As we were walking by, we saw a friend of ours come out of the doctor’s office.  He had some papers in his hand and it looked like he had been crying.  I waved.  He waved as he was walking to his car.  Now my deductive sleuthing skills went into high gear.  A person we know is coming from a doctor’s office with several papers in their hands and it looks like they have been crying.  It does not take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce that they have received some bad news about their health from the doctor.

I looked at Jesus.  I looked at our friend heading to their car.  “You know I should probably ask them what the matter is,” I said to Jesus as we were walking.  “But that might be a little rude and intrusive.  And I am sure You are thinking that I should stop, listen, and then offer to pray with them right there in the parking lot.  That would be so intrusive of their rights and personal space.  Plus I am ‘assuming’ they got bad news and I just ‘assumed’ something about a person a minute ago that wasn’t even true.  I think I will just keep on walking and keep my assumptions and my prayers to myself.  I should just keep to myself.”

Jesus turned around and looked at the person as they got into their car.  I thought I saw a tear roll down His cheek, but maybe not.

You, me, and Jesus are walking down the street together having a most wonderful walk!  I am sharing with Him all about my life.  I of course have things that I ask Jesus for as we walk.  I ask Him to keep my family safe.  I ask Him to help me keep my job.  I look at Him and say there are some ‘unspoken’ requests ‘wink wink’ that I would like Him to take care of.  My dog needs a new collar.  My car could use some brakes.  The yard needs to be raked.  I then realized I was going over my to-do list of the activities of the day instead of talking with Jesus.  It is so easy to get distracted.

As we are walking, we come upon a bus stop.  You know on Manhattan Avenue there are tons of bus stops.  At this particular bus stop there is a man hunched almost completely over as he sits.  He has no shirt on which is what made me notice him in the first place.  He looks to be almost skin and bones.  He is sitting and sleeping at the bus stop.

Jesus points at the man.

“You want me to talk to him?  I could You know, but I know this guy Jesus.  He comes to our church about once every six months.  Every time he comes in he tells us his woes because of alcohol.  I have talked with him a few times and he is definitely someone who needs You.  Dude is addicted to alcohol and who knows what else.  He gets help and then falls right back into his old patterns it seems.”

Jesus again points at the man.

“You want me to talk to him?  I could.  I know this guy Jesus.  I could talk to him and encourage him or see what he needs.  He obviously needs a shirt.  But I don’t think so.  I think I will let him stew in his own mistakes at the bottom of an empty bottle.  Plus he is sleeping.  I should just let him sleep.  Maybe a little sunburn will teach him a lesson about drinking.  You know… tough agape love and all that.”

Jesus again points at the man.

“No thank you,” I said and we again continued on our walk.

We continued our walk down the street.  I continued to talk to Jesus all about myself.  My frustration over having been interrupted by the shirtless drunk man was fading.  I told Jesus all about the new car I wanted.  You see I have three teenagers that will be driving soon and I asked Jesus to provide another car so that there will be enough car to go around.  Oh, and please get me a raise so I can pay for the increased insurance.  “And,” I said to Jesus directly, “if you really want to show you are really and truly God, let my wife get a raise too.  I will increase my tithe I promise.”  Oh Jesus and I had such a wonderful conversation as we walked.  I talked.  I talked.  I talked.  I talked.  I talked.

On our walk we came up to the Baptist church.  You know the same architect that built our church was the same one who built that one.  That is what I was told once.  “You know,” I told Jesus, “those Baptists are ok.  Some of them are a little uptight with the whole no cards and no dancing thing.”  I laughed at my attempted joke.  “Did you know,” I asked him, “that most Baptists celebrate Your supper only once a month… if that.  Crazy.  We of course do it weekly which makes us way holier than them.  I think the way we do absolutely everything in our church makes You completely happy.  We are the city on the hill that cannot be hidden.  We are shining lights in a very dark world.”  I nodded my head with conviction and said as a summary statement, “holier than them all.”

Jesus just kind of looked at me and stared.

We walked even further down the street.  There are stores on our left past the Baptist church.  There were people shopping.  Cars pulling into parking spaces and cars pulling out of spaces.  As we were walking, we came upon the daycare center which is just past the shopping center.  As we passed, a couple of parents came out of the daycare center as they were picking up their children.  One of the mothers waved at me and motioned me over.  The one motioning me over comes to our church on Christmas and every other Easter and just can’t seem find the time to get to church any of the other Sundays.  Such a busy life.  Jesus, knowing my thoughts and heart, knew what I was thinking.  He started to shake His head no.

“Oh hey pastor!” she said excitedly.  She motioned to her friend who was with her.  “This is the pastor of my church!”  She was very excited to introduce me to her friend.  “Your church,” I said in a surprised voice, “you haven’t been in services in over a year.  How could you possibly call us your church?”

Jesus was shaking His head no as he heard the shameful things come out of my mouth.  He knew them before they even came out of my mouth.  I felt a little bad at saying what I said.  Only a little.

“You know,” I said to her in front of her friend who was now wide-eyed with embarrassment, “you should only refer to me as ‘your pastor’ and ‘your church’ if you actually come through the doors.  Why, I am not even sure God knows your name.”

Jesus was shaking His head and now rested it low in shame and whispered something that sounded like her name.

We walked on.  You.  Me.  Jesus.  We are having such a great walk.  “You know,” I said to Jesus, “these people are fooling themselves if they think coming to church once a year makes them a Christian.  It feels good to put them in their place… doesn’t it?  I bet no one ever tells them the truth.  I guess I get to be the one who tells the truth.  It is a heavy burden to be righteous all the time.  But I guess You already knew that.”

Jesus turned around and looked at her as she was putting her child in her car.  I thought I saw a tear roll down His cheek, but maybe not.  He whispered what sounded like a name again.

We crossed the street and started to head back to the church.

Anyway, as we are walking Jesus kind of leads the way back to our church.  He took the lead.  Weird.  I had been leading our walk the whole time.  What is Jesus doing taking the lead?  I guess He knows where He is going.  I guess we should follow Him.  We walk into the front door of the church and Jesus goes and sits in the sanctuary.  We all follow and sit next to Him.  He pulls out one of the Bibles in the pew and turns to 1 John 1.

Jesus handed me the Bible and pointed at the page.

1 JOHN 1:1-10

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched– this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.  2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  4 We write this to make our joy complete.  5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.  7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 

Let me share with you the five things that I learned from our walk and 1 John 1:

Live in the Light

#1 God is light.  Light is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Light is forgiveness, grace, mercy, soft words, revealing sin, repentance, and service.  Light is faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ His Son, living in the Spirit, and sharing the message about Jesus to someone who does not know.  That is light.

Live in the Light

#2 Our God commands us to live in light.  This means all of our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, intentions, actions, and reactions must be full of light.  Meaning all of our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, intentions, actions, and reactions are full of Him.  We need to continually monitor ourselves by prayer, reading God’s Word, and fellowship with other believers that we might remain in the light.  This is not an option for someone who claims to believe in God and follow His Son Jesus Christ.

Live in the Light

#3 Walk in the light is daily.  We must continually have fellowship with Jesus in the light in order to fill up our spiritual tanks.  By doing this, we will be guided by the Holy Spirit rather than our own thoughts and feelings which in their default setting is probably sinful.  Walking in the light is not a once in a while thing.  Walking in the light is not a Sunday-only thing.  Walking in the light is a daily way of life.  Walking in the light is a daily choice.

Live in the Light

#4 Light is given out without restrictions.  Every single person we meet in every single situation we are in is an opportunity to share light.  Every single conversation we have is an opportunity to speak light.  Every hurting person we come across is in need of light in their lives.  Here is where walking in light gets quite difficult.  It does not matter what they have done, who they have hurt, what they have said, we are to be light to them each and every time.  I does not matter how many times they have disappointed us, how many times they have failed, or how often they have asked for help, we are to be light to them each and every time.  The other person’s full-of-darkness attitudes or actions does not dictate our full-of-light response.  We are to be light without restrictions.

Live in the Light

#5 Light and darkness are always at odds.  God is light.  Everything that has nothing to do with God is darkness.  You can claim to know Jesus and yet walk in darkness.  Doing so means Jesus is not really a part of our lives and we make the faith in Jesus Christ an active lie in our lives.  Claiming to know Jesus and walking in darkness is a lie.  That lie will be discovered in this life or in the next, but it will be discovered.

-TMB

Further Thoughts on Achan

Further Thoughts on Achan (Joshua Chapter 7)

Seriousness of Sin

“Herem”: the exclusion of an object from the use or abuse of man and its irrevocable surrender to God.”

Translation: “If it’s God’s, it ain’t yours.”

Joshua Chapter 7 is one of my all time favorite passages in the Bible.  Yes, I am strange.  It is one of my favorite passages because it presents a black and white world view and moral structure that I find appealing.  This passage highlights God’s designation of Jericho as “Herem” and one person’s dismissal of that claim.  God claimed all of Jericho as His and the Israelites were to leave it all for Him.  They did not.  He, Achan, did not.  The end result was chaos and death.  There was sin in the camp and it produced death for others.  This passage shows the seriousness of sin.

Our initial reaction to that is that this situation is completely unfair.  God allows the People of Israel to lose in battle to Ai because of one person’s sin.  Is that true?  Yes.  God removed His hand of protection because one person dismissed His claim on devoted things in Jericho.  Is that true?  Yes.  That is completely unfair!  No.

It is not unfair because God is the author of fairness, not us.  It is not unfair because we do not understand the seriousness of sin.  You and I sin and we think it is no big deal.  We excuse “little white lies.”  We watch what TV show we want and dismiss it as not being a big deal.  We sin and then think we will just ask for forgiveness later.  We sin secretly and think it won’t influence our family, church, or spouse at all.  We are wrong on all counts.

Seriousness of Sin

Sin is a big deal.  Dismissing God is a big deal.  Sin not only infects us, but it leaks out to those around us and infiltrates their lives.  Sin always always always leads to death.  That was true in the Garden of Eden and it was true in the Israelite camp after Jericho.

As you read this section on Joshua, note that Achan took the way of lies and untruth and hiding and that path led to death.  God presents in Joshua a way of life based on truth which does work.  Achan’s way didn’t work.  Achan’s way didn’t work in God’s system.  God’s system is based on obedience, righteousness, goodness, and holiness.  Achan did the opposite and everyone paid… he, his family, and his nation.

-TMB

Covenants Always Lead to Life

Covenants Always Lead to Life

Exodus through Deuteronomy can be difficult to read.  Your eyes might blur and your brain might get fuzzy as you trudge through laws and standards.  At times, instructions are duplicated.  What I don’t want you to miss is that the word “covenant” and the idea of covenant and the working out of covenants between human beings and God are life giving agreements.  They are eternally important.

I would like to point out that God establishes covenants… all covenants… to preserve life and to give life.  The covenant with Noah was to preserve life and to never destroy the Earth again by flood.  The Abrahamic Covenant established life after life in succession with one man who would become a nation.  Moses brought the covenant to the People of Israel to explain what life was all about and to outline bountiful life in God.  David’s covenant was about establishing God’s rule over life over generations.

Life.  Life.  Life.  Life.

I didn’t even get to the New Covenant paid for in Jesus’ Blood which brings Eternal Life.

Life.

Every single time God sets down a rule or boundary or enters into a covenant with someone or a group of people, the end result is always life for them.  Always.  God (YHWH) never enters into an agreement where the end result is death.  He is not about death.  He is about life.  He is about offering Eternal Life since He is the only source of Eternal Life.

May I submit to you that the opposite is also true.  Being outside of God’s covenants produces the opposite of life… death.  We’ll skip over every example in the Old Testament and focus just on the New Testament.  What is the result of someone who is outside of Christ?  What is the eternal disposition of someone not in a covenant relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son empowered by the Holy Spirit?

Dead.

That same “rule” applies in every single one of the covenants that God Almighty establishes with His People and other people.  God brings life.  Outside of Him is death.  This is simply true because God is the only source of life.

-TMB