Dying for the haters

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The other morning as Cassie and I were waking up we were chatting about this and that.  At one point, I said, “You sound like a liberal”  I said this in a negative context.
She said, “Do they need a punch?”  Offering me her fist, implying that she was going to punch me.
I said, “They do.  Not me.”
She told me I could be their substitute.
I explained I wasn’t Jesus.
And right there, in the midst of our silly/playful morning conversation it hit me.  I had this very distinct thought of “I’m not going to die for those people, I’m not going to suffer for those people.  They seek to rob me of my liberty and trample on my freedom.”  And I understood a little bit more of what it meant for Jesus to die for me.
Liberal leaning folk aren’t my mortal enemies (though sometimes I think they are), even though I disagree with their politics.  They are merely people who I wish would change their mind about a number of semi-important/important things.
But what was I to Jesus before he died for me?  What were any of us to God before he spilled his blood on our behalf?  What are those of us who don’t know Jesus in a saving way?
We were/are his enemies.
In Ephesians 2, we are called “children of wrath”.  We were drunkards, sex and porn addicts, angry, hateful people, who were busy hating others and being hated by others.  We looked out for ourselves before all people, and sought our own good and not God’s.  We wrote our own morality and called just.  We turned a blind eye to our own failings against our code (that we wrote!), while railing others for breaking it.
That’s who we were/are.
“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”  (Romans 5:8-11)
The beauty of that passage is that Christ died for you when you were at your worst, not your best.  The Gospel isn’t, “clean yourself up so God can clean you up.”  It’s “Come broken, with nothing and God will give you everything.”  Those who are well have no need of a doctor, only those who are sick (and those who know they are sick).  Jesus came for those who are sick, not those who are well.  Until you know yourself as sinner, what need have for a Savior?  But for those of you who know you are screwed up, you have everything you need to come to Jesus.
God died for us when we needed him most.  He died for us when we were hating him.  He died for us as enemies to make us adopted sons and daughters.
I remember hearing this guy who is a godly man, once explain this talk series he gave on a retreat.  His series was about how God can only love a holy object.  So Jesus died to make us holy so God could love us again.
I understand his point, but Romans 5 stands in direct opposition to that.  God didn’t make us holy and then love us, he loved us and therefore made us holy.  He love precedes his justification.  “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”  Also, God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.  God loved and then he sent his Son.  What that means for you is that you have access to God right now regardless of your moral, physical or spiritual state.  It means that God is reaching out to you to know you and love you and the only thing standing between you and him, is yourself.  There is nothing you need do save come to him.  Don’t be better, come as you are.
God’s kind of love, the kind to love your enemies enough to die in their stead can only come from God.  Think about your enemies, think about who they are, and imagine suffering for them.
Imagine being in pain so they don’t have to be.
If that doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth I don’t know what will.
That is what God did to reclaim his people.  He suffered for me, for you (if you’ll have him), so we don’t have to be in pain.  You who were/are his enemies don’t have to be any longer.  You who are far off, have been brought near.
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Posted in Bible Commentary

Thy Kingdom come….

Jesuscoming

 

“Thy kingdom come”

Three little words I learned as a small child, as part of a larger prayer.  My mother, who I don’t think knew Jesus at the time, taught me what we call “the Lord’s prayer” when I was less than 10 years old.  I remember going to bed, and my mom helping me memorize that short prayer line by line.  At the time I had no idea what the words actually meant, (to be honest I doubt my mom did either).  Every Sunday my parents would drag me to church (which I hated) and every week the congregation of 100-200 people would together say the entire Lords prayer out loud together.  It was often done in a monotone, ritualistic manner.  I doubt anyone there knew why bothered to repeat all those words out loud.  I doubt they knew what those words meant either.

I’m afraid that most of the people I know who love Jesus have no idea what those words mean either.  I doubt many of them even pray for Jesus Kingdom to come, or if they do, they aren’t really sure what it means.

The coming of Gods kingdom means a lot of things, but right now I’m only going to talk about one of them.  I’m going to talk about the final, full arrival of God’s kingdom.

I’m talking about the return of Jesus.

There seems to be a lot of confusion surround the whole thing.  Debates range on timelines, eschatology, the Millennium, and the time of Satan’s rule.  But one thing in the Bible is astounding clear, and one thing all Christians agree on, Jesus will return to earth to rule and reign.

Often though Christians forget this fact, or if they remember it, it seems to have little to do with their daily life.  I think that most of walk around with this (false) belief that we work through this life really hard, and suffer and work and then when we die we go “home” to a heaven where life is easy and there’s no hardship.

The problem with that (as Matt Chandler would say) is the Bible.

Due to limited space I can’t give you all the biblical data at this point and for that I’m sorry, but know this.  The entire point of the Bible, the entire point of the whole Story is the return of the King.  Life doesn’t end when you die and go to heaven and be happy.  We (as in all followers of God who have ever lived) are all waiting in eager anticipation for the return of Jesus.  The return of Jesus is the point.

When Jesus died on the Cross, he just didn’t buy your soul with his blood (as glorious as that is), he bought so much more.  He bought the entire universe.

In the beginning, God created the earth and it was perfect.  There was the Garden, and it had what is called “Shalom”, it’s the hebrew word for peace.  It means so much more then just the cessation of war.  It means, order, harmony, everything working in perfect unity with all other things.  It means (for example) everything you put into work you get out of it, and you never have a miscommunication and a resulting fight with any other human being ever.

You see, when Adam ate the fruit and we lost the Garden, we lost the shalom.  We lost the harmony, unity and natural working order.  Now you have rouge cells that cause cancer and a garden that keeps getting weeds.

Jesus died to get the Shalom back and the return of Jesus means the return of Shalom.

Why should you pray for the Kingdom to come?  Why should you pray for Jesus to return?  Why is it important for Jesus to return at all?  It’s important for a lot of reasons, but one of those reasons is that we get Shalom back.  With the return of Jesus is the renewal of all things, it means that all of our striving can finally cease.  Satan will be vanquished.  Sin destroyed completely, never to touch us again.  Shalom will be restored.  Jesus, the one who made it all, who redeemed it all and who loves us all will be here.

You see, you don’t get to punch your ticket once your dead.  It’s not, “going home” when you die.  When you die, you go to heaven and wait with Jesus until he shall make his final move.  You wait with Jesus to return to earth.

And on that day, when he comes with a tattoo on his thigh (Rev 19:16), ready to judge all evil that has been done, and restore all things to their proper place.  On that day, all of us (every follower of Jesus from the beginning of time) will have such a party that your best party on earth will seem as dull as those church services I always dreaded as a kid.  The return of Jesus is the final crowning glory of our King and point of the whole Bible.  Jesus death is the greatest mercy in the history of universe, but what he buys is glory everlasting, and that is truly something to be excited for.

Thy kingdom come.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.  

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Posted in Cultural Commentary

Top 5: Romans 8

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[1] There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. [3] For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, [4] in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [5] For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. [6] For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [7] For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. [8] Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. [9] You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. [10] But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. [11] If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. [12] So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. [13] For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. [14] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. [15] For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” [16] The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, [17] and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. [18] For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. [19] For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. [20] For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope [21] that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. [22] For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. [23] And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. [24] For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? [25] But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. [26] Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. [27] And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. [28] And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. [29] For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. [30] And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. [31] What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? [32] He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? [33] Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. [34] Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. [35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? [36] As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” [37] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. [38] For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, [39] nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Is there a more theologically packed Gospel drenched chapter about God’s love in all the entire Bible as Romans 8?

I don’t believe there is.

Let’s hit some high points.

Verse 1) This verse comes right off the heels of Romans 7 where Paul is lamenting his sinful nature.  In christ we have no condemnation.  All our sin, all our waywardness, all of it is covered.  There is no threat of wrath for those in Jesus.  God no longer regards you as an enemy but rather as an adopted son.

Verse 3) God saves us.  The law couldn’t do it, we couldn’t do, but God could and he did.

Verse 11) God gives us life.  He is giving you life even as your current body decays life is coming to you in continuing measure.

Verse 14) We are adopted Sons of God.  We, who were once his enemies are now his sons and daughters.  Adoption is probably the highest blessing that the Cross provides.

Verse 18) Glory is coming.

Verse 21) All of creation will be restored to it’s glory.

Verse 23) We are waiting for our bodies to be redeemed to be restored to glory.

Verse 26) The Holy Spirit is there to help us every step of the way.  We are weak, but he is strong.

Verse 28) This is not a pithy verse to quote when life is hard.  This is deep mysterious truth for the hardest pain in your life.

Verse 29-30) God saves you.  You had nothing to do with it.  He just saved you because he wanted to.  Be thankful.

Verse 32) I think this is my favorite verse in the whole chapter.  God gave Jesus the most precious person in all of creation, his only Son for you.  If he already gave us Jesus for you, how will he ever withhold from giving you any good thing?  God will provide and meet all your needs.  Because we know he has already met your biggest need and saved you from hell.

Verse 37-39) God’s love for you in Christ is stronger than anything else in all creation.  God loves you.  His love saved you.  His love will guide you home.

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Top 5: Psalm 23

[1] The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
[2] He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
[3] He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
[4] Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
[5] You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
[6] Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Every verse of this short psalm is loaded with meaning.  It’s little wonder it has long been a Christian favorite.  Let’s do a quick verse by verse breakdown, just to scratch the surface of it’s deep meaning.

1) This verse sets up the rest of the whole psalm with God as your shepherd, your guide, your leader, with Jesus at the helm you shall never want.  He meets all your needs, all time.  It is a great thing to know yourself a sheep when you know Jesus as the shepherd.

2) He brings you to good things.  If you were a sheep imagine what open green pastures would mean to you.  It would mean food in plenty and lots of rest with no fear of danger.  He leads you beside still waters.  Waters that aren’t full of crocodiles or rapids, but a soft babbling brooke to drink from.  He gives you good gifts and leads you to good places.

3) He restores your soul.  Have you ever felt your soul needed restoring?  God is the ultimate soul restorer.   Not vacation, nor rest, nor bourbon has the power of soul restoration like Jesus does.  He leads you in righteousness, shown you the way.  He does this for his glory for his own sake.  It should comfort you that God is after his own glory, a large part of his glory is his lover for his people.

4) Probably the most popular verse of the psalm.  It’s been so popularized it’s hard to remember what it actually means.  It means no matter how bad life gets, even when death is imminent you need not be afraid because God is there.  You need not fear, Jesus is here.

5) God blesses you.  All the time he pours out blessing on your life through Jesus Christ the King.

6) God loves you, his steadfast love and mercy will be after you all of your life.  His ruthless love chases you no matter where you go, even in the valley of death.   He mercy will see you to be in his presence in heaven, forever.

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Posted in Bible Commentary

Top 5: John 17

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I’m going to do a short series on my top 5 favorite Bible Chapters.  I’ll past the chapter in and give you a short 1-5 paragraphs on what makes it so awesome. I’ll try to keep these short as I think the chapters mostly speak for themselves.  So here are my top 5 favorite chapters in the whole bible, in no particular order.

First up, John 17.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 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. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Commonly knows as the “High Priestly Prayer” this chapter has long stood out to me because it is the only place I know of in the Bible where Jesus is specifically praying for believers.  He spends a lot of time praying for his disciples, but all of those prayers can easily and fairly be transferred to all believers (theologically speaking).

Then Jesus spends some specific time praying for all believers (starting in verse 20).

Jesus prays for you (if you are in him).

It is amazingly soul filling to get a sneak peak into the private prayers of Jesus for his people.  Three things in particular stand out in Jesus’ prayer.

1) He prays that we would be united like he and the Father are united (v22).  That’s cool because he knows that saying united is going to be hard.

2) He prays we get to see his glory.  He is basically praying that we make it to heaven.  That we endure and get to see Jesus in his full glory, which is kind of the whole point of being a believer.

3) In v26 Jesus prays that God the Father would love us like he loved Jesus.  That is the most impactful thing to me in this whole chapter.

God loves you like he loves Jesus.

Dwell on that the rest of the day and let it blow your mind.

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Posted in Bible Commentary

On Stingyness

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Spending as little money as possible isn’t virtuous.  To be fair I’m a materialist idolator at heart.  My sin tendency is to want to buy things because I think they will make me happy, in that sense I wrongly buy into the American Dream.

But, as far as I know no where in the Bible is being cheap considered virtuous.  In fact the only bible verse that I do know seems to be quiet opposed to being cheap.  Proverbs 23:6-8.  “Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten, and waste your pleasant words.”

Proverbs gives wise advice to not eat with a miser because they will serve you food and hate you for it.  Don’t get me wrong I think we should steward our resources well before Jesus.  I’m not saying we should have no regard for how we spend our money I think we should have lots of regard for that.  I but I think being cheap/stingy usually just reveals your money idol.  Beware your heart, you can claim you are just being frugal when really you’re just hoarding.

You know what the Bible does hold up as a virtue?  Generosity.  Generosity has no restraint in how it spends.  Proverbs 19:6, “Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.”  Everyone loves a generous person, your own experience confirms this.

Would you rather go out to diner with your friend who just want to straight split the bill regardless of what your ordered?  Or would you rather go out with your friends who order a salad and a water and only want to pay for their bill because you ordered a salad and a pop.  They aren’t paying an extra $1.02 for your pop!

I understand sometimes you are in circumstances where you have a tight budget, and so maybe you can’t be as generous as much as you would like to, but chances are you have a bit more money then you think you do.  Being cheap and hoarding your money is not stewarding your resources well.  Saving money and searching around for hours for the best deal on a new wooden spoon for the kitchen,  for the sake of it is not virtuous.  In fact it might even be sinful.

God loves a cheerful giver (2nd Cor 8), be generous, shower grace on others with how you spend your money.  Don’t be cheap.

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Posted in Gospel Living

So Christian….

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I was on a plane the other day, and a group of girls were behind me having a conversation, I over heard one of them recounting how their friend went to a school that was “so christian”.  I waited for the defining factor that made it “so christian”.

“It’s so christian, like you can’t drink and stuff.”

My heart just sank in my chest.

Really?  Is that the thing that made it “so christian”?  The fact that you couldn’t drink alcohol if you went to this school?  I thought about turning back and explaining to this girl (and the rest of the plane) that actually not drinking had almost nothing to do with Christianity proper and was mostly just a function of American Evangelicalism (of which I am apart).

I’m not for drunkenness by any means, and I have several friends who abstain from alcohol entirely, but when it comes to things that define our faith “not drinking” isn’t even on the list.  It’s not like it’s even somewhere down at the bottom and she just picked a really bad example of what it means to be christian, she picked something that isn’t even on the list.  She might as well have said, “They really just love pink elephants, that’s how christian they are.”  It would have probably made as much sense.

I don’t blame this poor ignorant girl, I blame us.  I blame Christians and Christian organizations who make small, tertiary things central things.  Who take small preferences and pull them to the center and say, “A christian looks like this.”  I blame people who major on the minors and not major on the majors.  We need to spend the most time talking about the most important things and spend less time talking about less important things.

The central things in our faith, the things that defines our faith and sets us apart from all other religions is that fact that Jesus is God who demands our total allegiance to him before all else.  Jesus is the God Man who rather than punish us for our sin, decided to bear our punishment for us.  Jesus is the Man who entered into history, who really walked around, who really talked to people, who really performed a bunch of miracles, who really died a brutal barbaric death, who really rose from the dead, who really showed himself to his disciples and people and then rose into heaven.  Jesus is God who sits in heaven and will one day return to pour out his wrath on all who oppose him and give final redemption to all those who have trusted him for his saving blood.  It’s Jesus, it’s all about Jesus.  That’s what makes something “so christian”.

I would have loved this girl said, “It’s so christian, like all they do is talk about Jesus and stuff, it’s really weird.”  That would be have been great.  I would have been happy, because at least she would have walked away with knowing what we are all about.

The name “Christian” means “follower of Christ” not, “abstainer of alcohol”.  Let us bear the name of Jesus, for by no other name shall we be saved, and by no other name is the universe ruled.

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Posted in Cultural Commentary
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