Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jesus' Relationship With the Father

A translation of John 14

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going. How are we able to know the way?"

Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. If you had known me you also will know the Father. And from now you will know him and have seen Him."

Phillip said to him, "Lord show us the Father and we are content."

Jesus said to him, "I am so much time with you and you have not known me, Phillip? He who knows me knows the Father. How do you say, 'show us the Father?' Don't you believe that I am in the Fater and the father is in me? The word which I say to you I do not speak for myself, but the Father who is abiding in me does His works. Believe in me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or else believe through these works."

Thomas responded, “Lord, don’t you see? We DON’T know where you are going? So how can you say we know the way you are going when we don’t know the destination?”

Jesus said, mysteriously, “I am the way, Thomas. I am the way to Father God, the road you must take. I am also the truth about Father God. I am also the life that Father God gives. So without me, no one can obtain Father God. But you will know Him from this point on because you have seen him already.”

Phillip, confused, said, “So are you going to show us the Father now? Do that and all our prayers will be answered.”

Jesus replied, “Phillip, you’ve been with me for so long but you still don’t have any clue who I am? If you have experienced me, then you have experienced the Father.” Jesus sighs. “I can’t believe you just asked me to show you the Father. Don’t you understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father? I am speaking to you, but I’m not speaking my own words, but the Fathers’. I do miracles, but it is not me doing them, but the Father. If you believe nothing else, believe me when I say that I am living in the Father and the Father is living in me. Or, at the very least, believe that it is true because of the miracles the Father did through me.”

Judas said to him, not the Iscariot, "Lord, what happened that you are going to make known Yourself to us and not to the world?"

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves me my word he will keep and my Father loves him and to him we will come and make a dwelling with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent me. These things I have spoken to you abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and remind you all that I said to you."

Judas (not the betrayer) then said to him, “Lord, why is it that you are giving us the experience of knowing you, but you aren’t revealing yourself to the nation of Judea?”

Jesus responded, “Because we have love and they do not. If anyone loves me, he will not only hear my word but treasure it and do it. The obedient one who loves me the Father also loves. That is the one whom the Father and I chose to come to and to be roommates with. If anyone chooses to ignore what I say, he doesn’t love me or the Father—because what I say isn’t mine, but the Father’s. Since the Father appointed me to the task to speak, it is His words I speak. So I speak the Father’s words to you and not to them while I am here. But even though I am leaving, the Father will send you the Assistant—otherwise known as the Holy Spirit. The Father will deliver Him to you with my authority. He will inform you of all you need to know and will bring to your mind every word I said.”

"You Will Always Have The Poor With You"

While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, "Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they were scolding her.

But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me."

(Mar 14:3-7 NAS)

"Here is a clear case of Jesus fatalistically acknowledging the perpetual existence of the poor and showing the priority of worship over social concern-- or does He?

Interestingly, Jesus quotes directly from Deuteronomy 15, the chapter containing Jubilee and sabbatical instructions. Earlier in the passage God tells the Hebrew people that if they obey Him there will be no poor in their land. But He does on to say that if they harden their hearts there will be poor. As long as greed and selfishness continue the poor will be among them. Does this justify a callous looking the other way which neglects the poor?

Just the opposite. "For the poor will never cease out of your hand to your brother, therefore I command you, you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land." (Deut. 15:11). In light of His continual plea on behalf of the plight of the poor, it's hardly conceivable that in this one verse Jesus is contradicting the bulk of His teaching by telling us to tighten our pocketbooks since after all the poor will always be around and there's not much we can do about it. Rather, He is saying that since greed and ambition will continue to govern the lives of people and their social systems, there will always be poor. They are a natural product of greedy systems. The observation of the fact does not justify it perpetuation. In light of this reality, how much more do we need ot care and give and be sure that we are not part of structures and organizations which trample the poor!"
-The Upside Down Kingdom, Donald B. Kraybill

Speaking The Gospel

Jesus’ life
Mark 6:1-5
And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief. And He was going around the villages teaching.

Jesus taught everywhere, all the time. Jesus taught in appropriate settings, such as the synagogue, if they were available. But if they were not, he taught wherever he could. He taught the people who would listen to him and the people who would not—those who believed and those who did not. Often when people listened to him, they did not accept his authoritative teaching. If that was the case, then his authority over spirits was not seen much, due to their disbelief.

Mark 6:30-34
The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them. When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.
Jesus taught because he had compassion on the people. The people had no direction, they didn’t know what was right or what was wrong. There had been so many teachings and so many “truths” that he needed to clarify what was right. He did this because he hated to see the people forsake God out of their ignorance.

Mark 1:14-15
Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

Jesus taught repentance and the gospel. Jesus taught that everyone had to be ready for the coming kingdom of God which would sweep out all wickedness. Therefore, the people needed to repent and be rid of any wickedness so the Lord would accept them. Also, they needed to believe the good news that Jesus was proclaiming—that he is speaking of the Law of God and the need for humility and prayer for the coming kingdom.

Mark 1:21-28
He entered the synagogue and began to teach. They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Jesus taught with authority. This doesn’t mean that he taught forcefully or loudly or commandingly. Rather, Jesus taught and those around him obeyed. He taught with the truth, not opinions. He taught as a King would—with a single, firm word, not many options. He taught with power—in that spirits would listen to him. Because of this authority, the people listened to him, for his teaching was proven more effective than the teaching the people were used to.

Mark 4:10-12
"To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE."

Jesus taught in mystery. Because he saw that the people who were following him around had no interest in actually obeying his teaching, he would teach in stories and allegories that only made sense to those who listened carefully to his teaching. The stories repeated the same things his clear teaching taught, but it hid them so only those who understood his teaching could understand the stories. The stories were sometimes used to illustrate, but more often than not, they were used to confuse the listener. If the disciples were confused, they asked him directly what they meant.

Our Lives

Mark 16:15
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."

We are to announce the gospel. The same message that Jesus gave, we are also to give, to whomever would listen. And we are to do it everywhere, not excluding everyone, unless they indicate that they do not believe.

Matthew 28:19-20
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..."

We are to make disciples. A disciple is one who sits at a teacher’s feet and memorizes the major teachings of the teacher. But we are not to teach our own ideas and words, as if we are the teacher. Rather, we are to teach the words of Jesus and so grant him the authority. Anyone who comes to follow us is actually a disciple of Jesus, not us.

Matthew 25:14-30; Mark 4:21-23
"For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light."

Jesus gave us his teaching to give to others, not to keep it to ourselves. The work we are to do is to give the gospel, however much we have received. If we only know a little, we should give what we know. If we know a lot, then we will be responsible for that amount. But we cannot hide it, or else we will be punished.


Stephen was not established as an evangelist or a teacher—he was a deacon, a server of food. But when an opportunity came to teach the truth of Scripture and Jesus to his enemies, he did not hesitate. And so he died as a proclaimer of the gospel, not as a food server.

Peter Valdez was a merchant, not a teacher. But when he read the word of Jesus, he realized that if fisherman and tax collectors could be teachers, so could merchants, cobblers, butchers, farmers and other workers. He taught the gospel to all who would hear and sent them out to announce the same to others.

John Wycliffe was a professor at Oxford. But he realized the truth of the gospel was for everyone, not just his paying students. So he taught the gospel to the poor and sent them out to proclaim the gospel to others.

Living It Out

Learn the gospel of Jesus—sit at his feet and learn from him. Read the gospels, read Paul, understand the depth of the love of God and his work and then you will be ready to proclaim.

Announce Jesus’ words, not your own. We are to teach God’s truth, not our own opinions or the opinions of others.

Tell what you know—don’t guess. If someone asks you a question and you don’t really know, say, “I don’t know.” Only say what Jesus gives you.

Proclaim the gospel to whoever will listen. If they don’t want to listen, then stop. If they just think your teaching is entertaining, but don’t follow it, then teach in mystery.

Practice what you teach and teach what you practice. If we speak and don’t live, we are a hypocrite. If we live and don’t speak, we are a mystery. Allow the teaching of Jesus to be consistent in your words and life.

Don’t make anyone pay for the gospel. Give it away, all the time, in whatever form.

When you teach, pray. When God answers the prayer, thank him and give him the glory. If God never answers your prayer, look and see if what you teach or how you live is consistant with Jesus’ teaching.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Jesus' Parables For Religious Politicians

A translation of Matthew 21:23-22:14

Jesus walked into the cathedral area and taught the people outside. In the middle of his teaching, the ruling priests and some members of congress approached and challenged him, "What gives you the right to act this way? You come into our city as if you were the king, and then begin kicking people out of the temple as if you were the high priest—who appointed you to be in charge of our city?" Jesus replied, "I’ll tell you what—answer my question and then I’ll answer yours. When John came offering people membership into God’s nation—was that his own idea, or was he appointed by God?" The rulers turned toward each other, and discussed their answer. "If we say John was appointed by God, he will say, ‘Why didn’t you believe him, then?’ And if we say that he was acting on his own authority, then the throngs around him will lynch us, for they consider John to be a prophet." So they replied, "We’re not sure about John." Jesus then said, "Then why should I tell you who my authority is? If you won’t commit yourselves, why should I commit myself?"

"So, you wise men, let me ask your judgement of this situation: A man had a garden which needed some tending one day, so he figured he would ask his kids to do it. He goes up to his first kid and says, "Could you please tend the garden?" The kid replies, "No way!" But after thinking about it, the kid changes his mind and works. Disappointed, the father goes to his second kid and asks the same question. This was a polite kid and he said, "Sure, no problem, dad." But, in the end, he neglected to actually do the work. So tell me: which one of these kids did the will of his Father?" The rulers of Jerusalem replied, "The first did." Jesus concluded, "Even so, prostitutes, homosexuals and drug users will be a part of God’s nation before you will. John told everyone freely the way of God—repentance from sins— and you didn’t believe him, but the sinners did. And even after you noted this, you still didn’t repent and believe in John.

"Here’s another event I want you to judge: An entrepreneur—the CEO of a large international corporation— established a successful business. He owned the building, bought the machines to manufacture the product, established security, and set up policies. Then he handed over the running of the business to managers, while working on other businesses. After a few months, he looked at the books and saw his business had made a profit. So he sent a group of messengers to the managers, asking for his share of the profit. The managers laughed, beat up the messengers, and even killed some. The CEO sent an even larger group of messengers, but the results were the same. So the CEO decided to send his son to them, thinking that they would respect the authority of the CEO’s son, and be ashamed of what they had done. But the managers saw the CEO’s son driving up and said to each other: "If we kill the son, we can have a legal right to the business!" So as the son walked in, they threw him out as if he was an intruder and killed him. So answer me, when the Lord of the business comes, what do you think he will do to the managers?" The rulers of Jerusalem said, "He will kill those managers before his eyes and select other managers that will give him his profit."

Jesus glared at the rulers. "Haven’t you read in the Bible, ‘We are amazed to see that the quarry-stone which the builders rejected as inadequate, that is the very stone selected by the Lord to be the mantelpiece.’ Those which you reject will be the very ones the Lord chooses to rule his people. God’s nation—which you have ruled so shabbily—will be given over to a people who accomplish the Lord’s will." After hearing his stories, the ruling priests and Republicans finally understood that he was talking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they were nervous about the crowds, because they considered him God’s spokesman.

Jesus, however, continued speaking to the rulers with another story: "God’s nation is like a president who invited all the most important rulers of the nation to his son’s wedding. He sent messengers, but the rulers didn’t want to come. So he gathered another group of messengers and instructed them, ‘Tell the rulers: "Everything is ready! Prime rib for everyone and champagne is flowing! Come to the wedding."’ The rulers, however, occupied by their own business, had the messengers arrested, insulted and killed. The president was furious and he sent his army to ravage their cities, arrest and execute those rulers. Then he said to the messengers that were left: ‘Those who received invitations to my son’s wedding weren’t worthy to come. Well, then, go out to the cities and towns and invite everyone to enter the wedding feast.’ So the messengers called to everyone they could, whether evil or good. Soon, the reception was filled with guests. As the president mingled, he noted that there was one who did not have the proper clothing. ‘Sir, how did you get in without proper clothing? Weren’t you provided with respectful clothes?’ The man was embarrassed, and he remained silent before the president. The president said to the guards, ‘Put this intruder in handcuffs and throw him out to the joyless existence, where many weep because they could not come in.’ For many are invited, but few are actually welcome."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fulfilling God's Word

Jesus’ Life

Luke 4:16-21
"Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
When Jesus read Isaiah 61, there was a tension in the text. For most who had read the Scriptures, it was a common feeling and the tension didn’t bother them at all. But for Jesus, he lived with it and it bothered him greatly. The tension he could not ignore is that every time he read the Scriptures, there were promises of God which had not been fulfilled. There were promises of justice, promises of salvation, promises of healing and none of them had been fulfilled. These were words of God which were empty and could not be filled up until they were accomplished. The tension bothered Jesus so much that he would pray for these promises to be fulfilled, but he did not see it happen. Finally, the Father told Jesus that he was the first step to having them fulfilled by being the Son of God. In this way, he could finally say to the people, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled.”

Matthew 5:17-20
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill...Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
Jesus looked around him and saw many teachers of God’s word that were claiming to fill up the empty words of God, but they did no such thing. Sure, the Pharisees were good at tithing and keeping the Sabbath in a certain way, but they were not filling up God’s empty words. They were expert on filling up the words of their teachers, but not of God’s Word. They would tithe, but not for the sake of others. They would keep the Sabbath, but in order to judge others, not do mercy to them. Even so, Jesus said, the ones who truly kept the law of Moses would fulfill it by enacting love. And anyone who did not live in this way would not enter the kingdom of God.

Matthew 26:51-56
"Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as you would against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me.But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets."
Jesus was in a difficult situation—he was being arrested and would soon be killed. His disciples saw a problem and bravely determined to stand in the way—until Jesus stopped them. He said to the disciples and to the crowds who were arresting him, “I don’t want to end this way. I don’t want to die. But to have the Scriptures be filled—to allow God to be glorified by his Word—that is more important than anything I might have to suffer.” And so Jesus made the choice to not fulfill his own needs so he could fulfill God’s Word.

Luke 24:44
"These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."
At the end of all things, Jesus reveals that his whole life was about having the Scriptures be filled up. Every part of the Scripture that hadn’t been fulfilled, he would take care of. Some scriptures he had no control over—that some would kill him, for instance, or that God would heal. But Jesus made sure that he was in the right place at the right time so that they could be fulfilled, if God so desired.

Our Lives

Romans 8:4/Romans 13:8/Galatians 5:14
So that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
The whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."
All three of these passages are by Paul and they all say the same thing. We are to fulfill the Scriptures, just like Jesus. We are to see the Scriptures as an empty vessel that needs to be filled by our lives. But the way the Scriptures are fulfilled is by doing what we do for God, but in the context of loving others. Whoever is in need, we are to do our best to help them. Whoever is in trouble, we are to help them. We are to use everything we have, all we are to do good to everyone, without exception. And in this way, we live out the whole law.

Peter Valdez (Waldo) was a wealthy merchant in the 12th century. He had a hunger to know about Jesus, and so desired to read the Scriptures. Unfortunately, the Scriptures were only available in Latin in those days, not in the common languages. So he paid a monk to translate the Gospels into a language he understood. When he read the life and the teaching of Jesus, it stunned him. Even though he had listened to sermons all his life, he found that he did not life out Jesus’ life at all—and that it had never been taught to him! Jesus said to “Sell your possessions and give to the poor,” but Peter was a wealthy man, living in luxury! Jesus said to go out and proclaim the gospel, and Peter never knew what the gospel was to proclaim it! After much prayer, Peter decided to give away all of his possessions and to sell his house and to be a poor preacher and to teach others to do the same, all in order to fulfill the Scriptures.

Living It Out:
Know God’s Word
We cannot fulfill God’s word unless we listen to it. This doesn’t mean listening to teachers, it means reading, memorizing and listening to God’s word itself.

Commit to doing what Jesus said
Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, the way it is accessible to us and understandable. Thus, do all you can to fulfill Jesus’ word and you will have fulfilled it all.

Put yourself in situations to fulfill God’s Word
Place yourself in situations that allow you to speak and do God’s word. If it says to serve others, put yourself in a place where you can! If it says to speak God’s word, put yourself in a situation where you can! Do this for every word the Spirit prompts you to obey—if you are in the right situation, you will be able to do it!

In whatever situation, love others
In all that you do, act in love. Do all that you can to assist others and to help them in their needs. Do all of this in accordance with the Bible, but do it in God’s love. Anyone can pick out principles to live out from God’s word, but only those with God’s help can fulfill the word in love.

Seek to fulfill God’s word more than your life
Many of us want our lives to be “fulfilling”, but we mean fulfilling to ourselves, not God. If we want to fill God’s word with our lives, we need to set our notions of what our lives should be aside. Only if we do that will we be able to see God’s word accomplished in our lives.

See how the Old Testament was fulfilled in Jesus life, then seek to have it filled in our own!
Jesus didn’t only look to promises that needed to be fulfilled, he also saw stories in the Bible that needed a new ending. The Israelites came out of Egypt—just like Jesus—but the Israelites were not faithful and Jesus was! David wandered in the wilderness—just like Jesus—but David gave into temptation and Jesus didn’t! And on and on. See how Jesus fulfills these stories and then see how you can live it out yourself.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Impious Piety"

God cares for social castoffs.

Jesus compares God to a father who, after waiting day after day at the end of the lane for his disobedient son to return, hugs and kisses him and then throws a party in his honor (Luke 15:11-24).

God is also like a woman who sweeps every crack of her house searching for a lost coin (Luke 15:8)

He can also be compared to a shepherd who trudges over the hill country looking for a weak lamb caught in the thorns (Luke 15:3-5).

Or you can think of Him as a farmer who cared so much about the laborers who only worked an hour that he gave them a full day's wage even when they surely didn't deserve it (Matthew 20:1-16).

Jesus demonstrated this kind of overflowing acceptance when He wines and dines with sinners.

The parables also had a sizzling sting for the religious heavyweights. Your attitude is just the opposite of God's. You are like the elder son who grumbles at the sight of a party thrown for his own brother (Luke 15:25-32).

You are like farmhands who worked all day and then griped after receiving the contracted wage because the latecomers received the same pay (Matthew 20:11-16).

In fact, you are like the tenants of a vineyard who refused to give one of the owner's servants he sent and finally you had the daring audacity to kill his only son (Luke 20:9-16).

Suddenly the tables are turned. The owner will give that vineyard to others. The upside-down theme of eschatalogical reversal permeates other parables. The unexpected happens. The religious leaders forfeit their kingdom card. Sinners have a seat at the party.

-from The Upside-Down Kingdom by Donald B. Kraybill

Abba Agathon's Test

"Going to town one day to sell some small articles, Abba Agathon met a cripple on the roadside, paralysed in his legs, who asked him where he was going. Abba Agathon replied, "To town, to sell some things."

The other said, "Do me the favor of carrying me there." So he carried him to the town.

The cripple said to him, "Put me down where you sell your wares." He did so.

When he had sold an article, the cripple asked, "What did you sell it for?" And he told him the price. The other said, "Buy me some bread," and he bought it.

When Abba Agathon had sold a second article, the sick man asked, "How much did you sell it for?" And he told him the price of that also. Then the other said, "Buy me this," and he bought it.

When Agathon, having sold all his wares, wanted to go, he said to him, "Are you going back?" and he replied, "Yes." Then he said, "Do me the favor of carrying me back to the place where you found me." Once more he picked him up and he carried him back to that place.

Then the cripple said, "Agathon, you are filled with divine blessingd, in heaven and on earth." Raising his eyes, Agathon saw no man, it was an angel of the Lord, come to try him."

-The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, translated by Benedicta Ward

How do we deal with those who are overbearing? People who ask too much? Perhaps we could politely set boundaries, and that's fine. Perhaps we could give what we can and the rest leave to another. Or we can even contact another to help the need.

But if we want to obtain God's blessings, we must do all we can to help the needy, as obnoxious as they are, as ungrateful as they are, as irreligious as they seem, as impolite as they seem. Because they could very well be angels, come to test you.

This very same desert father, Abba Agathon, was asked if he feared death. He replied, "I am but a man, how am I to know if my deeds are acceptable to God?" We must do what we can, and allow God's mercy through Christ to judge us. And we must do the same for others. For who knows, but the obnoxious person asking for food or a ride might be an angel in disguise? (Genesis 18, Hebrews 13:2)

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor" (Luke 12:33)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Jesus Really Meant

What Jesus meant when he quoted Isaiah 61 and then said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

"The land is not to be exploited anymore,
slaves are to be freed,
debts are to be paid,
capital unjustly gained is to be redistributed.
Any political, economic, social or religious structures that perpetuate exploitation must be changed to create a society committed to the reversal of the plight of
the poor (meaning the material poor),
the captives (meaning the dregs),
the blind (meaning the blind)
and the oppressed (meaning the victims).
The provisions of the Jubilee are not spiritual consolation prizes for those who fail to make it here and now, they are specific descriptions of what the here and now is already in process of becoming."
-Robert McAfree Brown, from Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Jesus Goes To A Concert

Jesus was invited by one of his disciples to go to a Christian concert one day. As Jesus came in, he saw that many were trying to get the attention of their friends on or behind the stage to let them in.

Jesus turned to those with him and said, “When you go to a concert, don’t try to get up on stage, or else a security person might come and throw you out because you are being disruptive. Instead, stand back, waiting, until your friend behind the stage sees you and says, ‘Hey, you want to come back here?’ and you will be escorted into the stage area. Even so, where God rules, everyone who exalts themselves will be lowered, and everyone who lowers themselves will be exalted.”

Then Jesus said to the one who invited him, “If you go to a concert or have a party, don’t invite your friends or relatives or coworkers. Because they will just invite you to the next event, and so pay you back. Instead, invite the homeless and the handicapped, and people with social and mental disorders. Because they will never be able to pay you back and instead you will gain your repayment from God on the last day.”

One of the people in Jesus’ group heard this and said, “I can’t wait to enjoy the party when God rules!”

Jesus replied, “God’s rule is like a man who was giving a huge, expensive party—a Martha Stewart affair. And there were many who were invited to dress up and come. So he began to call them up and remind them to come. One of those invited said, ‘Oh, I can’t make it, I’ve got to work late.’ Another said, ‘My wife wants me to stay home tonight.’ Another said, ‘I’ve got a business meeting to attend to. Sorry, I can’t come.’ The man became very angry and called a friend of his, ‘These worthless people won’t come. So come with me and let’s bring in the homeless, the handicapped and the mentally and socially disabled.’ After they brought in all of these they could find, there was still room left. So the man told his friend, ‘Okay, let’s go outside of town and invite anyone on the street who happens to be passing by until all the spaces are filled. But not one of those who were invited will even taste of my dinner.’ ”

Because Jesus was a celebrity, he was invited to say a few words on stage to the crowd. “Look, I know that many of you have thought about following me. I just wanted to let you know, if any of you want to follow me, you will have to love me more than you love your spouse or children, more than you love your mother or father, more than you love your brothers or sisters or friends. In fact, if you don’t love me more than you love your own life, you cannot follow me. Anyone who follows me will be punished by those who don’t love me like that, and some of you will be killed—you need to recognize that.

“Look,” Jesus said, “if you are going to paint your house, you want to know how much it will cost ahead of time, don’t you? Because otherwise, you get halfway done and run out of money to buy more paint and anyone passing by laughs at you and says, ‘Look, this guy started something but he couldn’t finish it.’ And the neighborhood association will be at your door and ask you to finish it or to move away.

“Let’s say there’s a general who is calculating the chances he has in a war. If he has ten thousand troops as opposed to the other general who has twenty thousand troops, he had better figure out if he will do war against his enemy or surrender and offer reprisals in order to make peace.

“Even so, recognize, if anyone wants to follow me, he needs to give up his possessions.”

Then Jesus got down and left.

This stuff is in the Bible—really! Read it for yourself— Luke 14:7-33.

Dealing With Temptation

Jesus’ Life:

Matthew 4:1-11
Then the devil took Jesus into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, 'HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU'; and 'ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'" Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'"

Satan tempted Jesus in three ways—1. Using God’s given authority for one’s personal benefit—food. 2. Using God’s promise for the righteous for one’s personal benefit—exaltation. 3. Serving another god in order to attain a righteous goal—Just rule of the earth
Jesus wanted food, he wanted exaltation, he wanted kingship. But he knew that God’s will was more important than anything he might want at any particular time. God promised Jesus that he is the Son of God. Jesus knew that to obtain that promise wouldn’t come from unrighteousness or from seeking things outside God’s will. Jesus retained the one focus of his life—doing God’s will no matter what it took. But in his weakness, he had to rely on God’s word to know what God’s will was. He didn’t know it within himself, in his weakened state. And so he succeeded, because he depended on God.

Mark 8:31-38
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."

Jesus declared what God’s command was: that the son of man will suffer many things; that he would be rejected by the Jewish authorities; that he would be killed; and that he would be risen on the third day. But Peter didn’t understand what God’s command was, all he understood is what the normal method of humanity was. And this is what Jesus wanted to hear, on one level. He wanted to hear that he would not suffer, not be rejected, not be killed. Jesus wanted to be comfortable, to be accepted by everyone, and to live. But God’s will took precedence. So Jesus was harsh with Peter, speaking out the name that was speaking behind Peter. Jesus rejected anything that tried to quietly call him away from God’s will and he dealt with it harshly.

Luke 22:32-46
And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done."

Jesus was dealing with the same temptation—to follow God’s will was to be shamed, to suffer, to die. Jesus didn’t want that, he wanted to be comfortable, to live. In his weakness, he prayed and he asked his friends to pray as well. They didn’t do very well, for they were struggling with their own temptations, but Jesus did all he could to walk in God’s way. In the end, God’s strength won out. Jesus struggled so hard, his sweat flowed as thick as blood. He had to prepare himself inwardly for the battle to come. But he was ready, thanks to the preparation the Father gave him.

Our Lives
Mark 9:43-49
"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire."

Everyone will be tested, everyone will be tempted. There’s no getting around it. But there is no reason to wallow in it, to stand in our sin until we are so weak we give in. Jesus commands us—whatever we have that causes us to sin, get rid of it. He is not speaking of body parts, by the way, he already said that the outside of the body doesn’t make one unclean, but our desires within us (Mark 7:18-23). Rather, we need to get rid of anything that stirs in us the desires that cause us to sin. We need to reject anything that drives us into sin—friends that encourage us to do what God commands us not to; thoughts that dwell on sin; places that make it easy to sin. They are just to be rejected.

I Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Again, we will all be tempted, we will all face situations that we cannot endure—just like Jesus. But there is a way of escape, there is a way for us not to sin. God, in every situation, offers us a way of escape. We do not have to give in, no matter how hard it seems. Yes, sometimes in order to not sin we have to face suffering, as Jesus did, but doing God’s will is greater than the pleasures and miseries of sin.

Hebrews 12:1-4
Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.

To be like Jesus, we have to take sin seriously. Sin isn’t something to be taken lightly, nor is God’s will. We need to be serious and do whatever we can to reject the one and live in the other, even as Jesus did. No, we have not yet resisted sin to such a degree that we have lost our lives; we have not done God’s will to such a degree that we bled for it. But if we endure in Christ, we might have to. In that, we need to be prepared to pay whatever cost to do God’s will.


Paul knew that it was God’s will for him to take the message of Jesus to the Gentiles. To do that, he faced shipwrecks, stoning, shame, hatred, rejection, long hours of work, and complaining against him by his own brothers and sisters in Christ. In all this, he said, he was the imitation of Jesus.

Anthony lived in Alexandria when all the Christians around him were compromising with the world. Rather than give into that, he lived in a graveyard for years and prayed to the Lord for deliverance. The Lord instead called him to the desert to fight demons. Although he was weak in the end he won and became the father of the monastic movement.

Thomas Aquinas was determined to live as a Dominican monk. His wealthy family insisted that he remain with them and work the family business instead. He refused and ran away to a university. His family found him and kidnapped him, locking him in a room with a prostitute to tempt him to sin. Aquinas refused to sin again and again. Finally his family realized the futility of fighting him and they allowed him to become a monk. Aquinas became the greatest theologian of all time.

Living It Out

Be serious about God’s will
Don’t take God’s will lightly. Do everything you can to know what God’s will is for you and then do all you can to do it. Seek the Lord, listen to the Spirit and do what he says.

Be alert and steel yourself up
Look around for Satan’s traps and devises. Don’t let him catch you by surprise. And prepare yourself daily to suffer whatever necessary to follow God’s will. You won’t suffer every day—most days you won’t. But that is all the more reason why we need to be ready for the struggle when it comes.

Memorize and quote passages from Scripture
Jesus leaned on the word in his weakness, and so must we. Even if we can’t read, we can still listen to the Scriptures and memorize as much of it as possible. Especially memorize the words of Jesus and quote them in times of weakness.

Get rid of the temptation
If someone is tempting you, tell them to knock it off. If you see something that tempts you, walk away. If your thoughts are tempting you with desire, purpose to think about something else—anything holy and good.

Don’t expose yourself unnecessarily to temptation
If you know that someone or some place is going to tempt you to sin, avoid them. No matter what else you were going to do there, whatever benefit you were going to gain, it is not worth risking sin and death.

Pray for deliverance and strength
Always seek God. Pray to him daily for deliverance from the things that cause you to sin. Ask him daily for strength to resist temptation. Ask him to show you the ways of escape he prepared for you. Ask, ask, ask, ask—don’t ever stop.

Lord, have mercy on we who are in darkness, blind. Dissuade us from the way of evil; Give us a longing for righteousness; Convict us by your Holy Spirit; Show us the true light of your Son. May we make a step toward you so that you may provide the increase in single-mindedness we need to gain entrance in your kingdom. Father, open our eyes.

The Good and Bad News of Jesus

Here are some quotes from Walter Pilgrim's Good News to the Poor. This book is, in my opinion, the best book about Jesus' view of the poor and rich written yet, second only to John Chrysostom's sermons to the rich in scope and message. Why is this book out of print? We should all be studying this book in our churches.

The gospel of Mark’s “original intent was not that of a warning to the rich but as a word of promise and hope to the poor. It said something like this, ‘You who are least in the eyes of others and by the measure of earthly standards have the least, you will be abundantly blessed in the age to come.” The coming of God’s kingdom meant the end to their lowly status and God’s vindication of their cause.”

For the anawim, “the social and political life-settings are still there. The situations of distress are still those of literal poverty, persecution, oppression, affliction and the like. The anawim are truly the victims of life and their enemies are powerful and well-to-do. What makes them anawim, is the fact that their hope is in God and their cries reach out to Yahweh with confidence in His promised deliverance.”

“The Lucan birth narratives present the opening drama of a God who puts down the mighty and the rich from their positions of eminence and raises up those of low degree. In these stories the revelation of the new age begun in Jesus Christ is given to the poor and the lowly, as well as the pious and the not so pious…. Luke is here already anticipating the good news to the poor embodied in Jesus’ ministry throughout his Gospel.”

“Jesus’ acceptance of [sinners] into his fellowship points to his creation of a new community of those who were formerly on the outs with God and with other people. In this sense ‘the first will be last and the last first’ and God’s promised eschatological reversal for the poor has already become a reality in the ministry of Jesus.”

About the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16):
“How could anyone hear the vivid descriptions of the gross discrepancy in social conditions as anything other than a devastating critique against the rich who exploit the poor and live in social luxury, unmindful of the dying beggars at their gate? Moreover, God’s decisive siding with ths poor is not only alluded to in the name Lazarus, i.e., God helps, but in the great reversal which brings moral judgment. For the rich man is not just deprived of his possessions, he is punished (vv. 23-24), while Lazarus enjoys the eschatological blessings of the faithful elect. Hence we conclude that it is not just the great social inequality which results in judgment or blessing, but also the way of life associated with both…. The emphasis on the great disparity between the rich and poor raises the question acutely whether the rich as rich can avoid the eschatological reversal in the coming age.”

“Luke addressed himself to the rich Christians in his day. He does not insist that they give up all their possessions, nor does he require an elimination of all economic differences in the community. But Luke does say this to the rich Christians: ‘Your abundance and the poverty of other Christians are not in accordance with God’s will or with the spirit of Jesus. You must relinquish your abundance for the sake of the poor and work toward greater economic equality…’ ”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fear v. Faith

"Jesus came to us to help us overcome our fear of God. As long as we are afraid of God, we cannot love God. Love means intimacy, closeness, mutual vulnerability, and a deep sense of safety. But all those are impossible as long as there is fear. Fear creates suspicion, distance, defensiveness and insecurity."
-Henri Nouwen

Jesus lived a life without fear. He was able to live without fear because he had full trust in his Father's love and power. He knew of God's ultimate compassion for all in need. And he knew of God's great power to do all things. But Jesus also had one other act of faith-- He was completely confident in His relationship with God. That God would listen to him and accomplish that which he asked.

It is interesting that Jesus only got upset with the disciples when they surrendered to fear instead of faith. And when they lived in fear, Jesus said that the answer to their fear was faith in God's power, God's love and God's desire to intimately relate to us.