Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jesus on Prosperity

Can you read it all without cringing?

And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep." (Luke 6:20-25)

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, 'DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.'" And he said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up." Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." They were even more astonished and said to Him, "Then who can be saved?" Looking at them, Jesus said, "With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God." Peter began to say to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You." Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life." (Mark 10:17-30)

"The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:16-21)

"Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.'" (Luke 16:19-26)

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also….No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Matthew 6:19-21, 24)

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6: 25-34)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Praying Like Jesus

Jesus’ Life:

Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12-13; Matthew 26:36
In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray."

Jesus was a person who was characterized by prayer. He often didn’t have time to do it, but he took time anyway. He often had to hide from others, so they wouldn’t distract him from prayer. Sometimes he prayed all night long so that he could have time to be with the Father. Usually, his prayers were short, but at times they lasted hours and hours—depending on the situation. But his life was surrounded by prayer, drenched in prayer and thus focused on the Father.

Our Lives:

Acts 1:24; 2:42; 4:31; 6:4,6;10:9; 13:3; 14:23; 21:5
When they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.
After kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another.

The early church was charatartized by prayer. They would meet together, or they would do it separately, but they would pray. They had apostles whom they cared for so that the apostles’ work would be to teach and pray. No one was accepted into the church or appointed to a task in the church unless they were prayed over. In prayer the leaders of the church would hear the Spirit at times, and that would guide the church. Thus, the life of the church was drenched in prayer.

Luke 11:1-13
Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and from inside he answers and says, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

When we pray, we need not pray long, but we must be persistent in praying until we hear an answer from the Lord. The main thing we need to pray is for the fulfillment of God’s promises in our lives—justice, the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of God, enough to eat, deliverance from the evil one. And even if it takes a while for the Lord to answer, he will answer and give us what is good for us.

Matthew 6:5-8
When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

We should not pray for the purpose of others. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pray before others, but it does mean that we shouldn’t pray so that they will be impressed with us. Also, we should not pray in a long-winded way, as if the length of our prayer makes any difference. What is significant to the Lord is our humility and faith in coming to Him—not how impressive our prayers are.

Mark 11:22-26
I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.

In our prayer, the most significant thing to have is faith. We need to be devoted to God and we need to believe that what God says is true. If we hold to that, then no matter how ridiculous our prayer seem, our prayers will be answered. And if we want to be accepted by God, which is what an answered prayer is, then we need to accept others. We need to offer anyone who repents forgiveness and acceptance, even if they have done us wrong, or else we will not be accepted by God. As long as we have humility, forgiveness and faith, then we will be listened to.

John 15:7
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

The promises and commands of Jesus are essential for us to understand and fulfill if we are to gain answered prayers. We must be full of faith and obedience, and then the Lord will listen to our prayers.

There isn’t a saint of God alive or dead that if they made any significant impact for God through Jesus on earth, it was done through prayer. Anthony defeated demons in the wilderness through prayer. Francis spent most of his time in prayer, seeking the desire of Jesus. Martin Luther King Jr. prayed on the steps of city hall in Birmingham, and so was able to stop a crowd of men from beating him. George Mueller wouldn’t tell his needs to men, but God and so all his needs were met. Jim Elliot prayed for the Indian peoples for years before he was martyred by them and so they were delivered into Jesus years after his death. Again and again, we see that the people of God who reformed the world, or even their own lives, did so only through prayer.

Living it Out:
Pray without ceasing
We need to pray daily, both the prayer the Lord told us to pray and our own personal prayers to the Lord. This doesn’t mean that we need to never stop praying, it means that we need to pray regularly, every day, twice a day and never stopping our routine—as difficult as it is.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer
The Lord Jesus taught us how to pray. Let’s use it, improvise on it, apply it to our lives daily.

Don’t be discouraged
Even if a prayer doesn’t seem to be answered, we must not be discouraged. Sometimes we have to wait a long time for God to answer our prayer—but we need to keep praying so to display that we have the faith to trust in Him no matter what.

Pray for your enemies
If you really despise someone, pray for that one. It may not change their attitude, but it may change yours!

Pray briefly unless you need to
It is good to take time to pray. But if you don’t have anything to say, don’t force prayer. It is better not to set a time to prayer, either a limit or an extended period of time. Allow your need and God's need determine how long you pray.

Be respectful before God
Our Lord is the king of the universe. Don’t be silly. Don’t treat him like your “buddy”. Treat him like your king—with the respect he deserves.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Living Word

The italicized parts are from Thomas a Kempis' The Imitation of Christ. The rest is my reflection of Kempis' work.

Speak, Lord, for I am listening.
Do not let Moses or the other prophets speak to me
But rather You, Yourself
who inspire and enlighten the prophets.

You alone, without them, can teach me perfectly:
but without You, they can do little for me.
The prophets can speak words
but they cannot convey the spirit of the words.

It is the Bible that gives us knowledge
But Jesus who gives us truth
It is the Bible who shows us law
But Jesus who teaches us love
The Bible teaches the letter
But Jesus gives us understanding
The Bible reveals spiritual mysteries
But Jesus unlocks the meaning
The Bible teaches us commandments
But the Spirit helps us to obey them.
The Bible points the way
But the Spirit gives us the strength to walk the way
The Bible works from the outside
But the Spirit illuminates and instructs the heart.

Therefore speak to me yourself, O living Truth,
so that I do not die without bearing fruit
being warned from the outside
but not warmed from within.

For I will be more strictly judged
if I have heard Your word
but have not obeyed it;
if I have known it
but not loved it;
if I believe it
but do not live it.

Therefore, speak to me Yourself,
for you have the words of eternal life.
Speak them to me and comfort my soul
Transform my life to your everlasting praise, honor and glory.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Hard Saying: Hate Your Family

"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luk 14:26-27 NAU)

This is difficult for anyone to hear, but especially coming from the lips of the one who told us to love all people. How are we supposed to both love and hate?

The context of this passage is better seen in Matthew 10, where a different version of the same saying is given: "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." (Mat 10:37 NAU)

In this passage, it is clearly shown that it is not the disciple who rejects his family, but his family who feels rejected because the disciple prioritizes Jesus and His way to God. To follow Jesus means to reject some of the values we were raised with, to reject the lifestyle of our parents and, if we are already married, our spouse and possibly children. Jesus' call is a life of radical love, accepting those who are hated by society. It is a life of sacrifice for the needy, even at the expense of our own needs at times. It is a life which prioritizes the people of faith over the desires of one's own family. Because of this, our family will feel marginalized or even rejected.

And if we prioritize Jesus over the gods and prophets our family worships-- whether that be Moses, Mammon, Muhammad or Mars-- our family will rightly seeing us rejecting the most important things they value. At his point, our family will feel "hated" by us, and they will begin actively persecuting us. Perhaps they will yell at us, perhaps they will ostracize us, perhaps they will find ways to have legal action taken against us. But from their perspective, we took the first step, in following Jesus.

Following Jesus' Family Values

Jesus’ Life

Mark 3:31-35
A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You." Answering them, He said, "Who are My mother and My brothers?" Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother."

Jesus was not actually rejecting his birth-family. He was not saying that he would have nothing to do with his mother or brothers anymore. But he was saying that his real family is made up of a different substance than birth, blood and genes. Jesus’ new family was made up of those who pursued God’s will and held to the truth of God. Jesus’ new family is made up of those who have faith, are repentant of their sins and will love each other, no matter what. Birth family members can join this family, but similar blood doesn’t make one qualified alone.

Luke 8:43-48
He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace."

Jesus healed this woman and he proclaimed her faith—trust in God’s power through Jesus and persistence—to those around. Because of her faith, Jesus called her “daughter” and thus made her a part of his family.

John 19:25-27
When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!"

Mary was Jesus’ mother, and as the oldest son, he was to care for her. However, he was no longer able to do that. Thus, his social requirement was to give her in the care to another family member. Rather than choosing one of his birth brothers, Jesus chose John, a brother in faith, and they became a family, not of earth, but in the Spirit.

Hebrews 2:10-15
He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, "I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN"

Jesus, in bring us salvation, had to be like us so that we could be called a part of his family. We are called both brothers and sons, and have become a part of Jesus’ family. Thus are we delivered from Satan and from death, because of our relation to Jesus.

Our Lives

Ephesians 2:11-22
Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

We were once out of the people, the family, of God. Now, through Jesus, we are a part of God’s family and everyone who is accepted by God is in our family. We are a new family, a new nation and we hold to be brothers and sisters, not those who have our blood and genes, but those who are of God’s kingdom.

Luke 12:51-53
Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.

If we are associated with Jesus, we need to realize that our old family will persecute us and hate us, because they assume that we are rejecting them. And, in a way, we are (Luke 14:26)—we will only accept them as family as they are devoted to Jesus. And so we will be hated and rejected by our birth families.

Mark 9:38-44
John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him... For he who is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward."

Jesus wanted his disciples to realize who was a part of the new family and who was not. Those who do miracles in Jesus’ name, even if they are eccentric, or don’t belong to the same group, they are a part of the family. Even those who do acts of kindness to one because of the name of Jesus, they are a part of the family. But those who cause others to sin, they are not a part of the family, no matter how much they use the name of Jesus to justify their sin.

Ephesians 4:1-3
"Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit."

Because we are all a part of the same family, we need to treat each other well. We need to see each others as equals under Christ—all under the one head. And we need to see us as one family, not allowing divisions to separate us because of unimportant matters.

Francis of Assisi was the son of a wealthy merchant. He had a vision of the Lord that caused him to change from a party animal to a fool for Christ. He began to use his father’s business to rebuild a small chapel in Assisi. His father discovered his son’s embezzlement and took him to court. Before the court, Francis said, “I am no longer the son of my earthly father, but only my father in heaven. I will give back everything I have received from my earthly father.” And he stripped naked and walked out of the court. The bishop there gave him his own clothing and had him stay at his house.

Thomas Aquinas was the son of a wealthy man who expected his son to become a lawyer. But while Thomas was in school, he determined to become a Dominican monk. His family refused to let him and even kidnapped him and tried to corrupt him. But Thomas stood strong and refused his old family, joining the monastery as his new family.

Claire of Assisi was a noblewoman in Italy who was destined to marry well and live in comfort and power. All she wanted, however, was to focus on God and his love. So she ran away from her family to Francis of Assisi who helped her live securely, but simply, and to focus on the love of her life, Jesus. She began a new family, a group of women who loved Jesus just as she did.

Living it out

Remember that our family in the flesh is no longer our real family
We are at times upset at our birth family because we feel that they should do better toward us. However, Jesus wants us to realize that our birth family isn’t our real family. They will at times persecute us, at times hate us—but they are not our real family, and we need to expect ill treatment from them.

Connect with those who are your family in God’s kingdom
Our real family members aren’t necessarily those who are in the same church, or those who claim they are a Christian. The family of God are those who are acceptable in God and Jesus said that these are acceptable:
• Those who have single-minded faith in Jesus
• Those who are repentant
• Those who act in love

Remember that this real family is diverse, and eccentric
The family of God has people of many races, many different kind of backgrounds and many cultures. We need to accept all of them. Some of these people act crazy or weird or belong to strange groups. Nevertheless, if they display the faith, repentance and love in Jesus, they are our family. As it is often said, you can’t choose who you have as family. That’s because God is the one who makes the choices, not us. And God delights in choosing the unaccepted by society to be his own.

Don’t reject people because they belong to the wrong group—look instead at their heart for Jesus
No matter who a person is with, if they display the faith, repentance and love of Jesus, they are in Jesus. We cannot block a whole group out and say, “These are hated by God” unless as a group they display rejection of Jesus. We need to see that many times God delivers those whom we least expect, even those in the wrong group.

Do all you can to assist and love your new family.
We are to be humble before our family and to serve them. If any of our family have needs, we are to be there for them, caring for them, comforting them and helping them in all we can.

Jesus Path of Holiness

We cannot understand the holiness and ingrained virtue in Jesus without carefully examining those forty days of temptation in the wilderness. In that single event we see a lifetime of practiced virtue coming to the fore. Throughout those forty days Jesus fasted from food so that he could all the more fully enter the divine feast. Then, when his spiritual forces were at their maximum, God allowed the Evil One to come to him with three great temptations-- temptations that Jesus undoubtedly had dealt with more than once in the carpentry shop and that he would face again throughout his ministry as a rabbi. Yet these were not just personal temptations: they were temptation for Jesus to access for his own use the three most prominent social institutions of the day-- economic, religious, political.

Economic Holiness
The economic temptation was for Jesus to turn stones into bread (Matt. 4:1-4). This was more than a taunt to ease private hunger pangs; it was a temptation to become a glorious miracle baker and provide "wonder bread" for the masses. But Jesus knew how short-lived all such solutions are and rejected the live-by-bread-alone option: "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matt. 4:4)

Religious Holiness
The religious temptation was for Jesus to leap from the pinnacle of the temple and, by having angels catch him in mid-flight, receive God's stamp of approval on his ministry. Divine certification inside the sacred boundaries of temple territory would surely have guaranteed the fervent support of the priestly hierarchy. But Jesus saw the temptation for what it was, and he directly confronted institutionalized religion-- not only here in the wilderness but throughout his ministry, wherever and whenever it became idolatrous or oppressed the faithful. He knew that in his person "something greater than the temple is here." (Matt. 12:6)

Political Holiness
The political temptation was the promise of "all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor" in exchange for Jesus' own soul (Matt. 4:8-10). This mountain temptation represented the possibility of worldwide political power-- not only coercive force, but also the glory and acclaim of sitting on the world's highest pinnacle of influence and status. It was a temptation that fit perfectly the messianic hopes of the day for a Savior who would cast off the oppressive Roman occupation. But Jesus knew that domination and force were not God's ways. He rejected coercive structures because he intended to demonstrate a new kind of power, a new way of ruling. Serving, suffering, dying-- these were Jesus' messianic forms of power.

In those forty days in the wilderness Jesus rejected the popular Jewish hope for a Messiah who would feed the poor, bask in miraculous heavenly approval, and shuck off oppressive nations. And he undercut the leverage of the three great social institutions of his day (and of ours)-- exploitative economics, manipulative religion, and coercive politics. What we see in those forty crucial days is someone who understood with clarity the way of God and who had the internal resources to live in that way, instinctively and without reservation.

-Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water
Summarizing a chapter of Donald Kraybill's The Upside Down Kingdom

Economic, religious or political solutions without God's will directed by love will never meet human need.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Seeking Faith In Others

Jesus’ Life
Matthew 8:5-13
"I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.
The Gentile soldier asks Jesus for a healing, and Jesus agrees. Then the soldier says that he is not worthy to have Jesus come to his house, but that he can speak there, and it would happen. Jesus was amazed at the man’s faith—at placing himself in the one-down position and in seeing the Father’s power through Jesus as unlimited by space. And so Jesus offers this man forgiveness and healing—salvation—because of his faith.

Matthew 15:21-28
He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great..."
This woman was also a Gentile, and so not worthy to receive the power of the Spirit (Matthew 7:6). But she humiliated herself and persisted in asking, even though Jesus decided to dissuade her. Jesus declared that she had faith, which proved that she was not a “dog” at all, but a child of God. And so she was saved by her faith.

Mark 10:46-52
Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"... And answering him, Jesus said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And the blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!" And Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well."

A blind man was desperate to see Jesus. Although many shushed him and told him to shut up, he persisted in pursuing Jesus. When Jesus asked him what he wanted, the man went to the heart of the matter, without thinking that the Father’s power through Jesus is limited. Jesus declared this person saved through faith.

Our Lives

Luke 18:1-8
"Will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"

At all times, we are to be persistent in our prayer. We can’t give up, just because we haven’t seen justice happen yet. If we continue to have faith in God, continue to ask, continue to seek him daily, then we will gain what we ask. And Jesus calls this persistence “faith”. And yet he wonders if anyone will be around at the end to display such faith.

Mark 11:22-26
"Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him."

God has promised us great things. He has promised us justice; he has promised us peace. He has promised us acceptance; he has promised us a new world in which to live in. Some of these promises he has granted us, some he has not. But if we continue in assurance of what he has promised, then we will gain them. We will face difficulties and sometimes it will look as if God has not granted us any of his promises. Nevertheless, we must remain and God will deliver us into his kingdom.

Romans 1:16-17/Mark 16:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved."

It is the gospel of Jesus that faith is what saves—faith is what makes one acceptable to God. Not this ceremony or that, not this action or that. But faith alone. Therefore, anyone who lives in faith is accepted by God and will gain God’s kingdom. While those who do not have faith will not.

George Mueller was an Austrian who decided to give the gospel to those in England. He found that he had to wait before God to gain any and all of his needs. If he needed something, he didn’t call his supporters or church members—he prayed to the Father and asked Him to grant it. And George was rarely disappointed. His faith made all things open to him.

To find out more about George Mueller, click here.

Living It Out

What is faith?
• Trusting in God through Jesus that he will keep his promises
• Not limiting God with human perceptions
• Placing oneself as lowly before Jesus
• Enduring in God through rejection, shame and suffering
• Persistence in asking, although you have not yet received
• Repenting from sin
• Accepting those whom God accepts
• Assisting and praying for those who reject you

Recognize that anyone who has this kind of faith is righteous—even if they have other things wrong. Like Jesus, we should seek out such souls, recognize them as God's children and help them in all things with all our resources.


It is the broken vessel of water that allows anyone to come and drink.

Jesus was broken on the cross. He lived his suffering an death not as an evil to avoid at all costs but as a mission to embrace.

We too are broken. We live with broken bodies, broken hearts, broken minds, or broken spirits. We suffer from broken relationships.

How can we live our brokenness? Jesus invites us to embrace our brokenness as he embraced the cross and live it as a part of our mission. He asks us not to reject our brokenness as a curse from God that reminds us of our sinfulness but to accept it and put it under God's blessing for our purification and sanctification.

Thus, our brokenness can become a gateway to new life.

-Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

"Father, break me
Take me through the fire
Oh, Father hold me, mold me
Just as You desire.
I am just a cup to overflow Your will
But first I must be emptied to be filled."

-John Michael Talbot

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Forgiving Like Jesus

Jesus’ Life

Mark 2:1-12
"Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven'; or to say, 'Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk '? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins "-- He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home."
The majority of Jesus’ ministry was letting people know that they were acceptable to God, not matter what their circumstances, past or the judgements they had suffered. This man, although ill, was really looking for acceptance in God’s presence. If he went to the temple in Jerusalem, he wouldn’t be accepted, but Jesus was saying that he was accepted anyway. The Pharisees strongly disagreed with him, saying that he had no authority to accept for God someone who was quite questionable. Jesus, however, said that he did have that authority—and to prove it, he healed the man.

Luke 7:36-50
"I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little."

Pharisees were interested in keeping Israel pure. And that meant that they were to separate out those people who were questionable in their eyes. Someone who has had a lifestyle of sin—even though they were repentant—is certainly questionable, and thus unacceptable to the Pharisees. However, Jesus fully accepted her repentance and declared her to be acceptable before God. In fact, Jesus declared her devotion for God to be greater than the Pharisees, for she had been forgiven of more.

John 8:2-11
Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more."

Rulers of the Jews were going to stone a woman caught in adultery. Jesus makes the point that those who were deserving of judgement were not worthy to condemn or punish. But at the end, when Jesus alone could stand and punish, he offered her an opportunity to set her life straight. He didn’t offer forgiveness, or acceptance before God, but he offered the opportunity to live in repentance.

Matthew 26:26-28
"Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins."
Jesus also sacrificed himself so that others might be forgiven. It was not enough for him to offer a possibility of forgiveness, he also needed to create the context in which people could be forgiven. For him, that meant the ultimate sacrifice—his honor and body had to be destroyed in order to bring about a nation which accepts the fallen who are repentant.

Our Lives

Luke 17:3-4
"If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."

We are to forgive those who come to us to repent. If anyone repents of their sin, we are to accept them as we would a close family member—no matter who they are or how evil their sin was or how much they hurt us. We must accept them. We must restore the relationship. We must welcome them back in our lives.

Matthew 18:21-35
"And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

Forgiveness isn’t just a nice idea, or a merciful option. If we are to maintain our position before God as being acceptable before him, we have to accept others as well. If we refuse to accept others because of a hurt they do us or based on some standard that is not in God’s word, then we will be rejected by God.

John 20:22-23
"If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."

Not only are we responsible to forgive others who hurt us, but Jesus gave us the authority to forgive or to not forgive in God’s name. In accordance with the standards God gave us, we can declare someone acceptable or unacceptable before God. We do this in accordance with the gospel and in accordance with the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 7:6
Do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

We must take care who we grant the acceptance of God and the Holy Spirit to. We cannot give it to everyone. Those who are unworthy of receiving the blessing of God—because of their judgement, their desire for personal gain, or their impurity before God.

Menno Simons taught on forgiveness in his churches among the Dutch churches in his care. At one point the churches heard of a group of English Reformed believers who were on a ship in a Dutch harbor, who were not being allowed to dock. These believers were rejected by England, and now they were not allowed to dock because they were Reformed, not the religious pursuasion that was acceptable by these two nations. Although the Reformed churches in other places were killing Anabaptists, the churches under Menno’s care asked permission to have these believers come off their ship and be housed by Anabaptists overnight until they were ready to leave. Even though they showed care and acceptance to those in need, nevertheless, the Anabaptist churches could not have those who were impure or unloving in their churches, and would separate from their communities those who would not abide by the teaching of Jesus.

Live it Out

Give everyone the opportunity for forgiveness
God grants everyone the opportunity to be acceptable before Him. No one is to be excepted. Even so, if someone is ready to repent, we need to give them the opportunity—in their own time, in their own way. Pray for people to be forgiven by God, even if they don’t deserve it and perhaps God will give them grace so they can be accepted.

Forgive the repentant
When someone has repented and is ready to submit to God, we need to accept them fully—not half-heartedly, or with regret—but with joy. We receive them as family and we accept them and help them as we can.

Forgive your brothers
Sometimes those closest to us can hurt us terribly and we want to hold onto that hurt, even if they apologized. However, true faith accepts the one who hurt us, because we all belong to God’s family. If brothers are separated and do not accept each other, then one—perhaps both—will then be unacceptable before God. Only if we accept each other will we be a part of God’s unified nation.

Pray for those you forgive
If you know that you have a responsibility to forgive and don’t feel like it, pray for them. Allow God’s love for this other person change your attitude and be willing to accept them.

Speak out forgiveness
When someone is forgiven, tell them. Don’t just assume they know. If someone is accepted before God, let them know. If you forgive someone their sin against you, let them know if they were asking for forgiveness. To show and speak your acceptance of another person is a powerful blessing.

Treat those you forgive as family
It is not enough to forgive from a distance. Some might say, “I accept you as long as you stay away from me.” That is not true forgiveness. True forgiveness welcomes people as family. It is acceptance and hospitality and open welcome.

Don’t forgive everyone “carte blanche”
Not everyone is ready to be accepted by God. In fact, most people are not. We give everyone the opportunity to be forgiven, but we do not actually forgive everyone. We forgive only the repentant, only those who are submitted to God.

Why Focus on the Gospels?

We can truly speak of the primacy of the Gospels, for in them we see Jesus living and moving among human beings, displaying perfect unity with the will of the Father. And we are taught to do the same, taking on the nature of Christlikeness-- sharing Jesus' vision, love, hope feelings and habits.

One of the best things we can do for one another, then, is to encourage regular immersion in the Gospel narratives, helping each other understand Jesus' perceptions into live and his counsels for growth and then making constant application to our daily experience. The dimensions of this task are infinite, of course. However, for the sake of our concern here, we want to consider how Jesus in his living provides us with a clear paradigm for our living."

-Richard Foster from Streams of Living Water

Jesus life IS the perfect life.

If we want to live even a good life, it is best not to seek to imitate heroes that demonstrate the weaknesses and corruption that all human lives represent. Rather, we should seek to imitate that which is the best that humanity has to offer.

The worst excuse I have ever heard is: "Well, THAT'S Jesus." With the implication being that we couldn't possibly live up to Jesus' standard. This undermines the main purpose for Jesus becoming human in the first place. Jesus never said, "Well, you could live like me if you were divine, but you might as well not try." Instead, Jesus specifically commanded his followers to imitate all that he did and said.

No, we can't all be perfect. But to surrender the attempt to be like Jesus is to give up trying to be good. We have to aim high in order to change the world. I had someone ask me, in a doroggatory way, "Are you trying to be a saint?" If being a "saint" is someone who, with all their might, attempts to live like Jesus, then my answer is: "Why? Aren't you?"