Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.Your gold and silver are corroded.Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxuryand self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter."
The Apostle James Brother of Jesus (as recorded in The book of James chapter 5)
|1Ti 6:17||Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment|
|Hbr 11:26||He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward|
Saturday, August 21, 2010
We have been looking at the parable we often call the parable of the prodigal son. We have unpacked quite a bit already and we are only half way through. What we have learned so far is good and right and true, and I affirm it. But, I believe we will find the second half of the parable far more challenging. And so I decided we should back up just a touch and examine the context in which Jesus gives this parable, in order for us to better understand the message Jesus is giving.
Lets back up to the beginning of the chapter Luke 15:1
Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Then Jesus told them this parable:
Who are these parables aimed at?
Well they are about lostness and there are tax collectors and sinners present... so it must be Jesus preaching to the lost.
But what does the rest of the text say? Who else was there?
When the text says “Jesus told them this parable” what is that in response to?
Jesus begins telling these parables in response to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law...
So I ask again, who are these parables aimed at?
See we know Jesus came here to seek and save the lost. Jesus himself says so more then once. But I wonder do we really understand lostness?
One of the dangerous traps we can fall into is to think Jesus spent all his time with tax collectors and prostitutes and said things like its not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick...
But Jesus recognizes another kind of sickness too. But its a little more subtle... See Jesus spends time with these religious elite, these Pharisees and the teachers of the law.
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table.
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and
saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed.
So when Jesus tells these Parables he has a mixed crowd of listeners in mind, and he tells them in response to the religiosity of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law
Now with that firmly in mind lets listen to the first parable found in Luke 15:
"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'
Now to us at first glance this parable appears to be about The good Shepard Jesus rescuing a poor lost sheep. But remember the context is important. Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, folks who have the scriptures memorized. And they have a firm tradition involving these Sheep and shepard immages:
God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah and says:
"My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place.”
And again later God speaks through the prophets
Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: "Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done," declares the Lord."I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number.
He's talking about the priests and false prophets of the fallen kings of Judah and Israel. God calles them shepards who led astray and poorly cared for the sheep entrusted to them.
And who does does Jesus cast as the shepherds in the first parable?
In response to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law questions he says “Suppose one of you”
Now if your in this position what do you say?
Jesus has just publicly put them in the place of their ancestors and given the chance to monday night quarterback.
Of course they are going to say they would go after the sheep, after all sheep are dumb animals. So, its not the sheep's fault it got lost.
Then Jesus continues:
"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Who wouldn't search for a lots coin?
Again its not the coins fault it got lost!
But Jesus is not so much trying to teach in these first two parables as he is trying to set them up for his final Parable.
Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate. "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' " 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "
Who is lost?
The younger son certainly, but is he alone in his lostness?
And its not as if he is a dumb animal or a simple coin... So, who's fault is it that he is lost?
Jesus set the religious folks up so that they would see themselves as the older brother...
And if we take the father figure to be God, as I believe Jesus intended, who are you?
I know we like to say “I was the younger son...”
But what about the Older son?
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
As evening approached I reflected on what a good day it had been. I had taken a Sabbath rest and felt refreshed, but also felt the pressure of the world returning. I had to preach the next morning and still needed to rework my notes, check my sermon for length, and do a test run.
After bedtime stories and prayers with my three kids, I decided to go out and pick up milk and donuts for breakfast hoping to smooth out our morning and give myself a little more time to prep.
It was a rainy evening and as I drove home my mind kept going over the text I was given to work on for the sermon. I decided to turn off the radio and try out some of the wording I was playing with. By this point I knew the text from memory and not having the wording on paper it felt right to just talk out the phrasing.
As I got closer to home the rain stopped and the traffic lightened.
I was still talking out loud when I saw him. A dark figure, it was more like a flash than any defining features. He stumbled out into the road just in front of me. Instinctively I slammed on the breaks and laid on the horn. I cut the steering wheel in the opposite direction he had come from. But in a matter of seconds I watched his head collide with my windshield and then disappear again...
My van came to a stop and for a brief second I couldn't breathe, my body was stuck in neutral as my brain tried to process the last 30 seconds. Then all at once the adrenalin kicked in and I jumped out of the van.
The van was parked across one and a half lanes partially blocking traffic, and a man lay five or six feet in front of it. Cars began trying to drive around the van nearly running over the man in the road. I quickly stood in the lane and flagged the cars down until one of them stopped to block the traffic.
I enlisted the help of a second motorist to find someone with a cell phone and get help. Then I knelt down next to the man. He was bleeding from his mouth and the top of his head. I silently cried out to God "This is an emergency, if there is someone else in line to speak to you then you need to ask them to step aside because we need you NOW!"
The man began to stir and I gently put my hand on him. "What is your name," I asked.
"Arthur," he replied. He then began trying to sit up and asked, "Where's my beer? I need my beer." I replied with as much authority as I could muster "NO... Arthur what you need is to lay down right here." He reluctantly complied.
I'm not sure what came over me as I'm not usually pushy in my evangelism. But, I looked into his eyes and asked, "Arthur do you know Jesus loves you..." He said he had heard that before and wasn't interested.
I admit at this point I had no sense of time it felt as if it had been an eternity. It must not have been more than a minute or so though because the driver who had stopped to block the other lane arrived from her car with a blanket, and the other driver I had enlisted to find a cell phone reported rescuers were on there way. Help had arrived in the form of other motorists, but professional help was no where in sight. I couldn't hear any of the sirens that I expected should have been screaming our direction.
Arthur's objections about our lack of concern for his beer subsided, he closed his eyes and lay his head down. This did very little to calm me... With my hand still on his arm I closed my eyes and began to pray fervently for the Lord to keep Arthur with us, and to speed the rescue workers. The smell of spilled beer and blood heightened the desperation of my prayers.
As the first officer arrived I felt the life draining out of me. I fell back and just sat there on the ground muscles shaking and mind reeling. What had just happened to me, to Arthur... Where was God at this moment?
It was then that I felt a hand on my head and heard the prayers of the woman who had blocked the other lane and brought the blanket. I couldn't tell what she was saying but in that moment I had a very real sense that Jesus was there on the road with us, laying next to Arthur (despite Arthur's objections), sitting next to me (despite my disbelief), working in and through this woman. I'm not sure how long I sat there on the wet asphalt, just existing in this sacred moment in presence of Jesus.
I heard more commotion and looked up to see and hear the paramedics saying "hang in there buddy..."
"His name is Aurthur," I found myself saying more forcefully than I intended.
By this point there were several police officers all around blocking traffic and securing the scene. An older officer with stripes on his sleeve walked up to me and offered his hand. I reached out and he pulled me to my feet. Firmly gripping my hand he placed his other hand on my shoulder in a reassuring gesture.
He looked into my eyes and said, "You are going to be OK, Arthur is going to be OK. This was not your fault..." He handed me his blackberry and said "call your wife, dispatch has already called but she will be worried and need to hear from you." There was Jesus again speaking to me reassuring me, and reminding me of of those closest to me.
Then my friends arrived with a much needed hug. One scooped up the groceries I had been allowed to retrieve from my van and carried them back. The other walked me to her car slowing her pace to match mine, which was painfully slow probably due to still being in shock. I cracked a joke about the messiness of her car and the usual energetic smile returned to her face as she also joked about it. Somehow even though I knew nothing was OK yet, I felt everything would be OK.
I preached the next day, a shorter sermon than I may have had I had time to lengthen it. And attempted to visit Arthur in the hospital. After some initial denial from security we found Arthur not in the morgue or intensive care as I had feared, but resting peaceful on the second floor. He had a few bandages but no visible trauma. I prayed for him and left him a bible and our phone number.
Exactly one week latter and less than a block from the scene I stopped my van and watched in disbelief. What I saw just didn't make sense. There was Arthur walking not across the street but down the middle of a lane. At first I wasn't sure what I should do, but disbelief quickly turned to frustration and inaction became a non-option.
I rolled down my window and yelled "Arthur, Get out of this road... Your going to get hit by a car AGAIN." Arthur looked at me with a blank uncaring look and continued down the middle of the other lane.
I believe many people are affected by traumas and have the scars to prove it yet they continue to walk down roads they know are dangerous.
So the question that is burning in me is this:
How do you stop someone from continuing down the wrong road?
If people are not willing to be awakened by a traumatic event such as being hit by a car, what are we to do to shake them out of their sleep?
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
What has that got to do with being afraid of being in a boat in rough weather and seeing a "ghost Jesus" walking on water? I thought heart hardening is something that happens to slave keeping Pharaohs and ruthless killer Kings, not disciples of the bread of life who are charged with ushering in the Kingdom of God.
"They had not understood" is the words syniēmi. It is actually used twice here "syniēmi syniēmi." When something is repeated in the ancient world it is the writers way of saying it is important, as in "Saul Saul why do you persecute me..." And " Holy Holy Holy is the lord God Almighty."
Syniēmi means to put a perception together with the thing perceived.
And when the text speaks of hearts being "hardened" it is the word pōroō.
Pōroō means to grow callous become dull and lose the power of understanding.
The disciples could not put together what they were seeing with what they knew, and so they were becoming dull or loosing their power of understanding.
The obvious meaning of this "not understanding" verse seems to be that the disciples were too hard hearted to realize that Jesus had the power of God. If He could multiply the bread, surely He could walk on the lake and calm the wind.
But, Jewish Patriarchs and Prophets had done many miracles in Israels history and historians like Josephus tell us that there were Jewish "wonder workers" or miracle workers at that time too. And Jesus had already shown his power over nature by calming the storm in Mark 4.
So, maybe there was more that they "had not understood" about those loaves...
John records a detail about the "feeding of the five thousand" that Mark does not:
Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. - John 6:2-6
In Mark 7 Jesus refers to himself and or his healing power as bread as he deals with the Syrian Phoenician Woman and her daughter. there is a hint of this being a test for his disciples, but more on this in another post.
A little farther in his narrative Mark tells us Jesus recounts the incident with his disciples:
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. "Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod." They discussed this with one another and said, "It is because we have no bread."Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketful's of pieces did you pick up?" "Twelve," they replied. "And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketful's of pieces did you pick up?" They answered, "Seven." He said to them, "Do you still not understand?" - Mark 8:14-21
You can almost feel Jesus frustration, "Do you STILL not understand!"
They didn't syniēmi syniēmi (understand) about "The Bread".
There is this other time Jesus tried to teach something else about "Bread" too...
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. - Mar 14:22-24
This time Jesus doesn't hint around, he comes right out and says my broken body and spilled blood will be a new covenant for a new kingdom. He goes on to instruct the Disciples to "Do this in remembrance of me..." He knows that his time is short and he passes the baton to them.
So Now back to our original text... In light of all this talk of bread, and seeing how Jesus uses bread to represent the coming of the kingdom in other places. How does this help you syniēmi syniēmi what is going on here?
Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. - Mark 6:45-52
We understand His body was broken so that the nourishment He had to offer could feed our souls. Or at least we think we understand. But, are we more like the first disciples than we care to admit?
Jesus is not trying to teach about HIS power! He is trying to teach the disciple about their power through him.
Think about it...
He was asking them to test them about the loaves and fish after already showing HE had the power to multiply the loves. He purposely stayed on the mountain and sent them into the storm after already showing HE had the power to keep them safe in the storm. He traveled around with them teaching and healing then sent them out in twos and threes to do the same.
He knows they believe in him, but he wants to know if they believe in themselves. Do they trust in the power of the kingdom of God even when they cannot see Jesus?
Do we still not see or understand?
Are our hearts hardened?
Do we have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?
And don't we remember?
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?” And they took offense (skandalizō) at him. Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Mar 6:1-6
Jesus came to his Home town the folks that should know him best show that they have heard of the miracles and teachings he has been doing by the nature of their questions.
So why the doubt?
Although many people believe his power was limited and he couldn't any miracles because Jesus was met with disbelief, I don't think this was the case at all.
Mark uses the word skandalizō here. We find Jesus using the same word in a couple of other places...
Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.
But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly Fall away (skandalizō). Mar 4:16-17
"You will all fall away (skandalizō)," Jesus told them, "for it is written: " 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'
But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."
Peter declared, "Even if all fall away (skandalizō ), I will not."
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "today-yes, tonight-before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times."
But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same. Mar 14:27-31
Jesus was able to do miraculous things with and even through his disciples, and yet he clearly says they will all skandalizō.
And while we are talking about doubt I seem to remember an incident involving walking on water in which there was some degree of doubt...
Its interesting to me that Mark places this story here in the text. It is a sharp contrast to the healing of the bleeding woman, raising of the dead girl, calming of the storm, and healing of the deamon posest man. In all of these other examples Jesus appears to have tremendous power.
So are we really looking at a lack of power?
Often when someone asks me why Jesus would say he is the only way I feel as if they are asking why some are excluded. I have however found that their question seems to be framed a little wrong.
They are viewing Jesus statement as if he is some kind co dependant God. Like he is saying love me or else I'm going to punish you forever.
But that's not what he is saying at all.
In a house fire children tend to hide from firefighters. The house is smoky and hot, there are probably loud fire alarms going off and the firefighters are wearing Darth-Vader looking costumes. In this situation a firefighter may come crashing through the door and reach out for the child saying “I'm here to save you.” if the child resists the firefighter may say “The house is on fire, come with me or you will die.” The firefighter is not saying “If you don't choose to hang out with me I'll kill you.” He is saying “I've come to help you, there is no other way out, no one else can come in here to get you.”
Jesus is saying “This world is burning up, I'm here to save you. I'm not going to force you to come with me. But you need to know I'm the only one coming for you, there is no one else...”
I think the same kind of thing is going on in Mark 6. God desires restoration physically and spiritually. But he won't force his will on anyone. Those who are rocky soil, who fall away, who lack faith may not fully enter the Kingdom of God and receive that restoration.
As the pithy christian saying goes “God loves you but he won't force you to love him.”
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Our goal as Christ-followers is simply not to be good at the great commandment, but to be great at it
With this simple quote from Jesus Mark Batterson (no relation) begins to unpack what it might mean to really begin believing Jesus not just believing in Jesus. He invites us to cut away the politics and the unnecessary drapery (some of which is beautiful), and simply explore what following Jesus is in the simplest, rawest, purest form possible
Primal takes you on a journey to rediscover the true meaning of the great commandment.
Mark asserts "The truth is that most of us are already educated way beyond the level of our obedience." In essence he points out that we tend come up with a list of “dos” and “don’ts” and “OKs” and “not OKs” to show that we are different and hold that up to the world as Christianity.
He also writes “I couldn't’t help but wonder if we have diluted the truths of Christianity and settled for superficialities. I couldn't’t help but wonder if we have accepted a form of Christianity that is more educated but less powerful, more civilized but less compassionate, more acceptable but less authentic than that which our spiritual ancestors practiced.”
Mark concludes that "Our goal as Christ-followers is simply not to be good at the great commandment, but to be great at it."
He ends the book with an invitation to all people to become part of the next reformation movement. A reformation that consists of being “a part of something that is bigger than you, more important than you and longer lasting than you.” It is an invitation to rediscover and rejoin the movement that turned the world upside down two thousand years ago.