Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Beatitudes pt.4

  Jesus continues to describe the character of those in the kingdom of God. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled". To me, hunger and thirst are our greatest most powerful needs and desires. I have felt hungry, when I say that I feel ashamed, never in my life have I truly known hunger, and I have been thirsty from work, but again I never have been very far from clean water. The need to receive physical nourishment is absolutely essential to sustain life. Jesus is equating this human experience to spiritual reality. There are some, Jesus is saying, that hunger and thirst for God more than all else, you will be filled, he says.
  The Psalmist of long ago wrote, "As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?" (Psalm 42:1-2). To experience communion with God is the desire of the Psalm, to "behold the face of God", this certainly will be true one day literally, but isn't it also true now? When we are hungering for God we are looking for Him always and everywhere. I see God's work all around me, in the flowers, the blue sky, and the gentle noise the wind chimes make. I see God's goodness in the smile of a stranger I never will see again. I am being filled and nourished as Jesus said. I think this beatitude is about our priorities, what do we thirst after above all else? As Isaiah wrote long ago "Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear and come to Me; listen, so that you may live" (Isaiah 55:2-3).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Beatitudes Pt.3

  Jesus continued, "blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth". Jesus is still drawing from the wellspring of Hebrew scripture, this time from Psalm 37. The Psalm speaks of the actions of the "wrongdoers", "wicked" those who "carry out evil devices" and "prosper in that way". It continues to tell about how the "wicked plot against the righteous"and "watch the righteous to kill them". Then the Psalmist says "I have seen the wicked oppressing and towering like a cedar of Lebanon". Yet there is a contrast throughout the Psalm, the wicked oppress and do these things but they and their plans will not be established they will be overthrown by God who sees all these things and upholds those who look to Him. It would still seem the same today, many seem to prosper who are the aggressive, the scheming or powerful. But the message of the Psalmist and of Jesus is still the true perspective from God's view, the meek will be the vindicated ones, the poor and oppressed.
  What does "meekness" look like? It isn't exactly a word we throw around a lot in conversation and we probably wouldn't know how to receive being called a "meek" person. For starters it is how Jesus describes himself, "take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29 KJV). The word Jesus uses is in the Greek "praos", I know that is not a startling fact, but the meaning of the word and how it was used in his time tells us much about what meekness looks like. It means strength under control. The word would be used to describe an animal such as a horse that has been tamed. It is amazing at how such a powerful animal like a horse or mule can be tamed and that immense strength utilized for good, useful purposes. This is true for a disciple of Jesus, our tongue is a powerful part but is it out of control or tamed to speak what is good and edifying?  Our hands can be strong but do they tear down others or work to help others  and build community? Our legs are powerful but do they run to slander or journey to share faith. Our mind is perhaps the most powerful of all but does it harbor grudge and hate, or is it fertile soil for producing works of love, forgiveness and compassion? Meekness for us is self-control, a life that is trying to obey God with our body, it is this kind of a life that will be ultimately recognized by God regardless of what the rest of the world does and says.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Beatitudes Pt.2

  "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted". Again as with the previous statement Jesus made about the poor in spirit, this one as well is rooted in the Old Testament. In the "Servant Songs" of the book of Isaiah, chapters 40-66, there is a sense of mourning. Among many of such statements there is chapter 61:2 "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn". In these writings in Isaiah, Judah is lamenting captivity, a exile that has occurred into Babylon that was brought about by unfaithfulness to Yahweh. Statements such as this are made "For our transgressions before you are many, and our sins testify against us" (Isaiah 59:12). Yet in these writings as well a sense of hope emerges, a longing for Yahweh to act again as he did in earlier times in Hebrew history, the exodus from Egypt. There is indeed mourning, but God will act again in history, he will comfort them, they will again be led through the sea, again they will travel through the wilderness as it blossoms and blooms. Judah looks for another exodus, a greater one really that the "arm of the Lord" will accomplish. So as Jesus says "blessed are those who mourn" he isn't unveiling a new form of teaching per say, rather the "new" aspect of it is him saying this is now happening, "you will be comforted". As Jesus goes through Israel proclaiming the forgiveness of sins to people he is bringing comfort a reconciliation with God, a return from exile spiritually. As his cousin John the baptist is baptizing in the Jordan river, which is itself a type of passing through the sea (1 Corinthians 10:2), a greater exodus is beginning to happen.
  What does this mean for me? What does mourning and being comforted from God look like today? It is still the same, we recognize our own sin or evil or imperfections or mess ups or whatever else you want to call it and we look to God to heal us from these, to comfort us with his love. I look at my own self and see a wretchedness about me that I loathe, I mourn over it. Yet as undeserving as I am God desires fellowship with me, God is interested in me, God wants to use me to work for him, God sent his Son to die for me. What comfort that is, what a new way of living that opens up. I was reading recently about the history of Christianity in Ireland, and St. Patrick of course was the man who brought the gospel to that country. He must have been a magnificent person, I look forward to meeting him, but in his own short autobiography his first statements about himself are "I, Patrick, a sinner, the rudest and least of all the faithful, and the most contemptible with the multitude". Kind of a surprising way for a man who has a holiday named for himself to begin his autobiography. I get a strong sense he knew what it was to mourn what he desired to change in his life. Paul himself called himself the "chief of sinners". But God has not abandoned us, he has brought comfort, Jesus himself experienced our "exile" on a Roman cross in order to bring us to God.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Way of Life

"For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life". (Ephesians 2:10) NRSV. That phrase "our way of life" has struck me lately reading through the Ephesian letter. How often do we separate our "religion" from other parts of life? Paul writes our good works we are in Christ to do is our very way we live, our life itself. Then it dawned on me it has always been this way. Our life in God is always about a walk or a path an ever increasing journey we are on in life, one that  consumes our whole life. In Genesis 5:24 we read a very short bio of a man named Enoch, "Enoch walked with God". We know very little else about this man, but doesn't saying he walked with God say it all? This man lived life in God's presence, he interacted with and obeyed God, he surely bore the image of God as he lived among others.
  In Isaiah 2:3, a prophetic verse foretelling the Kingdom the Messiah would establish, a Kingdom here now that reigns in our life. "Many peoples shall come and say "Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths". The ways of God are for us to learn so we can walk his path, life is a pathway which we walk with God.
  Jesus in the "sermon on the mount", talks of two pathways in life, two gates that can be entered, each with different destinations (Matthew 7:13-14). So often people equate "religion" merely with a belief system when it should be seen as a "life system", what we simply "believe" will have no power to save unless we live out that belief in life, it becomes our pathway.
  In Micah 6:6-8, some of my favorite Bible verses, Micah presents the question what can I bring to God that will be pleasing? Then he speaks of this extravagant amount of worship thinking God would be pleased with it, but what does God desire first? "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with you God". The worship is important, it is the outpouring of our heart, but of foremost importance is our walk with God, how we live among God's creation and listen to and obey him.
  It is all about a way of life, a way we never "arrive" at, so to speak, but a way we live each day. A path we follow that is in Jesus footsteps, he is the one leading us. It is an ever increasing way of knowing God in his Scriptures, we should be constantly seeking, changing if need be, and living out our knowledge to make a difference in life. Easy for me to say, a constant challenge to really live. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"The Beatitudes" part 1

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". The words that open the greatest sermon ever preached, the "sermon on the mount". In Matthew chapters five, six, and seven is found this discourse. From the opening statement he turns much of the world's wisdom on its head and shows the true path of happiness, he shows what it means to live in God's Kingdom and he invites us to enter into this way. Many would think, blessed are the wealthy, blessed are the aggressive who get their way but "blessed are the poor in spirit"?  Jesus is telling of a blessedness, or happiness, in life that transcends money, fame, power, health or whatever else that is transient in nature and can change in a "New York minute". What does it look like to be "poor in spirit"? Ultimately the answer to that is for you to wrestle with and pursue just as I do myself, but perhaps I can share with you my own ideas. First I don't think it means to walk around in a sad and morose condition. Jesus himself enjoyed life and people and celebrations, his first miracle was done at a wedding feast. The parable of the prodigal son ends with an extravagant celebration. All through the gospel writings Jesus is interacting with people and it should be this way for us as well. We have every reason to rejoice and live to make a difference.
  There is a sense in which we should have a "poorness of spirit" however, and to emphasize the point even more Jesus uses the strongest possible word for "poor" in this statement. He uses the word "ptochos" which means , begging poor. There is another word he could have used which would convey poorness but would have implied that one still possessed basic necessities. The word Jesus used however means to be a beggar and completely destitute of even the most basic needs of life. It means to be completely dependent on a outside source for needs. And this portrays our position before God, we understand that our true fulfillment in life is going to be found in him. We bring nothing to him that he needs, rather he provides to us and our direction in life is to be guided by him. What Jesus is saying here is rooted in the old testament writings. In Isaiah chapter 66, God speaks of the one to whom he looks to and esteems "But this is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word"(Isaiah 66:2). In this passage God is contrasting the "contrite in spirit" with those who "chose their own way, and take delight in their abominations". A way that will only lead to our own ruin and heartache, a way that I have walked before.
  Jesus is telling us about a better way, he is inviting us to come in. Follow him, those who recognize their need is found in God are experiencing the "kingdom of God". The Kingdom is within their hearts and life is being transformed from the inside out. A blessedness is found that cannot be taken away a path in life is walked that is certainly going to lead home.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Then their eyes were opened" (Luke 24:31)

  Countless thousands of people were crucified in the ancient world. A mode of execution probably invented by the Persians around the sixth century B.C. was perfected by the Romans and lasted until abolished by Constantine in the fourth century A.D. Thousands of Jewish men were crucified by the Romans especially leading up to the revolt in 67 A.D. Yet one crucifixion emerges in history to stand alone from all others, one crucifixion has happened that has in many way changed how we even see a cross today. Is it not amazing that Paul could write in Galatians 6:14 "May I never boast except in the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ". How could Paul say that his boast was in a crucifixion? especially in that time period. How to Paul could one who was executed in this way emerge to become his Lord?
  From a Roman perspective the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was just another day, it was just another illustration of what happens when the empire responds to a perceived threat to its peace and stability. In fact it isn't really discussed much at all in their ancient writings. Death on a cross was associated with such shame that it was not a topic for polite company. Even surprisingly the Gospel writings are reserved when speaking of the crucifixion, they simply say "they crucified him", without much of the horrific detail. To the Roman mind it was foolishness to ascribe anything to Jesus honorary. Probably the oldest depiction of Jesus being crucified was found on a plaster wall in the ancient city of Rome. It is called the "Alexamenos graffito" and you can see photographs of it on the internet. It is a inscription of a figure upon a cross with the head of a donkey and a young man is standing to the side with a hand raised in homage. Then there is a caption in Greek that says "Alexamenos worships his God". Justin Martyr a second century Christian apologist writes "they say our madness consists in the fact that we put a crucified man in second place after the unchangeable and eternal God, the creator of the world". All in all to the Romans, and everyone else for that matter, crucifixion was a humiliation, it labeled one as a outcast, and asserted the authority of the empire.
  In Luke chapter 24, I hope you take five minutes to read the chapter to get the context, we meet two despondent souls who had put their hope in Jesus of Nazareth but had witnessed his death. Cleopas and perhaps his wife (John 19:25) were returning home on the Sunday morning after being in Jerusalem and they happen upon a "stranger". As a conversation ensues among these travelers they tell how they had hoped this Jesus would have been the one to have "redeemed Israel". They were telling the story from the perspective of what crucifixion meant to them, not yet understanding the meaning of his death, it was simply hopes dashed.
  Something remarkable happened, something beautiful, as they travel along the way they reach their destination in the village of Emmaus and persuade this "stranger" to eat supper with them and stay with them since it was evening. As the meal begins we read "When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him". Their eyes were now opened to behold the resurrected Jesus, yes vindicated from death, beginning the reversal of the curse. That wonderful phrase "their eyes were opened" is found at another meal setting in the Scriptures though in a much less wonderful setting. The serpent tempts Eve to eat of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat of, then her and Adam both eat of it and "the eyes of both of them were opened" (Genesis 3:7). They were opened to behold guilt, shame, and alienation from God. But in Luke 24, Cleopas and his wife experience renewal, hope restored, joy and a communion with God who raises the dead. This Jesus had come into this world, a world that loves its darkness, and he endured the ferocity of it. Evil itself exhausted its power on Jesus, and he took on himself, my sins, your sins, the sins of the world and laid them in a grave so that he could emerge from that tomb victorious and usher in a new reality for every nation. Yes a new world is being born through the resurrection of Jesus, I hope you will be part of it, Being born again of "water and the Spirit" (John 3:5) and experience new life in Jesus.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Resurrection in John

  The resurrection of Jesus is simply the cornerstone of our faith, many countless thousands of people were crucified in the ancient world. Only one has been proclaimed raised from the dead, Lord of the earth, and coming again to judge all. And this message proclaimed at the peril of one's own life. The first Christians were eager to tell about Jesus and especially His resurrection. The apostle John, who was one of the earliest disciples of Jesus and eyewitness to the events, tells us about Him in his Gospel writing.
  John seems to emphasize that the resurrection of Jesus is the first act of God's new creation. Something has happened through Jesus that says the future has broken into the present. To the mind of many in the first century the Messiah was to come and usher in the "new age" indeed, the resurrection was a belief of many faithful in Israel, yet it was to be an "end time" event, not something that took place within the flow of time and certainly not to the "Messiah". Yet what has taken place, if you can imagine two circles side by side, one representing the "old age", one representing the "the new age" or "messianic age". In the mind of many these two ages were distinct from each other, separate ages, when Messiah comes he will usher in the the new and all the dead would be raised. What has happened the new testament writers declare to us is, is that these two circles have slightly overlapped, if you will. Yes the "last days" have come (Hebrews 1:1), but we still experience all the frailties of a "fallen creation", death, disease, famine etc. The new testament writers were not blind to that reality, but they still spoke in terms of in Jesus a "new creation" has begun to emerge and the entire creation itself is in eager expectation of its own deliverance from decay.
  John is very strong in his teaching about "new creation" emerging in Jesus Christ. In John chapter one he plainly takes us back to a creational mindset "In the beginning..." Now what has appeared is "life", and this "life" is "the light of all people". In the Genesis narrative of creation God created light first. Now light has shone into the darkness of humanity.
  Another of the many new creational concepts John relates to us is what Jesus said in John 7:37-39) Jesus there speaks of the Holy Spirit being given to believer's after his "glorification". This Spirit is life giving, like "rivers of living water". I can't help but think of the river's spoken of in Genesis 2. Paul says that the "Spirit" is to us a "seal", a "pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people" (Ephesians 1:14). "Life is given to our mortal bodies also through His Spirit that dwell in you" (Romans 8).
  Thirdly in our brief survey of John's writing is the "first day of the week" as being the resurrection day. In the chronology of the final week, Jesus dies on Friday the sixth day. The sixth day was the day that God created humanity in Genesis. It was on this day that in John's account Pilate says "behold the man" (John 19:5). It was on this same day that Jesus uttered the words "it is finished" (John 19:30). On the seventh day, the Sabbath, Jesus body rested in the tomb, while His spirit refreshed in the realm of 'Paradise". God as well rested from his own works on this day. What happens however on the next day, the first day of the new week however changes the entire course of human history. "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark" Mary comes to the tomb and finds it empty, she was to discover the "light of life". Thereafter in the writing Jesus continues to appear to the disciples on the "first day" until his ascension. Then after that Luke tells us the Spirit comes on a first day and the church is born.
   The resurrection is cornerstone to John. In his writing of the Gospel, it is the eighth miracle recorded, again that would correspond to the "eighth day" or "first day of the new week". His first sign is in John 2, turning water to wine. The second is in chapter 4, healing the royal officials son. The third miracle is chapter 5, healing a lame man. The fourth sign is in chapter 6, feeding the five thousand. The fifth sign occurs also in chapter 6, walking on water. Sign number six is in chapter 9, giving sight to a man born blind. The seventh miracle is raising Lazarus in chapter eleven. The crowning of all these "signs" however is in chapter 20, Jesus himself reverses death and is raised from the dead. This is the "eighth sign", on the "eighth day" or first day of the new creation.
  Live and celebrate this new creation in your own life, follow and obey the One who has brought it to us and look for the day he appears again and we are changed to be like him.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"Here is the man" (John 19:5)

  The apostle John records for us these words in John 19:5. "So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" Those four words speak so much, "Here is the man", Jesus is led forth having been beaten and flogged, now wearing a crown of thorns and in mockery a purple robe placed on him by the Roman soldiers, bruised and bloodied he stood before them. The one who had healed the sick, fed the hungry, spoke of God's Kingdom now stands in full view incurring the wrath of darkness. I doubt Pilate really understood the full meaning of his own statement "here is the man", Pilate never realized those words would be written down in the most widely distributed book in history. Here indeed is "the man", look closely at him.
  When God created humanity we were made in God's image and likeness, all people today still bear that likeness. I believe that entails many different things and am still realizing many more. However at the heart of being made in God's image entails a manner of living, an ideal condition of life that reflects God's nature. We mar and hide that image when we live in evil and ways that are against God's created order. Yet Jesus is humanity in its perfection, Jesus shows to us what living and bearing the image of God means fully. Jesus fully partook of humanity, "Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things" (Hebrews 2:14). Jesus lived in perfect communion with the Father, we read of him some time being an entire night in prayer other times he simply began speaking with the Father among people as you or I would speak to a friend. The most common phrase Jesus used of himself was the "Son of Man", a phrase that did have "messianic" overtones to his hearers, but very basically it meant he was  the representative of humanity he is the embodiment of humanity as it was meant to be. Jesus experienced life as we do, he wept, rejoiced, moved with compassion, amazed at unbelief, felt anger, grieved, loved people, felt hunger, and needed rest. He was just like us. Pilate wasn't taking all this in when he said "here is the man".
  Jesus is the ideal for humanity, yet he is also "Immanuel"which means "God with us", He is the embodiment of God and shows us God. "No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made Him known" (John 1:18). We see him raise the dead, heal the sick and drive out demons. He forgives sin, calls all to follow Him, and feeds the multitude, Here is God in humanity. Yet what is most striking is that when Pilate utters those words "here is the man" he is pointing to God in the flesh who has just incurred a flogging, been beaten by those he loves, He, earth's true King, wears a purple robe because of mockery. The crown he is wearing is one of piercing thorns, as the old hymn goes. "Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?" God wearing the veil of humanity steps into our place. This is what it looks like when God comes into the world, He dies for us.
  Yes, Pilate had this one right indeed, "Here is the man!"

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Your King Comes To You"

In Matthew 21:1-11 we read of what we often refer to as the "triumphal entry",it took place on the Sunday prior to his crucifixion, therefore we have the traditional observance of "Palm Sunday". In the historical context Jesus was entering Jerusalem at the beginning of the Passover time, and the city would be overflowing with people from all over the empire. The time was sacred to the people for it was a reliving through liturgy of their freedom from oppression yet at the same time given their current condition it was a time that yearned for Yahweh to act again in similar way. They longed for the "messiah", one who would rise up and overthrow their enemies and establish the messianic kingdom. Even though the people were in their own land they were not sovereign in it, from the time of Nehemiah when they came home from Babylon they felt as "slaves in the land you gave our forefathers".
  Jesus is now entering the city and the description of the Gospel writers is one that you cannot miss the "messianic", "kingly" overtones. The entire scene described by all four writers is saturated with prophetic pronouncements of what the "Messiah" would look like, come to do, and what his "kingdom" would look like. The scene is is fulfillment of Zechariah's vision in Zechariah chapter 9. Zechariah says for Zion to shout and rejoice because her "King" is coming to her. This figure is described as "righteous" and "having salvation". He goes on to say that he is "gentle" and riding on a "colt", the "foal" of a donkey. At this same time as Jesus enters the city this way, the Roman Governor over Judea is entering Jerusalem from his headquarters in Caesarea riding in a chariot and escorted by Roman soldiers. The two kingdoms are going to clash, yet in a most unexpected way the kingdom of this "Galilean peasant" is going to emerge victorious not only over Rome but over all the kingdoms of the earth. Zechariah says further "He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth". Jesus is "Prince of Peace" as Isaiah calls him, what he came to do was create a kingdom not to overthrow Rome, but to include them, as well as all other nations of the world and to "guide our feet in the path of peace".
  He was entering the city to free prisoners, "As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit". He is come to set us free from the self destruction of sin, he would shed his blood in our place, he would defeat by his own death and resurrection the true enemy of humanity.
  As Jesus enters the city set on doing these things and the cross growing ever nearer, the people in jubilant praise singing "Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" they spread their own cloaks in the road and went ahead of him. Amid this fervor, Jesus sees the city in the distance and "wept over it" (Luke 19:41-44). "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes", then he predicts the fate of the nation, which happened less than 40 years later, and because "you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you".
   Jesus still extends his peace, yet often we go through life not accepting what will really bring us that peace. I find myself that my expectation of the Messiah becomes as wide of the mark as theirs ever was sometimes. God has come to us, we see him in Jesus, this is what he looks like, gentle and riding on a colt, headed for a cross to show us his love.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

John 12:32

  In John 12:32 Jesus says "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself". Jesus said this showing the kind of death he was going to die, John narrates in the next verse. The message that Jesus was proclaiming was bringing him into a direct conflict with the revolutionary agenda of the social leaders, it was exposing the hypocrisy and oppressiveness of its supposed shepherds, Jesus was showing the true way of being Israel, a light to the nations, yet it was leading to a Roman cross. His "kingdom" was going to be established, the great battle was to be fought, and won, though in an unexpected way. It would be achieved in His crucifixion and resurrection.
  I am amazed, though probably shouldn't be, of the profound prophetic statement of my Lord. His being "lifted up", in crucifixion, would be a drawing power to transcend centuries and cultures, to draw all people to Him. His "kingdom" has and will continue to outlast all others. His kingdom advances not by a "superior force" but by a different sort of power altogether, the power of sacrificial love. He as "King" is willing to serve and die in the place of even His enemies. He serves his disciples, and even Judas, in John 13 by washing their feet. Then says this was done as an example for us to follow (John 13:15).
  His kind of sacrificial love is for us to learn and grow in. To do this means hopefully to point others to him, bringing healing into this world and grow ourselves.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Fourfold Picture of Jesus

  The new testament presents to us a multi-dimensional view of Jesus Christ. The entire Bible for that matter, whether from the Law, Psalms, and Prophets, or right into the last book of the Bible, Revelation, Jesus is shown to us. There is just no one way to tell how glorious Jesus is, a whole vocabulary of language is used to show us Jesus. Most often however when we think of Jesus we think of what we learn in his biography, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They present to us a "fourfold" picture of Jesus. These are four accounts that were written to form the lifeblood of Christian faith. All four books supplement each other in many ways and complement each other in ways and also overlap in many details. Each book also seems to emphasize a certain aspect of Jesus.
  Matthew could be called the "Hebrew Gospel", right from the very start of the writing is the genealogy of Jesus emphasizing the lineage from Abraham and "King David". He is being portrayed as the true heir of the "throne of David", of all the kings in the list only David is listed as "King".Shortly after that is his birth and "wise men" from the east come looking for the "King of the Jews", and this means Herod isn't the true King. Matthew goes on to give us the the "sermon on the mount", many miracles, parables illustrating the "kingdom of heaven" (the reign of heaven upon earth). Matthew narrates a detailed description of the "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem fulfilling the prophetic words of Zechariah
             "Tell the daughter of Zion,
           Look, your King is coming to you,
              humble, and mounted on a donkey,
                  and on a colt, the foal of a
As the crowds witness this they respond by saying "Hosanna to the Son of David". Matthew is filled with this thought of "King Jesus" and the closing words of the book are the King's commission "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..."(Matthew 28:18-20).
  Mark's writing picks up and moves quickly, the word "immediately" is found often and the emphasis is clearly on the miracles or "works of power" done by Jesus. Marks writing is called often the "servant gospel" because  it shows Jesus as the "servant of the Lord" bringing healing to the people. One of the often referred to statements in Mark is "the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Jesus is shown as servant doing good and showing the "kingdom" in action.
  Luke is written with a emphasis on Jesus and his relation to all humanity, he is in Luke's genealogy the "son of Adam", showing his universality and relation to all humanity. Luke shows very emphatically Jesus and his relation to the "outcasts", the poor respond to his message, and a samaritan is venerated in his famous parable of the "good samaritan" in chapter 10.Luke's gospel is often called the gospel to the greek mind as it shows Jesus as humanity in perfection.
   John in his writing shows the incarnation of Jesus that he is the "embodiment of God". To many of that time as well as today, could not understand how God could become "flesh", flesh to them was evil and spirit only was good. But John says "the Word became flesh and dwelled among us". This is what it looks like when God comes into the world, it is seen in Jesus. "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" Jesus told Philip.
  This short blog is not nearly enough to describe all that is being shown to us about Jesus, not nearly enough to describe him ,it is really a lifetime endeavor, but I hope its enough to excite your interest in Jesus and in learning of him you will fall in love with Jesus and want to follow him in living.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Increasing Jesus (John 3:30)

  The prophet John the baptist said about Jesus that "he must increase, but I must decrease". Specifically John was talking about his own work as a prophet to prepare the way for Jesus to make ready a people prepared for him, John said of himself that he was not the "bridegroom" he was the friend of the bridegroom and in that his joy was complete (John 3:29). But those words, Jesus must increase but I must decrease are true for disciples of Jesus always.
  To meditate daily on Jesus, to talk to him in prayer, live life indwelled by the Spirit, and follow him in praxis is to let him increase in our life. To decrease ourselves and see a hurting world around us as our mission is to let Jesus increase in us. Paul wrote the Galatian churches "my children- I seem to be in labor with you all over again, until the Messiah is fully formed in you". The challenge of Jesus is to let him be fully formed in us, to decrease ourselves and let Jesus increase.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

  "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates."
  To the Israelite living under the old covenant "religion" was not just a matter of private devotion. It was not just another "area of life" separate from other "areas" such as social, economic, political, recreational, vocational or any other area we have established. Rather their "religion" was the all consuming aspect of every part of life, Yahweh was King in every part.
  Moses said to them that the commandments were to find their way into their heart, the words of God are transformational if we allow them into our heart, what is in our heart is going to be what comes out in our actions. Jesus said "out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34)
  Moses commands them to teach these things to their children, we want to give to the next generation the very best we can give, God's truth isn't going to come bubbling up from within us rather it proceeds from God in his word and is taught to us. Give to them the treasure of his word, in words and in the deeds of our own lives to see it lived.
  Talk about them often at home and on the road, how thankful I am for all the long talks I was able to have with my Grandmother, I called her "Nanny". We would sit sometimes for hours and discuss the words of God. Let the talk about God be in your life, initiate dialogue with others about God, we may not always agree on every point but don't let that hinder fruitful and loving conversation.
  Let God's word be in your mind at bedtime and at daybreak, perhaps as times of prayer at the closing of one day and the arrival of another one, seek for communion with him, pray back to God the word of God itself for example the Psalms or the "Lord's Prayer".
  Tie them as symbols on your hands and let the word be bound to your forehead. Whatever work you put your hands to, let them be guided by God, do all things for his glory. Whatever your job is glorify God, help others with your hands. Let God's word be your meditation through the day.
  Write them on your door-frame so that when you go out into the world you are taking his word with you God's desire for us is to be "missional" people, Jesus said "you are the salt of the earth", "you are the light of the world", "a city set upon a hill cannot be hidden". And write them on your gate so that when you come home you give again to your family the words of God and a life that is directed by it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Resurrection of Jesus (Philippians 3:10)

  The apostle Paul writes in Philippians chapter 3 that "whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." What things is Paul writing of here? They are the way he formerly defined himself, according to human standards. Paul says "For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." For Paul his identity was now in Jesus, there was to him "surpassing value" in knowing Jesus. To Paul Jesus is more than a "good feeling" or a "great man from the past". Jesus is the living Lord, true king of this earth and his pursuit in life is "knowing him." Paul writes "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead."For Paul, "knowing Jesus" is a quest, one that will entail suffering and even his death, but it is worth it all because he is on a quest to know his Lord, to share in a glorified resurrected state with him.
  This is the sentiment of Christians, to "know Jesus", to have "Christ formed in us" (Galatians 4:19), to have the "Spirit of Christ" (Romans 8:9) living within us. Paul tell these Christians in Philippi they are a "commonwealth of heaven" (Philippians 3:20) they are literally a colony of heaven, dispersing the knowledge of Jesus into the world, living his kingdom, making a difference. For us as well "knowing Jesus" is going to be a quest, we come to a saving knowledge of him for sure in believing and being united with him in our baptism, but from there it will be, or should be a quest to immerse ourselves in him, to be his disciple and find our identity in him, to develop his mind (Philippians 2:5) and live these things in practice, in every way in life.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Genealogy of Jesus" (Matthew 1:1-17)

  The work of tracing one's family tree is interesting to many people. I enjoy learning about my own ancestor's through family member's who have undertaken the tedious task themselves. Matthew begin's his presentation of Jesus by tracing his family tree, what does this mean? why did Matthew feel it was important to tell us the lineage of Jesus first rather than just jumping right into the story itself?
  First, the genealogy is part of the story, it is a very important part. Jesus comes into this world not disconnected with the past but rather as a fulfillment of the past leading up to him. Matthew is telling his readers that this Jesus of Nazareth is the culmination of Israel's history. Jesus is the fulfillment of promise, he is specifically stated as being the "son of Abraham" taking the minds of the readers back to Genesis 12:3 where it was said that "all people's on earth will be blessed through you". Jesus is also called the "Son of David", fulfilling the promise that "the throne of his kingdom will be established forever" (2 Samuel 7).
  Matthew's genealogy says that God is working in a dramatic way, a new thing is happening in the earth, the Messiah has come and his Kingdom is being inaugurated. God has worked through the centuries leading up to Jesus, his plan has continually progressed forward through many individuals, some of them gentiles such as Rahab and Ruth, some of them very noteworthy such as Hezekiah and Josiah, some of them such as Manasseh not so noteworthy, good times and bad, it is interesting that Solomon's mother is called the one who "had been Uriah's wife". Through it all, exile and deliverance, faithfulness and rebellion, God has been faithful to his promise. This is where Matthew wants to begin, the long story reaching its climatic point and his kingdom being established. A light for all nations has dawned.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Resurrection pt.4 (Luke 24:1-12)

  All had looked hopeless, "we had hoped that he would have been the one to redeem Israel",was their sentiment, crucified Messiah's were failed ones, or so they thought. The women rose early on the first day of the week, the third day since his execution by Roman soldiers, to go to the tomb and bring fragrant spices."But when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus"(Luke 24:3), let's not read right past an amazing thing here. Women were the first witnesses of the empty tomb, Mary Magdalene was the first witness of the raised Jesus (John 20:10-18). The testimony of women in this time period was not allowed in a court, if the Gospel writers were fabricating a tale that was fictional they would have never employed the testimony of women about the resurrection of Jesus. Women however were very involved in the work of Jesus (Luke 8:1-3), they were at the foot of his cross and they were the first witnesses of Jesus being raised.
  The next thing we want to notice is that this was happening on the first day of the week. Jesus was crucified on a Friday, the sixth day, the same day God finished the creation. On the cross on that Friday Jesus said the words "it is finished"(John 19:30). He was in the tomb on that Sabbath day, the seventh day the day God rested from His work of creation (Genesis 2:2-3). And on that Sunday, the first day of the week he came forth alive from the dead ushering in God's new creation, God's future has come into the now, the present time. Every first day of the week speaks of Jesus being raised, it is the day that speaks of new creation, it is joyous for Christians to assemble on that day for worship, to sing "spiritual songs", eat the Lord's Supper, pray together, read scripture, hear it taught and just encourage each other. One of the important points to keep in mind is that these first disciples of Jesus were Jewish, the Sabbath was the most important day in their ancient tradition, yet something very profound, unexpected took place for them to begin to venerate this first day, something profound happened for them to begin proclaiming this crucified Jesus as Lord of all the earth.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Meditations on the Lord's Supper (Luke 9:10-17)

In this wonderful event from the ministry of Jesus we read of Him feeding a multitude of people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. Before we consider specifically this beautiful story let's think about some old testament idea's first. Think of the Hebrew feast celebrations, the old testament is filled with them. When covenants were made a meal took place, even at mt. Sinai, Moses along with Aaron and two of his sons and seventy of Israel's elders went up and "saw God", under his feet was "something like a pavement made of sapphire clear as the sky itself", then in this interesting encounter God did not "raise his hand against them", instead they "saw God, and they ate and drank". They ate and drank in God's presence. At many other covenant agreements people shared a meal together. When covenants were "renewed" they shared meals. When Solomon's temple was built there was table fellowship, at so many other places we could consider, the "table" was a central piece. The sacrificial offerings of the old testament worshipers is another to briefly consider, the "fellowship offering", also translated the "peace" or "well being" offering, was one where the idea behind it was one of covenant fellowship and some of the animal was offered to God at the altar and the rest was to be eaten by the people, enjoying table fellowship with God.
  This concept of "table fellowship" weaves right into the ministry of Jesus, read the gospels and you see that Jesus was often with people at a table. Even his first miracle was at a "wedding feast" (John 2). His table was about forgiveness, reconciliation, inclusion, joy, they are a foretaste of the banquet that will happen when He comes again. In Luke 9 where Jesus feeds the multitude, read also the parallel accounts in (Matthew 14, Mark 6, and John 6), Jesus is host of the feast.
  We read that the people "follow him", he has "compassion on them", they are like "sheep with no shepherd". But Jesus "welcomes them", speaks to them about "God's kingdom" about how Yahweh is king and what this "kingdom" looks like when lived in their lives. Then the "Messiah" takes the small amount of food for so many, "gives thanks" for it and "breaks it" then distributes it to the people feeding them abundantly.
  Jesus still has a "table", it is in his kingdom, he welcomes us to it, he is the host of it, that feast is the "Lord's Supper", we commune with each other and with him at that table. I hope you enjoy that sacred time today in worship to him.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Resurrection pt.3 "a God who liberates"

 Matthew 22:23-33 presents to us an encounter that Jesus had with the party of the Sadducees. The Sadducees were the group with much political clout in first century Jewish life, they compromised with the Romans and the High Priesthood was occupied by their own representatives. They were wealthy and aristocratic, you did not become a Sadducee, you were born into this type of group. According to history they did not believe in the body being raised after death (Acts 23:8). Jesus however taught about the resurrection and future judgement. The popularity that Jesus was attaining amongst the people had caused the Sadducees, jealous of their own power, to take notice of this Galilean prophet. On this occasion in Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover they seize the opportunity to present to Jesus a hypothetical scenario which in their own mind was unanswerable, and rendered a belief in bodily resurrection impossible, and in the process would expose a fallacy in Jesus' teaching.
  Jesus responds to this question in a masterful way, not only does he uphold the glorious resurrection truth but he reminds us of the very nature of God. God is a being who will bring liberation to the oppressed.
  Jesus in response to the question, which I hope you will look up and read, answers by saying their error was in not "knowing the Scriptures or God's power", now in one sense these Sadducees knew the Scriptures very well, the question they had presented was actually based upon a Scriptural command. They also were keenly aware of the power which God has, his ability to divide the Red Sea and so forth. Jesus isn't rebuking these Sadducees because they wouldn't have done well in Bible trivia, actually they probably could quote large portions of the writings. For all the knowledge they may have had however they had missed the character of God himself as revealed in those very Scriptures. He is a God who brings his people out of bondage. Jesus in response to the question quotes from the book of Exodus, when God appears to Moses in a burning bush. As Moses begins to interact with God in dialogue, God reveals himself as the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", the patriarchs of the Israelite people. God speaks however in the present tense, "I am", not "I was" even though these men had been dead at this point for centuries, yes they did live even still in his keeping.
  The Sadducees would have instantly recognized where Jesus was speaking from in the Exodus narrative, immediately after God introduces himself to Moses in those words, God then says " I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering". Then God goes on to say he is going to rescue them and Moses will be part of that plan. The Sadducees however had missed in the Scriptures and God's power that God will always act consistent to his character. Just as God had delivered Israel from Egypt, he will reverse death in his creation! Jesus himself is the beginning of that reversal, Jesus was raised from death so that he could "free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (Hebrews 2:15).God has and will act in his creation to bring justice and set all things right. God wants to set us free from a life of death now, put off those things that will only bring emptiness and broken lives. "For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:3-4). Live the resurrection life now, allow God's Spirit to live in you and give you strength and bear his good fruit in your life. And we look forward to the day that death is trampled at his feet."Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? Thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Corinthians 15:55-57).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

musings on the Lord's Supper

  Gathering on Sunday morning and eating the Lord's Supper has through the years become the very high point of my week. Christians for almost 2,000 years now have been observing this sacred time. What the Supper means is important to me, Jesus in the form of a meal has explained the meaning of His death.
  The death of Jesus was "for our sins" the Bible teaches, and in the "sacred meal" we can grasp how that his death was "for our sins", in what way his crucifixion affects our sin.
  First, the Lord's Supper speaks of the "incarnation", that God partook of the human condition in Jesus."Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity" ( Hebrews 2:14). The bread speaks of his body, that he partook of a physical body and lived among us. The fruit of the vine in the Supper speaks of his blood that he shed for us at the cross. This was all God's initiative on our behalf to bring us out of sin. Because sin, in one aspect, is a breakdown in our relation with God, we may say that is the vertical aspect of sin. Yet the Supper says this has been healed in Jesus, our time of eating the Lord's Supper is a time of communion with Jesus, he is present at the meal. Our relation with God is restored, sin is taken away, and we come to the "table" for fellowship with Him.
  Secondly, sin is internal in its consequences, we break down a relation with ourself because of sin, in many cases we begin to deceive our own self, hence lie to our self. Yet the "Lord's Supper" is a time to be real with our own self, to "examine ourself" and fix what isn't right, "examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup" (1 Corinthians 11:28).
  Thirdly, sin is we may say, horizontal in its results. It breaks down community, it has its effect on our relationships with others and harms them. Again the Lord's Supper speaks of this being healed, we gather in a assembly and eat at the same table, the table furnished by Jesus, and we are all fellow partakers of Him. (1 Corinthians 10:17) says "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread". The Supper should be eaten with a realization of unity, a sense of community because it is as much a fellowship with Jesus as it is with one another.
  I hope today you are able to come to his table and enjoy this communion.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Resurrection pt.2 "a living hope"

The first post in this series on the resurrection emphasized that the resurrection of Jesus is what I like to call a "living theology". It is indeed a past event that we believe, yet it is also the impetus for Christian living. We see this clearly marked out in the book of Acts, the resurrection was the central part of early Christian proclamation. The resurrection of Jesus is the first act of "new creation" He was raised physically yet with a glorified body, a new order of things began to emerge. Yes, we still see and experience the realities of the old world, yet in the lives of Spirit filled disciples of Jesus we should be living "kingdom life", a life that is about God's new creation in Jesus the Messiah, awaiting the day God says " I am making everything new" (Revelation 21:5). The last enemy will be defeated, death itself (1 Corinthians 15:26), and the dead will be raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:52).
  This new life, new creation, we are living now is because Jesus has been raised. Peter writes in (1 Peter 1:3) "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". So much glorious thought in one exciting statement. We are given "new birth" we become a "new creation, the old has gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus says in (John 3:5) this happens in our baptism we are "born of water and the Spirit" into his kingdom. Baptism itself is a wonderful portrayal of the resurrection, read in (Romans 6) how we are "buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life". Read those words slowly and carefully and prayerfully, we are to live a new life in Jesus one that looks different from the world still held in bondage to the old order of things. And this resurrection supplies us with "living hope", Peter says. The few and scattered followers of Jesus were despondent and hopeless after witnessing his arrest and crucifixion, crucifixion was Rome's answer for "Jewish Messiahs and revolutionaries", yet something profound took place on that morning of the first day of the week to inspire them with new hope and a mission that has shaped history since.
  We posses now that "living hope" that transcends earthly things, we can have now that "new birth" in Jesus, live this resurrection life and let God's kingdom invade this world through you!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Resurrection of Jesus pt.1

The thought of the resurrection of Jesus is perhaps in the mind of many people lately as we near the Easter holiday. The earth itself is thankfully beginning its own resurrection of sorts after another winter we see Spring approach with its greenery and beautiful flowers coming back to life. When I read my new testament I am very interested at how the resurrection of Jesus is really the central theme. Read the book of Acts for example and just notice how often the first Christians speak about that this Jesus of Nazareth being raised from the dead. The resurrection message was "the" message for these Christians, I wonder if perhaps today we have moved away from that some.
  Why does it matter? What is the important point? The important point some may say is that "there is life after death" Jesus is alive. That I think is part of it, we will be raised as Jesus was. Still others may emphasize that it proves He is the Son of God as Paul writes in Romans 1:4 that he "was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead". Perhaps we could say it proves that His death upon the cross does truly take our sins away, Paul again in Romans writes that He "was raised for our justification". The apostle Peter said that the resurrection of Jesus proclaims that this Jesus of Nazareth is both "Lord and Messiah" (Acts 2:37). He is true Lord of all the Earth. We could go on and continue to look at different points made by the resurrection and I hope to in the coming weeks. But I want to conclude with one last brief point, perhaps the one that gets often overlooked. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul's masterpiece of writing on the resurrection, he concludes it all with a simple statement "Therefore my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain"(1 Corinthians 15:58). This is what it all came to for Paul, what we do now matters because it bears on the future, why? Because Jesus is raised. God's new creation has come bursting into this world through the resurrection of Jesus. How we live, interact with others, work, play, serve others, praise God, beautify this creation, raise our families, yes it all matters, we are the people of the resurrected Messiah living out His "new creation" ushering in the day when it will all be made complete. The resurrection of Jesus matters in your life today, live that life.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Prodigal Son pt.6 "celebration"

Going through the three stories Jesus tells in Luke 15 he illustrates the longing of God for all people to come to repentance, for all people to truly bear his image and bring healing to the brokenness of the world. That is the role the "body of Christ" should be living out today, bringing liberation to the oppressed, Jesus was doing that by going to the outcasts in Israel. Heaven in the meanwhile was rejoicing to see humanity grasp what is truly life. Sin is a cruel master to serve but "if the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed"(John 8:36).
  All three parables conclude with a scene of celebration and this is the eager anticipation for Christians today.The prophet Isaiah gives to us a glimpse of that day "On this mountain  Yahweh Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine- the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Yahweh will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. Yahweh has spoken"(Isaiah 25:6-8). We have here just a faint glimpse of the resurrection day, yet taken with the other passages in the Bible of that day we find a time of celebration, renewal, transformation, removal of the old order of things, also of judgement, and the justice that creation longs for. The Messiah Jesus will appear as Savior, but also as Judge to all who love the corruptible things in this world,to all who oppress people through the love of power and those who continue to mar the image of their Creator, for these they will experience the "second death"(Revelation 21:8). The Lord is patient toward us however and desires that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).So let the church be about Kingdom work! Let us show unity to this world, healing to the hurting, relief to those in need, food to those who are hungry, new life with God through Jesus. A celebration is coming, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.(Revelation 22:20)

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Prodigal Son pt. 5 "reconciliation"

The story Jesus tells in Luke 15 continues to unfold paralleling the good news of how God has worked within history to reconcile humanity to himself. We are shown a beautiful scene of reconciliation as the father receives home his son. The "best robe" is given to his son, sandals are placed upon his feet, and a ring placed upon his finger, probably the "family signet ring" bearing the seal of the family. There is complete restoration. Jesus in going to the "sinners" in Israel is carrying out that which God delights in, bringing people back into what it means to truly be human, to truly bear the image of God.
  God said long ago through a man named Ezekiel that "do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?(Ezekiel 18:23) Heaven rejoices when reconciliation takes place. Jonah in the Bible was a man that God told to go to Nineveh, that was the capital of Assyria, the enemies of Israel, Jonah was displeased with this calling and went the opposite way. God was able to get Jonah's attention however as he was swallowed by a great fish, its sad that usually at this point people spend more time debating wether a fish can swallow a man or not than noticing the great theme of the book. The great story is that God delighted in compassion, Nineveh was rushing headlong into its own downfall from depraved living, something Jonah seemed to welcome, rather God desired their reformation, their transformation, finding new life in him.
 Jesus died to bring us back to God. "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation, if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel"(Colossians 1:21-23). We are like the son in the parable reconciled to our Father, clothed with the robe of Christ in baptism, reconciled to live kingdom life for God.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Prodigal Son pt.4 "fullness of grace"

As the story of the prodigal son unfolds the son "came to his senses". He had left his fathers home squandered his inheritance, shamed himself and his family and now found himself dependent on a citizen of that country for basic survival. He wants to go home, he wants to embrace his father again, he longs for the community of his family, at this point he is in a world where "no one is giving him anything". And so he resolves to go home not expecting at all to be received well by his father just hoping to be given the status of a "hired man", literally a "day laborer".
 Yet to his surprise his father sees him "while he was still a long way off", and the father runs to him to embrace him. In Jesus' first century culture grown men did not run,it was considered disgraceful, yet Jesus paints a picture in which this man runs to embrace a son who has shamed the family image. Complete grace shown by this father, again in this story we parallel the theme of the Bible. God has acted in history to demonstrate his love for us and make his grace apparent.
  The story of Israel comes to its culmination when Jesus comes into this world, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise of Genesis 12:3 to be a blessing for all nations of the earth. Jesus comes to "shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace". Jesus the messiah, is the reason for the fullness of the grace God extends to us. He upon that roman cross endured our exile of sin when he said those words "my God, my God why have you forsaken me?"(Matthew 27:46). All the evil of this world focused its energy upon the "sinless one" it was indeed the hour when "darkness reigns" (Luke 22:53). Jesus "gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:14). Like the prodigal son we have received this fullness of grace not to take and keep to ourselves but to live among this world in a way that shares it with our community in our words our actions our entire lives.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Prodigal Son pt.3 "redemption"

The parables that Jesus taught in Luke 15 continue to parallel the Biblical drama of history: creation, fall, and now God acts within history to redeem the creation back to Himself. In the parables the shepherd goes to search for the one lost sheep, the woman sweeps the house looking for the lost coin and the father sees his son a "long way off". You get the idea that the father had on many occasions scanned the horizon  hoping to see his son return.
 In the Bible, God calls a man named Abraham in Genesis and says to him that "all peoples on the earth will be blessed through you".And from that point forward this family is the primary focus of the Biblical narrative both the good and the bad. God is setting about to redeem back to Himself the humanity that He loves even working through the broken images of Himself to accomplish this goal. He gives to Israel a Law in order to set them apart from all other nations to retain a true knowledge of God among them. And the history of Israel is filled with redemptive scenes that begin to anticipate the great redemption that will come in the Messiah. God is taking the role of the shepherd seeking his lost sheep, the woman sweeping, looking everywhere for the lost coin and the father who is scanning the horizon hoping to see a returning son.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Prodigal Son pt.2 "broken image"

The stories that Jesus told in Luke 15 begin with as we noticed in the first part of the series that something of great value exists, the lost sheep for the shepherd, the lost coin for the woman and the son that goes away is dearly loved by the father. The Bible begins with in its first scene God delights in His creation, God creates, we are told, male and female in His own image. Humanity is to be the image bearers of God. What does that entail completely? I certainly don't fully understand myself, though I fully believe it involves demonstrating the attributes of God in how we live. "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him". (1 John 4:16).
 We see in the parable however that the son ,who would naturally bear his father's image, begins with his actions to break and mar that image. The son says to the father to give him his share of the inheritance, he is basically saying to his father "I wish you were dead". Then he takes his share and goes off to a "far country" and squanders it with "wild living". He then after spending everything is reduced to dependence upon a citizen of that land, and is given the work of feeding his pigs, then becomes so hungry himself he hungers for the food they are eating.
 In a similar way Adam and Eve break the image they were to bear, Cain shortly after murders his brother, the earth in Noah's day becomes filled with violence, and so forth we see evil befall human nature. In our own day we still live in a broken world, a world that needs the healing message of Jesus. It is a world that God seeks to redeem that God still loves, a world itself that God is willing to bear the pain of Himself. "this is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." (1 John 4:9).

Monday, February 20, 2012

'The Prodigal Son" pt.1

When Jesus used story to illustrate what was happening in His own ministry in Luke 15, it was a story that really summarizes the entire narrative of the Bible. To begin with in the three parables of Luke 15 something of great value exists. The shepherd of the first parable places enough value on the one lost sheep to go and search for it, the woman places a important value on the lost coin in the second parable, and climatically the father in the third parable loves the son immensely.
 Similarly as we look at the Bible as a whole something of great value exists to God, His creation. In the opening scenes of Genesis, God speaks His creation into being commenting on each day that it was "good" but after the creation of male and female he says His creation is "very good" in chapter 1:31. God Himself delights in humanity, and it is evident that He delights in His entire creation as we see the beautiful diversity of the animal and plant life in this world. In Proverbs chapter 8 "wisdom" is poetically spoken of as being along side God in creation as a "craftsman" and in verse 31 it says "rejoicing in His whole world and delighting in mankind".
 God places an infinite value on His creation. We read of Him interacting with humanity and inhabiting His creation in Genesis 3:8, He is walking in the garden in the cool of the day.
 So as Jesus begins His story of redemption in Luke 15, He establishes that God delights in His creation as the father loves his son in the parable and the "sinners" that He is going to and "eating with" are a part of that creation.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I have been reading the parable of the "Prodigal Son" the last few days. It is probably the most famous of all the parables Jesus told. The reason for the story is that the scribes and Pharisees were criticizing Jesus for eating with the "sinners".So Jesus tells this memorable story to show that His celebrating the kingdom of God with the outcasts was an earthly reflection of a heavenly reality, He says "there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents".The whole story is about forgiveness and healing. The father of the prodigal son celebrates his sons return home there is music and dancing, the best robe is put on the son, a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. What a marvelous picture is presented to us. And I have come to realize that we are never more like God Himself than when we show forgiveness and mercy to other people. Micah the old testament prophet says of God that He "delights to show mercy".How can we show mercy how can we live out this kind of forgiveness in our own lives today, what will it look like?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Gospel

What thoughts conjure in your mind when you hear the word "gospel"? For the early Christians the "gospel" meant the biography of Jesus of Nazareth. From as early as the second century the Christians were referring to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the "gospel".The title pages of these ancient writings were referred to as "the gospel according to..." They saw these writings as four accounts of the one "gospel". They were all about what Jesus began to do and teach and they culminate in his death, burial, resurrection and commission to his disciples. The "gospel" is the good news that God has acted in His creation in Jesus to redeem His creation and to bring His kingdom. I hope you read the biography of Jesus  in a new way and seek to follow Him.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Reading through the Old Testament prophets I am impressed with the visions of "hope" that reverberate throughout the writings. Jeremiah can find hope even amid the desolations of Jerusalem (Lamentations 3:21-23). The exiles are given a message of "hope", "say to the captives,"Come out" and to those in darkness, "be free".He who has compassion on them will guide them, and lead them beside springs of water.(Isaiah 49:8-23) "those who hope in Me will not be disappointed".
 The hope that is expressed is in God who seeks to liberate the oppressed, the God who acts within His creation to bring justice and renewal. "Hope" is to me one of the most beautiful of words because of the idea that is contained within it. It carries the idea of anticipation, a glorious outlook, a change in condition for the better. Hope generates newness out of the bleakest of circumstances, it gives reason to live in a transforming way today.
 We live in "hope". Paul speaks of the "faith and love that springs from the hope that is stored up for us in heaven"(Colossians 1:5). We have hope because of God acting within history through Jesus, shouldering upon Himself our exile of sin, through His life, death, resurrection and pouring out of the Spirit. He has ushered in His Kingdom and given us a foretaste of the new creation. We like those prophets of old have hope, and we look and live for the day when He says " I am making everything new."