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.