Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sixth Sign

Jesus had some friends, a brother, and two sisters, named: Lazerus, Martha, and Mary. It appears their parents had died, and they were living together. (Perhaps Lazerus was supporting his sisters.) And the three of them appear in a few of Jesus' stories. In one of the stories, Jesus gets word that Lazerus is sick. And Jesus sees an opportunity for God to receive glory. Jesus could have gone to Lazerus, and healed him. But he didn't. He waited.

 

So, a couple of days later, Jesus announces to his disciples, that it is time to return to Judea, and go to Lazerus, because he has died. And, in this case, it was good that he died, because it would provide an opportunity for God to demonstrate his glory.

 

When Jesus arrives in his friends home town, he finds that, not only is Lazerus dead, but he has been buried for four days.

 

Martha comes to Jesus. She is convinced that Jesus has a special relationship with the Father. And Jesus could have saved her borther's life, if he had been there.

 

Jesus assures Martha that Lazerus will live again. And Martha agrees, "Yes, he will rise at the end of time."

 

This is the crux of the matter. Jesus says, "I am the resurrection. I am the life." God's plan and mission center around Jesus. Sin has broken mankind's relationship with the Father. Sin has thrown a monkey wrench into mankind's design. The world is broke. And the first step to fixing it is correcting mankind's realtionship with the Father. Without this step, no social action, no 12-step plan, no therapy, will affect the world's brokenness. People are already dead. Jesus will bring the dead out of the grave. Jesus will install them with new life. Life that opens the door, and begins the process of restoring them to their original design.

 

Then, Martha affirms her confidence in Jesus, and goes to get her sister. Mary comes, and expresses herself in much the same way as Martha did.

 

Jesus asks to go to the grave site. And when they arrive, he asks for someone to remove the stone, and open the crypt.

 

Now, Israel is a hot place, so the body has been rotting for fours days. The crypt would obviously reek. And let's consider the state of the body a little more. Decomposition of the body means a breakdown of the body's parts and functions. Muscle and bone are degrading. Nerves and synapses are collapsing. The body's systems would no long function, even if life would suddenly return to the body.

 

Then, Jesus prays in a loud voice, thanking the Father for his presence, for listening, and for partnering with Jesus. The intent of the prayer is to focus attention on God's involvment and work. Everything about to happen is a work of God. He, only, should receive any glory.

 

Then, Jesus commands Lazerus to come out. And Lazerus, dead for four days, walks out of the crypt. His spirit is reunited with his body. And all of the body functions, that have been disintegrating for four days during the process of decomposition, are restored and renewed.

 

This whole incident was intended to demonstrate that, now or later, life is in, and comes through Jesus. And not just as an escape from death. The quality of life come through Jesus. God designed people. The greatest joy and peace flows through living in agreement with his design.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Thanksgiving

The American holiday of Thanksgiving is this week. Of course, the purpose of the holiday is to get people to slow down, take a deep breath, and remember all the good in their lives. And maybe even to off a prayer, thanking God for those good things.

 

When one reads the Bible, it doesn't take too long to see that God encourages a thankful life. God wants us to see the good in our lives, realize how much comes from him, and have an attitude of thanks, appreciation, which leads to a positive expectation, and courage to forge ahead.

 

But there are a couple of verses that are a little confusing. These verses say: "Be thankful for everything."

 

Really? Everything? Hitler? The bomb? Cancer? Rape and murder? Racism? Arrogance? Studpidity?

 

It is really difficult to see that God, who commands moral perfection, wants people to be thankful for evil in the world.

 

When I was in college, I took a class about aerobics. When a person exercizes (like running), energy and oxygen flow into the person's muscles. These provide the fuel for movement. Eventually, the movement depletes the energy and oxygen. The body keeps shipping, but the muscles cannot efficiently receive. So, the body goes into a state called "oxygen debt."

 

As oxygen debt continues, the runner begins to experience pain in his muscles. Normally, when a person is experiencing pain, he stops whatever it is that is causing the pain. But, for a runner, at the point of pain, the body begins to form new capillaries. The body is creating new channels for energy and oxygen to be transported deep into the muscles, where it is needed most.

 

Trials, the evil in the world, especially where it touches a child of God, is spiritual oxygen debt. God does not create evil, or trials, but God does use them to create channels into a person's heart, allowing God's love, grace, and healing to flow into the broken areas of a person's life.

 

So, we can be thankful in the face of trials, and evil, not because of the evil, but because of the presence of God, moving through the circumstances, bringing blessing and gowth into our lives.

 

When the runner experiences oxygen debt, he receives the benefit, when he acts with courage, and runs through the pain. The child of God in the midst of trial also needs to respond correctly to receive the God's love and grace. And the response varies. Sometimes it is giving forgiveness. Sometimes it is love: patience, kindness, etc.

 

This is part of the process of restoring a person's original design. Scripture describes a lifestyle that cooperates with God building the inner life of his children. So, we can be thankful in all circumstances, because is eternally present in all circumstances, and filling his children with his love, grace, and goodness.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fifth Sign (3)

Then, Jesus moved onto the second metaphor. He is the good shepherd. The shepherd comes each morning to the sheep pen, and calls his sheep. And the sheep recognize the voice of the shepherd. They follow him out through the gate, and out to find pasture.

It is the shepherd, who provides for the sheep. He guides them to water, and food. He keeps them from danger.

Untended, or poorly tended, sheep can cause tremendous damage to the land by over-grazing, and trampling over, and over, the same ground. Well tended sheep can improve the land. It depends on the skill of the shepherd.

Jesus is the good shepherd, because sacrificed his life for the sheep. The enemy, like a wolf, wants to destroy the sheep. He wants to scatter the flock. He wants to separate them from the shepherd. Jesus gave his life to protect the sheep from the enemy.

Jesus is the good shepherd, because he knows his sheep. He provides for them. He will guide them to live the best way. They will live their truest, best selves. They will benefit the land, when they stay close to the shepherd.

It begins with the shepherd, who loves the sheep. The Father loves thew shepherd, because he sacrifices his life. The Father loves the sheep. The shepherd loves the sheep.

Everything good in the world, everything positive, beneficial, helpful, and edifying, begins with love. Love motivates Father, Son, and Spirit to reach out to people, to provide a permanent solution for sin, to guide people into living as they were designed, and to bring healing and growth.

Fifth Sign (2)

The English word Bible is derived from the Latin word for books. The Bible is a collection of 66 books. When each book was written, it was one continuous narrative. There were no chapters, or verses. Several hundred years ago, someone decided it would be a good idea to facilitate reading to divide the books into chapters. Then, a couple of hundred years later, someone divided the chapters into verses.

And sometimes it causes confusion. 

After Jesus discusses spiritual blindness with the Pharisees, the chapter ends, and in the next chapter, Jesus begins another message, with a completely different metaphor. As it was written, originally, with no breaks, it might be easy to conclude that it is all one message.

~o0o~

A fairly common occupation in Jesus' day was shepherd. Sheep were valuable, because they provided raw material for making cloth, and for provide food.

And, evidently, there was a practice of making a fenced in area, combining multiple flocks overnight. If there was one shepherd for each flock, the shepherd would care for his flock during the day, and he could sleep at night. And the flock would be protected in the sheep pen by a person the shepherds would hire together. Each morning, the shepherd would gather his flock, and lead them out of the gate, and into pasture.

So, the correct way to achieve safety, and pasture, was going through the gate. Not going through the gate meant something was wrong. A predator, or a thief, would try to get into the sheep pen, any other way, but the gate.

Jesus used the gate as the first part of this metaphor. For sheep, there is only one way to get to pasture, safety, and life. And Jesus is that gate.

We have posted before that people need the right kinds of physical fuel to thrive physically, and they need the right kinds of spiritual fuel to thrive spiritually. We can get some spiritual fuel from people, or certain spiritual practices. But other necessary, vital fuels we can only get from the Father of all. To get these fuels, we need to have a relationship with the Father, and be in fellowship with him.

It is the creation of a relationship with the Father, that positions people to receive life from the Father. And like sheep in the sheep pen, there is only one way to get to pasture, and to safety.

Jesus is proclaiming that he is that way. To get to the Father, establish a relationship, and find life, we need to come to Jesus. It is his sacrifice that opens the gate for us.

The ultimate goal is to fellowship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. One of the Son's "jobs" is to open the door, and allow us to come into the Family. It is in the center of the family, that people return to life, as it was designed; it is in the center of the family that peope return to love, grace, and purpose. 

Friday, November 03, 2017

Fifth Sign

There was a common belief among the Jews in Jesus’ day, that personal misfortune (poverty, handicap, or disability) was God’s punishment for a person’s sin. And, in the case of a man born blind, there was the possibility that it was punishment for the parent’s sin. (Apparently, no one read the Scripture where God told one of his prophets that he did not consider the parent’s sin when dealing with children, or the children’s sin when dealing with the parents. He dealt with each person individually, with their behavior alone.)

So, given this belief, when the disciples see a man born blind, they ask a seemingly natural question: Who sinned?

One might think Jesus would quote the prophet I mentioned above. Rather, he approaches the issue from a very different direction. He said the man was blind so God could reveal his glory.

Jesus spat on the ground, mad mud, and dabbed the mud in the man’s eyes. He told the man to wash his face in a particular pool. When the man did, he could see.

So, now we have an interesting situation. If a blind man washes mud from his eyes, and afterward, he can see, that must be an act of God. But, a Jewish teacher had used that exact scenario as an example of not keeping the Sabbath. (When Jesus healed the man, it happened to be on the Sabbath.)

So, according to the Jewish leaders point of view, a miracle was performed, that only God could do, for a man who God was punishing for his sin, through a man who was sinning by doing the miracle on the Sabbath.

No wonder they were confused!

So, the leaders call the man to investigate. They asked the man what happened. They called his parents to confirm he had been born blind.

Then, the man and the leaders have the weirdest debate of recorded history. The leaders insist that God did not work through Jesus, because he broke the Sabbath. And the man points out that only God could heal a man born blind, and God does not listen to sinners. So, if Jesus had sinned, he could not be used by God in this way.

Since, the leaders were the experts, and have all the answers, and the man posed a problem that upset their pre-conceptions, they got mad, and threw the man out.

Later, Jesus found the man, and asked him if he believed in the Son of Man, and then, identified himself as the Son of Man. And the man accepted that, and bowed to Jesus in submission.

And Jesus proclaimed that he came into the world to give sight to the blind – that is, to show people the truth. And to convince the one who think they have it all figured out, that they don’t.

Some Pharisees standing there, asked if he thought they were blind. And Jesus replied that the ignorant were held accountable. But, because they thought they held all the answers, God held them guilty.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Living Like Jesus (2)

Considering the ideas from the book I referred to, (remembering that I have not completed the book, but am in the section where they are analyzing the problem) there are several results that I think should be mentioned.

 

·         Each movement of God begins with a revelation of a truth. So, someone sees this truth with greater clarity. And often, someone believes that the practice of this truth should become the number one priority. The movement begins, as some move forward with this new revelation, and some decide that the status quo needs to be maintained.

 

God seeks to restore his family to its original design. Each successive revelation should further renew his design, and propel his people forward. It should position his people to complete his vision for the world. So, we need to remain true to the Father, and receive each revelation. It needs to be accepted, assimilated, and practiced.

 

·         But we cannot forget truth that is already revealed. Often, people get so enamored with the new revelation, they ignore what is in their foundation. All of God’s truth needs to be obeyed. All of God’s truth is an expression of God’s nature, and are steps toward completing his purposes.

 

And God has revealed his priorities. We must practice the new, the foundational, and be certain to keep God’s priorities.

 

·         No matter what movement, whether accepting the latest, greatest, or not, we need to remember:

1.     No one obeys God perfectly;

2.     God loves and accepts all of his children, equally, completely, and enthusiastically.

3.     Each one in God’s family must love and accept in each one in God’s family.

 

Living Like Jesus

I have started reading a book – big surprise I’m sure – whose basic premise is: if you are a follower of Jesus, what should your life look like? The writer’s answer to that question is: your life should look like Jesus.

Of course, one could say that any book, written from a Christian perspective, has that perspective in mind. I have said it here, more than once, that God’s purpose for each person is:
  • To give his allegiance to the Father, Son and Spirit;
  • To be united with God’s family;
  • To be restored to God’s original design for people. (Or, if you prefer, to be transformed into the image of Christ.) 
Father, Son and Spirit all have a vision of what each person’s life should be. And they are in perfect agreement. And they are correct.

There have been several movements of Christianity, since the death and resurrection of Jesus: Catholicism, the Reformation, Pentecostalism, Prosperity, Charismatic, Emergent. Each one had different views of spirituality, the church, practice, and lifestyle.

Cultural and social changes have also had affected how people view what it means to follow Jesus.

Do any of them understand what is in God’s heart? And follow it fully?

God seems to be in a process of revealing his heart. People grab onto this new revelation. Usually forming a theology, and a practice, that emphasize the new revelation. Perhaps over-emphasizing, so that following Jesus can get warped, and distorted.

We hope that each successive revelation pulls us close. The enemy pushes buttons to corrupt, and distort. The presence of sin also gives rise to corrupted versions of following Jesus.

The book intends to return to Jesus, re-examine his life, and example, in order to define what it really means to follow Jesus. But, even though the writer will no doubt high light some important, and valuable, areas, can any of us escape our pre-conceptions, assumptions, and habits? Culture covers a person with a coat that they don’t realize they are wearing.

We do need to take each lesson God gives us into account, incorporate it into our lifestyle, and we need to practice the whole. We need to accept each person’s unique design, and how each person fits into the whole. And we need to be open, and honest. We need to repent of any imbalance that distorts the image of Christ in us, and to the world.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fourth Sign

In this case, the sign and the message are separated by a couple of days. Jesus and his disciples are out in the country, away from any villages. And they are being followed by a large crowd of people.

Jesus says, “The people are hungry. We need to feed them.” The disciples say, “We don’t have enough food. We don’t have enough money to buy enough food. And the only food we do have is this little boy’s lunch.”

So, Jesus borrows the little boy’s lunch, and feeds 15-20,000 people with it. Then, the disciples clean up afterward, and collect 20 times as much food in leftovers, as they started with.

The crowd starts thinking: “If we mad Jesus King, we wouldn’t have to work anymore.” Jesus, knowing his mission (which was not being king), sneaks away into the mountains, and eventually, takes a boat across a nearby lake.

The crowd wanders around looking for him, and, eventually, crosses the same lake. When they find Jesus, he begins his teaching.

He questions their motives. They did not understand the signs, their meaning, nor their significance. They are only looking for him, because their bellies are full.

They were short-sighted. Meeting their basic needs was important; but they were only focused on meeting their basic needs. They were not focused on their relationship with the Father.

God sent the Promised One to give people a way to re-connect, and re-establish a relationship with him. Jesus used a metaphor, comparing bread and allegiance with him. Coming to Jesus, giving allegiance to him, and choosing to follow him, results in receiving life from the God-head. He gives life, when we give allegiance, by satisfying the requirements of the Law, redeeming the person from Satan’s kingdom, and moving the person into God’s family.

He also gives life, when we follow him by providing necessary spiritual fuel. We have fellowship with the Father, who pours his love and grace into our hearts. (People need love.) We are joined to his family. (People need community.) And he enables us to live our purposes. (People need purpose. And, he uniquely made each person to fill a niche in the universe.)

Knowing Jesus is like eating bread, that provide nutrients no other food provides. Without this bread, we will eventually starve. With this bread, we live, but more, we thrive.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Third Sign (2)

Scripture says that when receiving testimony about something, either an accusation, or a defense, we should not accept the testimony as true without verification of, at least, two others.

Jesus has proclaimed that he has a unique position, and relationship with the Father. And the Jews, listening to him, are thinking: “Who is this guy? And where does he come off talking like this?”

So, Jesus reviews with these Jews, who were trying to obey the Scriptures, testimony that confirms what he is saying.

The first to testify was John the Baptist. The leaders sent men to listen to John. And they asked John if he was the Promised One. And John said no. John said he came to prepare for the Promised One.

The second to testify was the Father himself. He testified by giving Jesus the authority to teach the way he did, and to perform miracles the way he did.

When people saw the blind see, the lame walk, and the dead rise, the only conclusion they could come to was that God sent Jesus, God gave favor to Jesus. And God does not favor those who rebel against him. The implication was: to heal on the Sabbath was not rebellion against God, and his Word.

And the Jewish leaders were not ready to accept that. So, since, they did not accept the one God had sent, the Promised One, in reality, they were the ones in rebellion again God.