Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Peace with God and man...

Peace with God and man...

Jesus is our peace.
Jesus made peace.
Jesus preached peace.

Jesus is our peace. There was a time when the Living God would visit men through the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Only one guy could go in there one time a year. Others could approach from some distance. Jewish men could get the closest. Jewish women the second closest. Everyone else --Gentiles-- could come, but only so close. There was a railing around the Temple complex --the soreg-- that determined how close a Gentile could come to the Temple. Thank God, when Jesus gave up His life on the cross, the veil in the Temple was torn from the top down, signifying it was God who tore it, and God made Himself available to all mankind in equal measure through Jesus. The veil didn't matter; anyone coming through Jesus can have intimacy with God. The soreg didn't matter; Jew and Gentile alike could come, and if any did come to the Father, they did have to come through the Son. Ephesians 2:14 tells us, "For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility" (ESV) Yes, Jesus is our peace with each other. Any who come to Jesus can access the Father, and any who would access the Father must come through Jesus. ALL distinctions matter not. Red, yellow, black and white...rich and poor...fat and skinny...old and young...educated or not...every tribe, every tongue, every nation...ANY can come to God through Jesus. We don't HAVE to be divided by distinctions; we can be one in Him. He IS our peace, that is, if we will come unto Him.

Jesus made peace. Ephesians 2:15 continues to tell us about Jesus as the peacemaker: Jesus made peace "by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace" (ESV) Jesus didn't kill the Law; Jesus killed the sin the Law revealed. Whether Jew or Gentile; whether one knew the Law or not, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Whether religious our entire lives, or secular up until this moment, we are all sinners. Whether we we knew exactly what sins we committed --what Law we broke-- or not, we have indeed broken the Law. In Jesus, God forgives all who come to Him. In Jesus, those who've been under the Law and knew it, and those who broke the Law without ever knowing it stand on equal ground: separated from the Father. In the end, as Paul says in Romans 7, the Law is holy and just and good, but no one has been able to keep it perfectly, so those who knew the Law ought to see God more clearly, but they also are in the same amount of need of those who did not know the Law. In this way, Jesus puts all men on equal ground again. Now, for all who come to Jesus, He cleanses them from all unrighteousness, and makes them One Body, wherein HE might dwell and move and work upon this earth, thus making peace between people who were once separated by knowledge or ignorance of God's Law. Through His work, Jesus made peace so that He "...might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility." (Ephesians 2:16 ESV) Would you like to kill hostility? Come to Jesus; He has made peace possible for all men with one another and for any man would come, Jesus has made peace between them and God.

Jesus preached peace. Yes, Jesus spoke to all of mankind. Jesus spoke to the ones who were close to God --knew Him by His Law and continued keeping of His covenants with Israel-- and to those were far off --we Gentiles. Jesus bade any and all to come to Him, and to trade their heavy burdens for His light burden. To those who knew the Law, Jesus came and offered them a trade; they bore the burden of their sin because the could not keep the Law, and Jesus offered them the burden of grace instead. Law lives in failing duty; grace lives in willing response. To those where bore the burden of looking for God in many gods, and rocks and trees and rivers and the sun and so forth and so on, Jesus offered to trade them the lighter burden of KNOWING God through Himself for the heavier burden of blindly thrashing about in spiritual search. Jesus preached His peace --Himself-- to ALL, and He still does. Paul said, "And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near." (Ephesians 2:17 ESV)

Do you want peace with others?
Do you want peace with God?
Do you hear Jesus calling?

Come to Jesus. Join the people who are at peace with God and others. Join those who've answered God in Christ Jesus. Be at peace. Know peace. Enjoy peace with God and with man.

Surely, God will dwell in such a house, and move in such a body.

"For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." (Ephesians 2:18-22 ESV)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

At the risk of cold...

At the risk of cold...

We hate being done wrong. I know I do. (I often wonder do I hate doing wrong as much as I hate being done wrong...hmmmm...let's think about that later.)

Jesus tells us how to handle "wicked" people who do us wrong. In Matthew 5:38, Jesus says (my paraphrase), "You've been told it's right to practice revenge when you've been done wrong."

Then, Jesus says, "But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also." (Matthew 5:39 NLT) Does this mean we are to never defend ourselves? Does this mean we are to never speak out or stand up?

It does not mean that at all. Jesus flips the script on revenge, but He does not toss out the common sense of defense. Nor should we.

Still, what Jesus does do is do away with the false understanding that we are pay back evil with equal evil. Actually, we aren't to do ANY EVIL, even payback evil.

What Jesus does say is this: "If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too." (Matthew 5:40 NLT)

Should we defend ourselves from continuing injury? Yes.
Should we pay back evil with evil? No.
Is Jesus saying that where we can endure pain, we are to do so? It seems He is.
Is He saying where we are able to meet wickedness with generosity, we should? I think so.

See, friend, this runs counter to our nature. It runs counter to our culture. We are often too busy grabbing matching cloaks for each outfit to even think of giving one away under good circumstances, not less under difficult circumstances.

I love Matthew Henry's comments on Matthew 5:38-42; he says, "The plain instruction is, Suffer any injury that can be borne, for the sake of peace, committing your concerns to the Lord's keeping. And the sum of all is, that Christians must avoid disputing and striving. If any say, Flesh and blood cannot pass by such an affront, let them remember, that flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and those who act upon right principles will have most peace and comfort." (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary)

At the risk of being cold, I'd like to inherit the Kingdom of God, please. Lord, help me live YOUR higher laws and ways even as I am constrained in the lesser laws of this world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Giving honor where it is due, to the memories of my Armenian brothers and sisters...

Even 100 years does not heal such a wound, for time isn't able to stitch all brokenness. This wound, the Armenian genocide, has long been denied as such by both its perpetrators, the Ottoman Empire, and that empire's clearest successive nation, Turkey.

I was not there, but I remember. I call it what it was. It was clear cut persecution; it was genocide. For many of the 1 - 1.5 million (minimum estimates), people killed in the genocidal massacre, it was martyrdom. Many were killed for simply being Christians; the vast majority, in fact.

Even today, 100 years later, only one Armenian village remains in Turkey, and they only survive because they choose to remain silent and live in unobtrusive fear.

Our own president, fearing Turkey's feelings today about a century-ago crime, plans to refuse to use the word "genocide" in his upcoming centenary speech. Yes, like all presidents before him, Pres. Obama will not use the word "genocide" concerning the Armenian genocide. He refuses, for the 6th year in a row, to call it what it is.

Thank goodness, not every world and religious leader is squeamish in the face of real history. Pope Francis called it what it is: genocide. I'm with the Pope on this one, it was genocide. "60 Minutes" spent some time on the issue and, at best, they leave watchers to make some determination for themselves whether it was World War that killed so many Armenians or was it genocide. As for me, I think it was World War that provided some of the cover for genocide.

For all of human record, history tends toward the victor. Not in all cases, we know, but in most. 

So, the victor of the struggle of the Turks versus the Armenians is clearly the Turks. They don't teach their children about the genocide; they don't even call it that. If someone else does call the genocide exactly what it was while in Turkey, be warned, it's a punishable offense. 

Let me give you an example of how clear some considered the Turks' victory over the Armenians through genocide was, and, make no mistake, the person giving this speech is clearly saying that moving forward in victory is the cure for not being held accountable for the means used toward the end. 

In an August 1939 speech, just days before Germany invaded Poland, Hitler delivered what has come to be known as the "Obersalzberg Speech". To some, this speech is infamous and to others, erroneous; I will leave that debate to the professional historians. I believe it is consistent with the arrogance and tone of a well known genocidal maniac, so, yes, I believe Hitler said it. Pay attention to all of it, but, for this writing's purposes, the last line is critical: 

Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter – with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It’s a matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me. I have issued the command – and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad – that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation in readiness – for the present only in the East – with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space which we need. Who, after all, speaks to-day of the annihilation of the Armenians?

Hitler clearly saw what lay before him through the lens of what lay behind the world. If they drove out the Pole (and the Gypsy and the Jew and the Slav the infirm and the anyone-that-didn't-agree), and if they did so with finality, Hitler (1) did not care what anyone said and (2) understood that dead people do not stand in protest and (3) history only remembers what the victor reports for them to remember. 

The Turks believed / believe the same.

What is my point? 
There's the history lesson.
However, I do have a point. 

I remember. I was not born when the atrocities started in April 1915.
Still, I remember. 
It's not a historical farce.
It happened. 

Hundreds of thousands of people who confessed the Lordship of Christ Jesus were put to death for that confession. They were my brothers and sisters, and I remember. I grieve. 

No, I'm not Armenian.
No, to my knowledge, I do not have Armenian heritage.
Does it matter?
I have human heritage!
More so, I share heritage AND future with the people of the cross. 

There is an entire website dedicated to this 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide. I suggest spending some time there. 

Through the Apostle Paul, the Spirit teaches us, "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together." (1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV) At the loss of so many brothers and sisters, we still suffer together. Even in memoriam, our hearts languish in loss. But, we do not grieve as ones with no hope. We shall stand on the Holy Hill together. 

So, dear hearts, my purpose today is to remember, but to also exhort. 
Might we see lives matter? 
Might we begin to care about others more than ourselves alone?
Might we even begin to care about others at least as much as we care about ourselves?

In an age where we are rightly shouting, "Black lives matter!" I agree. And, more...
Armenian lives matter.
Aborted babies lives matter. 
Jewish lives matter. 
Christian lives matter.
HUMAN lives matter...
Life matters!

Brothers and sisters, friends and others, may we humble ourselves in the face of history, and in the face of our global events, and understand, lives matter. They just do. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Just like a zombie!"

"Just like a zombie!" 
"Um, no, not at all like a zombie." 
Talking to kids about huge spiritual things is always a joy. Recently, while talking about baptism with a 6 year old, I explained the picture of being buried with Christ in going under the water and being raised with Christ in rising out of the water. I used my hand as the surface of the water; he held his finger up beside my hand, went under and came back up. I said, "See, it's like going under --being buried-- and then coming up --rising from the grave..." Then, the short exchange found above.
See, dear friend, God does not raise the dead to death; He raises the dead to life!
Okay, let's be sure we understand it; we absolutely are spiritually dead without the quickening of God.
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1 ESV)
"...even when we were dead in our trespasses..." (Ephesians 2:5a ESV)
"And you, who were dead in your trespasses..." (Colossians 2:13a ESV)
There's no way to come alive on our own. We need God. We need to know God and have His supernatural power do a work in our natural flesh. The cross of Jesus, in paying the debt for our sins, makes peace with God for all who will receive it. That peace grants us access to the mighty, resurrecting power of God. Jesus defeated death in that resurrecting power, and He rose from the grave. When we believe on the name of Jesus, and receive Him, we are given access to God the Father by God the Son, and thus are given the right to be sons of God, fellow heirs with Jesus. However, dead things don't get a living inheritance, so God the Father sends God the Spirit to quicken us --make us alive!
God does not make us alive so that we might continue in the mindless pursuit of our flesh's desire. No, God makes us alive for life, and for Life; God makes us alive that His Life might be alive in our lives.
That Life joins our once dead spirit with His living Spirit. His life comes to live in our lives, so that our lives, EVEN IN THE FLESH, take on a new direction, new purpose, new LIFE.
"God made alive together with Him..." (Colossians 2:13b ESV)
"...made us alive together with Christ..." (Ephesians 2:5b ESV)
"...and raised us up with Him..." (Ephesians 2:6a ESV)
It reminds me of the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The man never bodily died, but he was dead in his relationship with his father and dead in his spiritual relationship with The Father. When he came to himself, repented, turned to God and returned home to his father, his earthly dad said, "For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate." (Luke 15:24) Don't you love how that sentence ends? "And they began to celebrate." The New Living Translation says, "So the party began." And, that son’s life was changed. He did not live or think or act as he once did. It was a new deal, a new day and a new life!
No, friend, God does not grant spiritual life in the way we think of zombies. The life He grants the redeemed is the Life of His Son.
My young friend was a bit disappointed to learn the redeemed are not zombies. He thinks zombies are "neat" (as he says). He will learn. He'll discover that what God offers is a gajillion times better than the idea of zombies.
I pray we learn it too. I pray we stop mistaking Life from God as the excuse to keep living in dead works. God doesn't offer us heaven absent of His Life. He offers us His Life now, that we might be made fit to enter heaven, for it is a place for people with His Life.
Friends, everyone is born dead in sins and trespasses, cut off from God and His promises. It takes yielding to Him in Christ Jesus to change that. For those who come to Him, it's not just that new life is possible, but necessary, and resultant.
Those made alive are made alive to live our Jesus's Life in their lives. We are not the walking dead! We are not mindlessly in pursuit of fulfilling our desires! That's what we WERE, and if someone still IS that, but claims to be alive in Christ, well, that's what we call a lie, or, in the minimum, a self-deception.

Friends, God gives us His Life that we made be alive!
Is Jesus's Life alive in you?

Friday, April 17, 2015

You have to meet my doctor...

You have to meet my Doctor...

My foot had been hurting for 16 months, which is a week in normal people's terms. I finally saw a doctor. He said I needed to see a podiatrist.

The podiatrist diagnosed me, said my foot was broken, and probably had been for quite some time. He thought I needed a cast, and I told him I don't play, nor do I star in them and that I was not going to wear a cast. He didn't get it, at first, nor, really, at last, but he did understand I was not going to wear a cast.

So, he had some thing made to fit in my shoe and suggested I not walk or stand without this thing being in my shoe for 3 months. He said my foot would heal, and then it would need to reshape. I promised 6 weeks, because, I'm not all that sharp, and it was uncomfortable.

Funny thing happened, after six weeks, my foot stopped hurting. The excruciating pain actually went away. I decided the other six weeks didn't sound so bad, but four weeks more seemed reasonable, because, you know, even though I was healing, less seemed like more. Another four weeks passed and two weeks jumped on the end of it and before you know it, I'd been obedient till the end. My foot was all better!

That was four years ago. My foot is still at the end of my ankle, and it feels great, and with its nerves, 'cause that's what feet do.

It's amazing what has happened since I met and obeyed that podiatrist.

More so, it's amazing since I met God. It's amazing what happens when we get the treatment we really need.

"But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

Friend, do you know The Law tells us we're afflicted? We might call it Dr. Law. He has a helper, Dr. Conscience. Nurse Experience and Intern Failure often assist the good doctors, but they do their work; they tell us we need help they cannot offer. They diagnose, but they cannot cure.

We need The Great Physician for that! We need God! There's a problem, though...

We cannot get into to see The Great Physician! We have no audience with Him! Dr. Law and Dr. Conscience work in The Great Physician's office, but they cannot open the door to His office. We need access, but we cannot get it alone. We need an Advocate. That's what the cross does for us. It pays the debt we owe, breaks down the wall of hostility, makes peace with God and allows us to go before Him.

When we trust in Jesus, the healing begins. According to the Prophet Isaiah, that's what Jesus's death on the cross did for us. He was crushed for our sin, that we might have audience with God. He was chastised in our place, that we might have peace with God. His wounds initiated the healing of our relationship, and those wounds are the beginning of our full healing, too.

See, it starts with knowing The Great Physician. It starts there. If we don't know Him, we cannot receive His help. If we do not know Him, we cannot receive His healing.

Some healing happens right away -- the sick, broken relationship with God is what is first healed.

Then, as we obey His prescribed treatments, we get emotional healing, sometimes physical healing, mental healing, spiritual healing...it starts in this life and culminates when we pass through the Judgement and are given a new, glorified body, enabled to live in full and free fellowship with God throughout eternity.

Have you met my Doctor?
You need to meet my team!
You need to meet The Great Physician!
He IS healing!
He is rest!

Next week's Warehouse schedule