Matthew 5:41 | Two Miles of Hate

Going the extra mile is a phrase used as encouragement to do more than expected. The concept is heavily utilized in the customer service industry. It encourages the server to more than meet the customer need. The idea challenges the server to complete the service with a smile and helpfulness that is beyond what is necessary to complete a transaction. It is about making money not just on the current sale but to encourage the customer to return next time. The origin of the phrase comes directly from the mouth of Jesus and going the extra mile is an expectation of any Christian following Christ. But going the extra mile from Christ’s perspective is more than exceptional service with a smile.

41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Matthew 5:41 ESV

Roman soldiers by law would conscript someone to carry their gear for a roman mile. Whatever the actual distance was it is not all that far but the inconvenience of putting one’s own agenda on hold to carry an occupying soldier’s gear could not have been a popular law. Unlike modern customer service where it is one’s job to provide good service there would not be any compensation for the time and effort needed to travel this mile. In fact, this verse comes in the middle of a sermon by Jesus that talks about God’s expectation on how one should treat their enemy. The audience would have seen that soldier as an enemy making a demand to serve regardless of desire.

Jesus does not leave this concept at just the roman law. He challenges the entire eye for an eye worldview that dominates mankind. The extra mile is just one line in a greater point about who God is calling us to be as people.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-42

If you are required by law to give the soldier one mile. Jesus tells the audience to give him two miles. If someone asks to borrow from you and you freely give what they want even knowing that you will never get it back (my experience is that borrowing rarely ends in returning which is why I don’t like to do it) then an impression will be left that clearly demonstrates to the person demanding that you are not fulfilling the obligation or the duty but that you are serving them in a sacrificial way.

Imagine the soldier demands a mile and when that mile ends, I throw down his gear kick dust in his direction and then return where I came from. Or imagine the soldier demands a mile and when that mile ends, he reaches for his gear only to find me willing to continue. At that point we both know that my service to him is bigger than just the initial obligation.

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV

God is calling people to a higher standard. Do you gloat when the opposing political group has a scandal? Do you wish bad things to happen to those that hate you? What about that police officer that stopped you for some minor violation? Examine your heart toward others because that is what God is looking at. In this sermon Jesus was not done and he continues pushing the audience with another mile of Godly expectations…

46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:46-48 ESV

Christ calls us to love those that do not love back. Christ calls us to a standard of “perfect” as God is perfect. Is it even possible to meet that standard? Perfect is loving those that hate you. Perfect is greeting those that don’t know you. Perfect is submitting with the heart of a servant to serve those that don’t deserve to be served. It is easy to love those that love you but God loves even those that don’t love him first.

The perfect standard that Christ is calling us to is not perfect in the sense that we have never made a mistake or that we have failed to live up to His standards because we have failed to live to those standards. Christ tells us we must strive for completeness or perfection since God is perfect and complete. The only way to accomplish this perfection is through faith and trust in God and God’s plans. Could we dare to trust him to serve others that make unjust demands?

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 ESV

Matthew 4:17 | The Way Forward

What is the primary message of Jesus when he was on earth teaching? Would any of the following be able to sum up what Jesus taught… God is love, help the poor, don’t judge, love everyone, be a good person? While true to a degree none of these summaries is even close to true on their own. Many want to use their conception of Jesus as a talking point to support an agenda, a political view, or to justify some lifestyle. The reality however is that the message of Jesus demands a radical change of heart in the hearer.

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 ESV

When Jesus started his ministry before he calls any of the disciples Matthew writes that Jesus preached a message of “repentance”. This word “Repent” means to reconsider the morality of your life. Jesus preached saying “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. Jesus started his ministry telling people that they needed to change the focus and priority of their life from one of selfishness to one that is focused on the priority of God in heaven. For example are you focused on making money because you want to be rich. Repent! Money will buy you nothing in God’s kingdom. Are you seeking to fulfill lusts of the flesh by living the mantra if it feels good do it? Repent! Your lusts will lead you to death and will have no part in God’s kingdom. Do you hate those who have wronged you? Repent! Hate reveals a murderous heart and murders have no part of the kingdom of God. I could go on. Paul sums things up better than me…

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 ESV

Jesus taught the disciples a message of Repentance. Paul continued that teaching and the disciples continued that teaching. Peter in his first sermon after Jesus ascended to heaven concluded his preaching with a message of repentance.  

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 ESV

The “gospel” of Jesus Christ (his main message) is a message of repentance. The gospel is not a message that God loves but you can continue to do whatever you want. The gospel message of repentance means that you will want to turn away from anything that is wrong and turn to God who is right.The gospel is not do good stuff and maybe God will let you into his kingdom. The gospel is good news that God became a man (Immanuel = God with us) named Jesus (Jesus literally means “God Saves”) to provide a way for us to repent and restore ourselves in right standing with God. In church talk this is summarized by saying Jesus Saves.

4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. Romans 2:4-8 ESV

God loves so much and He has been so kind to us that he is giving men and women a chance to repent. The good news is that repentance is possible. Turn from the way the world operates in selfishness and sin. Run from the death of whatever feels good do it and turn toward the selfless, servant like morality that Jesus offers. Peter in his sermon clearly states that Repentance leads to forgiveness from God and that God who is loving will give to you His Holy Spirit that will change us to an acceptable citizen of the kingdom that is at hand.

Matthew 4:3 | The Tempter

Satan is a topic that generates views. Some of the posts to this blog that receive the most views over time deal with the topic of Satan. Good vs. Evil. Evil is everywhere it is in every family. People are looking for assurance that good will win. The sad part is that evil does in fact have a power on earth right now. There is a spiritual war that spills over into this physical creation. People are slaves to the evil in this war. We like to think that people are basically good but in reality, people are basically selfish and self-absorbed and God calls that nature in us evil. The good news for any reader that is overwhelmed and overcome by evil is that God has already won. Satan is not a co-equal force balancing out God’s good. The truth is that Satan already lost the war and God is working out the last of his perfect plans to restore all that was broken by our evil.

It is hard to believe that Satan has already lost but he has. If we back up to the moment that Jesus is about to start his ministry we will see where Jesus overcame Satan. Jesus has gained a few followers but he has not yet started the calling on his life. Jesus approaches John the Baptist who has a ministry that is already in progress and he asks John to baptize him. At the conclusion of the baptism God himself in an audible voice for all to hear establishes Jesus to start teaching, performing signs, and calling followers.

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17 ESV

Imagine this moment. One of the few times where God, with a voice from heaven, speaks audibly. Jesus is “my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”. Could God be any clearer to both the physical world and the spiritual world who Jesus is to him? Jesus heard this voice. Satan heard this voice. Yet Satan in his first approach to Jesus in the wilderness questions just that.

3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Matthew 4:3 ESV

“If you are” is the opening line. “If you are” is a slap in the face to God and Jesus since God just spoke into the physical world that Jesus is God’s son. Satan knows Jesus is the Son of God yet he tries to put doubt in Jesus as to if that is true. If Jesus already knows it to be true why does he need to prove anything to Satan? I see this line all the time when people demand I prove God exists. They say “If God exists then he should be able to show himself” as a mocking challenge. God does not perform tricks for our amusement. It is like the jester demanding the King perform a juggling act. It is clear to me that God does exists just looking at the complexity of this physical reality. It is foolish from my perspective to think that this happened randomly. And even more foolish to imagine the physical world coming from of nothing. There was nothing and then bang. The princess kissed the frog and then in a billion years the frog became a prince.

Questioning God is Satan’s first line of attack and it seems to be the most successful since so many fall for the lie just like Adam and Eve did at the start.

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:3 ESV

Satan comes at Jesus with the same line he came to Adam and Eve. Did God really say that? If he did this to Adam and Jesus then maybe we should all stop and ask ourselves if we are hearing such a line. “Did God really say” and fill in the blank. Did God really say… don’t lie, don’t be sexually immoral, or Did God really say worship me and me alone? This is probably the same lie Satan tells himself when he is alone. God said he created me but did he really?

Jesus unlike Adam and Eve did not question what God had plainly spoken “my beloved Son”. Jesus knew where he stood with God and Jesus speaks the truth back to Satan.

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Mathew 4:4 ESV

Jesus reminds Satan of the truth. Words spoken “from the mouth of God” that he is indeed the Son of God. Jesus rejected the lies and lies are the only power Satan has in this confrontation.

44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 1 Corinthians 15:44-47 ESV

Jesus overcame Satan in the wilderness that day. Jesus a man from heaven overcame what the man from earth failed. Dear reader now is the time to embrace and live by the words that come from the mouth of God.

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Matthew 4:10 ESV

Matthew 2:11 | Wise Indeed

worship

It is an interesting phenomenon that we can be blind to our own shortcomings. We can look at others and quickly point out all the things they are doing wrong, but never see ourselves through the same critical lens. Religious peoples and even peoples within a same ethnic group are the same way. We get caught up in an echo chamber hearing only the words we want to hear about how great we are. Or people get caught up in their own bubble never seeing the world outside that bubble as it actually is. A friend once claimed that he would only read theology from authors who wrote at least 100 years ago so that he would not be caught up in group think that flows from today’s mega church settings. While extreme I agree that it would be wise to diversify the kinds and types of input one uses to be informed and to learn. One great example of learning from others is found in the gospel of Matthew where the wise men come to worship Jesus.

10 When [the wise men] saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11 ESV

When Jesus is born and then started his ministry few people seemed to recognize exactly what he represented. A majority of those in power actively fought against everything that Jesus taught. While there are numerous examples of Jewish peoples who recognized and worshiped Jesus the idea that Persian astrologers traveled some unknown distance following a star to worship the King of the Jews is amazing to me.

Here we have an educated group, with means, traveling from faraway lands hunting for a new born king that they may worship him. These same people have enough pull that they gain an audience with the Roman king of this territory. Yet when they find Jesus as a poor child in a backwoods town they fall at his feet to worship. Of all the incredible events of the New Testament this must rank right up at the top of the list. They discovered all this from following a star? It is shocking to see God speaking to the hearts of pagan gentiles in such a way. But why is it shocking? The Biblical record is full of gentiles who have more fear and respect for God than the Hebrews, God’s chosen people, and Jesus points this out at the beginning of his ministry in his own home town in such a way that the leaders of the Synagogue tried to kill him on the spot.

25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away. Luke 4:25-30 ESV

God is creator of all peoples. All people over all the earth have a common set of parents. Adam and Eve. God is near to all peoples be they Gentiles or Jews. I am a Gentile yet God has call me to be his child. Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Why me? Someone living in land far from Israel? I can’t say because it is not something I did or something I wanted. I will say that because of His love he has my attention and has more than earned my trust. Romans Chapter 9 is a difficult section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. In this section he explains how these pagan astrologers came to worship the one true king and how someone like me born thousands of years later on the other side of the planet came to worship the same one true king.

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” Romans 9:30-33 ESV

These wise men did something incredibly wise in that they by faith listened to the instructions given to them and followed the star provided by God. Dear reader I would challenge you in the same way to listen to the call of God. Who has been praying for you? Who among your friends and family knows where you are and can see what you are doing wrong? Maybe God is speaking through them. He is near. It is an extravagant moment of grace from the Creator that such a moment is given for you and I to obtain God’s righteousness by faith. David Platt in his commentary of Matthew links these wise men to another gentile prophet of the Old Testament who proclaimed a star would come from Israel. Balaam was hired by a gentile king to curse Israel but he instead he delivered a promise about the future king Jesus.

17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; Numbers 24:17 ESV

Matthew 1:21 | Christmas Rejoice!

names

Christmas is just a few short days away. I love it. Christmas is one of two main holidays that Christians celebrate. Easter is the other holiday and it is in many ways more important, less celebratory, but more reflective. I love both and what they mean for me as a Christian. Christmas and Easter are linked from the very first Christmas. Part of that link is one of the things that seems odd when we read the Christmas Gospel. The Angel tells Joseph to call the child “Jesus” and then references the prophecy of Isaiah that says his name will be “Immanuel”.

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:21-23 ESV

I am familiar with the name Immanuel because it is part of the Christmas tradition every year. One of my favorite Christmas songs is centered around this name. It is an old hymn hundreds of years old even before being translated from Latin to English generations ago.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here,

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

Matthew was kind enough to translate Immanuel from Hebrew for us so that we can know the name means “God with us”. Jesus being born of a virgin is God himself taking on the form of a man. God with us is a profound thing to contemplate. Could it be that the Creator of all things would limit himself to the physical form of a baby? God is giving himself as a gift to all people. Rejoice! Because a king is coming to restore Israel. A king is coming to set right all the wrongs. A king is coming to provide the ransom to those in captivity. Matthew in the opening genealogy of chapter 1 takes extra care to make sure the audience knows that Jesus is linked to king David and Abraham as the rightful king of Israel.

 

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Matthew 1:1 ESV

 

If the prophecy said the son’s name would be Immanuel then why did the Angel instruct Joseph to name the baby “Jesus”? The Angel hints at the reason by telling Joseph exactly what this baby will accomplish in life.

 

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 ESV

 

This baby who is God with us will “save his people from their sins”. God has come, Rejoice!, to save people from their sins. If God coming to earth in the form of man is profound then God coming to earth to save humanity is even more amazing and that is a nod to the future reflective holiday in Easter. What is required of Jesus in order to save his people, the ransom to be paid, comes at an extreme price.

 

Jesus is not a random name. The Angel was instructed to provide this name because this name also reveals more of God’s intention for Immanuel.  Jesus means “Jehovah is salvation”. Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Yĕhowshuwa`” which means “Jehovah saves”. Matthew’s audience would have understood Jehovah to be the formal name of the one true God. The name Jesus literally means “God Saves” and Immanuel is the promise that God is present and God has not abandoned his creation. Do not believe those that think God does not exist or that God is not an active participant in this life. God is with us now and God is actively involved.

 

Salvation belongs to the Lord [Jehovah]; your blessing be on your people! Psalms 3:8 ESV

 

Jesus is God and Jesus saves. Jesus will save people from their sins. The Angel as a messenger of God is revealing the next step of God’s grand plan to restore Creation and to reconcile people. This baby we celebrate today will save us tomorrow. Does this king know you? Will he count you numbered in His kingdom? Dear reader if you have not already done so now is the time call on Jesus “God Saves”.

The Easter Goat

goat

Easter is upon us and just like clockwork a story to undermine Easter makes the news cycle. Easter is a holiday event marking the weekend of the good news of the gospel that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and then left the grave to provide salvation. So of course, there is breaking news to pull against Easter and that news takes the form of a story that claims the Pope believes there is no eternal Hell (To their credit the Vatican is denying the Pope said this). If true this is news because it breaks with thousands of years of Church teaching and seemingly conflicts with the words of Jesus himself. It is also news because many people want this anti-gospel this anti-Easter view to be true. The reported conversation linked here claims the following quote from the Pope.

“They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”

This idea of a limited or nonexistent hell is not a new idea and if one accepts this view it changes everything about our relationship with God. Here are a few consequences of accepting the idea that Hell is nonexistent or is not eternal.

No Hell = No Consequence

Those that reject God and continue on in their rejection of the creator will have virtually no consequence for the life they live. One might live the life of Hitler or a child abuser and know that at the end of the day the consequence will simply be to “disappear”. It will be as if one was never born. Jesus taught something much different.

5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:5-6 ESV

If you are an unrepentant abuser and you destroy the soul of a child with perversion then it would be better to be drowned in the bottom of the sea than to face the judgment of God (as if one could escape from God to begin with). Jesus went on even further in the same verses.

7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! 8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. Matthew 18:7-9 ESV

Jesus makes the point that it would be better to live life on earth broken and damaged than to be “thrown” into the “eternal” hell. Consequence to sin is a heavy price, it is a scary price, and Jesus was not shy about making that reality clear to his listeners. Many people in their heart hope that hell is not real because being unmade and disappearing forever would be welcome relief to the reality of eternal fire.

No Hell = God will be Mocked

The atheist preaches that when one dies the chemical reactions stop firing in the body and brain causing the self to end. Only the material is real. There is no immaterial soul that continues on. Darkness overtakes the mind and death is the end. If there is no hell and rebellious sinners just cease to be then the atheist is mostly right about their view of God. God who is true will then be replaced by the lies of men. People will be free to set themselves up as god and make themselves in whatever image they want. There is no right or wrong only what mankind states as the truth. This short life we live right now will be the only thing that matters. Why does God even need to communicate “woes” if God and truth become relative?

20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 ESV

No Hell = No need for Jesus

Finally, if there is no Hell then what did Jesus die to save me from? What is the point of Easter and the gospel of Christ? What do I need salvation for?

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes Romans 1:16 ESV

Salvation is defined as deliverance from destruction. While true that Salvation could be a deliverance to eternal life from a destruction of nonexistence that is not the context that Jesus taught and it is not the context of day in which Jesus taught. A timeless existence is the context for both those with God and those opposed to God. God through Jesus made a way to save the creation so that we are able to glorify, worship, and have a loving relationship with God the Father for all eternity. Jesus is the good news of salvation. I pray that everyone would submit to that plan. The alternative is not going to be peaceful nonexistence.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-33; 41; 46 ESV

Matthew 2:10 | Joy and Merry Christmas

joy

At this time of year when I think of joy I think of the Christmas songs. Lyrics like joy to the world, be of good cheer, and tidings of comfort and joy. Christmas can be such an inspirational and joyous time because of the good news it represents.

Joy to the world the Lord has come

Let earth receive her King.

There is much in life to be joyous about, but there is also much pain and suffering. Some sad lives never seem to have any reason for joy and others are so short lived that one wonders how that life could have ever known joy. Earlier this year I lost my job in a layoff. I knew well in advance that I was going to be fired. Being in management I saw the financial stress and I knew based on the questions and information being collected by leadership they were deciding who would stay and who would go. I trust God for my daily bread yet it was still stressful and unpleasant. I found nothing joyful there. In the aftermath while searching for a new job I was frustrated with God because I was not hearing back from any of my applications. When I did hear back I would be ecstatic and joyful. In between one of these highs and lows the Holy Spirit asked me a question. In what is your joy found? Is your joy found in a job? Or the Holy Spirit asked me “might your joy be found in Christ your savior?” What a humbling moment. Jesus, my joy is found in Jesus. Christ only always. My life, my finances, and my well being are not a source of joy. My joy is found in the things of God. Like the best of Christmas music points out the wise men at the birth of Jesus were filled with joy because of the Birth of a savior.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11 ESV

Joy is a powerful emotion. Finding joy in the hardships of life is a gift. God is the source of joy. Hedonism and chasing after self will not bring lasting joy. I was chasing after a job and in wins and losses of that pursuit joy became elusive. It is not a surprise to me that as the culture runs from the source of joy to pursue the gods of Hollywood and government that depression seems to grow and the disorder tragically hits hard among children who then see no hope and no future. How we all need the truth of Christmas.

25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 2:25-26 ESV

Christmas the most wonderful time of the year is upon the earth. An annual reminder of the joy that all peoples of all the earth might have if they put their faith and trust in the source of joy. To you the reader I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:23 ESV

 

You are Evil.

Racist alt-right Nazis marched. Media, political partisans, and evangelical churches condemn the evil of the marcher’s ideology. The fuel for the condemnation is the hateful and angry subjects in the photos from the march. The fuel for the condemnation is the outrageous murder of an anti-alt-right protester in Virginia. And the condemnation experienced even more combustion by the always inflammatory president when asked about the events by reporters looking to blame him because of their own partisan narrative. I am not going rehash any descriptions or pictures of that now infamous protest but I will say anyone who attended an event hosted by White Nationalist has no ground to claim they were only there to protect the history of memorials. Hate hides in their heart. Any attack on the worth or nature of fellow humans is against God. If you attack or demean the humanity of any person, then you are attacking the very image of God that rests on each person.

8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. James 3:8-9 ESV

Jesus pulls no punches about our evil. Mind the words that come out of our mouths. Mind the thoughts that dwell in our hearts.

34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34 ESV

The words spoken on social media and the words spoken to family and friends about what one hates is just the surface of what dwells deep inside one’s core. This hate is evil. Mankind is evil. Both Jesus and James call words evil because the words flow from the source, our hearts, concluding in men and women sinning against God himself.

What I want to focus on is the unity and the positive words of the President Obama in what is now the most liked tweet ever tweeted. “No one is born hating another person”. With the implication being that society, culture, families, and individuals, teach hate and evil.

obama.PNG

It is true. People where taught to enslave and belittle other people created in the image of God. The KKK is an organization that must teach its members how to act and how to live. The president’s words and truth are wonderful. I thank him for speaking them. But his words taken alone will resolve the issue. Taken alone his tweet will not be a sound formula to fix the problem. Hate is always discovered by the next generation because the world, the media, and both presidents will fail to recognize and deal with the root of the problem.

The hearts of men and women are evil. All men and women are sinners. Hear Jesus again if you think yourself righteous.

34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34 ESV

Examine your heart. Is your conscience clear to lead people to give up the hate in their hearts? Think yourself a good person? I can with certainty say no we are not. Look at the comparison that Jesus makes between ourselves and God.

9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11 ESV

The prophets recognized our evil.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64:6 NIV

The apostles recognized our evil.

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:9-18 ESV

The question I ask now. Answer the key question if one wants to see hate removed from the hearts of men and women. Do you recognize the source of our evil words? Do you see the anger, hate, and lashing out rooted in the heart, in our soul, of our rebellion against the Creator? If so then repent of the evil in your own heart.

The anti-white supremacy protesters that showed up to oppose the evil of racism should pray that the racist would repent and that the source of the evil, their hearts, would be made alive. Christians should pray for the nation and the people they know who harbor hate in their hearts. Christians should pray that they themselves would let go of hate and stop harboring evil desires. Repentance and Jesus are the solution. Teaching and laws serve only to control people and will not fix the heart that is evil and broken.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus Romans 3:21-24

“the Way”

way

Early on in the life of the Church it was not yet called Christian, Protestant, Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, Pentecostal, or Reformed. It was simply known as “the Way”. Saul, before becoming Paul, wanted to round up the members of the “the Way” and later after conversion Paul caused problems for entire regions as a member of “the Way”.

19 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. Acts 19:23 ESV

I like the name “the Way” for the early church because it is so perfectly descriptive of the purpose and point of life. In the Greek, the word used to describe the local church is properly understood to mean simply a road, journey, or a traveled way. It can be used in metaphor as course of conduct or method of thinking. Those outside and inside the early Church referred to this newly formed group as “the” way, road, and course of conduct. Not “a” way but “the” way. They were making a statement that the path ahead is definitive and final with no other options being true. The reason this is so perfectly descriptive is that Jesus himself spoke of salvation as a journey not a status. Jesus also used the exact same word to describe this choice in journey.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 ESV

We are all journeying in this life on some road or way of thinking. Jesus made special care to note that His way is narrow and difficult. The way of the world however is wide open and easy, but it leads to destruction. Life is hard and people make bad situations worse with bad choices. Sometimes I am amazed at how fast those bad choices spiral out of control.

24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:24 ESV

When our founding parents were moved out of paradise “the way” to life and fellowship with God was cutoff. Our rebellion against our creator keeps us all headed for destruction and broken before a perfect and Holy God. Jesus has come to make a way for creation to return to our natural state of fellowship with our Creator.

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:3-7 ESV

The beauty of this journey and way is that if one would stop running and listen there is a guide who knows the way and is ready to show the way. More He is the way. Through Him is truth and life. What was once blocked and guarded because of rebellion has been opened and made possible by the perfect obedience of Christ.