1 Thessalonians 4:1 | Self Help

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Growth and maturity are aspirations of the self help and be all that you can be motivational speakers. With education and wealth that most in free societies have in abundance, growth and maturity would seem to be a waste if not taken advantage of even in small measure. Within this space some pastors write books or sermons themed on how to have the best life. Even more motivational speakers outside of religion will focus on the power of positive thinking. If you can dream it you can do it they preach. None this is wrong within limits, but when taken to selfish extremes self help and achieving dreams can become a trap. Paul in his letter to the church in Thessalonica did not have much to correct in their behavior. The reports he received must have been glowing, compared to some of the other early churches at least. Paul challenges this church asking them to have growth and maturity in two key areas. If one is looking for self help and big dreams then Paul’s words are the God inspired way to approach life. For the contemporary church that means following the teaching of the Bible which is a record of what the apostles taught to the early church.

First Paul challenges the church to grow more and more in their sexual ethic. To please God one must recognize right and wrong in this area. This challenge from Paul is not some rule that men have made up to stop people from loving or having fun as they see fit but it is an expectation from God himself and will save many from a life of loneliness and regret.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 3-8 ESV

The sexual liberation of current society is nothing new. Lust fulfilled through pornography, affairs, and a hookup culture are a hollow gratification that is championed by those who are dead inside. You want a better you? You want to please God? Then submit your body to Christ. Stop polluting your heart, soul, and mind with dishonor and impurity. God is holy and pure so we should at least acknowledge what is right even if doing right is near impossible. What we know is for sure impossible is pleasing God if selfish desires rule your every waking moment. Paul put these words into another form in his letter to the Roman church.

6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:6-8 ESV

If your life is self-centered and self-accommodating you are living in the “flesh”. This is death because our flesh leads us away from God. Much of God’s law is in place to confirm to us that our selfish fleshly desires should not rule over our lives.

Second Paul challenges the church to grow more and more in how we live our daily lives as citizens in a country and community.

9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 ESV

For the woke brothers and sisters (both white and black) and for the conservative evangelical brothers and sisters this challenge from Paul needs to be front and center at all times. Where is our brotherly love? Paul found no need to write to the Thessalonians on this topic because they had love for others. They served others without judgment. But Paul wanted them to grow more and more. So if you think you have this kind of love  in place then Paul says go further. Seek the welfare of others over self. Seek not to be dependent on the government. Seek not to be so concerned with the affairs of others. I can’t change someone else any more than the government can force people to change. True change only comes from the Spirit given to us by Christ. And why does Paul want more and more of this? So that we would walk properly before outsiders for God’s glory. Sadly, at this moment much of the outside world sees sides pitted against each other competing for worldly influence apart from Christ.

Finally, some of you reading this will reject it all. This post is not the typically kind of self help because Paul wants yourself to be put aside. The best help one could ever provide to self is let self-die and be made alive in Christ.

Some of you reading will agree but are afraid of what putting away the self will mean when it comes to your job, your friends, and your community. It is true you may lose all of those things but God is so much more important than anything else.

42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in [Jesus], but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. John 4:42-43 ESV

*original photo by Scott Webb from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/colorful-plant-pot-rocks-395676/

Jesus Got Married

Psalm 45 is a wedding song that points to a divine King with an eternal kingdom. This king is blessed beyond any other king and hold favor from God like none before or after. This king is going to be married.

6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; 7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; Psalm 45:6-7 ESV

The Bride is of royalty herself and a subject of the king. She will bow to the king and be a part of his kingdom going forward.

9 daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. 10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, 11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him. Psalm 45:9-11 ESV

This marriage speaks of a unique King and Bride because they will rule eternally. There is only one eternal King and his name is Jesus. The idea that Jesus will be married is a shock to some since it is well known Jesus did not take a wife when he was on earth. God’s plans and future for His perfect kingdom are documented in advance and Psalm 45 is the song He had written in advance of the wedding day. So, the question one might have is what Bride would be worthy of Jesus? What bride will spend eternity ruling with Christ?

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. Revelation 21:1-3 ESV

The new Jerusalem prepared as a “bride adorned” for her husband. A holy Kingdom where Christ is married to the people in the city where “the dwelling place of God is with man”.

Paul builds on this truth throughout his letters. He plainly tells the church to be faithful as one who is engaged to be married. Paul also brings forth the promises that a dutiful husband holds in laying down his life for his wife.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2 ESV

If you call Christ Lord, then know he is your eternal King and you will be joined with Him in heaven. Be faithful, purse holiness, and flee from the distractions of this temporary world. The new Jerusalem is where he will rule and it is where the joy of a perfect union will be found.

 Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! Psalm 40:4 ESV

Mistakes were Made Fault is Found

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Why is this world so messed up? There are some truly evil things, people, and circumstances that make any caring person angry. Life is hard and many make bad choices that compound the difficulty of life. If God made everything then one can naturally look toward this Creator and ask the question. “Why!?” Why is life so hard, so short, and miserable for so many? Why can the evils around the world of people murdering other people continue? What God are you doing to fix the mess?

Mostly the answer to these questions is found in an understanding of the nature of the fall and curse brought on by man’s rebellion. Essentially this world is temporary and the imperfect nature of this world is a direct result of men choosing to live selfish lives. The Bible is the story of God’s personal intervention into His creation to draw people to himself. Personally, I have struggled to understand why God would need a “new” testament in His plans to restore the relationship with mankind. Did God make a mistake with the “old” testament?

6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. Hebrews 8:6 ESV

Obviously, the ministry of Christ is superior to the old testament laws and sacrifices. Why it is “enacted on better promises” I will leave for another discussion, however for now the question is was the old way a mistake. Did God make a mistake?

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. Hebrews 8:7 ESV

The author of Hebrews seems to indicate that yes, the Old Testament had a fault so God did make a mistake. His laws, prophets, and priests where not sufficient so he needed a do over. But that idea that the first covenant had a fault is not consistent with a God who is all knowing and perfect. God can’t make mistakes because if he did then he would cease to be God.

The mistake however was not on God’s part. In the same way that the evil of men and the nature of life on this world being cursed is not God’s fault so too is the fact that the Old Testament’s fault is not God’s mistake. The author of Hebrews clarifies where the fault falls…

8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. Hebrews 8:8-9 ESV

The mistake is on “them” the people when they did not continue following the perfect plans that God laid out. God who saved the people from slavery and provided for them a perfect religion and God to worship rejected him. They followed their own ways and chased after gods of stone and hedonism. The fault was the rejection by the people of the perfect religion and relationship with God.

God made no mistake. Through the law, God showed people why their relationship with Him is broken. The Old Testament proves that on our own we cannot and will not meet His perfect standards.

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:19-20 ESV

Jesus being “enacted on better promises” comes to earth. Jesus being God in the flesh completely fulfills the Old Testament covenant on our failed behalf. Jesus, who is God, lives a perfect life. The better promise that Jesus is founded on is his giving us credit for the perfect life he lived by imparting Jesus into our hearts. We will know who God is at our very core.

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12 ESV

My prayer: Father my hope is in you. My prayer is that you would place your law and your ways into the mind and heart of all people, men, women, and children that draw near to you. I pray that you would ready us all to draw near to you. Thank you Father for allowing us to know you, to fellowship with you, and for remembering our sins no more. In the name of Jesus, I pray.

I Hate Patience

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Patience is something that most everyone knows they need, but not many want to suffer through. My children are learning patience when they go out to a restaurant and must wait for the food to arrive. I am learning patience in the effort to pay off debt and focus on the priorities of God (Proverbs 22:7). Patience is such a common word that it might be easy to miss God’s view of patience and what he wants for His children

First, remember that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. That means God Himself will provide what is needed to those who rest in Him. But what does the word mean exactly? Is the virtue and significance of patience all about being forced to wait at a restaurant for an extra 30 minutes more than expected?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22 ESV

Patience here in Galatians brings out the idea of endurance, longsuffering, and perseverance. It is the idea of having the ability to withstand something boring on the easy end of the spectrum to soul crushingly oppressive on the hard end of the spectrum. Paul puts the same word in context in his letter to the Ephesians. Here he talks about having patience to put up with the other people and keep unity in the church.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV

Now, I used the words “put up with” when describing patience toward others, but that is not really the point of Spirit enabled patience. When we rely on ourselves patience is something to “put up with”. However, when we rely on God and live submitted to His Holy Spirit then patience is done with joy and love. Has anyone enjoyed and counted it a joy waiting too long for food to arrive in a restaurant?

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, Colossians 1:11 ESV

Patience is an inner strength that comes from the Holy Spirit to know God’s plans are sovereign. This delay is not a burden or something forced. It is an opportunity to rest in His perfect planning looking with joy to see what opportunities He has set before us. What if in the wait a moment of reflection and relationship with God is in order? What if in the wait a conversation of eternal significance might be held? What if in the wait life is enjoyed?

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:7-11 ESV

Real patience understands the eternal perspective and this is where God honoring faith comes to meet us in things that really matter. Abraham placed his trust in God. He knew that God would provide what He promised.

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:13-20 ESV

As children of God and heirs to the promise of Jesus, we can have perfect trust in God and what He accomplished on the cross. Patience then is a gift of the Spirit that we can practice and exercise in the hardships of this world knowing that our future remains secure in the one we can trust without reservation.

* Revised and Edited: Originally Posted Sept. 2013

Jesus the Forsaken

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Psalm 22 is a powerful song of suffering and encouragement. The author must have suffered beyond what any normal person might experience or the author may have internalized the witness of someone else who suffered greatly. The introduction from verse one jumps off the page to grab ahold of the reader.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? Psalm 22:1 ESV

What is more is that these words are familiar and famous to many modern-day consumers because they were also spoken by Jesus himself while slowly dying on the Cross.

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-46 ESV

The weight of these words and those that follow in Psalm 22 are overwhelming. Walter Kaiser in his book Messiah in the Old Testament quotes from Charles Briggs a truth about Psalm 22 being “more vivid in [the] realization of that dreadful scene than the story of the Gospels”. If the reader would take a few moments dwell on Psalm 22 in the quiet of the morning I too think one might come to a similar conclusion.

So how is it that a song attributed to King David written 1,000 years before Jesus died on that Cross could be so vividly descriptive and accurate? Let us read a few more verses into Psalm 22 further adding weight to this question…

16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. Psalm 22:16-18 ESV

35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Matthew 27:35 ESV

One may deny God and claim He is not real but unlike the ramblings of a Nostradamus prophecy Jesus himself is speaking to each of us from this Psalm. Hundreds of years before Roman crucifixions David pens the thoughts and mind of Christ while he is hanging on the cross. Overwhelming is the reality that God who created and controls time itself reveals to David the future salvation of mankind. Where there is a Creation there is a Creator and that Creator laid out before David the beginning, the middle, and the end. How blessed we are to be living within the great mercy of such a Creator.

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 28 For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. Psalms 22:27-28 ESV

How can David conclude this Psalm of suffering and death with such a proclamation of a triumphant king if that king is so horribly forsaken and defeated? How can all the nations be ruled by such a Lord? Because David knows God is in control and in the same way God has rescued David in the past David knows that Jesus will be ultimately triumphant.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. Psalm 16:9-10 ESV

David in writing this proclaims a resurrection, an uncorrupted king, of Jesus without the final awful finality of death. Jesus will be made alive and thus completing his work of taking my sins, our sins, on that cross. This is the good news, the gospel, of Jesus that Christians proclaim today. Jesus has the power to reconcile individuals with God and with their fellow man. Jesus was forsaken so that you do not need to be. So repent of your own ways and follow His call.

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Acts 2:29-32 ESV

Rejecting Jesus

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Jesus, who is God, understands rejection. Jesus was rejected while on earth to the point that people demanded that his life be ended. That is the ultimate rejection. Jesus who promised salvation to restore the relationship of mankind with God is rejected every day even thousands of years later. Imagine pouring love and creativity into something and then have that creation tell you “no”.

19 Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 23 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. Psalm 118:19-24 NIV

Psalm 118 a worshipful song that foretells a rejected Jesus pivots on the idea that Jesus is rejected “the stone the builders rejected” but yet the song continues the refrain “his love endures forever”.

Psalm 118 is a worship song where a worship leader would shout “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;” and a reply from the worshipers would be “His steadfast love endures forever.”

2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 118:2-4 ESV

God has taken this rejected stone and made it the cornerstone of salvation. This stone is the key to restoring the relationship between God and man forever. The Psalmist sings “it is marvelous in our eyes” to see what the Lord has accomplished. Both Jesus and his Disciple Peter quote from this song when speaking to the elite privileged people, the builders, of the day.

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Matthew 21:42-43 NIV

Jesus angers the Pharisees by telling them that he is the rejected stone and that the kingdom of God will be built on him and not on the power and ambition of their leadership. Peter when charged by the local court of disturbing the peace tells them plainly that their authority and power has come to an end.

10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:10-12 NIV

Peter tells the ruling elite that they can’t create a healthcare plan perfect enough to replace the cornerstone they rejected. Trump can’t save, Hillary can’t save, ObamaCare can’t save. Government cannot save for there is only one name under heaven “by which we must be saved” and that name does not start with president or senator. That name is the name of the rejected cornerstone “Jesus”.

Jesus leading up to his acknowledgment as the rejected cornerstone tells a parable about rejection. It is a parable of two brothers and how they treat their father.

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Matthew 21:28-30 ESV

The first Son rejects his father when asked to work in the vineyard. The second son promises to work in the vineyard but never goes. Jesus understands rejection because all men have rejected him either to his face or through lies. The Psalmist sings “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 118:1 ESV) and that is who Jesus is. The Lord’s love endures in spite of all the rejection we have sent his way. The good news is that we have an opportunity to be like the first son who because of Christ being the cornerstone foundation changes his mind to be obedient to his father. What a joyous blessing that day will be for the first son when returning home from the vineyard. He will be reconciled in righteousness to the father. Jesus provides that opportunity to all of us who have rejected him. The only question then is will we respond to that invitation?

 

Jesus Brings a Sword

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Churches should be compassionate and that compassion follows from the example of Jesus who is the head of the church. Jesus came to save the lost and show compassion to those in need. Likewise the Church must be suffering servants of the community. Showing grace through acts of kindness and service to those in need. Most understand this and are rightfully quick to criticize churches that fail in this duty.

On the flip side is Government. Many want Government to replace the church. They want Government to be compassionate and serving the community. The problem however is that Government has a unique authority to bring wrath and Governments have always had the authority to kill and to imprison. Try not paying your taxes and you will by force of the sword be made to pay. Just look to the example of actor Wesley Snipes if there is any doubt. Putting men in charge of compassion through the arm of government will never end well.

The only authority that has the moral right to kill is Government. The death penalty through a court system and also in war are two examples where Governments can take life legally and morally. No Church, citizen, or individual has that right. Jesus while familiar to many as a compassionate Church leader is much less familiar as Jesus the just King wielding the authority of death. Jesus is a King and ruler of a government entity of which we are all subjects. Jesus has the right to wage war and execute a death penalty as His perfect justice sees fit. Jesus welding a sword is a shocking realization to many but this idea is introduced in the Old Testament and then continued by John in his apocalypse vision of the returning Jesus. John writes…

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:11-16 ESV

John’s vision of Jesus may be shocking to the modern reader but not to those at the time John wrote this apocalypse. The Jewish elite were afraid Jesus had come overthrow Rome, and thereby overthrow their power. That is the reason they had him killed. The Disciples hoped that Jesus had come to overthrow Rome and set up each of the Disciples as rulers in this new kingdom. But Jesus told them that his time to rule had not arrived. Upon realizing that Jesus would not make the Disciples powerful rulers in this current life Judas walked away and betrayed Jesus for silver. Jesus had come not as king but as priest to testify to the truth of God and to reconcile men to God. Jesus came to save the lost to provide a window, a window we live in right now, of mercy and grace to submit to the Creator. However that window will close at some unknown date in the near future. At that time Jesus will return and the name will be written on him “King of Kings”. This vision that John has prophesied was also revealed to others. King David writes in song…

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand” Psalms 110:1a ESV

David is the king of all Israel. How odd it would be for him to say the “The Lord says to my Lord” when David is the king and lord of an earthly kingdom. David answered to none other than God so who would this other Lord be that David called Lord? David answers the question just a few verses later.

The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Psalms 110:4 ESV

Melchizedek is a mysterious figure that is revealed in Genesis. Abraham the kingly patriarch of the promised nation of Israel interacted with Melchizedek. Abraham a man like David who answered to no one but God pays tribute to another Lord at the successful conclusion of a battle.

18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. Genesis 14:18-20 ESV

Abraham is the chosen of God to be the father of a priestly nation call Israel. Abraham encounters a man named Melchizedek who is described as “priest of God Most High”. King David tells us that this Lord of Lords sitting at the right hand of God will also be a priest modeled after this mysterious high priest of God. This Lord of Lords will also be High Priest. David is singing about a King who is also a Priest.

Jesus with his sword of Government is coming. We already have witnessed and are living in the opportunity to embrace the Priestly Refuge of this King but when he comes to establish the Kingdom where will we stand?

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalms 2:10-12 ESV

Are you president of the United States? Are you a czar of Russia? CEO of a corporate entity? Master of your home? It does not matter “Kiss the Son” and “rejoice with trembling” all will bow before this Lord and this king. David sings that this Lord is “a priest forever”. His compassion is never ending for those who are saved. He has the authority to both save and kill. Take hold of this promise today while you can and draw near to the perfect Lord of Lords and Intercessory Priest of God.

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:22-25 ESV

Tithes, Gifts, and Offerings Oh! My!

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The United States as a country that consistently ranks at the top of the list of most generous countries and rightfully so since America is also one of the most wealthy countries in the world. Americans give freely for all kinds of causes and plights the world over.

The city of Corinth was an economic hub and a wealthy city so it should be expected then that this church would be called upon to support their brothers and sisters in other less prosperous areas like Jerusalem. Christians in Israel when the church was founded faced an enormous personal cost to conversion. They could be removed from the Jewish Synagogue as well as from the marketplace. The other Churches had an obligation to support their fellow church members. Paul at the end of his letter to the Corinthians organizes a fundraiser and envoy to present the donation to the hurting members of the fellow church.

Regarding the relief offering for poor Christians that is being collected, you get the same instructions I gave the churches in Galatia. Every Sunday each of you make an offering and put it in safekeeping. Be as generous as you can. When I get there you’ll have it ready, and I won’t have to make a special appeal. Then after I arrive, I’ll write letters authorizing whomever you delegate, and send them off to Jerusalem to deliver your gift. If you think it best that I go along, I’ll be glad to travel with them. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 MSG

So what is the obligation of a believer in regard to “being as generous” as one can? I will first speak on perspective when giving and then follow up by defining tithes and offerings.

Offerings are gifts that an individual decides to give that are completely personal between themselves and God. Rick Warren a pastor of a large church wrote a bestselling book. This book made him rich. So between himself and God he felt led to do something bold. He paid his church back every dollar of salary he had ever taken and then decided that he only wanted or needed to keep 10% of the income from his book sales. Rick Warren in effect gave away more than 90% of his income. There is no law, rule, expectation, or biblical mandate that he do such a thing but he meets the challenge of Paul to be as generous as one can be. But most importantly he did this with humbleness, gratefulness, and joy. It was not imposed on him and he did not do this out of some sense of duty. He did it simply because he wanted to do it. While that is an extreme example there are many everyday people who give generously in this way but keep quiet because it is a personal offering between them and God.

7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV

The second thing we must know about the collection Paul was asking for is that this was an offering above and beyond the individual’s duty to support the local church. Typically in current Christian culture this support is called a tithe and it is the first 10% given to the church to support the local community of believers. So how is the tithe different than a gift and offering? The Tithe is an Old Testament law that demanded 10% of the first fruit of, income, crop, or cattle. God asked for the first and best of whatever was earned. (God is right to ask for this since it is by his grace and mercy that there is any crop at all. Giving back in this way is a formal way to honor and acknowledge that God is in control of all things)

“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. Leviticus 27:30 ESV

The tithe was given to the priestly cast of the Jewish community and so today Christian Churches operate in similar fashion by asking for a tithe that would be given to the local church where a believer has membership. The tithe is in that regard the first phase of giving within the church. Anything above the tithe would be a gift and offering. Rick Warren arrived at his 90% give away number by calling it a reverse tithe. He “tithed” 90% and kept 10% for himself.

Now shockingly there is nowhere in the New Testament that prescribes a church to collect or receive a tithe. Ultimately like a gift this is between the believer and God. A mainstream biblically based Church will not deny membership and fellowship to someone who does not give.

In regard to giving, the tithe is a normal and accepted starting point, but ultimately that amount is based on ability and the relationship that the individual has with God. God wants that gift given freely and out of love toward him. Jesus expected and encouraged his followers to be generous to everyone around them.

38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 ESV

Jesus is not a Moral Teacher

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Jesus sometimes is brought into discussions and used by opposing sides of social, political, or religious factions to make a point about the cause that fuels the social, political, or religious dialog. Many religions that are not Christian would claim Jesus is a moral or prophetic person. Political groups like to claim the teaching of Jesus are aligned with their cause. And generally speaking people might argue what Jesus would have done in a certain situation.

The reality however is that most people do not fully grasp the nature and weight of his actions and teaching. In contemporary society Jesus is a good natured softie that just wants everyone to love and be a “can’t we all get along?” kind of guy. But the Jesus represented in the Biblical Gospel is actually a very intense person with the gravitas to demand attention just by his very nature. That charisma did not come from any kind of societal privilege. He was born poor, working class, and not part of any Roman Citizenship. Yet when he came onto the scene he immediately attracted followers of everyday people and made enemies at the top of the privileged elitist ladders.

The unknown author of Hebrews claims that Jesus is the “exact representation” or “imprint” of God. If God, Creator of the Universe, life, and time itself where to join the creation in the form of a person then this man Jesus is the “exact representation” of who that Creator would be.

3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:3 NIV

Dwell on that for a moment. God walking among men and women would look, act, and be just like Jesus because Jesus is God. Does it seem crazy to say Jesus is God in those terms? Don’t believe the claim of the Hebrew text then here are the words of Jesus.

7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? John 14:7-9 ESV

Jesus told the disciples in no uncertain terms that by seeing him and knowing him that the disciples had known and seen the very creator of everything God the Father. Jesus is telling the disciples and us today plainly that He is God. Think on that. They are conversing with God who is in their presence.

Now we can hate him and deny him but what we are not able to do is claim him as some important prophet or moral teacher. Unique to Christ is the claim of being God in the flesh. Moral teacher undermines who Jesus claims to be. A religious prophet is only a spokesman for God. So the quandary comes home quickly on how to deal with Jesus.

C. S. Lewis famously wrote that there are only three conclusions one may draw on Jesus. He is either Lord, Liar, or Lunatic. Jesus claimed to be God. Anyone before or after who claims to be god in those terms is simply a crazy person. Or if he claims to be god it is for some selfish manipulative motive to gain power and wealth. Neither of those options fit Jesus and very few people ever make a case against Jesus on those terms. The only other conclusion is that Jesus who claims to be God in the flesh is indeed God in the flesh. In fact right before telling the Disciples that he, Jesus, is God the Father he made an exclusive claim that salvation, relationship, and life can be found only in him.

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. John 14:5-7 ESV

How do you categorize Jesus? Is he Lord with the authority to say “I am the way”?

Eating at the Table of Demons

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Who do people eat with the most outside of family? Eating with friends is fun. Coworkers can be fun or at the least expected since so much time is spent with them when working outside the home. But do people ever stop to realize they fellowship at a spiritual level and not just the physical means of eating food? Living in a physical world without easily visible means to experience a spiritual plane leaves people naturally to focus on the physical while forgetting about the spiritual. Most people in western society are almost completely cut off from recognizing the spiritual aspects of interactions with other people and the world. People rarely stop to ask questions like “Is there a God”, “Where will I go when I die”, or “Is the physical reality the only reality”? When I ask those questions to people I meet there is most certainly an awkwardness that comes over the conversation. The answer to those questions is yes there is more to life than the physical. So why do people avoid it? Not only is there a spiritual world but people need to realize that this world is at war spiritually speaking. Paul reminds his congregants of this fact.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 ESV

In the same way that I prayed for President Obama I will pray for president Trump. My issues whatever they may be politically are not against the person. I have a charge to love all people and to pray for the leaders of the country. My issues are against the true ruler behind the person. I pray that the leaders and those in authority would be servants to God (even if it is clear they are not). This is part of my duty in this war of the heavens. Jesus died on the cross to break the god of this world’s grip on humanity.

31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:31-32 ESV

Even if one lives unaware and distracted from the fact that the physical is not all there is the truth remains that God created everything both spiritual and physical. He is the author and the spiritual world is there with humankind because God created people to live forever in both spirit and body. He has recorded events by way of the Bible to highlight the creation from His perspective. God has chosen to open the eyes of his children to the spiritual world. Do not shy away from this reality. Look past the physical frustrations and temptation to be angry at a fellow human being and know that evil is directed from the spiritual plane.

15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-17 ESV

God is in control of both the physical and the spiritual. The duty of followers of Christ is to pray for His will and actions in the events of History.

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 1 John 5:19-20 ESV

In the spiritual war with the evil ruler of this world, the evil ruler who is controlling what he can, a question rises up “What are those who have eyes opened to do?” “Do we continue on as before?”

No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 1 Corinthians 10:20-21 ESV

“Do we continue on eating at the table of demons?” No we must no longer be who we were. When we verbally assault fellow human beings. When we relish in the tears of those who have lost. When we champion unity over truth. When we seek selfish lusts over self-denial and self-control. When we want all religions to be a source of truth… THEN we are eating at the table of Demons. Saying no to the table of demons will cost friendships because it is where most people fellowship and fellowship is both physical and spiritual. Saying no to the table of demons may cut some out of the market square because that is where business occurs. Saying no to the table of demons may cost an opportunity for power or leadership because the ruler of this world will not give up his control to anything from God. Saying no to the table of demons leaves only one table from which to eat and that is of the Lamb of God. This table requires only that we serve Christ by sharing the good news of the gospel to this world. That may be a simple question of “Tell me who is God to you?” worked into the next conversation. Eating at the table of God means we give way to the needs of others. Eating at this table means we pray for enemies and we love those who hate. It means trusting Christ and not falling back to the selfish lust of this physical world. The light of Christ must shine into the darkness of demons.

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 ESV