Romans 5:17 | Change your Family Tree

We are in a predicament. You and I, dear reader, are both born into a broken family. Now I work hard to show everyone that my family has it all together but the reality that I know and the reality my family knows is that we have issues. I know, dear reader, that your family has hidden issues as well. How do I know that? Because we are both people and we are under a curse. Everyone has issues some families are just better at keeping those issues out of the public than others. What Adam and Eve did at the very beginning left all of humanity in a mess and yes under a curse.

17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Romans 5:17 ESV

The trespass of Adam brought death to his family and to the families of all his descendants. This is hard to accept for modern man because we do not hold the sins of the father against the son. But in this case humanity was born into the decay of death because the sins of our father Adam are also our sins. We continue in the sins of Adam and embrace selfishness like all those before us.

When building a family tree most people start with themselves and work backward creating a tree and branches on the way back in time. However, this is backward. Our family tree actually starts with Adam and Eve as the seed of destruction and from this seed is the growth of a family that branches out into peoples, nations, and culture over time. Yet all of those families and nations share the original seed of sin from Adam. We are in a mess and there is nothing we can do to fix the family because the root is bad. The seed we draw our life from was corrupted from the start.

Yet there is hope. God steps in through the person of Jesus Christ and a new family tree is started. This new tree is alive with the grace of God. This tree is free of sin and death because the seed is the perfect righteous life of God.

16 If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. Romans 11:16-18 ESV

God breaks all the rules. He does something amazing for those that call on the name of Jesus for salvation. He cuts them out of the dead tree of Adam and He then grafts that person into a new family tree. The living tree of Jesus Christ. The root of Jesus is holy and we who are grafted in receive nourishment from the life giving source of Christ.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. John 15:5-6 ESV

Romans 4:16 | Faithful Loving Children

God has made many promises that are recorded in the Bible. Maybe the most important of all those promises is the promise made to Abraham about a future nation. Abraham is the father of the Jewish peoples and they recognize him as their patriarch. But this promise that God made to Abraham was bigger than just a physical blood bond. God’s promise to Abraham is that he would be the father of many nations.

5 And [God] brought [Abraham] outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:5-6 ESV

Abraham is not just the physical father of the Jewish people. Abraham is the spiritual father of all people who believed in Christ. Abraham is the example of trusting God even when we can’t see what God is doing. Abraham is the father of faith. Abraham’s example is our example of trusting and loving God.

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. Romans 4:16 ESV

One of my favorite recounting of saving faith involves Jesus and a tax collector. In this event recorded in the Gospel of Luke we see a Jew who is the physical son of Abraham come to a saving faith that makes him the true spiritual son of Abraham.

He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10 ESV

Jesus pronounced this son of Abraham saved. Is Zacchaeus saved because he “also is a son of Abraham” or is he now a son of Abraham because salvation came to Zacchaeus on that day. Is Zacchaeus saved because he promises to give away his wealth or is Zacchaeus saved because he has a miraculous saving moment with Jesus and out of the overflow of that love, trust, and faith Zacchaeus wants to give up his ill-gotten gain?

We tend to look at the physical situation first. Those Paul is writing to claim to be physical heirs to Abraham and they look to the law of the Jews for salvation. But Paul wants them to know that the promise God made to Abraham and the response of Abraham to trust God is what made Abraham the father of faith. Paul wants us to see the spiritual response first. I am not Jewish but Abraham is my spiritual father because we share in the same faith. Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham not by physical blood bonds but by spiritual faith bonds. Abraham, Zacchaeus, and any follower of Christ share the same faith.

Salvation and the promise of God comes not from our physical circumstances but from the condition of our heart. Do you trust God like Abraham trusted God? Jesus lived a sinless life, died on a cross, and rose from the dead that we might be saved. Do you believe him? Do you trust him to do what he says he will do?

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. Romans 4:16 ESV

Romans 2:24 | Don’t be a Jerk

I am not a people person. What I mean is that I am a shy introvert. I am more comfortable behind a keyboard than at a social gathering. Yet God has asked me to be uncomfortable and to reach outside my family to connect with others and be a people person. Sometimes I get shocked responses when I tell someone I am an introvert because in public I try to be friendly and personable to everyone. Years ago my wife and I opened our home to serve and host others in the community. I have learned much about reaching out and being welcoming to people I meet in the community. I am convinced that this is the duty of all those called by God and who take on the name of Christian. It is not hard. Listen more than you talk and take people as they are.

Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome is warning the young church about judging because this kind of judgement causes separation. Paul does not want this church to be cut off from the community in Rome. Specifically, he addresses the Jews who are now Christian warning them to not bring the bad habits of their culture forward into the Church of Christ.

24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:24 ESV

William Barclay in his commentary of Romans paints a very unflattering picture of how the Jewish people were despised by the average Roman citizen. The Jewish people had all kinds of special dispensations given to them by the Roman government that other people did not have. Worse yet the Jewish people had a reputation for being rude and hostile to outsiders. For example, Barclay writes that Jewish peoples were allowed to honor the Sabbath. They flaunted this rule and made the Gentile community work around their schedule. The Jews were then called lazy by those inconvenienced. This Sabbath allowance extended even to the military. Because of the Sabbath rules Jews made for bad soldiers so they were exempt from conscription into the army. One might imagine the political ramification of such an unfair imbalance among the population. Reading the gospels, it is clear that the disciples did not like Rome and wanted Jesus to kick the Romans out but on the flip side the average Gentile did not like the closed community of Jews either. General unfriendliness went both ways.

6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ Exodus 19:6a

God intended that the Jewish people, the nation that He called and blessed would be a priest that could point the entire world toward God. Paul desired that the Church in Rome would be able to fulfill that role. Here Peter puts into words what Paul may have been thinking in his letter to Rome.

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:9-12 ESV

Today I try to live this kind of life before the community. I want more than anything for God to be glorified. I want the community I live into to know the grace and mercy that comes from God. Whatever good deeds I may do in service to others is motivated by my desire to glorify God. If you are called by God and claim the mantel of Christian then maybe it is time to host a party at your house for your neighbors. Be gracious and listen to them. You may just find Jesus at work in their lives. Maybe it is time for Christians to join Jesus at work.

Romans 2:1 | No Excuse Judgment

I would hate to be a judge. I can’t imagine presiding over a court where the judgment might alter life of an individual forever. Sentencing someone to life in prison is harsh. What kind of hope and what kind of future is that for the one life we have to live? Yet I do judge and I do condemn but thankfully I don’t have authority to imprison and thankfully some of the most judgmental people I know are not in charge. We should all be circumspect before writing others off or judging someone as not worth an effort of relationship.

Paul after detailing what a sinner looks like in Chapter 1 of Romans pivots on his audience and tells them to not to judge the sinner. Casually reading Romans his warning is well timed because right after the details on how people rebel against God and what that rebellion looks like my mind started to think of certain people or certain types of people that fall into these sinner categories. But that is not what Paul wants the reader to think so he drops a rebuke on that.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1 ESV

Lest I forget I am a sinner also Paul puts a hold on his narrative to warn the reader. Because when I go back to Chapter 1 I can find myself in this list.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Romans 1:28-31 ESV

I have gossiped. I have been greedy. I have been deceitful. I have been arrogant. I have been loveless. I could continue… So Paul provides a well-timed rebuke to me. Do not condemn others because you yourself are in the same boat. It is like two people in a life raft in the middle of the ocean and me pointing to the other person and saying “You are a looser and you are going to die in this raft.” When the same reality applies to me as the other person is the same situation.

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:37-38 ESV

Jesus talks about my judgement toward others as a negative response. If all people are created in God’s image. If all people are descendants of Adam and Eve then no matter what they have done they are still of the same flesh and blood that I was made from. Jesus contrasts the negative judgment and condemnation done by me, with the restorative and positive of forgiveness and giving. Jesus is saying don’t judge your neighbor but forgive your neighbor because God has forgiven you. Give love and compassion to your neighbor because God has shown love and compassion to you. God wants not that we tear each other down but God wants his followers to build up.

Jesus then jumps into one of the most famous parables

41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Luke 6:41-42 ESV

Look at how Jesus challenges the listener to get themselves right so they can help the other person. It is about building up. If I can only condemn and judge the other person to tear them down where is God in that? How is he glorified?

While I am not a judge (thankfully) there is a real judgement against all of us sinners. A righteous judgment that only God can give because only God is sinless and perfect.

7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. Romans 2:7-8 ESV

Paul is telling us that as followers of Christ we must be persistent in seeking God’s glory and God’s kingdom and he tells us what that looks like by describing what a judgmental sinner looks like.

Self-Seeking: Judging others is selfish. God made us and saved us to reflect the love, the mercy, the grace, and the forgiveness he has poured out through Christ who is the perfect embodiment of love, selfless sacrifice, grace, and mercy.

Reject Truth: God has told us what is right and what is wrong. Yet those who are judged by God willfully reject his truth and what is right. By rejecting what is right they reject God. Christians do not judge others for rejecting truth we double down with more selflessness, more mercy, and more forgiveness as an overflow of what God has already given us.  

Follow Evil: It is never enough to reject God and God’s truth. It necessarily follows that by rejecting truth that those condemned by God will choose what is evil. There is no middle ground of neutrality. Following what is evil proves that God’s judgement is justified.

I am not here to judge but I know the Judge. I am not here to condemn but I do plead and witness to anyone who will listen how to meet the Judge’s standards. I am a witness to the good news that Jesus died taking on my shame and my sin to make me right before the Judge. That good news is available to all who would seek his glory.

Luke 5:33 | Intermittent Fasting

A new trend in health obsessed culture is called intermittent fasting. Claims of cure all benefits range from weight loss to the end of Alzheimer’s. I think this fad will be shorted lived since there is not much money to be made in fasting and it is incredibly hard to do. The idea of this fad is that one must shorten the window of time in which one eats for a particular day. For example, eating dinner two or three hours earlier with no late-night snack before breakfast the next morning would be a good start. Speaking of Breakfast that is an interesting word. The first meal of the day does indeed break a fast.

Fasting is not a new idea or a new practice. Most every culture and religion have ideas about fasting. Jesus famously fasted for 40 days in the wilderness. Was Jesus on a diet for this famous fast? No clearly that was not the purpose of his fast. However, fasting to improve health may be unique to western culture.  What does the Bible have to say about fasting?

Jesus in one of his interactions the community receives what I think is a genuine question.

33 And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” Luke 5:33-35 ESV

It was common for the Pharisees to fast. Their tradition was to fast twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday. So, the question is raised to Jesus why he and his disciples are at a party with tax collectors enjoying themselves while other religious people are fasting? Jesus responds saying that one does not fast at a feast indicating that while he, Jesus, is with the disciples there is no need for fasting. But in the future when Jesus has left this earth then the disciples would fast.

This interaction tells us two key things. First once Jesus is glorified, he expected that Christians would want to fast. That means fasting is a valid topic for contemporary Christians. Second Jesus indicates that there is a right time to fast and a right time to not fast.

If fasting is something, we should think about certainly the Bible would then give us some rules about how to fast and what is considered a fast? But no there are no details on how to fast and there is no actual command by Jesus to fast.

11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ Luke 18:11-12 ESV

Jesus told a parable about how not to approach God. In this parable he tells of a Pharisee praying in public a loud and arrogant prayer boasting of how much he fasts and how much money he gives away. The community Jesus told this story to would have connected with the experience. Jesus tells us two key things about fasting. First Jesus links fasting to giving. So again just as we know we should give we may also want to think about what role fasting might have in our spiritual life. Second the Pharisee boasts on his fasting and his tithe. What we know about giving is that it is not something to boast in. It is something that should be done with a cheerful heart and it should be done quietly.

3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:3-4 ESV

In the same way fasting should be done in secret before God and for God. Fasting is a mostly private and intimate act of devotion.

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 ESV

Jesus has left us with two key things to think about when it comes to fasting. First it should be done quietly and intimately. Second fasting is something that has a season and a purpose. When I was young and single, I practiced a weekly 24 hour fast. I would wake up on the fast day and not eat and sometimes not drink anything for an entire day (this took time and practice to do successfully). The next day I would wake up and eat breakfast. It was a season where I was able to draw near to God. I did this privately and prayerfully. After marriage and children, the practice of fasting was long lost because dinner is so important to the social structure. I am not in a current season where fasting like that is practical. There may come a time in the future when the children are grown where fasting may yet again be part of my prayerful devotion.

Having practiced a personal fast in devotion to God I have a few practical suggestions to anyone who might feel called to devote themselves in this way.

Start Slow: Replace one meal (start with breakfast, lunch, or if really brave dinner)

Set a Time: Something that is workable to your situation and your schedule.

Set Rules: What is in and what is out while fasting for you. This is personal between you and God. Pray about this rule.

Fasting is hard but it does not need to be impossible. Failure is likely as well. Our society revolves around food so scheduling time to not eat is incredibly difficult. And that difficulty is compounded by the negative reaction our bodies have to being deprived of caffeine, sugar, and everything else we love about eating.  

Also, one more thing. Have a singular reason to fast. The purpose of fasting is to focus ourselves to prayer. Fasting gives us additional focus and intent. Fasting will if done with the right heart and motive draw us closer to God.

Luke 5:8 | Gift Giving by Jesus

Have you ever given a gift and received an unexpected response? As a child I threw a tantrum when I opened a Christmas present from my parents that had socks and underwear. I think they gave that gift to have a good laugh at my expense. I wonder if they expected me to go into drama mode. Regardless I remember, ashamed to say, even to this day my terrible response. The correct response should have been a simple thanks even if I could not appreciate the gift in that moment.

Jesus at the beginning of his ministry gives Peter a gift and Peter responds exactly how Jesus wanted him to respond but it is not how I would have responded and most likely Peter’s response is unexpected to anyone reading Luke’s account.

Jesus was preaching to a crowd on the shore by using Peter’s boat as a platform. At the end of this speech Jesus asks Peter to put down the fishing nets. Peter being a life long fisherman knew this was not a simple task and would require more work on his part. This request from Jesus is like I had just worked a 12 hour shift and in the process of putting away all my tools for the day Jesus asked me to go back to work. Yet because Jesus asked the nets went into the water. The result is a gift from Jesus to Peter. The nets were filled with fish and were filled to such an extent that that Peter was overwhelmed.

5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. Luke 5:5-7 ESV

This is a wow factor type of gift. How many fish would it take to sink two boats? If the idea had ever crossed Peter’s mind it was only from fanciful daydreaming of how to be rich. This record haul of fish is a miraculous gift from Jesus to Peter.

So how does one respond to such a thing? A simple thank you? No that is not enough. An exuberant shout to Jesus proclaiming to him some kind of praise? Well maybe but what did Jesus expect from Peter? I think Jesus knew exactly how Peter would respond and it is not what I expected.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Luke 5:8 ESV

Peter realizing what just happened in front of his very eyes with fish spilling out of every inch of his boat drops to his knees and asks Jesus to leave him. An unexpected response except that the response is exactly what Jesus expected. Peter’s response is instructive for the reader in two ways.

First Jesus by his very nature will rock the boat of our lives. Peter was just shown that his view of the world and how it works is way too limited. Also, Peter is shown a power greater than any he knew on earth. Get away from me is a fearful reaction that is common when the glory of heaven collides with the unholy earth. Take the moment Isaiah an Old Testament prophet is called to serve God.

4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:4-5 ESV

Peter saw Jesus for who Jesus really is at that moment and Peter realized to some small degree how far he was from the holiness of God’s presence. And that realization leads us to the second part of Peter’s reaction regarding his own sins.

Jesus being God in the flesh represents righteous holiness that leaves us recognizing our unjust failures. Peter was fearful because he saw his sins clearly without the rationalization of our dark and cloudy self. If my sins were brought to my conscious self all at once I would also be overwhelmed. The self-cringing thoughts at my childhood gift receiving tantrum would be nothing in comparison to how I have chosen my own sinful desires over God’s perfection. I shutter at the idea of being exposed before God in such a way. But this is our very human nature from the beginning of Adam’s fall.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:8-10 ESV

So what did Jesus expect to happen when he gave Peter a gift of more fish than Peter could manage? Did Jesus really expect to see Peter fear and despair because sin? The reaction is real but that is not the goal. Jesus is God in the form of a man seeking reconciliation. The reader sees the miraculous gift of a boat overflowing with fish but that is not the actual gift that Jesus was giving Peter. The gift that Jesus is giving Peter in this moment is a gift of clarity to see God more clearly and to see God work in salvation and relationship. Jesus needed Peter to be ready to give up his old life and start a new life following God.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:10-11 ESV

Whatever anxiety I have at the thoughts of my sin exposed like Peter was exposed before God is pushed aside by the glorious chills of God seeking me out for a relationship and being invited into his kingdom. Dear reader Jesus is working out the miraculous in your life. Now is the moment to respond and follow him.

Luke 4:28 | White Hot Wrath

Facts are bright, hot, and painful. Facts can also shape us into who God wants us to be if we will listen. When I was younger, I thought everyone would respond to facts, logic, and reason and I foolishly engaged with anyone to discuss truth. It did not go well. I made more than a few people mad, but that was never my intent or desire. The real world has proven to me over and over that facts are not all that useful when dealing with a group of people. A twitter mob moving from timeline to timeline to roast and skewer others is devoid of reason or facts. Watching cancel culture rage on without facts or reason is terrifying. And I think I know why. Facts are unfeeling and they can be wielded in ways that cut deep. Facts, truth, and reason are inconvenient when social standing and peer perspective is more important. One on one someone might admit that a certain fact is true but in public that same someone will move along with the culture in lockstep to their own doom.

Before Jesus had even called a single disciple at the beginning of his ministry, he spoke a factual truth to the people of his hometown and the reaction of those he had grown up with was that of a full-blown mob and all the scary evil that comes with mob behavior.

28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. Luke 4:28 ESV

Wrath here is the kind that boils up and then quickly subsides. It is unreasoned like the kind of a husband and wife toward the end of a marriage where they can set one another off at every unseen slight. The words of Jesus to those in attendance sparked a wildfire of dry pinestraw that is quickly consumed because there is no real substance. This wrath was so white hot that here we are in just Chapter 4 of Luke’s gospel and already the people are ready to kill him.

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 4:29-30 ESV

Many falsely believe that Jesus was all full of love and only love. I can do anything I want because Jesus loves me reason some. However, that is just not the case and does not hold up to facts. Jesus spoke inconvenient facts to this community of devout Hebrews right where their pride would be wounded most. Their reaction to the facts betrays the evil in their hearts. What was it that Jesus said to them? He spoke to them about all those that God healed and saved who were not Hebrew. Jesus dared to give a complement to the godless gentiles. Interestingly Luke, a gentile, wrote of a similar message from John the Baptist in the Chapter right before this one.

8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Luke 3:8-9 ESV

Jesus wants the people to understand that God is in the business of saving all of humanity not just a single culture or a single people. Racism has not part in God’s kingdom. God is in the business of saving those who would humble themselves and follow him.

28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” Acts 28:28 ESV

Dear reader what facts have you pushed way? Is running with the mob really that satisfying? Come let us reason and discuss true truth. Put away the personal truth that is not really true and does not align with God’s creation. Jesus came to speak facts about himself, about God, and about relationship with neighbors. Jesus has proclaimed salvation from sin and that people all over the world will listen. I pray that you will be one of those to hear him speak and respond with repentance.

Luke 4:6 | Satan is not a King

The topic of Satan, the devil, is interesting to me. My interest is not in the sensationalism of Hollywood or middle age gothic paintings. My interest is a little more philosophical. I would like to know how Satan views his role as a fallen angel. Satan must have believed he could overpower the Creator in the beginning. He lost and was cast out of heaven. But now what is his motivation? Does he know the war is already lost or does he still think he has a chance to win when Christ returns?

Clues to an answer of Satan’s place in this world is revealed when he tries to corrupt and temp Jesus. The fascinating exchange occurs with Satan offering Jesus power and authority over all of the kingdoms of earth.

5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Luke 4:5-7 ESV

There are two keys that stand out from this act of Satan that help paint a picture of his current state of mind. First is that Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a “moment of time”. Time is a complicated reality. We know that time is not constant and we know that it is part of the creation. Time does not exist separate from the physical world. Jesus claims to be the beginning and the end meaning that he is not constrained by the limitations of time. The Creator, Jesus, is not subject to the rules of the creation so he can operate outside of time. Before time and space there was God and God exists separate from the physical creation and God exists separate from time. If Satan can show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time then Satan to some degree is able to operate outside of what is normal time for a mortal man. However, Satan appears to still be constrained to some degree by time. He still needed a “moment”. If that is true then he does not possess eternity apart from God his Creator. Satan cannot claim to be the beginning and the end. While powerful enough to reduce the amount of time needed to show Christ all the kingdoms of the world, he still must operate with limited knowledge of what is to come. It could be that this blind spot leaves him to believe that just maybe his rebellion could be successful. But realistically he must know that he is finite and constrained by this physical creation of heavens and earth just like all other men and angels.

The second key and most interesting is what Satan promises to give to Jesus. He tells Jesus that he will give authority and glory of these kingdoms to Jesus. This is no surprise. Satan is the ruler of this world and the ruler of the power structures that promote evil, pride, and selfishness. This is where people understand that there is evil in an ugly world. Satan offers all this to Jesus if Jesus will worship Satan as if he is god. But in this offer Satan reveals a truth. That truth is that Satan has limited power. Notice in the offer of all the kingdoms Satan acknowledges that those kingdoms are what have been given to him. Satan is not the real owner. Satan has no power or authority that has not been given or granted. Satan is a prince of this world but he is not the King and owner of this world. Satan is nothing more than an evil steward of something that is not his.

Jesus rightfully rejected Satan’s offer because there is only one Creator. There is only one true God who is worthy of worship. Paul clarifies the rightful order of this creation and Satan is deluding himself if he thinks there is anyway for him to own a creation that does not even exist apart from God.

24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 ESV

When Christ returns as the King of Kings, Satan the ruler of the kingdoms will not be able to keep what he offered to Jesus because every authority and power will be made subject to Christ. The harsh result for Satan is that even his greatest tool, death, will also be destroyed. We have a moment of grace in this life to choose who we will worship. Would you worship self like Satan has done or would you submit to the one true God? Only one of those powers has any true authority as the King and Creator of all.

1 Corinthians 1:1 | Christ Only Always

jesus

I teach at a local church on Sunday mornings each week and I have a rule in my class that answers to questions must be real not the “church” answer. By church answer I mean that I don’t want the class to answer what they think everyone would expect to hear in church but to answer the question in real honest terms the way we would see it in life outside the church. The church answer to a question I specifically don’t want is “Jesus”. Jesus could almost literally be the answer to most any question one might get at church. The running joke in my class is that if no one has an answer or no one wants to answer the hard question because it is a little to real and close to home then I get the church answer “Jesus”.  The class laughs because it is most likely the right answer but not the answer we usually live life by.

Barclay in his commentary for 1 Corinthians notes that in the first 10 verses Paul uses Jesus, Christ, or some combination of those names 10 times. The Corinthians were divided and they were struggling internally. So Paul is trying to get their attention with that intro. Church hear Paul… the solution, the answer, the resolution, and everything you need is Jesus. Why can’t we as people who call ourselves followers of Christ turn to Him first, consistently, and always?

This reminds me of a hymn Have Thine On Way, Lord. Where the final verse of the final stanza concludes with Christ only, always, living in me.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

Church, why not turn to Christ always and only? I grew up in a large denomination that I still love. God has called me to serve in a non-denominational church and I am good with that because Christ only, always. A friend once told me to major on the majors and minor on the minors. Meaning that the organization of the church is not something to argue over (the minors). Let people be where God has called them, but where division should occur is where Christ stands on what is right and wrong like the trinity, sexual ethics, and hell (the majors). What a challenge Paul put before this early church. Here are those first 10 verses calling out Christ only, always.

1 Corinthians 1 ESV

  1. Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
  2. To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
  3. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,
  5. that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—
  6. even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—
  7. so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
  8. who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  9. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  10. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Exodus 12:11 | Door to Mercy

One of the most fearful, memorable, and horrifying judgments on this present earth by God is found in the final plague against Egypt when Moses at the direction of God demanded that Egypt let the Hebrew people leave to worship God. The King of Egypt was stuck in this awful cycle of rebellion, stubbornness, and arrogance against God due to his own selfish and evil nature. In this final plague Pharaoh comes to the end of himself and he finds God’s crushing judgement on his entire worldview.

6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. Exodus 11:6 ESV  

God’s wrath is not looked upon kindly by modern man and many Christians willfully overlook God’s judgment to think and speak only on God’s love. But God’s love is not true unless God’s judgment is also sound. God’s judgment on Egypt is juxtaposed against his mercy for Israel here at this moment in history as recorded in Exodus 11 and 12.

God’s Judgement:

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. Exodus 12:12 ESV

In this final plague where the firstborn in every household dies in one terrifying night God communicates clearly that this death is a result of his judgement on Egypt. They are being judged as we all will be judged based on the life lived in service to self or stuff apart from God who created us. Egypt put their trust in false god’s that promote selfishness and hedonism. Egypt killed the first born of the Hebrew people out of selfish desire to remain in control. Egypt the same Egypt that is keeping as slaves the people of Israel deserved this judgment. It not my judgement or the judgment of the Hebrews or modern man’s judgment but it is the perfect righteous judgement of God who is the creator of all things.

God is also allowing this judgment on Egypt to be an example to the Hebrews and indeed the rest of history since we are still to this day discussing this terrible event and why it happened. God has chosen this moment with Egypt and Israel to reintroduce himself in a permanent way. God is taking control of the narrative and altering the course of human history. From this moment forward people will know God the one true God. No longer will people be ignorant of their Creator.

God’s Love:

11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. Exodus 12:11 ESV

God’s love is found in His mercy. The Hebrews could have been left to the same fate as the Egyptians. But God provided an undeserved way of grace. If the people would follow his instructions and listen to His voice, they could find Passover from the judgment to come.

God instructed them to sacrifice a lamb for each household. The blood of this lamb placed on the doorframe of the house would allow the angel to Passover them in the moment of judgment. Yet there was more to God’s instructions that speaks to us today. There is a realization that this meal must be eaten in haste with nothing left for tomorrow because God is leading those that will submit to his word out of the world and they should be ready to go as one just passing through. Don’t put down the kind of roots that fools us into believing that this is our one best life. But stand with cloak on and staff in hand ready for the life with God that awaits. The Passover meal represents how they should live as one covered by the blood of the lamb.

My Response:

…For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed… 1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV

All that happened as recorded in Exodus is but a sample of the perfect justice and perfect love that God is working out to a final conclusion. Judgement is coming on those who willfully live lives in service to their own selfish desires. Our sin will be judged by God just as Egypt was judged. All are guilty of sin before God. I am not here to judge others because I stand condemned as well. Yet because God is also perfect in His love, He provided a perfect Passover lamb in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The blood of this lamb is available but it will only cover households that want to receive and trust God. The Hebrews received the instruction of Moses and were saved. The Egyptians rejected those instructions to trust in their own ways and were condemned by their own actions.

My response to God’s instruction is to yield to Jesus and partake in the grace and mercy God poured out in his Son. I am covered by the blood of the lamb and judgement will Passover me not because of my worth but because of my faith in God’s worth.