Hebrews 13:18 | What Kind of Christian are You?

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An interesting idea passed through my reading list this week. The comment was that each person, denomination, tradition, or opinion sees God and scripture in their own image. The challenge the person put forth is that everyone reads into the scripture their own “interpretation” and there is no actual single Christian view of things. While true that different Christian traditions might form church government and worship services differently. And some traditions may disagree on some minor aspects of what is most important. What is not true is that a right “interpretation” of scripture is impossible to know. The reality is that most misunderstandings are basically ignorance because so few people spend time reading with their heart open to hear from God. Other wrong “interpretations” are based on purposeful manipulation out of a desire for something other than God. Jesus assumed that his teachings would be remembered and understood by those that followed him and Jesus is never wrong so we can know exactly what is true.

26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26 ESV

And this is where the church comes in. If the leadership and those teaching are following Christ (not their own selfish ambitions) then they can guide parishioners on how to read and understand what Jesus taught.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1 ESV

Christianity also uniquely has the source text in Greek and Hebrew that any lay person can learn to read if they are so inclined. Even that is not necessary because of access to modern translations of nearly original letters. The apostles encouraged the churches to search these texts to confirm what they taught was true.

10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:10-11 ESV

God is true and so all his words, actions, and calls in our life must be consistent with Himself. The Bible is that consistency given to humankind. God will never ask something of someone that a) he was has not already done himself and b) is contrary to his very nature. Scripture then is a baseline that even the greatest Christian teacher must work from. One well known Bible teacher once wrote that followers of Christ must teach and believe what the Bible states as true not what we want the Bible to say is true. I may not like or understand everything but that does not diminish God that only proves my lack of understanding in all things. God has the entire picture and he has proven himself trustworthy.

The last Chapter of Hebrews is the closing of the letter and the author runs through a liturgy of sorts that when lived out mark a Christian in this world. What kind of Christian are you? If you can’t say yes to everything in this list then you may want to reevaluate what kind of Christian you have been.

Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Hebrews 13:1-3 ESV

I agree in the Affirmative: Christians must not be self-seeking but be servants to those in need. Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you ready to show hospitality to strangers in need? Do you remember and pray for Christians in prison or those mistreated because they are Christian? This is the type of person that Jesus has called you to be.

4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Hebrews 13:4 ESV

I agree in the Affirmative: God did not create man and woman to be sexually promiscuous. He created man and woman to love each other and to honor the marriage bed. If you are living with someone outside of marriage, if you are having an affair, if you are a consumer of porn or lustful images of any kind, or you believe that whatever your preferences are regarding sex are more important than God’s perfect standards then you are not living the life that Jesus has called you to live. Make this right with God there is no other way.

5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:5-6; 16 ESV

I agree in the Affirmative: God never promises to make men rich. God does however promise that he will provide our daily bread. Do not fear living with limited money. The Lord is our helper and His resources are endless. If you do have anything be ready to share sacrificially because this pleases God. The type of person that Jesus called you to be is the person who is not in love with money and stuff.

7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13:7-9; 17 ESV

I agree in the Affirmative: God has called each Christian to serve and live within a Church that honors His word. Submit to the leaders of this church and look to their example to imitate. Confirm their example by finding it written about in the Bible. The leadership in your church has been given to you by God and they are accountable to God if they teach what is not true. Do not complain about the Church leadership but make their job a joy (remember they are only men and women like yourself). If you are not in a church or if you are not attending a physical church with real relationships then you are not following the desires of Christ. Jesus is a relational Creator and he never desires for his followers to operate in isolation.

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. Hebrews 13:18 ESV

I agree in the Affirmative: Followers of Christ act honorably in ALL things. These standards of God are not negotiable. He has saved us and he has died in our stead so we can live. Do you love Jesus, then in obedience set your dead self aside and find life that can only come from Christ.

What kind of Christian are you? If you are not answering affirmatively to the above with a desire to live it out real time then the answer to the question of what kind of Christian are you is either not at all or not much of one. Harsh I know. Sometimes the truth hurts but God has plainly laid out his standards even the parts we may not like.

Psalms 119:12 | Everything is Awesome…

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The Bible. To the unfamiliar it is a dusty old book, it is written in a language of thee and thou that is hard to understand. To those that were raised in church and had a bad experience with unrepentant people who should not have been in leadership positions the Bible might be familiar, but not understood. Maybe it is only an acquaintance, but not something absorbed. Worse still maybe it is viewed just as a collection of fairy tells and parables, but of no real value in the world of technology and science. Maybe for some of you, Lord be merciful, it is a book that you hate and want nothing to do with. Perception is a type of reality for those of you that identify with the above descriptions. If that is your reality then I have a request. In fact I would plead with you to give the Bible a chance. I beg of you see what God’s Word says for itself, not what others have said about it. Eternity is at stake if what the Bible wants to communicate is true. In short the Bible is an awesome, mind blowing, love letter from the Creator of the universe to the crown of His creation you and me.

The Bible is not a single book. The mainline protestant Bible is a collection of 66 books that were written over a period of 2,000 years. Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek are the languages that make up the 66 books. Even more interestingly there are 40 authors who wrote from three different continents. Considering the diversity in people, geography, and the time spans it is even more amazing that the Bible is a consistent narrative from the Creation in Genesis, to the end of times in Revelations to make it seem as if it is a single book. There is nothing like the Bible anywhere else on Earth. It is a unique work that has been translated into over 2,000 languages and has been printed more than any other book in history. This book claims to be the Words of God the Creator and it is a knowledge base that deserves first hand attention from each individual.

None of the above facts are a surprise to me knowing that the same God capable of creating the universe is also capable of creating a masterpiece of communication to his children so that we can know who he is, what we have done to His Creation, and what He has done to restore us to Himself.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Psalms 119:9-16 ESV

This Psalmist sings about the excitement he has for the Words of God and the desire he has to memorize, meditate, and live life according to what he finds there. Is it possible to love the words of a book so much? Is the Creator God so spectacular that life can be found within the pages of what this God has plainly communicated? I can only ask, and plead that you see for yourself.

God’s Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds. You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring, better than red, ripe strawberries. Psalm 19:10 MSG

In Psalm 19 the author communicates how valuable and how desirable the Bible is to those that spend time exploring its depths. It is better than a diamond set between emeralds, meaning that the Word of God is more valuable than stacks of cash and even more beautiful than the most stunning jewelry. The author goes even further when he tells us that God’s Word is sweeter and more nourishing than even the most perfect fruit we could lay eyes on. When one goes to look at the original Hebrew for the translation “God’s Word is better” we find a Hebrew word that is used to communicate “Desire” in the most raw and personal way. What is it that you desire most in life? Money, Sex, Relationships, Treasure, Power, or Fame? Whatever you desire the Psalmist is saying that God’s Word is better, God’s Word is more fulfilling, and that God’s Word is more than all you could ever want. This song writer is saying that he would give up wealth, fame, luxury for the words of God. Will you take time to see what this book has to say? Could it really be that awesome? Would you set your preconceptions aside to read it for yourself?

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 ESV

If there was something that God did not know, or if there was something that God needed to learn then He would no longer be God. As Creator of everything including the laws of nature God is Awesome. Everything he tells us is Awesome. He has perfect wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. His knowledge of human nature is perfect, and His knowledge of you, my friend, is perfect. Seek him out for wisdom. Read his word, the Bible, for understanding. Trust me you will be amazed at the content and depth of His Words.

Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! Hebrews 12:25 NLT

In the narrative of the Bible, God’s Words, He tells us that men and women from the beginning have been in rebellion refusing to listen, or be involved with God. We have broken His laws and have lied, stolen from, and killed our brothers and sisters. Our very nature wants to run and hide from the Bible, because it is God’s Word. Jesus, who is God in the flesh, has told us that he came to earth to seek and save the lost. I am the lost and in need of saving. Jesus is my salvation and it is his words that have been communicated in this collection of 66 books, written over a period of 2,000 years. The Author of Hebrews warns us to not reject these words from Heaven, from Jesus, who is God the Creator. The Bible is Awesome, because its author is awesome. Please take some time to see what God himself wants to say to you.

Romans 1:8 | Faith Recognized

What kind of Christianity do you practice? Freewheeling anything goes or rigid rules driven judgements? Critics of Christianity paint Christians as cold judgmental rule keeping hypocrites and those that want Christianity portrayed in a positive light make Christianity out to be a love anything and everyone unjudgmental religion. Do either of those descriptions define Christianity for you? Reality is always more complicated than the caricature. If Christians should ever be painted in any light it should be as people of faith. People who trust God above all else.

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. Romans 1:8 ESV

Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome tells them that their faith is recognized all over the world. This church these Christians are recognized by their faith. What is the church in American recognized by? I am not one to travel the world so I can’t answer that question. I might guess American Christians are recognized as wealthy. If nothing else is true then Christians in America are generous. I think Christians are recognized for being political, for being worshipful, but would anyone say the Church is known for being faithful?

6 And [Abraham] believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6 ESV

God recognized Abraham, the father of faith, as faithful. Abraham simply trusted that God. Nothing is simple but the truth here is that Abraham has faith in God. We know that God’s love for Abraham and Abraham’s love for God is based on faith alone because this is hundreds of years before Moses and the Ten Commandments. Abraham had no rules or judgements to follow. He had only his relationship with God.

Many people view the God of Abraham’s time, the Old Testament, as a God of laws, wrath and judgements. Critics claim this God is not worthy of following. Yet Abraham found the God of the Old Testament as a trustworthy and faithful God. Yes, the Ten Commandments were given in the Old Testament and the law has its place speaking to us what is right and what is wrong but all of the Heroes of faith loved God and trusted him because of faith. They did not follow rules to follow rules. They listened to God and responded to him with humility and thankfulness.

Many others point to the God of the New Testament and say this is a God of love that approves of whatever we may want to do. Rules and laws have no meaning because God does not judge. This view of God is not faith. This is ignorance and it is deadly. Faith is a relationship with God the creator. Faith is a desire to follow the law because God promised that doing so, even when hard, would result in life. To obey and submit to Jesus is an act of faith and trust. Here is my prayer I have prayed many times and it is a reflection of what is in my heart. “Father, I want to live my way and according to what I see fit but God I will give up everything to follow you. I trust you even over my own heart. Help me be who you created me to be. Forgive me of my sins. I need you for life here and now but even more I need you for the life that is to come. Thank you, Jesus”.

17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17 ESV

I know the law, but I do not live by the law. I know God therefore I live by faith trusting him with both the small every day issues and the big major events. God is faithful. I pray that I would be known by my faith because that faith comes from God and it is a reflection of him.

Acts 2:22 | Message and Mission

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If the message from God to humankind is the good news of the Gospel that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and then is now raised to life then the mission is that each of us at some point in our short lives would repent of sins and be baptized to receive the forgiveness and the relationship that Jesus has secured with his death, burial, and resurrection.

The message is trustworthy. Jesus did not come with mere words. He came with power and authority. Not power and authority like the kind that men crave. He came with power to submit to the Father. He came with power to be humble seeking the best for his creation. And he came with power to serve. The people recognized the authority of Jesus and his message but how?

28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:28-29 ESV

What about his words made the message trustworthy and astonishing? If I came and told you that God has spoken to me… that I held the way to be reconciled to God you should rightly question my sanity and my trustworthiness. So what makes Jesus different that he is trustworthy?

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— Acts 2:22 ESV

God punctuated the words that Jesus spoke with “mighty works and wonders and signs”. Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, controlled the elements, walked on water, and feed thousands. Peter when preaching the message above notes that the audience listening to him has seen these signs. They were there first hand. Paul when he was on trial notes that none of this was done in a corner but plainly visible across the countryside.

26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. Acts 26:26 ESV

While the first-hand witnesses are not available to attest and confirm what Jesus said and did these thousands of years later their words and their accounts have been written and captured unchanged. God does not need to proclaim a new message or new revelation because the one that Jesus lived is available in the written form. I can boldly tell others about the good news that Jesus died, was buried, and is now risen (without being called crazy) because I have the written first-hand account of what happened. If you don’t believe me then you also can read and make a judgment for yourself. The Bible is one of the most common printed books in history because the message is recognized as powerful and trustworthy.

The message of Jesus is still going. Thousands of years after the fact people know who he is and believe in his words as well as the mighty works and signs. So, what of the mission? What is the purpose of all this Jesus talk? What is it that Jesus sought to accomplish?

The mission is to make people happy? No, not the mission because people hated him so much they killed him as a common criminal. Hardship, depression, and sadness were left untouched for the moment.

The mission is a political order? No, not the mission. The disciples his own followers wanted him to kick Rome out of Jerusalem. Judas believed in that future so much that when he realized Jesus was not going to make it happen he sold Jesus out for money. Jesus left oppressive governments untouched for the moment.

The mission is social justice? No, not the mission. Jesus an innocent died unjustly at the hands of corruption. Jesus did not free slaves or reform criminal justice and he did not end hunger, sickness, or war. He left the curse, the result, of our sin upon the world untouched for the moment.

What then did Jesus accomplish? What is the mission? Peter answers that when he speaks at the dawn of the church relaying what God’s spirit put on his heart.

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:37-39 ESV

The message of Jesus is forgiveness and relationship with the creator God. The mission of Jesus is to see that we his children respond to what he accomplished. Repent, turn away, from rebellion and selfishness. Turn toward God acknowledging the authority that he holds because of his trustworthy words and actions and you will be given the gift of restoration and fellowship with him established through the Holy Spirit. Count on it as a promise for his mission will be accomplished and this moment of grace from God to all who accept him is on target.

Acts 1:4-5 |A Heart of Stone No More

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Religion is man striving and working to secure the favor of God. Live this kind of life, go to this kind of church, give money to the poor, follow the ten commandments… I could write for days all of the things people must do in the name of religion. Religion even carries a dark undertone when used to oppress those that do not follow the rules. It is an ugly business when one group to curry favor with the gods will crush another group who follows different rules for life and becomes offensive to those around them. Beyond this ugliness religion also has a major problem. How does one know when they have done enough or the sacrifice outweighs the guilt before god? I can’t even keep a new year resolution more than 60 seconds how do I know God will accept me and the life I have lived?

The answer is we don’t and so I hear from people all the time. “I hope my good is good enough” or “God knows I have done my best he will not hold it against me”. The problem is that these attitudes are subjective wishful thinking of people who have not spent enough time pondering this most important mystery.

God however knows that religion is not going to save anyone. We should understand that also.

In the days of old God set up an elaborate system of laws that the Nation state of Israel agreed to live under. These laws included religious observances that included ways to ask forgiveness for sins against God and neighbors. The people of Israel did not live up to the laws of that state very well and so after many generations of rebellion God dispersed the people all over the known world. This was a very violent dispersal in a very violent world. Yet even in this dark time God continued to reveal a plan and a promise that would impact the future we current live in.

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 ESV

God through his prophet told the people that his plan was to give his people a new heart and a new spirit. This promise is fulfilled at the conclusion of the earthly ministry of Jesus. After Jesus was raised alive from the dead one of the last times he physically met with the disciples he asked them to wait what turned out to be a few short days for the promised Holy Spirit. The new spirit would be poured out generously to those who would chase after Christ.

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 ESV

So what does this new Holy Spirit have to do with Religion? What does the Holy Spirit an a new heart have to do with our hope that we have been good enough? The Holy Spirit is the fruit of the salvation that Jesus secured on the Cross. Without the Christ and the Holy Spirit living in me the gulf between God and man stands impassable. I can’t be good enough. So, God destroys the hard heart of religion and frees us to stand before him has rightful children. We stand before our heavenly father in full rights of relationship. Our communion takes place through the ministry of this new spirit that God has poured out on those who call on his name in Jesus.

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV

The Holy Spirit is the promised heart and down payment of a guarantee. Not a hope not a work to be good but a guarantee that our relationship with God is permanently restored and one day, come soon Jesus my savior, I will be fully in possession of God’s presence in heaven to give him Glory for all eternity. Don’t live life with a cold religious doubt eating your soul. Submit now. Surrender now. Seek salvation now from Christ who has the authority to give you a new transformational heart of living breathing grace by way of the Holy Spirit.

Psalms 33:15 | Complete Perfection

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What is the greatest thing you have ever created? It is an interesting question because there are so many ways to answer the question. I am not an artisan or an engineer so my physical creations are not all that great. I am happy with some of the things I have built, but great is not a word I would use. I like to write but those creations are a work in progress. My children are a great creation, the greatest, but biology is more involved in that creation than the work of my mind and hands. Oddly what does jump out as an answer is one of the early software development efforts I was assigned. I was given a task to modify the check printing software of the company to be able to print checks in French Canadian. Building logic to write out any number like “one hundred fifty-two” in French with all the nuance of that language on the payment line was something I was excited to create.

How does God answer this question about the greatest thing you have ever created? Would he pick a particular animal? What galaxy or star would be his greatest? What about the unseen beauty of the structure of DNA or the atomic level? My creation was just a replication of something that already existed. God creates from nothing out of nothing and the amazing functionality and beauty of his creation is a depth I can’t express.

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. Genesis 1:24 ESV

My software creation was confirming to an expected standard using an existing tool. Check writing has fixed rules of right and wrong. God on the other hand speaks animals into creation and he created the rules of right and wrong at the same time while using no tools other than his mighty word. God’s creation is not only perfect but consistent according to his plans for his creation.

So, what is God’s greatest Creation? For a being that is perfect I would think that whatever was planned first is the greatest. God tells us what was planned first from the very start.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1:15-16 ESV

Paul in this verse is talking about Jesus. Jesus is the firstborn and through him God creates everything. More than that God also uses this greatest creation to reconcile mankind unto himself. What we broke about the creation with our free will already had a fix in place. It is amazing that God knew in advance that Jesus would be needed to complete creation and so he was created first. Jesus is the greatest creation and he is the completion of creation.

My awesome software creation is broken but I had no idea. My changes were ultimately a waste of time. Only after I was complete did I realize that it would have been acceptable to simply place the number “152” on the payment line. The tables and lines of code I had in place with all the French words and sequences were not even needed. Worse yet 20 years later that code is obsolete and not even being used anymore.

Jesus suffers no such waste. His death on the cross completes the creation plan with the rules of our being and through him we have purpose. God has set right and wrong in our being. God is actively involved in all our lives from the beginning of time to the end time.

13 The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; 14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, 15 he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. Psalms 33:13-15 ESV

God knows everything. He knows our hearts. He knows our selfishness. He knows our every thought. The Palmist writes he “fashions the hearts” of us all. The Palmist also writes that our every day is known by God.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalms 139:14;16 ESV

He has formed you. He has involved himself in the life he has given. He has created the perfect reconciliation and the perfect purpose for life if we surrender it all back to him. Thank him as Father, Creator, and King. Give him all that is his to begin with. Christ only always.

1 Samuel 8:5 | Not my President

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Leadership is a valued focus of the world we live in. Books on leadership are endlessly published. At the university level there are entire classes focused on leadership. The Kindergarten teacher recommended my daughter be held back not because she was deficient in the core academic competencies but because she was immature and lacked leadership skills. We spend billions every four years to pick a leader for the country.

In the Old Testament God laid out a very strange culture and government for the nation of Israel. It was a culture that was an anti-leadership program. The government was decentralized where families and communities lived their lives free of a King. As needed the Israelite life relied on judges. These judges were not voted into office. They did not come from prescribed class or family. Sometimes they were male and sometimes female. They were priests and they were average joes. Judges were chosen by God according to his will as they were needed. They were imperfect people with all their own strengths and weaknesses. Notable judges like Samson was hardly a model citizen. Deborah a woman. Gideon came from a small insignificant family. And Samuel served as priest as well as a judge. These men and women came and went. No family dynasties. No privilege was created to carry over into succeeding generations. This type of non government is outside of human nature and must have been very difficult for the populace to accept.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 1 Samuel 8:4-5 ESV

This was not the first time the people wanted to install a king. Gideon had been so successful as a judge that the people tried to make him a king. They were desperate to install a family dynasty to rule over them.

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Judges 8:22 ESV

It seems so very strange. But is it? History class told me that Americans wanted to make George Washington a king and he refused. Look at modern government today. If we had polling numbers how big would the percentage be that would want President Obama to be King and rule for the rest of his life? Or how many people would want President Trump to set up a kingship with his children to rule over us into the future? I bet those percentages would be more than expected. The desire I think is born out of insecurity.

19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:19-20 ESV

So why did Israel not have a King like “all the nations” around them? Both Gideon and Samuel answer that question and it is an answer that all of us living even today should take to heart. The reasons they provide apply just as directly to how we live our life and how we approach the world, church, and even our own governments.

23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” Judges 8:22-23 ESV

6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 1 Samuel 8:6-7 ESV

God organized the government into Judges because He is the King. God is the only King. The people did not need a king to rule them or to fight their battles. They had access to the very creator of the universe. When we cry out for leaders to rule over us (take ear evangelicals that are desperate for Trump to save Christianity from a liberal society! Take ear those who are woke and want government to lead society into the promised land of perfect morality and reparations!) we are rejecting the King of Kings. We are rejecting the true ruler of all things. We are clamoring for a god made in our own image and it is an evil selfish image. Salvation will not be found in books on leadership or the people who wrote them. Salvation will not be found in wall street or the mega church. Salvation will not be found in Republicans or Democrats. Salvation and true leadership will only be found in God through Jesus the King of Kings.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 ESV

The Easter Goat

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

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

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

No Hell = No Consequence

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

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

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

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

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

No Hell = God will be Mocked

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

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

No Hell = No need for Jesus

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

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

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

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

1 Samuel 2:25 | Intercede for Me

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I have made mistakes and hurt people. I cringe when some of those events come to mind. What happens when make mistakes are made that reach the court system? The idea of getting wrapped up in court or dealing with police would cause me enough stress that panic attacks would not be far behind. So when I read news reports like the recent one that an elderly nun, Sister Catherine Rose, while in court dealing with a lawsuit collapsed and died I immediately think of the frustration and the anxiety of that situation contributed to this sad news. The court case is regarding a property dispute in that the nuns wanted to sell their property to a particular individual but Katy Perry, the famed pop star, also wanted to purchase the property. Before fighting for my rights in anything when it comes to judgment of a court I would want to take measure of the cost and make sure I was well represented. This nun spent her last moments in court and her death is now sadly linked with Katy Perry and Perry must live with the result. As intimidating as man-made laws and courts might be I have a greater fear and that is standing before the God of Creation and being left to represent myself on my own merits.

Eli a priest of God for the nation of Israel had a problem with his sons. His evil sons were breaking laws of men and God for their own selfish gain. These sons were abusing the people they should have been serving. Eli pointed out a problem and truth that they refused to understand.

25 If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” 1 Samuel 2:25a ESV

Eli’s question is profound. We have arbiters, mediators, and peace makers who might broker restitution between men but who is qualified and who is strong enough to broker reconciliation between God and man? Eli’s protégé Samuel years later answers the question that Eli proposed. Samuel had become the priest and leader of Israel when the rebellious people came to him seeking God’s mercy.

5 Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah. 1 Samuel 7:5-6 NIV

Eli asked who could intercede between man and God. Samuel answers the question with action. As priest and leader between the people and God he could intercede and he could bridge that gap. Samuel is a great defense attorney navigating the perfect justice of God. Samuel tapped into God’s mercy just as Moses had done generations before.

7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. Numbers 21:7 ESV

This kind of intercessory prayer seems to have been lost in the generations between Moses and Samuel. Eli the previous priest asked the question, but had no answer and it does not appear that he knew how to intercede for even his own children. God knowing that people are limited put into motion a plan to create the perfect unlimited priest. A priest that would not die or be limited by space and time. God provided for mankind a priest that could be perfect representation to all people at all moments.

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

Jesus always lives, Jesus continues to live making intercession for anyone ready to accept his gift. Notice when Moses and Samuel interceded for the people it was an act that started by the people asking for help and submitting to the authority that Moses and Samuel represented. Jesus does not just represent that authority. He is that authority and he ready to intercede for anyone who calls on his name and that is God’s perfect gift to creation.

1 Samuel 2:12 | Worthless Apart from God


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Is there such a thing as a worthless person? I can think of a few professions that are worthless like drug dealer and television pundit. But to call an individual worthless is hard because we are all created in God’s image. We all have worth even drug dealers and television talking heads have families that need them and love them. Yet the word of God unceremoniously tells me that there are people who are truly worthless.

12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. 1 Samuel 2:12 ESV

These sons of Eli were the active priests serving in God’s presence for sacrifices being brought by the Israelites. God calls these men worthless. They were not worthless because they were born outside of a privileged cast. They were not worthless because they were the “wrong” ethnic group, culture, or skin color. To call anyone worthless because of these temporal and earthly reasons would be a sin against a fellow human. These men are worthless in their service to God and his laws. And that is the danger we all face. That God our creator might call us worthless because of our sins and rebellion against what God has called true. They are a warning to the reader. What is worthless is ultimately destroyed by fire.

But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. Hebrews 6:8 ESV

Eli’s sons were evil because they abused their power over the people to enrich themselves. In the older King James, the translation calls Eli’s sons בְּלִיַּעַל (Belial or bel·e·yah’·al) which means worthless, lawless, or wicked. Eli’s sons were much more than worthless they were worthless servants of Satan who is the father of worthlessness.

12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord. 1 Samuel 2:12 KJV

Worth is defined as something desirable and useful. From God’s perspective if we are pursuing our own selfish desires we are not of worth. If we are following our own laws made by our selfish desires then we are not of worth. They are worthless to God because they do not believe in Him. Paul uses the word Belial to contrast the life lived apart from Christ. Righteousness vs lawlessness. Light vs darkness. Believer in Christ vs unbeliever. There is no middle ground.

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 ESV

Jesus is perfectly worthy because he is unselfish even unto death. Jesus is of perfect worth because he perfectly fulfilled the laws of God. Because of Christ and his gift, we have an opportunity to be reconciled and shed the worthlessness nature of our sins. We can avoid the death that comes to worthless men like Eli’s sons. We can find life in Christ by giving ourselves to him and his perfect worth.

38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39 ESV