Sunday, July 9, 2017

Inside Jesus' Relationships

Jesus' relationship with the large crowds that followed him

Jesus hung around the large crowds that followed him. Jesus had compassion for them, fed them, healed their sick, and taught them.¹

Jesus' relationship with the twelve apostles

Jesus gathered with the twelve apostles in a secluded place to rest (Mark 6:30-32). Jesus ate his last meal and ushered in the New Covenant with the twelve apostles (Mat. 26:20, 26-30; Mark 14:12, 17, 22-26; ). Jesus remained with the twelve until he was taken by a large crowd that was sent by the chief priests, and elders (Mat. 26:36, 45-47).

Jesus' more intimate relationship with Peter, James, and John

Jesus had a closer relationship with Peter, James, and John than he did with the other apostles. He took them up with him to a mountain, and they saw Jesus transfigured; they saw the vision; and heard the voice out of the clouds (Mat. 17:1-9). He took Peter, James, and John with him to pray before being turned over to the chief priest and elders (Mat. 26:36-39; Mark 14:32-42).

Jesus' closest friend, the Apostle John

Of Jesus' apostles, and contemporaries, John had the most intimate relationship with Jesus. It was John who leaned on Jesus' chest, and asked who it was that would betray him (John 13:23-25). It was John to whom Jesus gave the responsibility of taking care of his mother (John 19:26-27).² It was John who ran to the tomb first and stooped in to see only Jesus' garments, and facecloth (John 20:1-10).

Jesus' most intimate relationship of all with God the Father

Jesus most intimate relationship with the Father, is a mystery. The Father is revealed only in and through Jesus. Jesus said, "no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him (Mat. 11:27). Jesus said to Thomas, " I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; from now on you know him, and have seen him" (John 14:6-7). Phillip then asked Jesus' to show him, and the other apostles the Father. Jesus replied, "He who has seen me, has seen the Father. Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? (John 14:9-10). 

Jesus told the Jews, "I and the Father are one" and "the Father is in me, and I in the Father" (John 10:30, 38).   

Eternal life is about relationship. It's knowing the only true God, and Jesus the Christ (John 17:3). The good news is that God in Christ has embraced us all, and his desire is to share his life with us forevermore. 

¹In one account Jesus fed over five thousand men, women, and children (Mat. 14:13-21; Mark 6:33-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14); in another instance over four thousand men, women and children. Some, if not all of the crowd, stayed with Jesus three days (Mat. 15:29-38; Mark 8:1-9). The number three is significant, and seems to indicate a fulfillment or completion. Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, before being vomited out to complete his mission (Jonah 1:17; 2:10). Jesus prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was turned over to the high priest and falsely accused (Mat. 26:36-68). Jesus was in the heart of the tomb for three days, and three nights before being raised to new life (Mat. 12:40). Most importantly, God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

²Some argue it's someone other than the Apostle John, but that argument is without merit.   

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Irresistible God

Brad is the son-in-law of my next door neighbor, and  he cuts my neighbor's grass. For the last two, or three years, Brad has been cutting the grass at the margin of my property. He cuts a row of grass with his zero-turn lawn mower as he drives past my house to the corner of the street, and then cuts another row of grass on his return to my neighbor's house.  I asked Brad if my neighbor was paying him to cut my grass. He laughed. and said, he had to go past my house to cut the grass on the corner of the street, so it wasn't a big deal. But this time Brad has gone too far. He's gone out of his way to cut the grass along the side of my house about three hundred feet in one direction, and then another three hundred feet back! No doubt Brad is a darn good businessman. He's made himself very easy to hire; but isn't there something more going on? Isn't this God? Knowingly or unknowingly, isn't Brad participating in the life of Christ? Quoting the prophet Joel, the apostle Peter tells us that in the last days, God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh (Acts 2:17). Kindness, goodness, and love, are virtues that don't exist outside of God.

How does God do it? God has found a way to us in the person of Jesus, the Christ. He has pulled us into himself. In the incarnation (in flesh), and the atonement (at-one-ment), God has made himself one with us. God hasn't left us alone. God exists in the world. He lives in people, not in buildings (Acts 7:48;17:24; Acts 25:19; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; Gal. 2:20). We are a new creation in Christ Jesus! Yes, the good news is that the whole creation has been made new! Obviously, it hasn't been fully manifested, but Jesus said, "It is finished! (John 19:28-30). In saying, it is finished, Jesus has fulfilled the Scriptures. He has filled life to the full! and he has destroyed death (John 10:10; 11:25-26). So when we see the virtues of God, we're seeing the kingdom of God being manifested on earth as it is in heaven. We're seeing Jesus, living his life, by grace, in the lives of God's children, human beings, and brothers and sisters of Jesus (Acts 17:28-29).  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Jesus, Our Perfect Prayer

Jesus himself is the embodiment of perfect prayer. He is both our High Priest, and the Lamb without blemish; the sinless Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). When Isaac asked his father, Abraham, "Where is the lamb for the offering?" Father Abraham proclaimed, "God will provide for himself the lamb for the offering (Gen. 22:7-8), and he has. You see "Before Abraham was, I am," said Jesus (John 8:58).

Jesus has perfect faith, and perfect obedience. It's not enough to say that he is God and man. No, he in himself, is the union of God and humankind, and therefore is a perfect prayer. He is perfect in word, because he is the Living Word (John 1:1-4, 14). He is perfect in truth, because he himself is Truth (John 14:6), and nothing but living words, and life-giving truth proceed from him. He is perfect in deed, fully obedient to the Father, and to his calling, on our behalf.

We pray because we are united to God in Christ.We join in the life of Christ. Prayer is our participation in the life of Christ. We give thanks. We make petition. We meditate, and listen; but it doesn't stop there. Our participation is our involvement, by grace, in the life of God, through Christ. Prayer happens in our work, and in our hobbies. Prayer happens in our re-creation. We celebrate our union, and we partake of communion with God, in Christ, all by his grace. Prayer, is our joyous celebration of our union with God, in Christ Jesus.  

Friday, February 10, 2017

Man the Image, and Glory of God

There is union, and unity within the human race. Not only did God make us in his image, and likeness, after the God kind (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6), but Jesus himself said, "In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you (John 14:20 NASB).

God has incorporated himself into us, and through him, we have been intertwined into one another. God is an us being (Gen. 1:26), and in the person of Christ Jesus, he has included humanity in his "usness."

We have not been left out, or left alone to go it alone. We are all included in the three-person being of God - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul wrote, "For in him we live, and move, and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are his children.' Being then the children of God..." (Acts 17:28-29). Paul was not speaking to believing Christians, but to idol worshipers - people who worshiped many gods, and did not know the three-person-True- God. Paul goes on to tell these people, that they should change their mind about who they worship, and how they worship. We are called to do the same thing - to acknowledge what's already true and to live in that reality.  

Watch my latest video from my You Tube channel.

Friday, September 9, 2016

They Shall Not Hurt Nor Destroy In All My Holy Mountain

September 11, 2001, I'm live on the scene in New York City. It's a cool, crisp day with clear skies. It's the second day on my new job. I'm reporting for training.  I'm headed to Fifteenth Street and Eighth Avenue; that's where our training facility is. I've been hired to oversee the investment services for two bank branches of a large well known bank in New York.

It's about 8:30 am. I'm just sitting down to read the newspaper after a long commute from Long Island by train. A few minutes later someone yells, "A plane crashed into the World Trade Center!"

Those of us who are sitting down relaxing, jump up and run to the windows. We're in a high-rise office building with large glass windows. I can see lots of dark smoke coming from one of the towers. There's a large screen TV in the room, and it's turned on to CNBC. The CNBC anchors are reporting on the story. We hear them say that it was the North Tower that was struck, and speculation begins.

Suddenly, someone yells, "Another plane!"

We look on with horror as a commercial jet emerges from the sky, and roars toward the South Tower! Someone yells out, "No!"

Within seconds a huge fireball erupts from the explosion, as the jet disintegrates. 

It's quiet.

Were the events on 9/11 the wrath of God being poured out on sinners? No, I don't believe so. This was man living outside of his true image in Christ. This is man being duped! This is the human race not understanding what God has done in Christ - how God has taken all evil, hatred, perversion, and sin upon himself, taking it to the grave, and destroying it: and how we have been united with him dying to the old life of violence, and rising to the new life of peace, and love.

At times, throughout Scripture, we see the wrath of God displayed in his love. God's love opposes all evil, He opposes everything, and everyone who is bent on hurting, and destroying. The prophet Isaiah records,

"They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain (Isa. 11:9; 65:25). 

The book of Genesis tells us that God destroyed the earth with a flood, because humankind had perverted the earth with violence.

Now the earth was corrupt [destroy, ruin, decay, spoil, pervert] in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence [wrong, cruelty, injustice]. 12 God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.

13 Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.

17 Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you; (Gen. 6:11-13, 17-18).

When the disciples of Jesus asked him what will be the sign of his coming, and of the end of the age, he said his second coming will be just like the days of Noah.

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 For the coming of the Son of Man [his return] will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be (Mat. 24:36-39).  

The Apostle Paul writes:

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (Rom. 12:9). 

The Apostle Peter tells us:

"Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:3-7).

The Apostle John writes:

" And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18).

God's love is expressed in his anger toward all evil, violence, and everything that opposes his love. God is recreating all things in Christ Jesus.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 8 But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:1-5, 8).

God is love, and his wrath is included in his love. He will not let anything hurt or destroy. His love opposes violence and evil. The first things passed away, including the nature in man that exhibited violence, and corruption. God is recreating humanity in Christ Jesus.

God's fervent anger, his wrath, is against all evil. He is against anything that would oppose the intimacy and union that he has with us in Christ Jesus. Jesus has embraced the wrath of man, and the wrath of God so as to destroy sin and death. We are awaiting the full manifestation of the kingdom of God, and his love for humanity, on earth. As the prophet Isaiah records God saying,

"They shall not hurt, nor destroy in all my holy mountain!"

Notes:   The underlined sections are my emphasis. Scripture references are New American Standard Bible (NASB). Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Bible: Holy, Inspired, and Inerrant or Just Another Book?

This post is part 2 of the series. To read part 1, use this link:

There are many hard sayings in the Bible, but does that prove that there are errors in the Bible? Because we read something in the Bible that doesn't fit into our paradigm, does that mean it's not true? Additionally, how can we know if the words written in the Bible were accurately preserved? After all, we can only guess as to when the New Testament was written, and we argue about who the authors are.

Jesus said, "unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves." Afterward, many of his disciples turned from following him (John 6:53-63).

Jesus hard sayings didn't change the fact that he is the Messiah, the Christ. Neither do the hard sayings throughout the Bible change the fact that the Bible is holy, and inspired; the word of God that points us to the Living Word - Jesus, our Savior, Lord, and King.

Jesus thought fulfilling the Scriptures was important for his mission. Why would he be concerned about fulfilling the Scriptures if it was just another "uninspired" book?

Mat. 26:54 "How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (Scripture references are NASB and the underlined words are my emphasis).

Mark 1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 12:24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?"

Mark 14:49 "Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.”

Luke 4:21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 24:25-27 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;

John 13:18  I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’

Having a high Christology doesn't lessen the importance of Scripture; it makes it more important.

The apostle Paul believed all Scripture was inspired by God.

2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

Paul referred to the Scriptures when he told the story of Jesus.

1 Cor. 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

Paul asks, "What does the Scripture say?" (Romans 4:3; Gal. 4:30), because what the Scripture says is important.

The apostle Peter tells us that some will distort the Scriptures (or lessen its importance, saying it's uninspired).

2 Peter 3:16 as also in all his [Paul's] letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, [We've probably all been unintentionally guilty of distorting the Scriptures to fit into our own theological framework. Even the best theologians and scholars get it wrong.] as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

One final thought, if we don't believe that God can accurately preserve the Scriptures, how will we trust that God will raise us from the dead?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

My Ragamuffin Vegetables

My leftover 'ragamuffin' veggies. 

I recently reaped the remainder of my garden's spring harvest.  I grew beets, turnips, lettuce, radicchio, basil, and artichoke. I was a virgin at growing artichoke, and they didn't fare well through the wet and hot summer here in Kentucky. The other vegetables thrived, but a few were certainly not the most stout plants I've seen; however they were still edible.

As I placed some of the leftover vegetables in a bowl to wash them, I thought about when Jesus broke bread for the crowd that was following him. Jesus had been healing people of various diseases, and crowds of people followed him because of the miracles that they had witnessed. After multiplying a couple of pieces of fish, and five loaves of bread enough to feed the crowd, he said to his disciples, "Gather up the LEFTOVER [RAGAMUFFIN] FRAGMENTS so that nothing will be lost" (John 6:12 NASB throughout, last part, my emphasis).

Why was Jesus so concerned about leftover pieces of bread and fish?  The gospel writer John tells us that there were twelve baskets of leftovers - one for each of Jesus' disciples. So maybe Jesus was teaching his disciples to focus on others before themselves. We know that they were at times bickering about who among them was the greatest, and Jesus told them that the greatest is the one who is the servant of all.

But I believe the most important reason is found in what Jesus said. "For the [TRUE] Bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives LIFE TO THE WORLD [ragamuffins and all] (John 6:33). "This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should LOSE NOTHING, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the LIFE OF THE WORLD" (John 6:39-40, 51).

Heaven and earth is interwoven in the True Bread, Jesus. There are no fragments of bread [ragamuffin pieces] outside of the True Bread.

Yes God loves everyone that might be considered a 'ragamuffin,' a 'loser,' and the 'leftovers' of society.

We're all God's children - that's the reality, despite what we might believe of ourselves, or what others may think of us.