Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Lust of Jesus: "With Craving, Have I Craved This Passover"

Dear Friends, beloved of the Lord,

Jesus says, in Luke 22:15, “ I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you.” But actually, what Jesus says literally is—“with desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you,” or you could put it even more radically this way, “craving I have craved to eat this Passover” or even “with lust I have lusted to eat this Passover with you.”  In many places in both the greek and hebrew these words are interchangeable.  In fact, the word that Jesus uses here is the same used in the command “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.”
Today I went online and looked up craving in a handbook used by doctors called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness, the DMV-5.  I googled the word “craving” and I noticed that this books so important to doctors today, definitely “throws shade” on craving.  Craving is in the shadow, cast in a bad light.
Not so in the Bible.  Craving, lusting, coveting…these are actually positive things in the Bible.  Jesus craves.  Craving isn’t bad, it’s good, it’s only WHAT you crave, the OBJECT of desire that makes it bad.
Remember those three American soldiers on leave in France who thwarted that terrible attack?  Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos. Spencer Stone was napping on board the train, he was awakened by his friend Alek’s hand on his soldier, a man was coming down the train aisle with an AK-47.  The three were able to tackle the pin down the would be murderer and disarm him.
And the reason?  As Spencer Stone said, “we wanted to survive, we wanted our friends to live, the people on the train to live.” This is an example of wonderful desire, a wonderful craving, a lust that propelled these three men into instant action.
There are some philosophies that say that the thing is to avoid, immoderate desires, as long as you don’t desire anything too much you avoid sin.  The Bible disagrees.  It says go ahead and desire, covet, lust after something immoderately!

Jesus desires to eat the Passover feast with his friends immoderately!

The Bible tells us that the devil lusts after murder, that’s bad but the lust is not.  A man is not to lust after his neighbor’s wife, not because desire, even immoderate desire is bad but because of the object of that desire, wanting to take away maybe the only good thing that a guy has going in this world other than the Lord, his wife.

I have a confession, well, it’s really not a confession in the usual sense.  I love second hand smoke.  Farhad (my husband) loves it too.  Now we don’t smoke but we really really love the smell of cigarette smoke especially on cold winter days.  There is nothing wrong with this.  There is nothing wrong with craving cigarette smoke, what’s wrong is when we abuse tobacco, when we use it to comfort ourselves but as the Lakota and other native tribes knew, tobacco is a sacred plant.  There is nothing wrong with desiring to share perhaps the peace pipe, to seal the peace in this way.  We would be right to earnestly crave this!

Part 2,  Back to Our Text
What does Jesus crave so greatly?  He craves the Passover.  Why?  Because the food is awesome! Of course, there's more to it but let's pause here just to say: There is nothing wrong with craving a good meal with your friends!  In other part of the Bible the sons of God, yes, "the sons of God" crave the meat of the festival, nothing wrong with craving a good hamburger or any number of yummy things. This is a positive in the Bible!
But let’s go deeper.
What is Passover?  Answer:  It’s a remembrance; it’s remembering the Lord and who he is.
Exodus 13: 3 —Moses said to the people, "Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the LORD brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten.

Think of what it means to remember, to know the Lord…who he is,  so different than what we might imagine.  Think of the gods of death in Egypt, the gods of the old religions, gods who hate us, to whom we are annoyances… but that’s not God, the one God, the one who loves us, and he is faithful, and he enfaiths his Messiah.  Our God is not like all these others.  And he gives good gifts to his children
—-the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control

That’s what is at stake here, this is what Jesus covets.  He covets, he craves that the knowledge of God would cover the earth as the waters cover the seas. Jesus craves love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness..and a good meal too!— good food, friendship, amity, brotherly love.

Part 3, one more thing…

In our passage today Jesus says, “This is my body”  As Markus Barth pointed out, Jesus is answering the question traditionally posed by one of the children in the family at Passover.

That child might lift up the unleavened bread and ask, “What is this?” “What is the meaning of this non-fluffy bread!”  And the father would answer (and here of course I am paraphrasing quite freely)  “Well Son,  we left in haste, God did this thing so quickly, God freed us with an upraised right arm, and so on that night was no time to ferment, to leaven, the bread. This is the meaning, my son.”  To shorten it down to it’s essence, the boy asks, “What is this?”  and the Papa replies: “This is the Exodus”

Jesus too answers this unstated question, but in a new way.  He says “This is my body.” In other words, “What is the meaning of this?” And Jesus answering as a teacher replies, “This is the Exodus, not the Exodus out of Egypt but rather, the Exodus at Jerusalem.”  The way out, the greater Exodus is his dead body “hanging on a tree”; it is  us dying to sin. The great Exodus at Jerusalem is the way out for both Jews and Gentiles.  It is him carrying away our sins, it’s him defeating death.  When we celebrate communion we are remembering all these things.  We are remembering the eternal covenant of Isaiah 55 and 53, the gift of faith,  “the just my slave,  will make many just.”

“With craving he has craved the Passover, " As Isaiah 26 tells us:
"Yes Lord, in the path of your judgments we waited you for your name and for your remembrance is the desire the lust of our soul with my soul I crave for you in the night yes with my spirit with me I diligently seek you for when you judgment are in the earth the inhabitants of the earth learn what is right to to make the wrong right."

Today as I went to Stillwater, I listened to MPR.  The guest, the author of The Sixth Extinction was sighing over the death of the bees, so many birds, frogs…as well she might.  Many sighs, tears and work are in order.  The host, Kerry Miller, talked about all the creatures that had gone extinct, creatures that she had never seen and would never see…whole species... “winking out.” But I would like to add something… there are whole peoples that are "winking out." Governments have destroyed people groups off the face of the earth. The very builders of America, the descendants of slaves are not reproducing themselves.  You need an average of two children to reproduce yourself but black people, those who built America with their sweat and tears and blood are “winking out.” And not just this, the honor and dignity, the last remnants of the freedom of man, all these things are winking out all over the earth.

And yet, we do not despair.  Far from it!  The good news is, this “winking out” of the light has no future, death has no future.  Jesus is our "bully boy" as they used to say (like in the 1890's!)...remember those photos of Winston Churchill, sticking out his lower lip, determined and stubborn, “never surrender!” Our king of kings...he sticks out his lower lip. He is alive and he desires the passover.  He craves all that is right; he craves with an immoderate, over the top craving, life, freedom, joy peace…  and he will get it.  It is a done deal.  And so, in Jesus, life is our inheritance. We have got it in the bag. The right— the righting of all that is so wrong is our inheritance, the knowledge of the Lord and his remembrance is our possession in the Lord Jesus...he is our friend and our savior... Holy God.
So we look to Jesus and we desire, we DESIRE, the knowledge of the Lord, we DESIRE and CRAVE hamburgers, feasts, the full meal communion, the little meal communion; we covet life! —and you know what? One more thing. We will fight for it.
We will fight them on the beaches, the hills, the fields, we will never surrender, to quote that other  bully boy, Winston…and even if we are thrown back that just makes the glory greater…and we will continue, we will keep on..and we will be saved,
because the forces of THE new world, the world that is from heaven but FOR this earth will come to our aid, “heaven will reel and rock” and God will come down (to quote the Psalm) Yes, He and all His angels, He will come and save us at just the right time.  Friends, the day is ours!, because the day star  is ours.  Even now we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Luke 8:1-21 Community Bible Study

Luke 8:1-21 Ecumenical Bible Study

Points of Interest:  Notice that both men and women follow Jesus vss 2-3

In verse 3, the women “ministered” to Jesus.  In the original language, Greek, this word come from diakonos.  In Acts 7, the apostles chose seven deacons, one of whom was Stephen.

1)What is the role of women in this chapter?

2)Why do you think Jesus not call women to ministry in the same way as he had called the twelve?

Let’s go on in the chapter, Jesus now tells the parable of the seeds. 

Points of Interest: Look in the Old Testament to Isaiah 55, the word of God is compared to a a seed.  Jesus is alluding to this place in the Bible when he tells his parable.

Look also at Isaiah 6, Jesus quotes this passage when he is explaining to his disciples about the parable. In Isaiah 6 God hardens the peoples’ hearts until a certain time.  Our schedules are not the Lord’s schedule.  He is never early but he is never late.  To Abraham and Sarah, who wanted a baby God may have appeared late, but we see that Isaac was given at just the right time.  Not only did Abraham and Sarah receive a child, they also learned about God who does what is impossible. 

3)Why does Jesus tell this parable? see vs. 10

4)This parable and its explanation is a comfort to the disciples.  Why do you think it might console them?

Let’s go to the Jesus speaking about his mother and brothers

Point of Interest: It seems that Jesus’ mother and brothers do not believe in Jesus at this point (see Mark 3:21).  They want to take him away because they think he is crazy.


Who does Jesus call is Mother and brothers?  Why does he not call them “family”? 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Revelation 15, Song of the Lamb (Sermon)

Dear Friends, beloved of the Lord,

  “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire and them that gotten victory over the beast and over his image and over his mark... standing by the sea of glass...singing”.  I want to pause a moment because you see, this is the Exodus.  The Israelites were led out of Egypt, through the sea and they stood on the far side of the Red Sea and they sang. So it is with the people of God here in Revelation 15.  Only we will have an even greater Exodus.  Our triumph will be even greater.  How so?  Because even in our suffering, even in our deaths, we will win the battle.
What do I mean by this? Do you remember Corrie Ten Boom?  I have spoken of her before.  She and her family loved the Jewish people, and during WWII hid them and helped them. The Ten Boom family was put into prison and then into the camps.  Corrie survived and went throughout the world preaching the good news and teaching wise things to the churches.  Once she told the following story: "When I was a little girl, "I went to my father and said, 
"Daddy, I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ." 
"Tell me," said Father, “When you take a train trip to Amsterdam, 
when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?"
"No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train."
"That is right," my father said, "and so it is with God's strength. 
Our Father in Heaven knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ.  He will supply all you need – just in time…"

They say, when it comes to suffering, “every man has his breaking point.”  I have a friend from Iran.  He is a convert to Jesus and by law if he were to go back to Iran he could be imprisoned. He cannot help but wonder from time to time how he would do.  Would he give in to the pressure?  Would he be able to withstand torture without denying Jesus?   I am sure we have all had thoughts like these.  But the Bible gives us a new thought.  “Yes,” it says, “every man has his breaking point, but you are not everybody.”   The same strength that Jesus was given in the Garden and on the cross, the same strength and power that raised him from the dead (faith, Acts 13) will be given to you and you will have the victory.  You are not everybody. Jesus says, “Fear not little flock,” fear not even through the valley of the shadow of death,” for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Now let’s go on in  the chapter:  The saints are singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb, “Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God the Almighty, just and true are your ways, king of the nations...”  Let’s just pause here and consider that phrase, the song of the Lamb.
It’s seems like a small detail but it turns out to be very important.   So often we have something like the following picture in our minds of how it went in heaven before Jesus came to earth, “O Father,” the Son says, “please let me go down to earth and save these totally non-deserving people, let me die on a cross for them, and soak up all your wrath on them...take it to myself that they might saved!”  And the Father’s grumbling and reluctant reply, “Well...if you really want to...sigh”
 But this is a false picture.  The Father is not reluctant about saving us.   It was his great work to save the world.  The Father sings with delight over what he has done in Jesus.   The Lamb has a song to praise the work of the Father.
Sometimes we think of our Father in heaven and we identify our fathers with him. Some fathers were grumpy and cruel and so we think the Father is grumpy and cruel too.  But this is wrong.  The Father is not who we think he is.  His thoughts are as high above our thoughts as the heavens are above the earth.  Why because his thoughts are so filled with mercy and faith. (Isaiah 55:3)

Now let’s go on and see one more beautiful thing here.  “Great and wonderful are thy deeds O Lord God the Almighty just and true are thy ways.  Who shall not fear and glorify thy name, O Lord?  For thou alone art holy, all nations shall come and worship thee because thy righteous acts will be revealed.”
 I want to hight light this last sentence: All the nations will come and worship you because thy righteous acts will be revealed

This is very surprising.  When John writes of the nations, he is talking about the “ethnicities.”  He is talking about the various ethnicities of the Roman empire who were hounding the Christians. He is talking about the persecutors.  And yet, “all...will come and worship you.”  How do we understand this?

 Think of it this way: God is unchanging.  It is a great heresy to think that God somehow changes from the Old Testament to the New.
In Luke’s gospel, Zechariah says,”Blessed b the Lord God of Israel for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.”
 God saves us from our enemies, not just in the Old Testament but in the New as well.
Jesus isn’t a “kinder gentler” God who avoids warfare; this too is nothing but dimwittedness.   Jesus very well could have overthrown Rome, he is the Messiah, the warrior king. 
But here’s the rub: Rome was not the problem. Ask yourself, would overthrowing Rome have helped the Pharisees?  Would it have saved them?  No.  How much less than would it have saved anybody else, “all sought after their own way.”  Jesus made war on something much more powerful than Rome.  Jesus made war on the real enemy.  Our enemies of sin, death and the devil.
Throughout Revelation thus far,  God HAS saved his people from the various ethnicities of the Roman Empire.  We see God pouring out his wrath on them, on the mobs and local officials and groups who come round beating, imprisoning, killing the church people.  We have seen God rain down destruction on them.
God is good at vengeance.  God is good all the time, all the time God is good.  I have actually seen God’s vengeance on the persecutors and it is terrifying beyond belief.
God saves us from our enemies, just as in the Old Testament, so it is in the New.  But in this chapter we see something different, though it is just a glimpse.    God is angry at the nations but he also loves them, and when they see how good he is.  How beautiful all his deeds are, how right he is in the defense of his people.  When they see the victory of the people of God, their hearts will be turned to the good.  They will see God and love him back.
“So, Pastor Amy,” you are probably asking yourselves,” who will be save and who will be damned to eternal fire?”  My answer?  I DON’T KNOW.  And that’s exactly the way God means it to be when it comes to this question.
Don’t get me wrong:  “Those who conquer will inherit all things, but as for the cowards, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, the second death.”  This is clear there will be no cowards in the New Jerusalem, no faithless ones, no murderers, no immoral people.  “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”  We will be free from destroyers like these.  But the question is “Will there be in any cowards, will there be any murderers, will there be any immoral?” (Markus Barth)  In the light of the face of Jesus, in view of the justice of his decisions will not hearts be revived and the coldest heart of stone because one that loves and is true and brave and honest?

We don’t know the answer to this question. Hell certainly won’t be empty but how big will salvation be?  We don’t know.  And I think this is a good thing.  A very good thing indeed. Because look here, if we knew all about how it was going to end, if we knew every move God was going to make and how it would all work out, we would get to thinking that we could control things.  Always, always, from Eve to Babel, to Absolom, to Jezebel, to Peter, we try to control things, do things our own way.  Eve wanted to get all knowledge, all at once, all by herself by her own hand, under her own steam, by her own power.  And Adam went right along with it, without even a second thought.  In the New Testament,  Peter rebukes Jesus.  He doesn’t want Jesus to suffer on a cross, to be “hanged on tree.”  Peter wanted the restoration of the kingdom to Israel allright but in his own way, not Jesus’ way.  Thank God we don’t know everything.  Thank God we can’t control things.  God has something much bigger and much better for us than we could ever imagine, “what eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has in store for those who love him.”

Friday, November 30, 2012

We Are The Nine

Many people are familiar with the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17.  The lepers call out to Jesus from afar, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”   The passage continues, "when Jesus saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.” Their disease has been healed, their skin is whole and sound. But after this miracle, only one of the ten returns to praise God and give thanks.
The first thing to understand here is that giving thanks is not a requirement.  Jesus does not say to the ten lepers, “If you give thanks and praise the Lord, I will heal you.”  Of course not.   Jesus sees a need and fills it.  Think of Abram back in Genesis 15.  God did not tell Abram,  "I will make your descendants as many as the stars in heaven, IF you believe in me."  No, rather God saw that Abram was troubled, he had no heir, he was all alone, far from his kindred.  God saw a problem and he fixed it by giving his friend Abram innumerable sons and daughters.

I saw a video once of a young woman pulling back a man who was just about to step into the street.  He would have been hit by a car but she pulled him back just in time.  She did not do this thing so that he would thank her, she did it because she did not want  her fellow human being to be hurt or worse!  This is why God saves us and helps us.  It’s because we are in trouble and he loves us, not because he is expecting something out of us.

Giving thanks is not a requirement but certainly when we fail to give thanks we fall into many troubles.  Giving thanks to God helps us to remember him.  We are so prone to forget, and when we forget, we start to worship other gods.  We all believe in something it is only a matter of what.  We become like what we believe in.  If we depend upon and trust in cold hard cash, we become, cold, hard and in the end, as easily destroyed as paper money.  When we worship other gods we end up hurting ourselves and all those around us.  Think of the Israelites who, in the end, were sacrificing their own children to gods of stone and wood!  God’s anger goes out against oppressors like these.  It is just the same today as it was then.  He handed over the murderous Israelites to their enemies and he can hand us over as well.  I would argue that he has already done it!  As the theologians, Richard Hays and N.T. Wright remind us, the Lord hands us over to spiritual enemies who come to vanquish and burn us even more than the Philistines did the Israelites.  We can read about the effects of these spiritual enemies in the “vice list” of Romans 1.  But God raised up King David to vanquish the enemy and give his people rest.  And now God has raised up Jesus, our Living Savior and Lord to utterly vanquish those spiritual enemies that attack the souls, minds and hearts of men and women.  In his grace and might he has rescued us as individuals, communities and whole societies from "hands too strong for us."  And he is not done!  Moreover, God in his grace gathers us together in assembly each Sunday, each Lord’s day so that we may “mutually encourage one another in the faith.” Or to say the same thing in different words, he gathers us that we may remind one another of God’s faithfulness and Jesus’ resulting victory on the cross and how we have become through all of this, “more than conquerors” through him who loved us.  He does this in his great mercy that we might not forget and go astray and hurt ourselves and others.

But so often we do not give thanks, we are like the nine.

 Do we really understand what it means when the Bible says, “by his stripes we are healed”? Do we say when we are enjoying good health, “I am happy today, because Jesus was scourged with whips”?  Let me be the first to answer, “I don’t!  The philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard wrote “one man is a theologian because another man got nailed of the cross.”  Do we give thanks for all the shining insights that we have and remember that it is all because of our Lord suffered for us?  In this and in so many ways we completely miss the boat.

But the wonderful and totally surprising thing is, God is the savior of the thankless.  He is the savior of people precisely like us.  Consider how thankless and thoughtless Jacob was even in the face of God’s great assurances and promises in Isaiah 43.  What is God’s response?  How will he fix this problem?  God's  answer is abrupt, without lead in, without introduction, “I, I am he, who blots our your transgressions.”  How he will do this is not discussed, we only learn how it will be later; the messiah will come, a tender plant, a root out of dry ground and how he will bear our sins (Isaiah 53). 
So often we go astray.  How thankless I have been, but how good God is! Or as Paul puts it, “wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Footwashing, The Lord Gets His Hands Dirty and We Get Clean, John 13

Beloved of the Lord,

I want to talk about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Notice all the detail. John wants to call our attention to a very simple fact. Jesus is actually washing feet. What Jesus is doing here is not just an idea, an abstraction, Jesus is taking off his outer garments, girding himself, the basin, the water, and washing the mire and the muck off the feet of his followers. So before we get to Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as a symbol, as an example, first let’s just examine the bare fact: Jesus washing feet.
In those days a real need. Many went barefoot on unpaved roads, roads with all manner of mire and gook. When you came into a hospitable house, the master would direct a slave to wash your feet. Comforting to get all the dust off, maybe blood too from the stones, caked mire...get that off, ready to enjoy the party.
And before we go on I just want to pause and notice that God was always this way. God does come all the way down. God gets his hands dirty literally. Think of the very beginning, how God made Adam out of clay, getting his hands dirty. it says in Jeremiah, a prophecy of messiah, in that day Lord, you will do justice in the clay, in the dirt, in the earth. And we see that, Jesus remember how he spits in the dirt and makes clay and puts it in the blind man’s eyes, just a few chapters ago in John 9. Does justice literally in the earth.
But I just want to emphasize one more time, that it was always so, God walks in the garden, not floating, walks in the dust, God walks in the desert with his people Israel.
Example: Geography of Jerusalem not just with maps but under our feet. Good to do, God does it.
Example: Twitter, email, facebook, it’s the easy way of connecting, but we have to use it not be abused by it. Use it to make real friendship, the kind where there is sight and smell and touch. God didn’t wash the disciples feet by remote control, he got down there, on his knees, hands on their feet, fingers between their toes and cleaned them.

Now this is a symbol, but we have to understand what a symbol is. Sym bol, throw with, it’s like the first ball of a ball game, it is a sign of the rest. Better for me, (Barth) “audiovisual”. Communion helps. John’s gospel has the washing of the disciples feet instead of the Lord’s supper, but both things are audiovisuals forever audiovisuals, both things both communion and foot washing are audiovisuals of the cross, Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, you are going to wash my feet? Jesus answered, “you do not see what I am doing now but after these things you will know. After these things, “these things” are Jesus suffering, death and resurrection. After these things, you will understand what I am doing now. Washing the disciples feet is an audiovisual of the cross, just like communion is our audiovisual of the cross.
Picture the Lord’s supper in the early church, a full meal, picture a table filled with good things, delicious roast beef, steaming mashed potatoes, hot rolls and butter, good fresh salads with tomato and avocado. Think of it the shared cup of wine that began the meal then the meal and then in the midst of the hilarity, the minister, takes the bread and gives all a touch of solemnity, this is my body broken for you and then the shared cup after the meal to close it all off, this is the cup of the new covenant sealed in my blood. This meal that I am describing is the symbol of what God has given on the cross. It’s an audiovisual of the cross. Isn’t that amazing. I am very grateful for the communion we have now
Example:(experience at Seminary....) it too is an audiovisual, it too is a symbol but maybe more like a symbol of a symbol
footwashing is an audiovisual of the cross. God comes all the way down, he not just rolls up his sleeves he takes off his shirt to slave for us, to cleanse us. And he does it. Such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.
Now-- why don’t we have foot washing like we have communion? Peoples feet aren’t dirty. Sacrament on the margins. However, there might be some places in Africa that have real foot washing. the people come in dusty from the road in their flip flops or bare feet, maybe the elders, ready got their towels, stripped to waist, got the basin and maybe that’s the way they begin church. Beautiful I’d say were I visiting, what they’ve got going is the cross not explained in some sermon, but explained through action. The word of God not just in a sermon but in deed.

Close by saying it is an example: now we can’t do foot washing yet in U.S. Example: Benny Hinn, got down with hankie and dusted, moving, but a little misleading, not the cross,
but we learn from foot washing

God joyfully cleanses our filthy feet and he joyfully cleanse our filthy selves on the cross. This is our Messiah. And so, we need not be afraid in our churches in our denomination to be janitors
Example at my Dad’s church, dust, scrub, pick up cake crumbs, sewers overflowed my dad left with dry guck and stench. In our denomination there may be a lot of stinky things that we are called into, but God will not give us more than we can handle and he will enable us to handle the things he gives us. Presbyterians, realm of ideas, but now we may, in his grace, be called to be janitors.
Example: the terrible smell in Dad’s church’s basement: guck, he knew of this enzymatic cleaner, ate up the guck, no smell, God is going to give us enzymatic cleaner to clean up all spiritual enemies, inside and out. Fear not little children it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom, fear not for I have overcome ( the mire, the deep filth) the world.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Galatians 6:1-10 , On Restoration, Sunday, March 13th 2011

Dear friends, brethren, saints,

Today, really, I just want to talk about the first two verses of Galatians 6. And here we have Paul giving some very practical advice. Down to earth advice that comes straight from the kingdom of heaven. He says, “brothers if indeed a man is overtaken in some transgression you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourselves that you are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Anointed.” First things first, let’s go point by point. What does that mean overtaken in some transgression? Yes, it means overwhelmed by sin, but it also means caught in some sin. I think first of all the woman caught in adultery. Her sin caught her, caught up with her. She’s been "outted", exposed.
But being caught in sin, having your sin exposed can be more subtle too. I think of Zacchaeus, the little man, the tax collector who goes up the tree to see Jesus. Remember him? Zacchaeus’ sin and treachery are certainly known but the exposure, his being “caught” is more subtle but just as clear. He has done wrong that’s why he’s trying to make up for it, by turning his life around, giving to the poor, returning four fold what he has stolen. Or another case, Peter-- Peter denied Jesus three times, and remember at the end of John Jesus asks him three times, do you love me.? Peter’s sin, denying Jesus has clearly caught up to him. If we had forgotten that Peter had denied Jesus three times, when Jesus asks him three times “Do you love me?” that point, we remember it.
In our own day, I can think of two prominent preachers who were overwhelmed by their sin and caught in their sin: Jimmy Swaggart, a popular evangelist, Ted Haggard, megachurch pastor, very influential. Jimmy Swaggart was messing around with a call girl or call girls back in the 80s and Ted Haggard was messing around with a call-guy and it all came out. Their sin caught up to them. So what does Paul say to do when dealing with those whose sins have caught up to them--- Real practical words but kind of a surprise to me at least. He says, You who are spiritual one should restore such a one in a spirit of meekness. Notice the details. Those are attempting to restore the person should have the Holy Spirit. You’re gonna need it.
I spoke of Ted Haggard, was a prominent minister who had done some very immoral things, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, evangelical group, he said, I can’t do it, too much a commitment. Good for James Dobson, restoration is serious business, not for those who aren’t able to commit to it.
For instance, there are different remedies for different diseases, and you need the Holy Spirit to know 1) the different diseases and 2) the different remedies. For Zacchaeus the remedy is to give to the poor and restore fourfold, for the rich young ruler? -- sell all that you have give to the poor and follow me. For Peter, it was Jesus making breakfast, breaking Peter’s heart in the gentlest way, do you love me, Lord you know I love you, feed my sheep. Different strokes for different folks.
And look at Paul’s next sentence: more than that, Watch yourself that you not also be tempted. What does Paul mean? Counseling, the work of reconciliation takes a toll. Let’s say you are trying to restore someone who took millions of dollars and she’s describing the homes, the vacation homes, the spas, the boats, the minks. You might get to thinking, I need a new coat, maybe it wouldn’t be wrong to fudge some of those numbers on my tax return. Or you’re hearing as you do the work of restoration with someone, you hear about the depths to which they have fallen, maybe you come out of a session, you feel rotten, your mind has been poisoned with bleech. Now, when Paul says to look to yourself, he’s not just saying examine yourself. Remember that verse that says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling because it is God at work within you”? That’s what is going on here. Look to yourself, look to God’s word within you. Look to God’s word. As the Corinthians learned, even if you are filled with the Holy Spirit you need to be in the word of God. In fact, the Holy Spirit leads us and counsels us to open this book and guides us once we are in it and unlocks the most wonderful secrets and discoveries to renew your heart, but as with the Corinthians, we are all too ready to go off on our own tangents, lean on our own strength so Paul says be in the Spirit and look to the word, as Scripture says of God, morning by morning he wakens my ear. To deal with the poisons, the dregs that are being poured into our ear as we counsel people, we need a purifier too, everyday, the word of God goin’ in the other ear. Then we’ll be able to walk tall and straight.
and this restoration is done in meekness. Think of Moses, Moses had so much of the holy spirit, a small part of his spirit was given to the 70 elders and it filled them and they were prophesying and they ate and drank before God. Moses was filled with the Holy Spirit and he was the meekest of all men on earth.
--You know I was reading on Jimmy Swaggart’s webpage.... now he’s got a ministry and he seems to be doing well but he wrote this about the time when he was caught and exposed before the whole world and it has wisdom
Aside -- this was the surprise part for me, I want to punish the well to do and the well known but for Paul, when somebody’s down and out, punishment is not what’s called for.
Second Aside-- Now there is a time not to be gentle, Two who was weary of well doing, and Mary or Mom example...when somebody’s about to throw himself off the cliff, bar the door!
From Jimmy Swaggart’s website: “When a person is down, and can do nothing to defend himself, and anyone can do any negative thing to him they so desire, and will not only not be reprimanded, but rather applauded, then one finds out just how many true Christians there really are. 
When a man has been caught in some sin, and he’s down and out, can do nothing to defend himself, that’s the time for meekness and gentleness on the part of his counselors.
And we see this in Jesus.
The woman caught in adultery, how gentle Jesus' restoration of her is and yet, how piercing,
John 8--The pharisees are testing Jesus... Rabbi, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such a one. What do you say? But notice what Jesus does, he bends down and begins to write in the earth in the dust. There is a secret to what Jesus is doing.
In Jeremiah we hear this
"O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake thee shall be ashamed and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved, for thou art my praise"

Do you see what Jesus is "saying" to the elders and pharisees ringed about? He makes it even clearer when he says, "he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone." And Jesus at this again stoops down and writes in the dust. And the pharisees and scribes go away... one by one... beginning with the eldest.
And Jesus straightens up and says Woman, where are they, has no one judged you? No one Lord. And Jesus replies "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." The woman had been privy to Jesus as he wrote on the ground. Not only is he speaking to the pharisees and scribes, asking them in effect, "Are you dust and ashes, departed from the Lord, cut off from living water?" He had also asked the woman this. Writing in the dust is just the same as saying to her, "Are you dry dust?" Do you need the waters of life? And then his words, "neither do I condemn you, Go and sin no more" "God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world would be saved"." It is God's goodness that leads us to repentance and we see that in Jesus' restoration of the woman caught in adultery.

And all of the this leads to what is undergirding these verses in Galatians--restoration. For Jimmy Swaggart, there was no serious attempt at restoration... and Ted Haggard, too little an attempt, I commend the attempt, but still... too little. Fact is, we don’t care about restoring people... but not God. God is in the business of restoration. “And he shall restore the hearts of the fathers to the sons and the heart of the sons to the fathers. Mal 3:7
Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation and uphold within me a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will be converted to you. Psalm 51:10
Psalm 88 (Sept) David--restored again and again as the moon.
Psalm 67 (Sept) O God thou wilt grant to thine inheritance rain, for it was weary but thou didst refresh it.
Isaiah 1:26ff And I will return your judges as at first; and your advisors, as at the beginning; then you shall be called righteousness city, faithful town. Zion with judgment shall be redeemed and her returnees with righteousness
Jeremiah 30 For I will restore health unto thee and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord because they called thee an Outcast.
God restores Zion, the land, hearts, souls, communities, countries, creation, all things Acts 3:19ff

How is this possible?
You see the new covenant, the everlasting covenant that is given to us in Jesus is all about restoration, healing, making right.
I will restore health unto thee, I will heal thee of thy wounds
What is after all,the center of the good news, “by his stripes we are healed” restored...
Yes, the church is hospital because its leader, the church’s one pastor, is Jesus the Great Physician. By his stripes we are healed
THIS is the law that Paul is talking about in the last clause here, "thus fulfill the law of Jesus of Anointed." What is the law of Jesus? It’s the everlasting covenant. Law, covenant,-- same thing, the new covenant. Restoration is God’s business and he makes it and is making it... ours. God says I will give you the faithful pities of the David Messiah, I will give you the faith, the love...everything so you can be like Jesus, Jesus the healer, Jesus the restorer, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

_____Please note that my quotations are from the KJV, the NIV, and many times they are my own translation based on the Greek.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Genesis 6: Noah and Moses

Elie Wiesel, in his book "Sages and Dreamers" sums it up this way, with the flood, God was "starting all over, another draft." God preserves Noah and his family but abandons the rest of creation to the flood. It's interesting to me then that the children of Israel refuse to be abandoned, they cry out to God, they put off all their jewelry in mourning, they plead...and...their cause is upheld by the Lord. They are original squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Israel had sinned. God, who seems to have had it up to here with them, proposes that a glorious angel will lead them to the Promised Land...instead of him. He's had enough. The people respond with a might outcry; ice cream is no substitute for true love and an angel, however glorious, is no substitute for God.
Something has changed between Noah and Moses, and the Bible wants to let us in on it. Not only will Israel not be abandoned by God, they don't even have to accept a beautiful substitute. God's faithfulness seems to be coming into sharper and sharper focus, its glory is growing. We will see the glory of his faithfulness and love most in his son, Jesus Anointed, whom he sends because he refuses to abandon the world ("God so loved the world"). Nor will he send a substitute ("God saw that there was no man...he himself brought the victory." Is. 59:16), instead "the word became flesh and tented among us."