Monthly Archives: October 2014

Jesus came to give you a hard time … for now.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn:
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.
Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Perhaps you will disagree with the assertion in my title of this blog entry, but taken at face value, these words quoted above from Jesus’ sending of the 12 in Matthew 10 certainly do seem to agree with the title. The normal pattern of people on planet earth is to do other than what Jesus wants them to.

Oh, sure, people may be nice enough, they may participate in religious observances, even Christian religious observances, even often, but at their heart, people want to be comfortable in this world.

Jesus makes it clear: HE does NOT want you comfortable in this world. He wants you to find joy in the world to come. While the rage in Christian circles is to get people busy about their jobs, their careers, their families, their health, their ease and to enjoy this world and to share that joy in this world.

Jesus, being ever counter-cultural, calls us to get uncomfortable. “Leave your comfort zone,” is sometimes said to those going on short-term missions. However, we are to daily take up the cross and get uncomfortable for Jesus. We are no where in the Good News encouraged to be comfortable in the world. If you are comfortable in the world, you will be uncomfortable in eternity. That is a promise.

However, if you find your life right now uncomfortable, not just occasionally, but regularly, routinely, daily, you open up the way for the Kingdom of God. No longer is it about this world nor is it about you. Rather, it is about eternity. Your life is to be about God. 100%. Sold out, consumed with the vision of the Living Lord who guides and controls every moment of your life.

You are NOT your own. You belong to Jesus. You are no better than anyone else, but you do belong to Jesus. If you accept this as the mission for your life, you will have a reason to live and a reason to die. Jesus bought you with His life. Your life is now to be hidden with Christ in God. If you reject that, you reject hope, meaning, purpose, and a reason for living.

Oh, you will say, I am my own god. I define my own purpose.

Really? What happens when you die? All your efforts to define yourself will fall flat and you will be cast into hell. IF YOU define your purpose and YOU define your life and YOU define your destiny, the moment you get sick, the moment you die, your meaning is challenged and then extinguished.

However, because Jesus proved that meaning is not coterminous with one’s natural life by rising up out of the grave of His own accord, those who hide themselves in Jesus and accept Jesus Christ as the definition of their purpose suddenly have a life beyond this world.

Even if your own family members reject and crucify you and beat you and spit on you and persecute you, you will have meaning. God redeems your suffering if you let Him. However, you must look to Jesus Christ the righteous Suffering Servant when you are suffering if your suffering is to have meaning.

Notice, I do not merely say that you will feel good. There are many who feel good though they are ultimately going to be cast into hell. The wrapper on a fine chocolate may look and appear gorgeous, but the moment the chocolate is consumed and enjoyed and the chocolate reaches its fulfilment and the wrapper is cast aside into the trash, discarded, it is JUNK. People do not go to the candy store to buy wrappers, they go to buy confections. The wrapper is merely a transportation device for getting the goods from the factory to your home into your body so your heart will rejoice.

Likewise, our comforts in this body and in this world are merely means to an end. If we ever look at them as an end, we will be disappointed.

Yes, despise this world. Do not love it. Do not pursue a high place in the system of the present world. Your throne satan will be cast down and you will come to nothing.

Rather, if you want an enduring life, seek a low place. Seek humility. Seek poverty. Seek abandonment in the arms of the infinite Creator. You are not infinite. Anything you create has limits on how satisfying it can be. But if you look to God to create satisfaction in your heart, you will find it. Though the final peace waits many days and though you see not a glimpse of joy in this world, do not be discouraged: there is a resurrection.

Rejoice in the world to come.

Peace to all who heed these words.

Categories: Cross, Humility | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Father, forgive them …

I continue to ponder the paradox of forgiveness and the offensiveness of the Good News of Jesus.

Today, let’s turn to the Lord’s prayer. In one petition, we say, according to one version, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those indebted to us.”

I particularly like this more than saying transgressions or sins because it quantifies our guilt: We have a debt towards God greater than all the taxes of the world. Our neighbor may owe us a hundred days’ wages.

Like all large numbers, infinity is hard to grasp. The offense, the debt, that our sin creates towards God is hard for the human mind to grasp.

However, when we see that our father or mother, our sister or brother, perhaps your husband or wife, your sons or daughters, your neighbors, coworkers, or fellow citizen has offended you will often have in mind particular numbers of offenses and the exact punishment which you believe is due them. Perhaps you think they owe you a dollar for the soda you purchased for them. Perhaps you think you should kill them for not comprehending that you are a person of honor and dignity and should be respected as such.

The moment we think of the offense of a transgression or sin, we humans are apt to think that we deserve X in compensation for our trouble. We seek to justify our anger.

Maybe we think they started it, and we are just exacting a just revenge, at least in our minds. Perhaps in the back of your mind, the repeated offense has become chalked up against your relationship with that person. The weight of the offense becomes tremendous. You feel you MUST execute vengeance. Your self-righteous anger rises and your virtue falls.

Lord, have mercy!!

As long as we hold onto the burden of bitterness, we are unable to release the pain of the past. As long as we hold onto past offenses, we are unable to embrace fully the future Open Door. As long as we focus on what other people have or have not done for us, we will forget what God has done for us.

Here is the offense of the Gospel, the Good News. The Good News beckons us to reorient around God’s promise of freedom which was secured on the cross and in the resurrection. 100% guaranteed … if we will accept the challenge of living by trusting God rather than seeking to defend ourselves against other people all the time. The natural human heart revolts against this acts of mercy. It cannot comprehend how the death of Jesus could pay, once for all, the sins, the transgressions, the debts of mankind.

Perhaps you will say now, Oh, but I am a nice person. I don’t get angry. I just keep track of what they have done to me and don’t let it happen again.

Are you any better? Has not hatred overtaken your heart? You love those who love you and ignore the rest. Is this nothing more than a polite ISIS? Do not even the pagans do this much?

What makes Jesus so offensive is that he commands us to look for ways to risk our comfort. He could have just said, Meet once a week and remember the good times we had. Encourage each other and get better.

Instead, he said, Go, make disciples of all nations! Preach the Good News to all creation! Repentance and forgiveness of sins must be preached to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem, wait in the city … WAIT!!

The disciples were instructed to hang out in the very city where their Lord was murdered in cold blood in the cruelest manner possible. Wait? Wouldn’t it have been wiser to run? Why not go where there were receptive crowds? Why not preach about Moses preparing the way for the Messiah and hinting at the coming kingdom? No, they were commanded by the Holy Spirit to rebuke their own people for rejecting their own King and then to invite them to follow that King in being immersed as a pledge of a good conscience towards God. They did not manipulate or maneuver, they just said it like it was in a way that the people could understand.

That is boldness. Some admire and replicate that boldness. Some shy away and become ashamed of the Good News. Some attack such witnesses. Boldness comes at a price: love. Boldness that does not love is mere cruel boasting.

We have a choice before us: follow the humble way of peace or strive in violence. One is marked with 666 the mark of the beast; the other is marked with the stigma of Jesus.

Choose whom you will serve.

I worship Jesus.

Lord, have mercy on me and all who hate me.

Categories: Cross, Good News | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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