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Weekly Word

Entries in Jesus (114)

Wednesday
Nov012017

Having Confidence at His Coming

1 John 2:24-29.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 29, 2017.

If Jesus were to return today would I be joyful without restraint, or would I be fearful with shame?  This is a powerful question.  The idea of facing Jesus (He who knows what is in a man) face to face can be intimidating.  Yet, it is important to recognize that God’s desire is not for this to be a scary and fearful thing.  Rather, He wants it to be a joyous event in which you can confidently come into the presence of Jesus, the One who paid the price for your sins.  He loves you and, whether it is at your death or the 2nd Coming, we need not fear that He will reject us.  The whole purpose of Jesus was to bring us into a close relationship with the Father, to make us a part of His family, and to cast out the fear of any rejection.  Now this is not a braggart’s confidence that we see in this world.  It is not a confidence built on our great self-attainment.  No, it is a confidence that is made of far stronger metal.  It is that which comes from an experience of the love of the Heavenly Father who as adopted us into His family.  I pray that you will allow the Holy Spirit to remove fear from your heart and replace it with a confidence in Him.

Let the Truth Abide in You

In verse 24 Paul has just finished warning believers of false teachers and even “antichrists” that would try to deceive them and lead them astray.  This verse is a conclusion to that section (“Therefore”).  Though John’s statement in verse 24 does not explicitly state what it is he wants them to have dwelling in them, the statements all around it leave no question that he is thinking of the truth they had received from the beginning.  It is interesting that believers are told to “let that (truth) abide in you…”  The truth of God comes into our hearts and naturally wants to dwell there and grow.  Thus Jesus used the parable of the seed of God’s Word being sown into the soil of people’s hearts.  Am I allowing that seed to take root and grow, as it will naturally do, or am I doing things that are adverse to this?  We can reject the Truth, but we can also displace it by filling our hearts and minds with the false-truths of this world.  Let us cling to the Truth of God.

John is writing to people of whom he is intimately aware of the Truth that they received “from the beginning.”  He knows that they received solid, undefiled truth.  However, over time they are being tempted by other so-called truths and twisting of what they knew.  Yet, Christianity is not just about receiving the Truth about life.  It is about receiving the revelation that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is the only way to the Father, and in Him Truth is a person, not just a statement of fact.  This connection between Jesus and the Truth must be understood by all His followers.  John sees this as so important that he ties our fellowship with Jesus and the Father to our holding on to the Truths about Him.  If the Truth of the Gospel (Who Jesus was and What He was doing) dwells in our hearts then we will abide in the Son and the Father.  The opposite is implied that if we let go of that Truth then we will no longer be dwelling in the Son and the Father.  To embrace the Gospel is more than embracing a set of propositions.  It is embracing a relationship with the only being of whom it can be said He is Truth.  To use another analogy that Jesus gave us in John 15, to believe the Truth of the Gospel is to connect to Jesus with a living relationship.  We draw life out of our relationship with Him.  You cannot have one without the other.  We cannot claim intimacy with the Son and Father, and yet toss aside the Truth which we received from the beginning.  As I said earlier, this statement is to people whom John knows well what it was they received.  The tragedy is that many in this world have received everything but the Truth.  Some are raised in atheism, and others in false religion, and others yet who are raised in perversions of Christianity.  These people should not hold on to what they received from the beginning.  The key is that we are holding on to the Truth that the Apostles of Jesus transmitted to us in voice and in writing, and refusing to be separated from them by any voices that have risen since then.  To remain in fellowship with Jesus is to hold fast to the teaching received from His apostles.  This cannot be avoided.

In verse 25 he reminds us that this is the promise that God gave us, eternal life.  Those who embrace the Truth about Jesus and the Truth of Jesus are now connected to eternal life.  When we speak of eternal life it is easy to focus solely on length of time.  It is true that eternal life is of unending duration.  However, if you read the passages of the Bible that speak of “eternal life” it will be clear that it is more about quality of life than it is about quantity.  We don’t just live, but we experience the very life of God (i.e. eternal life).  We live in a world that owes its existence to God and yet is separated from the eternal life of God.  It is dying even as it lives.  But in Christ we are living even as we die.  The eternal life that we are connected to is not intimidated by death, but in the end will swallow it up in victory.  This is the life that Christians can experience right now.  No, I won’t live forever in this mortal flesh, but I have a relationship with a kind of life that is greater than mortal death.  This life is extremely important and we need to live in Christ in order to experience it.  This world works daily to try and extend life, deferring the consequences of our fleshly desires.  Though we may open such a Pandora’s Box through technology, it will not give us the life that we desire.  It will only bring us to greater sin and sorrow.  Jesus is the only way to true life.  God’s plan will work, but man’s plan will only forge ever stronger chains for mankind.

Now verse 26 turns our attention back to those deceivers that would try to separate us from the Truth (i.e. the eternal life of the Son and the Father).  There are many deceivers today.  Some wear religious garb and give sermons on whatever day of the week they hold dear.  Others have websites that promise all manner of secret knowledge that will fill that sense of lacking that you have.  When I look at most of the TV and movie programming, the music, and books of this world, I see a continual onslaught of the idea that we can be good without having to believe in a God, Sin, and a Savior.  We are pointed to ourselves, or mankind as a whole, as the answer to fixing everything and having a great life.  We are encouraged to put our faith in mankind’s ability to achieve all this through the power of science and developing technologies.  Such deceivers, whether they know it or not, serve only one purpose: to separate us from the Truth, whether we have received it yet or not.  It is to separate us from a relationship with Jesus in which we experience eternal life in the now.  How are we to keep from falling to such deceptions?

John points to the anointing within all God’s children (vs. 27).  His main point is that you do not need some guru to come along and explain everything for you.  They already had Jesus and the Truth about Him.  They were not missing out on any special knowledge.  If you are a Christian, but feel that you are missing something, the answer is not to pursue information “out there.”  All you need to do is get back to the Truth and the Faith once and for all delivered unto the Saints, that is the Word of God.  When you are reading God’s Word and daily walking in a living relationship with Jesus, you are not missing anything.  Deceivers many claim to be Christ or to be from Christ, but none of them have come, riding on the clouds of heaven and descending to the Mt. of Olives.  Too many Christians are hungry for a miracle worker or a wise teacher, when we already have the anointing of God Himself, the Holy Spirit, dwelling within our life.  The metaphor of anointing reminds us of the special calling to which we are called.  “The anointing” points to the Holy Spirit coming into the life of a person in order to live for God and accomplish His business.  This Spirit dwells in believers and leads us to become more like Jesus. John’s point is not to say there should be no teachers.  They wouldn’t have come to know the Gospel without teachers and all churches had teachers in their midst.  But once you have come to know the Truth and have entered into relationship with Jesus through God’s Spirit, you have all that you need to be acceptable to God and live a full life.  You are not lacking anything.

When a person lives such a life they are ready for the return of Christ (vs. 28).  You can have confidence that you are ready for His return, a confidence born of the Holy Spirit and not the false spirit of this age.  The Pharisees had great confidence, but it was based upon their own ideas, and their own works.  Analyze your own confidence.  What is it based upon?  If it is something other than the witness of the Holy Spirit within you, and the Word of God, then you have a confidence that is like those Pharisees.  The Holy Spirit will lead us to put our confidence in Jesus and His work (past, present, and future) in our life.  That daily relationship of learning to take our feelings, desires, and hopes before Jesus, and learning to trust Him over them, is crucial to growing a proper confidence.  Those who are confident in Christ will rejoice at His coming.  But those who are confident in themselves and the things of this world will be ashamed.  Ashamed because they did not truly trust in Him, or ashamed because they deserted Him and lived for themselves.  Ashamed because they will be separated from Him and not have eternal life.  Now the words in verse 28 are literally, “and that we might not be made ashamed from Him.”  The preposition is often translated as before.  Though this is true, the preposition in the Greek actually emphasizes separation.  Such a person will not just be ashamed before Jesus, but also be separated from Jesus and His eternal life.

Are you ready for the return of Christ?  Will it be a time of rejoicing and celebration, or one of fear and shame?  If we have continued with Him through temptations, trials, and sufferings, then we will have nothing but a confident rejoicing when we come before Him.  It will be a final uniting with one who has helped us through all the good and the bad of this life, and more than that, the one who loved us enough to lay His life down for us.  Such a being you would never have to be afraid of unless you had deserted Him along the way.

Confidence at His Coming audio

Monday
Oct162017

The Cry of 'No H8'-III

Luke 6:32-36.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 15, 2017.

As the news exploded several weeks ago about the film producer Harvey Weinstein, we have had a new example of the hypocrisy that often parades in full view in this world.  He was supposed to be a great champion of women’s rights and all along many knew that he was using his power to trample the hearts and minds of young women.  Yet, most said nothing, and some even enabled him all the while decrying these things in the lives of people that they did not like.  For whatever reasons Harvey Weinstein has gone from a protected status to persona non grata, it is safe to say that Hollywood is riddled with many more like him.  It is not just Hollywood and it is not just sexual abuse.  The system of this world is riddled with hypocrisy.  No matter how loudly this world touts the principles of love and compassion, we must always recognize the human tendency to overlook the sins of those we like and highlight the sins of those we do not.  Whenever you lift the rug, you find all manner of evils that have been swept under it by the perpetrators and by those who are in their good graces.

Now some may scoff at the words of Jesus to love your enemies.  However, if you need a good reason to accept his wisdom, you only need to hear his heart on the subject and then honestly look at the world around you and inside of you.  So we pick up where we left off two weeks ago in Luke chapter 6.

Only Loving Those Who Love You

After telling us to love our enemies, Jesus gives us the reasons for doing so.  In verses 32-34 Jesus lists three actions that are really just three ways of saying the same thing: loving, doing good, and lending.  As we move through this I will use the action of love to focus all of them, since it is the key virtue and the argument can be made that the other two are just facets or ways of loving.  In the passage about love we are told that “even sinners love those who love them.”  Something that may seem shocking to people is the fact that Jesus uses a verb form of the famous Greek term Agape (unconditional love).  Thus sinners have agape for those who give them agape.  The idea that we can unconditionally love those who unconditionally love us is itself a logical mess.   It is self-canceling.  Yes, people do it.  But Jesus is pointing out this is not really agape love, in fact it is not really loving others.  Similarly, his point is that sinners do good to those who do good to them.  Also, sinners lend money to those from whom they will get the same back.  Such a virtue is no virtue at all.  It is simply a form of moral indirect action in which people actually love themselves.  It is not moral to build feedback loops that give us what we want.  We should love people regardless of what they do to us because it is the right thing to do.

Now Jesus prefaces each of these by saying that to do such things is no credit to the person because even sinners do that.  Now, on one level, we can see that Jesus is calling us to do something that sticks out from the world around us.  Our righteousness must exceed the “righteousness” of those around us who are not living for God.  In fact, much of our love in life is done in situations where we are receiving some of it back, sometimes more and sometimes less, but always some.  Jesus is not saying that it is bad to be loved back.  However, he is pointing out that the motivation of most is that they only love those who love them (from their judgment).   But, notice such a love is of no value to God.  We might believe it has some relative value to us as humans.  But such a selfish love does not truly help people.  It only allows us to continue down a destructive road of self-love.

As I said earlier it is illogical to say that you unconditionally love those who unconditionally love you because there actually is a condition.  This is the mantra of the world today and of our own heart if we allow it to be.  “As long as you unconditionally accept me, I will unconditionally accept you.”  However, there will always be conditions that change with the passing fads of time.  In the past Christians were told that they needed to be more accepting of adulterers, and then it was homosexuals.  Today the vice de jour is transgender people and the idea of fluid gender.  You see, yesterday you were accepted if you accepted X, and then X+1, but today it is X+2.  Unless you get on the right side of this ever changing line then none of your previous “love and acceptance” matter.  This is utter hypocrisy.  Our modern age loves to pillory and castigate the generations that have gone on before us, as if we have attained a far higher virtuous plane.  Have we really?  To our credit, we can say that society has gained some wonderful things and gotten rid of some horrible things.  But we haven’t become more virtuous as a people.  It is just no longer in style or socially acceptable to have slaves, or to be rich at the expense of your workers, or to abuse women.  Yet these things happen all day long and are often covered up by people who project a pristine moral image.  So have we really become more loving than previous generations?  I do not believe so.  In fact, 1 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.”  He is saying that on one hand they will be unloving, but on the other hand they will love pleasure, money and themselves very much.  To the degree that we love ourselves, we are unable to love others.  Why don’t we take some time to go over some hypocritical situations that look godly on the outside, but deny the power of true godliness (which is repentance from sin).

Examples of Hypocrisy

At this point I will give credit to Nicholas Senze, Director of Faith Formation at St. Vincent dePaul Catholic Church in Arlington, Texas, for some of the illustrations to follow.  He has an article online called The Hypocrisy of the Modern World, with CrisisMagazine.com. 

Our businesses, political parties, universities, media, and even religious groups create ideological “echo chambers” that simultaneously declare a commitment to diversity and open dialogue, all the while silencing any who contradict our biases with honest discussion, even to the point of firing or casting out those who do so.  Everything is nice as long as you toe a particular line.  But if you don’t the claws come out.  They are a fuzzy bunny one second and a salivating werewolf the next.

As a Christian florist in Washington State is drug through a lengthy and costly public trial for not doing the flowers for a same-sex wedding, there is no similar public outcry or government charge (where are you Attorney General Bob Ferguson) when Christians are kicked out of a Seattle coffee shop and denied service.  This was not done because they were proselytizing on the premises, but because they had been seen handing out leaflets against abortion in the local area.  Hypocrisy.

We often talk about defending the helpless and tout our virtue to the heavens.  Yet, we are silent and enabling when it comes to a human pregnancy.  We will spend gobs of money to travel around the world to stop female circumcision and yet can’t get out of bed when babies in the womb are being slaughtered across the street.  How can such a disparity exist?  It does because it is socially acceptable to chop up a baby in the womb, suck its body parts out, and throw them in the trash bin (unless of course there is money to be had).  In Roe V. Wade the court based its decision upon its inability to answer the question, “When does life begin?”  Now that we have an avalanche of evidence of when life begins, still the silence is deafening.  In fact now we talk about when one actually becomes a person and has personhood.

But, it gets worse.  This thing that isn’t a person yet, however, does have a sexual orientation, all the while its gender is still fluid.  Our illogical statements are never resolved.  But are just left to hang there as a tribute to our hypocrisy.

We cry wolf about the violence of those on the opposite side of the political spectrum, while remaining silent or even encouraging (wink, wink) of violence of those who fight our enemies.

We are told to curb the appetites of food to the point of either banning or taxing to death certain foods.  We are all to be Spartan athletes in training, so to speak.  But, speak of curbing sexual appetites, and you will be called all manner of expletives, and told to “get the government out of my bedroom/womb.”

Now from a Christian standpoint we must be honest about one thing.  If we define hypocrisy as not living up to the ideals that you profess to have, then we are all guilty because of the weakness of human desire.  Even Mother Theresa fell short of her own ideals at times.  The Christian should never pretend sinlessness, but rather rely upon repentance and forgiveness.  The problem with the world is not sin, but rather a hard heart towards repentance.  Hypocrisy is at its worse when it allows itself to do one thing, while forbidding it to another.  We see this everywhere in our “virtuous” society.  In fact the case can be made that while we are making the outward structures of our society look more “godly,” we are powerless to fight the onslaught of inner desires that are destroying our nation.

As we go back to our passage, we are told in verse 34 that if we love our enemies, do good to them, and lend without expecting anything in return, then we will be Sons of the Most High.  The obvious reality is that if we do not do these things, but instead follow the lemming path of the world around us, then we are not Sons of the Most High.  Instead we take on the image of a different father, who is the god of this world, Satan.  Christians must not only follow Jesus in word, but also in deed.  This involves rejecting the “love” of this world (as it models and defines), and a “love” for this world (the inner seduction towards its systems).  God does not quash all objectors and withhold from the wicked all good things.  All around us we see the goodness of God coming to the righteous and the wicked alike.  This is not proof that God likes what they are doing, though it feels that way at times.  It is only proof that God is love.  However, there is a day of judgment.  Though God is kind, He must eventually judge.  Thus, He has given us this life to live and then the judgment.  In His mercy, He lets us all enjoy the good of life and also suffer that has been created by people.  Christians must love others regardless of what they do, because we are making a choice of who we want to be our father.  Who do I want to become like?  We can do so knowing that God will make all things right.  To love your enemy is not to approve of what they do, but rather, to trust that God will deal with them justly.  It is not to pretend that what they do is okay, but rather, to speak the truth in love (for their good rather than for their bad).  We must relinquish the desire to control others, and instead control ourselves from the inside out.

I have skipped over the fact that Jesus says that those who listen to Him and love their enemies will be deserving of great reward.  So will I trade great reward from God for the trinkets that I can get from people in this life?  Harvey Weinstein promised to make young women famous if they would only satisfy his perverted desires.  He also bullied those who rejected his advances.  This is not love.  Everyone who is picking up stones to pound Harvey Weinstein, should take a hard long look in the mirror.  He is a man who has lived a life of loving himself alone, and no one else.  Is that you?  Is that me?  Are you only loving those who love you back?  Isn't that simply loving yourself by extension?  We cannot live by the world’s ethic and find great reward.  Only those who turn from the wisdom of the world and follow the wisdom of Jesus will find such.

No H8!- III audio

Monday
Oct022017

The Cry of 'No H8'- I

Luke 6:27-31.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 01, 2017.

There has been a surge of protest movements that have demonstrated with signs saying ‘No H8.’  Of course this stands for ‘No Hate.”  Some of them have been entirely peaceful and represent a sincere desire for what they believe is hate to come to an end.  However other protests have become violent and hateful against those whom they are calling haters.  Which begs the question, “How can you say that you want a world without hate, while hating certain people?”  Typically the answer is something along the line that is a practical solution.  Hating haters is okay because it gets rid of the “bad people” and then we can all go back to being loving.  This kind of self-defeating logic can never lead to Utopia, just as sitting in a circle and singing Kumbaya also fails.  Hatred is one of those things that looks horrible on others, but often feels so right when we are feeling it.  We often feel justified for our hate of another person.  They did this, or that, said this, or that.  This sets us up for centuries of going after the “haters de juor,” like a dog chasing its own tail.

It is important to recognize that hating is something that all humans are capable and frequently do.  If you are truly going to fight hate then you are going to have to start with yourself.  Hatred has a feeling side of it that can be just as passionate for the harm of another person, as love can be passionate for the well being of another.  However, it also has a very, cold, rational side to it, in which a person has a heightened sense of another person’s faults and a perceived judgment and punishment that they deserve.  Often these judgments are overblown and twisted by the emotion or passion of hatred.  Thus, in our quest for Utopia, humans have to deal with this area of hatred because it is a problem that has roots in the hearts of every human being. 

So just how does someone come to hate another person or group?  Yes, it can be learned, but that cannot be the main answer.  To blame parents or a culture is the same as the problem of where evil comes from.  We end up in a series of regressions.  Who taught the first person who ever hated to hate?  If we say the devil, we are still left with the question, who taught him?  Did God teach the devil to hate God and mankind?  This is absurd.  Thus, free agents are quite capable of coming to hate out of their own ability, although it is often exacerbated by the world around them.  We must stop blaming everyone else for why we are so angry.  Yes, they may not be helping and in fact encouraging you to hate, but that is a cop out.  No one makes you hate.  It is something that you are tempted to embrace from within your own heart.

As Christians, we can admire the call for “No H8,” whether it comes from other believers, other religions, or even atheists.  This is something we should all want.  Imagine a world where there was no hate.  God doesn’t want any of us to hate.  Yet, we must be honest with ourselves as to the true sources of hate, which is bound up in the heart of every person on this planet.  It is a human condition.  Only the truth of Jesus can set us free from its seduction.

Jesus commands us to love others

The passage we are looking at today has Jesus telling those who will listen to him to love others.  Elsewhere he call this the 2nd greatest commandment- coming behind loving God with your whole being.  We will find in this passage two aspects.  We are to focus on our own hate, rather than using the hate of another as an excuse.  Also, this command is about actions rather than feelings, more on that later.  Now it is possible to love some people with our human ability.  But we cannot love everybody on our own.  Jesus rejects the idea of only loving those whom you find loveable.  This kind of hypocritical love is a hallmark of all of the world’s cultures and systems.  “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch your’s.”  Most people who try to “love everybody” find that there are some people who are just jerks and they cynically give up on love or even on humanity.  But Christians are those who know that what is impossible with us is possible with God.  With the help of the Spirit of God we are able to love everybody.

So what about the situation where we are taught to hate by parents or our culture?  This passage opens up with the phrase, “But, I say to you.”  It is clear that Jesus is contrasting what he is saying with something else.  Luke does not record this.  But Matthew’s account in Matthew 5:43 proceeds this phrase with another sentence.  “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”  In the days of Jesus, the people of Israel were being taught that they were to love their neighbors (as stated in the Law of Moses).  But they were also taught to hate their enemies.  The Law emphasized loving your neighbor, which makes sense.  They are the ones who will help to protect you from enemies.  Self-preservation demands such alliances.   However, not all neighbors are neighborly.  Thus, they end up on our enemy list.  In fact a person can end up on our enemy list because they are not acceptable religiously.  Thus the powerful story of the Good Samaritan is told by Jesus to purposefully mix these ideas of race, religion, enemy, neighbor, hate, and love in a way that shows our hypocrisy.

Jesus stands firmly against those who teach that it is okay to hate, for any reason, even if that person is our enemy (vs. 27).  Jesus gives the statement to love your enemy in a command form.  If you are going to truly be his disciple and learn from him then you are going to have to reject the tendency to hate those who “deserve it,” and love them instead.  This doesn’t just go against the standards of most cultures, it goes against our own personal standards.  Who is on your “enemy list?”  How did they get there, or what did they do?  Sometimes people have done things to us personally that were hurtful.  Other times they are part of a group that has either harmed my group or caused me personal hurt.  Lastly, maybe they have done nothing to me or my group, but you simply have been taught that they are your enemy for reasons that have little connection to you.  What is interesting here is the fact that Jesus uses present tense verbs in verse 27.  Here is a translation that emphasizes the present tense.  “But I am saying to you, be loving your enemies, and be doing good things to those who are hating you.”  Jesus is not talking about being nice to someone who hurt us 20 years ago, i.e. forgiveness.  He is teaching something far more radical and, in fact, far more impossible.  Can we really love people and do good to them even as they are hating us as an enemy, even as they are doing hurtful things against us?  It is wrong to hold grudges over sins of the past.  However, Jesus is speaking about the fresh sins of those who are not asking for our forgiveness.  Hurtful actions stir up noble feelings of injustice.  But, they also stir up ignoble feelings of anger, hate, and rage.  There is a whole spectrum of hateful actions, of which some are passive-aggressive and others are aggressive-aggressive.  Regardless, Jesus calls us back from the brink of the chaos of hate.  Hate compels us to jump off the cliff of restraint and surrender to its powerful forces.  But Jesus calls us to step away from hate and to step towards love.

How do I love my enemy?

This is the impossible ask, that only the Spirit of God can help us to accomplish.  So what does it look like to love one’s enemies?  Jesus starts with the general principle, but then moves to more specific situation.  I said this earlier, but I want to emphasize it again.  Notice that Jesus is not commanding us to have loving feelings towards those enemies who are doing hateful things.  The command is about our actions.  It is natural to hate and not love those who hurt you.  Jesus is not commanding us to feel something.  But, to control those inner feelings and make a choice to obey his command instead.  In fact, when we acknowledge our own hate and anger, but refuse let it control our actions it does something to our heart.  I am not talking about stuffing emotions or ignoring them.  But rather recognizing the dangerous path they are compelling you to follow and choosing a different one.  It doesn’t cause our heart to have warm fuzzies for our enemies.  But it does change our perspective.  Suddenly, we can see the other person and their hate as a person who is in bondage to their own feelings of hate and hurt, aperson who will have to stand before Jesus one day and give account for all the hateful things that they did.  In fact everyone in the world has been hurt in many ways and could be controlled by the hate that comes out of those hurts.  Hateful actions will always hurt.  That cannot be changed and we should never pretend otherwise.  However, we can refuse to be controlled and derailed by that hurt.  We can rise above the beastly level of simply responding to hurts by lashing out, to the spiritual level of hearing the voice of God calling us to a better way, “Love them back.”  In a sense we are making a choice of who we want to be like, Jesus or the devil.  Hurt and hate call us down a path of becoming like the devil, no matter how justified.  But the love of God calls us back to the path of becoming like our Creator, like Jesus.

So let’s go down the list of actions that give us a quid pro quo for the hateful actions that might be done against us.  The general is that we love those who are our enemies and do good to those who are hating us.  Thus the principle is to counteract hate with an action that is connected to the harm done and yet is truly for the good of the other person.  Vs. 28 gets more specific.  What about when someone curses us?  We are to respond with a blessing.  Cursing involves using our words to either verbally abuse someone or even to cast curse or hex upon someone.  If they are using words to try and harm you then respond by using words to bless them.  The second part of this verse uses a word that also has the idea of verbal abuse, such as threats.  Instead of threatening them back we are told to pray for them.  Right away I can hear everyone of our inner hearts saying with dripping cynicism, “O, yeah, that ought to do it.”  Remember, Jesus is not telling us what to do to stop our enemies or to make their hate stop.  The response that he gives us is not to stop them, but the proper response to them.  So what would you pray for your enemy?  Yes, our flesh is tempted to pray for lightning bolts to strike them or the earth to open up and swallow them.  However, this is clearly what Jesus is saying.  Rather, you would pray that God would open their eyes to what they are and where they are headed.  Pray that their soul would be delivered from the hatred that holds them under its control and the judgment that they are rapidly approaching.  In verse 29 we have the famous turn-the-other-cheek statement.  Now this verse is often misunderstood.  Jesus is not talking about self defense when you are physically attacked by another person.  A person can defend themselves, without becoming engulfed in the rage of hate.  Being struck or slapped in the face was considered a great, public insult.  The emphasis here is on refraining from retaliation.  When you are deeply and publically insulted you tend to strike back in kind.  It is easy to be nice to people until they cross the line.  We then feel justified in making them pay.  If you are insulted, then you are not to insult back.  But, rather, you are to prepare yourself to handle further insult.  Thus, a Christian prepares for further insult, rather than plotting assault.

Jesus keeps going.  At the end of verse 29 Jesus refers to a person who takes your cloak, to which we are to be willing to give up our tunic (or under coat) as well.  Though this may appear to our eyes to be about theft, the wording ties it back to debts that we may owe someone, and even lawsuits in which we are required to give up the collateral for our loan.  The point about the cloak and tunic being taken brings a very specific idea to mind.  Only a poor person would put their cloak up for collateral.  But only a hard-hearted person would actually take it.  In fact the Law of Moses restricted the seizing of collateral that was considered basic to a person’s well being.  Thus to seize a person’s cloak and coat would be considered an unreasonable, and heartless act.  It is easy to absolve ourselves of any error when we collateralize something that we cannot afford to lose.  I was desperate.  Yet, Jesus calls his disciples to be willing to give up even our very basic needs to pay off our obligations.  Why would he command this?  Instead of relying on our rights to avoid payment, we are to be willing to lose everything in order to be square with others.  Though it is unreasonable to take a person’s protection from the environment and cast them out on the street, believers know that they have a Father in heaven that cares for them.  In fact, Jesus told us elsewhere not to be anxious in such moments.  He tells us to put God’s kingdom first (i.e. obey what God asks of you) and that God will take care of your basic needs (food, shelter, and clothing).  So this is really about an act of faith just as much as doing something loving to the other person.   We are quick to use the sins of others to absolve ourselves of the obligations we have, and even to sin back against them.  Christians are able to endure the unreasonable, because of the greatness of our God.  Truly, we are never desperate.  We may be desperate in our circumstances, and we may feel that there is no hope.  But, our God has pledged himself to take care of us.  Can you lay your desperations at the throne rather than taking them out on those who make you desperate?  Only God and a confidence in His care can enable you to do it.

Verse 30 starts out with the imposition of people asking you for something.  Christians are called to be giving people, rather than stingy.  As a general rule, we are to help people who ask us for help.  That doesn’t mean they get to set the terms of how you help.  But essentially we should give to those who ask of us.  However, sometimes people borrow or ask for loans that they don’t pay back or never intend to pay back.  In such cases Christians should not hunt them down and try to force payment back.  In fact Jesus gives us a different path.  If someone borrows from you then you need to prepare yourself to never see it again.  Similarly if you lend to someone, you need to do so while never expecting repayment.  I know that this sounds stupid to many.  However, Jesus is not talking about a blind giving that just keeps giving and giving.  Rather, He is speaking to those areas of our heart that do good, as long as it isn’t going to cost us.  When people take advantage of our goodness, we get angry and harden ourselves.   Jesus is not just calling us to loving feelings, but to that hard path of crucifying our flesh that wants to hate, and choosing love, all the while the other person does not.  We should give without expectation.   Frustration is the source of much of the hate in this world.  Jesus says to quit expecting from people and start trusting in God.  This will make you a much better person and a much happier person.

Jesus ends this section by restating what has come to be called The Golden Rule.  Do to others what you would want them to do to you.  He doesn’t give this up front as a plan A.  It is the plan period.  In the face of an enemy that is doing hateful things to us, Christians are called to do back to them what we would want them to do to us.  The Golden Rule is not about winning friends and manipulating people, er… I mean influencing people.  When it doesn’t work, our flesh wants to jump to a different rule and a different plan.  So why in the world would we give goodness to people who don’t deserve it? Basically it is because we don’t want to become a casualty to hate ourselves.  Yes, a person may have made themselves your enemy, but you have an even worse enemy yourself.  The devil wants to use the sin of others to plant the seed of bitterness and hate.  He will use that to destroy your soul at the expense of your eternity.  You are going to lose to one of these enemies.  You can’t win both.  If you sacrifice the long term so that you can feel better in the temporary then you might destroy your earthly enemies.  But, then again you might night.  However, if you surrender the fight against your earthly enemies to God, and pay them back love for hate, then you are guarding your heart against the spiritual enemy.  You sacrifice the temporary in order to gain the eternal.  Do you want a world of No H8?  Then choose to quit hating even the hateful.  Overcome their hate with counteractive actions of love rather than more hate.  You cannot defeat hate with more hate because in the end you will be defeated internally, and eternally.

No H8! audio

Friday
Sep292017

The Feasts of the Lord

Pastor Robert Specter of Rock of Israel Ministries shared on Sunday morning, September 24, 2017.  This is a worthy ministry that has a heart for the Jewish people and works to proclaim Jesus as HaMashiyach.

We spent the morning learning how Jesus fufilled and will fulfill the Feasts of the Lord listed in Leviticus 23.  During his first coming Jesus fulfilled the spring feasts and will fulfill the fall feasts at His Second Coming.

Passover-  Jesus is our Passover Lamb.

Unleavened Bread- Jesus is the bread from heaven, without sin, that is provided by God to satisfy the need of our soul.

Firstfruits-  Jesus is the firstfruit of those raised from the dead.  He gives us promise of the resurrection to come.

Weeks or Pentecost-  Jesus is the sender of the Holy Spirit to enable God's people to bring in the harvest.

Summer break-  This is the period that we are in now.  A time of no feasts, where the people are busy working in the harvests.

Trumpets- The sound of the trumpet will announce the rapture of Christians to be forever with the Lord.

Atonement-  A time of national repentance for Israel as they look upon the one whom they pierced and weep.  A fountain of cleansing will be opened up by Jesus at His Second Coming to bring salvation to the nation of Israel.

Booths or Tabernacles-  Jesus will dwell with us throughout the Millennial Kingdom and on into the New Heavens and the New Earth.  We will dwell with Christ in permanent, glorified bodies as opposed to temporary earthly bodies.

May God help us to be about our Father's business during this season of work.  We must work while it is yet day because the night is coming when no man can work.  Amen!