Tag Archives: jesus

Kingdom of Cannibals?

10 May

Many years ago, a young Jewish man from Galilee began shaking things up. He referred to himself regularly as the “son of man” but at times also implied he was the son of God. Many people though he was the man they had been waiting for. Prophecies long ago had told of a man from God who would restore God’s kingdom on the earth. The Jewish people knew exactly what that meant. In their minds, that meant that a messiah would come and rescue Israel from their oppressors and then set up a perfect Jewish kingdom that would last forever.

But the messiah they got was not the messiah they expected. While they expected him to begin gathering weapons and training soldiers, He instead traveled from town to town teaching, healing, and showing up their religious leaders.

Once, he miraculously fed a crowd of thousands with only a few loaves and fishes (John  6.5-13). The people were astounded! If they could have a messiah that not only ended the Roman occupation, but could also miraculously provide food, there would be no stopping them! The people made up their minds that no more time could be wasted, they must make him their king!

By now, the man, Jesus, was avoiding the crowds, choosing instead to spend his time off in the wilderness. But even then the crowds hunted him down. But this time, the crowds were coming for more than to hear his teaching or see a miracle. They were going to force him into his destiny as their king (Jhn 6.15). They raced around the lake of Galilee to find where he had gone (Jhn 6.25).

Jesus, though, was not ignorant of their plans. He knew what they wanted of him, and even more He knew what his purpose really was. Regardless of how many times he had taught love over violence (Luk 6.27) and forgiveness over revenge (Mat 5.38-45;Mat. 18-21-22), the message had rarely made it through their thick skins. He was not there to fight (Jhn 3.17), he was there to model a different and better way of living.

The situation was tense when they found him, but before the crowd could do anything, Jesus shocked them with these words:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in them.” (Jhn 6.53-56)

This caught them by surprise and completely disarmed them. They entered that situation set on making him their king, and now they were hearing him say that needed to drink his blood and eat his body? They could not recall anything in their prophecies about Israel becoming a kingdom of cannibals! Why would he say such a thing?

The sad fact is that most of his followers did not listen past the first line of that teaching, and it is recorded that “many of his disciples went back and walked with him no more.” (Jhn 6.66)

This was no mistake, though, on Jesus’ part. He was giving them a glimpse into his own heart and his own motives. They wanted a powerful king who would save them from the Romans. He wanted to save their souls. They wanted Him to live in a palace, but He wanted to live in their hearts. They wanted him to take up weapons and spill the blood of humans, but he wanted to give his own life for them.

Jesus said, “Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in them.” He lived, died, and rose again to show us a better way of living. No more eye for an eye or tooth for a tooth. And he calls us as he called those Jewish people so long ago to do the same. He wants us to partake of his flesh and his blood, so we can continue his ministry in the world.

Jesus is alive and well on the earth today through the bodies of those of us who follow him. The life he offers us is his life, and it’s a life lived for others. Unlike the violent kingdoms of the world, we are part of a peaceful kingdom where rather than shed the blood of others, we give our lives for the sake of others, even if it means allowing our own blood to be shed.

Jesus gave his life for us, in order to free us from guilt, from shame, and from the old way of living. And today he invites us to join him in his resurrection as he works through us to redeem the entire world and everyone in it.

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Unity In Purpose

24 Nov

Previously we looked at how we in the church find unity through our identity. Today we spoke of how we find unity in the church through our purpose. Please listen and be blessed in Jesus’ name!

To play or download the message, click here.

Unity In Identity (Sunday Message)

3 Nov

With the many denomination and divisions we see in the church today, the question must be asked, “How do we find unity?” We have seen people try throughout history to find unity through practice and doctrine, but has that worked? Today we looked at the name that binds us together and under which we can find unity in the midst of diversity.

To play or download the message, click here.

You Are Amazing

19 Oct

Does God have to hold his nose when He interacts with us? Does He grit his teeth and say, “Well, I died on the cross so I guess I have to deal with them.” Many in the church would give this impression of God and his view of humanity. A popular term I have heard in books is “worm.” It is seen as humble for church leaders to say, “I am such a worthless little worm, yet for some reason God continues to love me.”

But is that really how Jesus sees us? An important term used in the New Testament is “redemption.” To redeem something means to buy it back, or to return it to its original value. Jesus illustrates this in Matthew 18.11-14 when He tells the story of a sheep who wanders away from the fold. When the shepherd realizes that the sheep is gone, He sets out to find it and bring it home, or redeem it. The concept of redemption assumes original value. Something can not be brought back to its original value unless it had value to begin with.

We each have individual value as unique and special creations by God, and our value was proven by Jesus’ death on the cross. In Romans 8.31-32, the apostle Paul says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” According to Paul, we lost the right to question God’s love and value for us when Jesus sacrificially gave his life for us. This is also emphasized in 1 John 4.9a where we read, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world…”

We are each children of God, but when we sin we take on guilt and shame which causes us to flee from God just as Adam and Eve did long ago (Gen 3.1-8). But God was not willing to leave us wallowing in guilt and shame. So He came to the earth and weighing his own life against ours, He willingly chose to sacrifice his own life for us. When He was killed, he took all of our shame and guilt and buried it deep in the ground, never to be seen again. But did He do it reluctantly? We read in Ephesians 1.5 that He has adopted and redeemed us “according to the good pleasure of his will.” Did you hear that? It pleased God to save us and adopt us as children!

When we speak down of ourselves we are misrepresenting the heart of God. He does not see us as disgusting little worms, He sees us as something amazing, as something worth redeeming. We lost the right to question God’s love and value for us when He gave himself for us on the cross. God did not die for you because you are a disgusting worm, He died for you because you are amazing and worth it! Let’s praise Jesus for that.

Love, Justice, and the Heart of God

21 Jul

I was given the opportunity to speak at our church service today! What is justice? What is the heart of God? Does the world see justice in the same way God sees it? This was straight from my heart by the power of the Spirit. Be blessed in Jesus’ name!

To download the MP3, click here.

A Time To Be Set Apart

18 Jan

“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” Romans 12.17-19

We live in a world obsessed with violence. You turn on the news and hear of wars fought both overseas and at home. The United States government has turned video games into reality and now war can be waged from behind a computer screen while heartless drones injure and kill countless thousands. Then, when robots won’t suffice, they send well-programmed human killing machines to do the work. And as if that is not bad enough, the government is now making its intentions clear that it plans to invade the lives and homes of its own citizens in order to steal more of their property, guns in particular. But the violent government is not the only group obsessing over guns and violence. While they plan their attack on American citizens, many otherwise good people are buying weapons and preparing to defend themselves and their families with violent force.

What I am about to say here is for those of us who follow Jesus. When he walked the earth, he laid out a brand-new way of living in a world much like ours today.

When Jesus came into the world, he came into the very center of conflict. Israel was a crucial junction between Rome to the west and Asia to the east. It was critical that Rome keep control of it, no matter the cost. The Israelites were a proud people and armed resistance was common. Assassinations were a daily reality. When Jesus arrived, the Jews were looking for a leader to defeat the Romans and drive them from their land. That is why his disciples asked him, “Now are you going to set up your kingdom!?!?” (Luk 19.11; Act 1.6) They expected him to send out a call to arms at any moment.

But that was never his intention. The kingdom he came to set up is “not of this world” (Jhn 18.36). In other words, it does not fit within the structure and ways of the world. The kings of this world vie for power and take it by force (Mat 11.12; 20.25). But Jesus knew that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Mat 26.52). He instead advocated a way of life where if someone takes your goods, you willingly let them take them and do not even ask for them back (Luk 6.30). To the world’s way of thinking, that is absolutely crazy. But Jesus took it even further and told his followers to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luk 6.27-28). While their desire had been to kill and drive out their enemies, Jesus left the people with a new challenge, a challenge to love (Jhn 13.34-35). They had to ask themselves the important questions, “Can I love my enemy while killing them? Am I doing good to my enemy by using violence against them? Can I bless and pray for my enemy while attempting to spill their blood?

The church was primarily pacifist until the time of Constantine when the church came to believe that it could make Jesus’ kingdom physical through force. That was a terrible experiment which we are still suffering through today.

Jesus’ followers are to be set apart from the world, and a life lived the way of Jesus is very different from the way of the world. It is impossible to not be set apart when you only pledge your allegiance to God (Act 5.29), when you love your enemies and do good to those who oppress you. Everyone around you will know you are different when you begin treating every living human being as your neighbor (Luk 10.29-37), and love them as yourself (Luk 10.27).

We have seen these truly set-apart people throughout history. Two examples are the Quakers and the Anabaptists. During the Catholic church’s wars against the Muslims, the Anabaptists experience extreme persecution because they were unwilling to join in the fight. Their stance of non-violence made them stand out and they became seen as a threat and were dealt with violently. Then later, during the American Revolution, the Quakers stood their ground as pacifists yet were treated as enemies by the American “patriots.” History shows time and again that the nonviolent lifestyle brings violent persecution. Maybe that is why Jesus warned his followers multiple times that persecution would always follow them.

Today we have a chance to stand out once again, to truly live like Jesus and let our lives be a clear contrast to the world around us. By the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can live out Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6. This is our chance to be salt and light (Mat 5.13-14) in a world set on its own destruction. This is a time for us to be set apart.

The Gospel of Eden

15 Jun

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them… Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good… So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” Genesis 1.27,31; 3.6-7

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and the crown of His creation was humanity. Unlike the other creations, mankind was made in God’s image. Then He put these–His perfect children–in a garden (Gen 2.8) where they lived completely exposed and completely free before Him (Gen 2.16, 25). But, for their own protection He warned them against eating the fruit of a certain tree, because in the day they ate of it, they would surely “die” (Gen 2.17).

This was as perfect of an existence as one can imagine. They were free of shame, they lived in a beautiful and bountiful garden, the work of their hands was abundantly blessed, and they lived in perfect communion with each other and with God.

But then their perfect lives were invaded by the serpent, a liar, who convinced them that rather than being perfect, they were incomplete, and it was up to them to attain perfection and “be like God.” So even though they were already perfect and “in the image of God”, they believed the lie and took their lives into their own hands, eating of the forbidden fruit (Gen 3.1-6). But rather than finding perfection and freedom, they found shame. They looked at their perfect bodies, but felt exposed, naked (Gen 3.7).

This incident brought them to a crossroads where they had an important decision to make. They knew that they had done wrong and they had two options, to surrender or to dig in. They were God’s perfect children and they could have cried and thrown themselves down at His feet asking for forgiveness, and had they done that I am convinced that He would have forgiven them on the spot. But instead, they dug in deeper. Their initial fault was that they had believed the lie that they were incomplete, and had taken matters into their own hands to reach perfection. But they felt shame and knew that they were not perfect any more because of it. So they made the same mistake again and tried by their own power to fix themselves. They took their perfect bodies, made in God’s image, and covered them up with fig leaves (Gen 3.7). But two wrongs never make a right, and the fig leaves did not help. Then sure enough, God found out (actually He already knew) what His kids were up to.

God took a great gamble when He created mankind, because in making them in His own image He gave them a free will. They were completely free to make their own decisions. In other words, their destiny was in their own hands. And with that freedom, they had chosen to believe a lie and seek to attain perfection by their own power. So rather than zapping them and changing their wills, He accepted their decision to take care of themselves.

Their reality had shifted. They were no longer living out of their identity as perfect children of God. Instead, they were now going to take care of themselves. So God explained to them what this was going to look like. In His perfect knowledge, God explained to them the work of their hands would no longer yield abundance, there would be more pain and children to deal with, and their relationships with Him and with each other would be confused up from then on. He then killed one of His precious creatures and made them clothing made of skin as a graphic image of the severity of what they had done.

Through the generations, this process continued as people tried by their own strength to better themselves, to lift themselves out of their shame and condemnation. Some went so far as to commune with demonic entities. But none of it brought the peace and freedom that humanity was designed to enjoy.

When the time was right, God graciously provided to mankind His written law, so they could see and know the perfect standard that they were trying to attain. The law can be summed up with this, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mat 22.37-39). But as people came to find, they could not live that out. No matter how hard they worked to keep the law, they kept feeling more and more shame and condemnation. Generation after generation on the earth continued to sow together fig leaves, in a sense, to try and fix themselves and reach perfection and fulfillment on their own, believing the same lie that Adam and Eve believed. But were never able to reach it.

But in the midst of all this, God had a plan to redeem mankind. He knew that the only way to change the hearts of mankind was to let them find out for themselves how hopelessly lost they were apart from their identity as His children. He knew that in order for them to shake off the lie (that they could be more like God through their own strength), they had to see where the lie had lead them.

So when the right time had come, God came to the earth as a human being to clean up the mess and redeem mankind. This God-man was Jesus. He came preaching the truth, proclaiming “Repent, and believe in the good news!” (Mark 1.15). Repent means to “change one’s mind.” What Jesus was proclaiming was “Change your way of thinking and believe the good new!” What is the good news? You are created in the image of God! You are made to be perfect and without shame! You are made to live in right relationship with God and His creation! Stop thinking that by sewing together fig leaves that you can reach your created value! By your own power you cannot make yourself more like Me! The only way you can reach your created value is to tell God you are sorry for trying to save yourself and instead embrace who you were already created to be!

But, there still was a problem–death. Just as God had warned Adam and Eve, death entered the perfect creation once they stepped outside of who they were made to be. The old serpent, the devil, knew that He must stop Jesus before He brought freedom and life to mankind. So just as he had tempted Eve to step outside of her created value, he tempted Jesus on multiple occasions (Luke 4.1-14, Mat 16.23). But unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus never gave in. He embraced who He was and lived out His perfect, created value, exactly as all mankind was originally meant to have live.

Because he could not cause Jesus to fall through temptation, Satan changed tactics and instead decided the only way to shut Jesus up was to kill Him (Luke 22.3-4). And having been possessed by Satan, Judas betrayed Jesus and handed him over to be killed. Then on that fateful day, Jesus was wrongfully accused, condemned and murdered by death on a cross (Mark 14-15). Satan thought he had won.

But if striving for perfection outside of our identity leads to death, then living life completely in perfection as children of God must lead to life! And in victory Jesus then rose from the grave, defeating the serpent and the lies. The apostle Paul described the significance of this when he wrote, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor 15.20-22). Jesus modeled the perfect life, the life we are all meant to have. And though the first man, Adam, left a legacy of death, Jesus left us a legacy of life!

So what now stands between us and the life God designed for us? Repentance and belief in the gospel. To follow Jesus is to step into our identity as children of God, free of the curse of shame and condemnation that Adam and all those like him brought on themselves.

The truth is that we can live the life we were meant to live, in perfection, in right relationship with each other and with our heavenly Father. All the fig leaves in the world can never bring us back to our created value, only repentance and belief in the good news.

A Pure Heart

5 Jun

“Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”
Matthew 5.8 NKJV

One really cannot over-emphasise the important of a pure heart in the life of a believer. Jesus said that the pure in heart will see God, and that is because the heart (or soul) is the center of communication between our spirit and our mind. When our heart is pure, the lines of communication are wide open and we are able to see and hear God. But when our heart is filled with sin, the lines of communication are closed and God feels distant.

It is always difficult to talk about sin, because the natural human reaction is to fall back into legalism and try by one’s human strength to avoid sin. But while it is a sticky subject, it is still one that needs addressing.

When we believe in Jesus and accept His gift of salvation, we are cleansed within. All guilt and condemnation are done away with and within our spirit we receive the perfect righteousness of Jesus. But even though we are righteous in God’s eyes from that point on, we still can sin. Now the whole point of our salvation is that we are able to enter into a right relationship with God, but that is undone when we continue in sin. It happens in increments, rather than all at once. As we continue to sin without repentance, the lines of communication become increasingly cloudy and can lead to a point where God is so distant that you the believer no longer feel His presence or hear His voice at all. That is the worst thing that could possibly happen to a believer because it turns the purpose of our salvation upside-down and calls into question whether we are even saved.

The unfortunate truth is that much of the church today and throughout history has taught that we are born in sin, we live in sin, and die in sin, never reaching practical righteousness until we leave this earth. This kind of thinking is death, because it gives believers an excuse to continue in sin. The assumption is that Jesus was perfect but we will never be–in practical terms. But is that the truth? No!

Jesus told His followers to “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mat 5.48). He did not include any ifs, ands or buts! We have been called to righteous perfection, not unrighteous defeatism. The apostle Paul said that we have been “set free from sin” and have become “slaves of God” (Rom 6.22). If we have been set free, then why do people teach that sin will be a reality in our lives until we die?

One popular passage used by those who want biblical justification for continuing in sin is 1 John 1.8 which says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” But the following verse puts that in context by saying, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The acceptance of sin in our lives is a precursor to salvation, not the reality of one after having been forgiven and cleansed by Jesus! And if there is still any question, two verses later he says, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Notice that he says “if” someone sins rather than “when” someone sins. Once we are saved, our default is set to righteous. We have become slaves to righteousness. Our “old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom 6.6).

Our redeemed value is perfection, both on the inside and out. We have no more excuses to continue in sin. If we want to continue in a right relationship with God, we must take the necessary steps to eradicate sin in our lives through prayer and saturating ourselves in His Word. Remember what Jesus told Peter, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Apart from vigilance and prayer, our flesh is weak. But when we are honest with ourselves and earnestly seek the Lord in prayer, our flesh is strong!

If we want to see God, know God and hear His voice, we must have a completely pure heart (or conscience) before Him. That is the truth.

Matthew 18

10 Nov

This chapter contains Jesus’ discourse on the childlikeness of believers. It is a beautiful reminder of God’s love for us, but also a warning for us on how we treat each other.

To download the MP3, click here.

The Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ

1 Aug

Power, Signs, and Gifts: Part 2
The Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ

“Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” Mark 13:26

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the world, in its Edenic perfection, was good (Gen 1:31). At this time, mankind walked and talked with God face-to-face, there was no pain, suffering, sickness, death or any other such hardships that we experience today. And in this perfect state, mankind was given dominion over the earth and everything in it (Gen 1:26). This was God’s ideal for the world and mankind. But soon afterward, man left God’s ideal and followed the serpent instead (Gen 2:16-17; 3:1-6), effectively giving dominion of the earth over to the devil (Luk 4:6). Along with sin came pain, suffering, death, violence, discontentment and physical hardships. This is the opposite of God’s ideal. So it begs the question, did God mess up? NO!

God is omniscient, which means that He knows absolutely everything (1 Jo 3:20; Job 37:16; Ps 147:5). God knew what would happen to His perfect creation and yet still decided to make it. But God was not willing that His creation should be entirely lost, so He put into motion a plan to redeem the world and its people. In Genesis 3:15, God indicated that there would be a son born on the earth who will crush the head of the devil. This perfect Son of Man is Jesus, who came to the world two thousand years ago and gave His life to redeem the souls of mankind. But while the souls of believers have been redeemed, the physical world has yet to be redeemed. Following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, two angels told His disciples that “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Act 1:11) That is the day that the whole world longs for (Rom 8:22). But what will characterize His return?

When Jesus returns, He will come with awesome power and glory (Mar 13:26) and cast out the devil (Rev 19:11-20:4) and all unrighteous people from the world (Mat 25:31-46). Then He will set up the perfect kingdom of God upon the earth (Rev 20:4-6). Right now, the kingdom of God is only a spiritual reality within the hearts of believers, but when the kingdom of God merges with the physical world, the characteristics that currently prevail only in the hearts of believers will for the first time since the fall prevail over the entire face of the earth! With Jesus as King of the world, righteousness, peace, and joy will reign! We know from the book of Isaiah that the major elements of the curse will be folded back and “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb” (Is 11:6) and “the nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole” (Is 11:8). Also, all the spiritual cloudiness of today will be done away with and “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Is 11:9). At this time, thorns and thistles will all go away (Is 32:13-15) and the dry, barren parts of the earth will “blossom as the rose” (Is 35:1-7). Lastly, all physical deformity and sickness will be done away with as Jesus the great healer reigns as King (Is 33:24; 35:5-6)!

Some people might ask, “How do we know that Jesus has the power to accomplish all these great things?” Well, we know that He has the power to accomplish these things because He displayed that power while He was on the earth the first time. He did many great wonders and miracles showing his power and authority over physical infirmity, nature, demonic forces, and even death itself. He was at that time giving the world a taste of what is to come.

So now back to our question, “Did God mess up?” He most certainly did not. He had a plan which He began unfolding immediately after the fall and is still unfolding today. When Jesus Christ comes again, He will bring fulfillment to the earth and mankind. He is the “perfect” fulfillment of everything that God had planned. It is in hope and expectation of this future day that we pray, “Thy kingdom come.” May we live every day in light of this incredible truth.