Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Jesus the King: Part 3

Jesus is our Shepherd who cares for us, our leader who gave himself for us and fights for us. He is also our absolute ruler. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus has some pretty strong words for those who would claim to follow him. Jesus is a despot. A benevolent despot, but a despot nonetheless. He expects nothing less than total allegiance to him. It is hard for us to grasp the ramifications of this. We live in a democratic republic where we have a say. We tend too easily to give our allegiance to things of this world, whether it's a person, party, ideology, country, church, or denomination. None of these things can come before our King. They may be good things, but they are still things of this world that will pass away.

Even those who live under dictatorships can possibly overthrow their rulers. Jesus cannot be overthrown. His power is absolute and his word is law. When he commands something, he doesn't put it up for a referendum. His commands are so vital that they carry eternal significance. There is a bit of tension when we talk about following Jesus and then read about obeying his commands. I thought we were saved by grace, not by keeping the law. Why does Jesus give us all these commands? When you look at Jesus' commands, they are actually quite impossible, if we try ton keep them in our own strength. That's what makes the kingship of Jesus so different. His commands are not just a new law, a new list of do's and don'ts. They are what Kingdom people are, how they live. Not only does our King give us commands, he also gives us the power to obey them. As we grow more and more into Kingdom people, we take Jesus' commands more and more seriously, realizing that we can only do what he says through the power of his Spirit in us. That's where grace comes in. Our King knows that we are weak and falter in our walk with him. He doesn't cast us into a dungeon or out of the Kingdom. He pulls us up and reminds us of who we are.

So, what does this mean for us here in the 21st century? First, we must realize that while the Kingdom has been inaugurated, it is not fully realized. In a very real sense, Jesus is a King in exile. We, his subjects, are here to work for his Kingdom. We are citizens of a Kingdom that is not like the kingdoms of this world. Second, we must learn what following the King means. As we look into Scripture, we must do so with the commitment to do what Jesus says. Third, we then are to teach one another, in community, how it all fleshes out in our day-to-day. We show what our King is like by sacrificially loving and serving others. We live out his words that those who belong to him are family.

As we do these things, we must remember that we can not live this way in our own power. We can do so only in the power of the Holy Spirit. We must also remember that we will not do this perfectly in this life, and that our brothers and sisters also will falter in their walk. Patience and grace is vital.

To quote one of my favorite passages from Tales of the Kingdom, "How goes the world?"  "The world goes not well." "But, the Kingdom comes!" Let us be people in whom the Kingdom comes more and more each day.

Part 2
Part 1

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

This weekend we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. This is my favorite holiday. It's one that hasn't been co-opted as much by the culture. And we don't have to listen to rants about a "war on Easter" either.

Enjoy the links:

Pam Hogeweide on artistic grace.
What America needs.
Scandalous.
The healing power of forgiveness.
Grace notes from Keith Giles.

Good post from the Babylon Bee.
Easter disasters.
Evidently, Good Friday this year was a rare day.
In remembrance. (HT: Bob Edwards)
The hard road.

The grip of doubt.
Ugly food.
Trusting our beliefs.
John Updike on Easter.
President Jesus?

Creepy Easter bunnies.
Revolutionary changes.
What you do, or who you are?
Redefining greatness.

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Jesus the King: Part 2

Jesus is not only the King who is our Shepherd, he is also the Servant King. In contrast to those false shepherds in Ezekiel 34, who not only neglected to care for the sheep, but treated them harshly and used them for their own benefit, Jesus is a king who leads by serving. That seems strange to us who have grown up with "strong leaders," who took what they could get and built empires on the backs of their followers. Unfortunately, even in the church, there are leaders who would get along quite well with the false shepherds of Israel. Jesus is not that kind of leader. In Matthew,

Jesus stated that he came to serve and to give his life. In John 6, we see him serving others even when he was exhausted. In John 13, Jesus washed the disciples' feet, performing the job of a household slave, and then told them to serve others in the same way.Philippians 2 tells us that the one who is God took on servant good and performed the ultimate act of serving by giving his life for us. Our King serves us now being our advocate before the Father. Our King fights for us, strengthens us, intercedes for us. He leads us and calls us to follow him by loving and serving others.

May we follow our call to be servants, even to the point of laying down our lives for others.

Part 1

Friday, March 18, 2016

Jesus the King: Part 1

Back in December, our church did an Advent series on Jesus as a prophet, as a priest, and as a king. I had the privilege of teaching about Jesus as King. We looked at three aspects of Jesus' kingship: shepherd, servant, and absolute ruler. This first post looks at Jesus as Shepherd.

For the rare person who may not know what a shepherd does, he takes care of the sheep. He watches nover them and feeds them. Ancient Near-Eastern peoples saw their rulers as shepherds. Sumerian kings were depicted as wearing a shepherd's hat and were recognized as the protectors of their people. The Hykso rulers were known as shepherd kings. In Psalm 23, David declares that God is the Shepherd. The Hebrews would have understood that David was also calling God the King.

Israel's human leaders, both kings and priests, were called shepherds. In Ezekiel 34:1-10, God calls the nation's leaders to account for being bad shepherds. In verses 11-16 of the same chapter, God says that he himself will be Israel's Shepherd. Jesus applies that to himself in John 10:14, when he says that he is the Good Shepherd, that all who came before him were thieves and robbers. Hebrews 13:20 calls Jesus the great Shepherd of the sheep, and 1 Peter 2:25 tells us that he is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. Like a shepherd, our King takes care of us. As David wrote, we lack nothing. He feeds us, protects us, and leads us. Sometimes he takes us into the valley, but we can have assurance that he is always with us and has gone that way before.

In this election season in particular, let us remember that there is no human ruler who can provide what we really need, no matter what they promise. Our Shepherd is the Creator of this universe. He is the true King.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

It's a beautiful weekend here in the sunny South. We did some yard work today and it felt good to be out in the sunshine starting to get the yard back in shape. I'll probably be a little sore tomorrow, but it's all good. The presidential race is still interesting. Not good, but interesting. Baseball season is near, and the best month in sports has begun. It's college basketball tournament time! I'm hoping my Xavier Musketeers make a long run this year.

On to the good stuff:

24 things.
Feathers.
Coffee and theology.
When forgiveness isn't enough.
Your emotions are speaking.

Scot McKnight on  Andy Stanley and church.
The cost of love.
The lost hope of self-help.
Being counter-cultural.
Inspired by bacon.

Sara Condon on "Footprints."
Good post from Chuck DeGroat.
This is inspiring.
This is pretty cool.
This is something to think about.

Zack Hunt on small church.
Dan Edelen on Christians and media clickbait.
Jared Wilson on Easter giveaways.
The nations as "Babylon."
Daniel Wells on church membership.

Have a blessed week!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Blast From the Past: Out of the Cave, Into the...

This was first posted on February 6, 2012. The healing process had begun.

Some of you have read my recent post about finding myself in a cave. I'm now out of the cave, although still not far from the entrance. I now find myself in the middle of a thicket, sort of like a stand of rhododendron or mountain laurel, so thick that you cannot see out of it. It is still somewhat dark, and the direction I should take is unclear. I see many paths out, but don't know yet which one to take.

There is the path that would take me back into the church world I left a few years ago. Next to it is the path that would take me to the land of the mega-church. Here I could find a place to hide and lick my wounds. One path seems to go in circles, and looks as if it would leave me no better off. Yet another way out continues in the search for community. That is the path that interests me the most, and the way that I have learned most about in the last couple of days.

You see, I have learned something about community, and about myself. I think I'm beginning to learn why I spent time in the dark cave. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a pretty laid back individual, but that when I am passionate about something, I tend to go all out. As I learned more and more about the God's desire for his children to live as brothers and sisters because of Christ, I became more and more passionate with living in community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” As I look back on the past year, and my desire to have and fight for community, I realize I inadvertently pushed it too hard and may have been part of the cause of its destruction. I know that my heart was good, but I think I may have wanted community so badly that I didn't see the problems that it was causing. Even though I tried to sacrificially love those around me, I think that I didn't leave room for God to work, thinking that as long as we spent enough time together, growth and maturity would automatically happen.

I now realize that community is something that has to happen naturally, as God's people learn to love one another. It is something that cannot be forced, and the Holy Spirit must be the one to form it rather than humans whose motives can be tainted by our own needs. I also realize that a particular form of community may not last as long as I think, and that I need to be willing to let it go when it is time. For those of you reading this who have been on the receiving end of my misguided efforts, I am sorry. I put the ideal of community ahead of my brothers and sisters. I was wrong.

As to what is next in this journey along the back roads, only God knows. I know that Jan and I still desire to share our lives with some fellow Christ-followers. I also know that it may not take any form that we expect. It may be in a regular gathering. It may take place in just getting together with one or two who share our desire. What I also know is that I want it to be something that happens as Christ's Spirit moves, not when I think it should happen.

I'm learning to trust my Father. As I leave the thicket, I want to be hear my Shepherd's voice and follow him wherever he leads, whenever he leads, and to whatever he leads. I would appreciate your prayers.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Blast From the Past: The Cave

This was first posted on January 25, 2012. It was not a good time in my life. Thankfully the Father has redeemed and brought healing. Sometimes it's good to look back and see where we were and where we are now.


Papa! Papa! Where am I?

How did I get here? It's so dark. I can't see a thing!
I remember walking along the path with my friends. Next thing I know I'm waking up here in the dark. I think I remember the path passing near the entrance of a cave. Is that where I am?

How do you feel?

Everything hurts. I feel like I got hit by a truck. Now I remember. We were walking along when I was hit by something. Who would have done something like this?

An Enemy has done this.

Papa, it hurts so bad! I don't understand! I'm all alone here in the darkness and I feel like everyone has abandoned me!

You are not alone. Your most trusted long time companion is near, waiting for you. I am here.

How did this happen? Everything seemed good. There was some loose rock on the path at times, and there were some places where part of the path had washed away. but I thought we had gotten past them. I thought this part of the journey was going well. I thought we were together.

Papa?

I'm broken. I feel like I can't move. I'm afraid to try because I can't see and I don't know if it's safe. I don't know what to do!

Do you remember the time you spent in the desert learning to trust me rather than what you expected me to do?

Yes, I do. That was hard.

You still have more to learn.

Does it have to be so painful? I'd rather lose a job again than feel so hurt and rejected!

Papa, what do I do?

Stay here for awhile. Don't move. I know it's dark and you're scared, but I'm here with you. You are broken, but my love will heal you. You are safe here. Learn again to trust me. No matter what.

When the time comes, I will lead you out of this place, and you and the person who truly loves you will continue on in your journey with me.

Papa, help me! I have no strength.

I know. I am your strength. I love you, son.

Weekend Wanderings

Weekend Wanderings will be away for the next two weekends. We're heading out to the Left Coast to meet our new grandchild, who is expect...