The edge of the cliff

Text: Hebrews 6:1-12

Hebrews is not a book for the lighthearted or the new Christian. Its argument is the centrality and sufficiency of Jesus Christ and it assumes a large background of knowledge about the OT and How God interacted with his people. The ultimate purpose as I’ve read it is to argue apathetic or stagnating Christians to a fuller living of the faith. Our text quickly reviews just what the writer takes as basics of the Christian faith: 1) Repentance, 2) Faith, 3) Baptism (i.e. ablutions), 4) Laying on of hands (ministry?), 5) resurrection of the dead and 6) eternal judgement. When you think about those things, they can all be intellectualized or made point in time events. A person can give assent to them (i.e. express belief in them) without attempting to live out that belief.

The background to the next portion is Israel on the verge of the promised land. They send out 12 spies. These are people who witnessed the Exodus and who stood at Mt. Sinai. They expressed belief in God and took part in the ritual life of the community, yet when they came back from spying out the land, they did not live out what God intended. (Numbers 13 – 14) And the punishment was death in the desert. Not a single person of that generation would enter the Promised land. The writer of the Hebrews says be careful that you do not receive the same fate. If you have been to the promised land, tasted the heavenly gift (forgiveness of sins), and turned away, there is no restoration.

This does not speak of sin and repentance, but the sin against the Holy Spirit – calling God a liar in his promises. Just how far can one go in apostasy before committing that sin? We don’t want to know. If you walk up to a cliff, do you want to find out where that tipping point is that throws you over it? Instead son’t be sluggish,”but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Press on in the faith. Live and grow in the faith. Don’t map out that cliff edge.

The Handwriting on the Wall – Chrysler and GM and Us

Daniel 5:1-12 (The setup)
Daniel 5:13-30 (The reveal)

The title of this post is a phrase you hear in English, often shortened to the writing’s on the wall as in the writing’s on the wall for Chrysler and GM. The implication is that the end is near and that it is obvious for everyone but those very close to the party.

The source is Daniel. The new Neo-Babylonian King is having a party and commanded that all the stuff from Solomon’s temple be brought to it. They proceed to use it for debauchery. A ghostly hand appears and writes on the wall. This is obviously not a good sign, but nobody in the court can read the message.

The queen, who for some reason wasn’t at the debauchery, reminds the new king that Nebuchanezzer had someone who was good at this stuff – Daniel. Daniel appears and tells the King: 1) Your days are numbered, 2) You have personally been found wanting and 3) Your kingdom is going to fall. Daniel reaps the reward as “3rd ruler in the kingdom”, but the kingdom falls that night as the king was was slain.

As sinful humans we have an amazing capacity to not read the handwriting. I’d bet old Daniel wouldn’t have even needed the words on the wall to deliver that message. God drops us notes all the time in our lives. Coincidences might be one of those notes. If there is a personal God who cares about his people and the world, don’t you think he’d send a warning or a wake-up call every now and then? Now if he just sent an angel, or the hand appeared every time, it wouldn’t exactly be our actions. But the next time you hear a sermon that you think is aimed at you, or your mother calls at just the right time, or you find yourself talking with an old friend you haven’t contacted in years, ask yourself – is the handwriting on the wall for something? What might God be trying to say?

Don’t look inward, look outward for our salvation and our mission

lent5-wordle

Full Text

Text: Mark 14:32-42

Two poles – 1) It’s about Jesus and 2) He’s got a mission. That has been the core summary of this series through Holy Week in Mark’s Gospel. Our spiritual adversary tries to push us off that second pole. The last thing he wants is faithful Christians actually sharing the Word that frees us from his kingdom of chains. He will shoot us a variety of lies: You don’t measure up to the saints, you don’t talk well enough, you aren’t a perfect person. Gracefully, it is not about us. If it were, the devil would be right. We aren’t enough of anything. But it is about Jesus and what He has done for us on that cross. Peter, the leader and example of the disciples, is our great biblical example. The disciple who fell asleep and denied his Lord at the hour of great distress, is never told by Jesus to go away, but is always invited along. Peter, after all that betrayal, is told to, ‘feed my sheep’. If the devil has you looking inward, you will never get the mission. Our salvation and our mission come from outward. They come from the one it is all about – Jesus Christ.

The Law, repentance and hypocrisy – and a quick note

Last week I know I was hoping to get back to writing these more regularly as we got into Jeremiah and Romans. My wife is roughly 8 months pregnant and is starting to run out of steam much quicker. Short answer is that the family has been taking more time of necessity. I need to get better at time management or just write faster.

Text: Jeremiah 7:1-15

For me Jeremiah has always been a scary book. One that cut to the quick in multiple ways. Maybe it is just that Jeremiah speaks to my fears more than the others.

There are fundamentally two types of religion. There is the religion of a law. That law could be the 10 commandments. It could also be the law of nature, the words of Mohammed, the path of the eastern religions, or any other system known by man. The other religion is a personal relationship with the living God.

Under that law, if you do x, it doesn’t matter how you do x, just that you do it. It all ends in some form of incantation – religion as magic. That is what Jeremiah levels at the people of Judah. They have turned their relationship with the God who gave them the land into incantations. Bobbing and chanting – “This is the house of the LORD.” Standing in that house, asking for forgiveness and yelling “We are delivered!” and then going back out and doing all the same things as if nothing changed. Under the law you can do those things, because it is all just a game. Say the right words, do x, and everything is better.

If you have that personal relationship, doing those things is a betrayal of the other person. Asking for forgiveness is not some incantation. It comes with costs for both people. God wants that relationship. He calls you to that relationship. As Jeremiah has God saying – “I called you persistently…” And here is the kicker. Even in the old testament, that land of the law, the law can’t save. Judah was doing the law. They did the appropriate sacrifices. They were in the temple. The sang the song of deliverance. They just didn’t want that personal relationship – Too tough. When God called, they didn’t answer. They did not live life as if the LORD was really there.

Do we treat prayer, worship and the church as incantations, or do we answer the call to talk with God? Tough question. Are we under the law, or do we have a relationship with the living God?

Zeal

Text: John 2:13-22

One of these links:here or here should work (from WSJ, so one might be behind paywall.) The author is calling on Obama to correct his party on one issue and is using Obama’s own words as a spur.

Here is the money portion…

All of which leaves the First Parent with a decision to make: Will he stand up for those like his own children’s schoolmates — or stand in front of the Sidwell door with Mr. Durbin? It’s hard to imagine white congressional Democrats going up against him if he called them out on an issue where they have put him in this embarrassing position. This, after all, is a man who has written of the “anger” he felt as a community organizer, when his attempts to improve things for Chicago school kids ran up against an “uncomfortable fact.”

“The biggest source of resistance [to reform],” he said, “was rarely talked about . . . namely, the uncomfortable fact that every one of our churches was filled with teachers, principals, and district superintendents. Few of these educators sent their own children to public schools; they knew too much for that. But they would defend the status quo with the same skill and vigor as their white counterparts of two decades before.”

In our text, John relates Jesus in the original template for “anger” meeting “uncomfortable fact”. The temple, the center of Israel and God’s house, was occupied primarily with economic exchange. The message being portrayed was not the God of salvation, but the god who could be bought, and bought cheap. Instead of being the foundation and the center of Israel’s life (Deut 6:7), God had become an adjunct to be appeased. Jesus’ reaction to this was zeal. Another word for that would be righteous anger.

Society is never comfortable with righteous anger. Society has a stated interest in itself, and righteous anger is the response to abuse of power. Righteous anger is directed at how society has aligned itself and says repent. What we in the church often fail to recognize is that Jesus’ righteous anger is directed against the Temple – the religious establishment. When we know better or should know better, we have a responsibility to act better. We are called to be salt and light to society. When we don’t, repentence is necessary.

Jesus’ overturned the money tables and called for the tearing down of the temple. That physical temple would no longer be God’s house. God was doing something new. The tough part of our Christian pilgrimage is discerning when that is the correct answer or when repentance and reform are correct. Following Jesus isn’t easy – life and death decisions never are.