Reflections From 1 Corinthians Chapter 4:6-21__ “WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF OUR PRIDE AND HOW DO WE REMEDY IT?”

1-corinthians

Paul continues his thought from verses 1-5 and explains the previous clause in verse 6:

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.

To what is Paul figuratively applying to himself and Apollos?  Not to make any judgements?  I think not since he’s calling out their arrogance and thus making a judgment.  Is it that Paul is ignorant of his own sin and doesn’t judge himself?  Again, I think not since partaking of the Lord’s Table requires self-examination and he exhorts believers to judge themselves in 1 Corinthians 11.

Could it be that the Corinthians judgment of Paul is insignificant to him or that of any human court concerning the value of his apostleship?  Perhaps but, why figuratively, why not speak plainly?  Could it be to confound their alleged “wisdom”?  More likely it’s that he’s a steward and servant of Christ.  But how can one possibly be the servant and steward of Christ and God’s mysteries since the deity is the source of all life and is self-existent?  He clues us in and says, “…stewards must be found trustworthy”.

I take that to mean that that if one is trustworthy, it’s based on Christ’s work on their behalf in election or being chosen by Him (see chapters 1:30-31; 3:6-10), rather than by any human autonomous ultimate choice.  I think that’s what Paul is driving home, the purpose here is to take the Corinthians back to God’s word which is foolishness to the world of men, but is actually God’s power and wisdom.

Paul is exhorting these believers to be God-centered in their thoughts by being Word-centered, the fruit of which is humility, not arrogance.  That is, when our standard of wisdom and knowledge is based on the creature, not the Creator’s revelation to us, arrogance will follow.  This arrogance is plain when we compare ourselves among ourselves and Paul says that that’s foolish, unbiblical and results from this fallen evil age.  It’s stupid thinking!

That was a problem then, and remains until today.  Which “superstar” pastor do you enjoy hearing friend?  And who do you disparage even if they are faithful to Christ’s word?  We have a human weakness that is ever present and raises it’s despicable head when we make much of the creature and little of the Creator because His word is not the ultimate source we turn to for wisdom and knowledge.

Paul is now going to first ask the Corinthians a question that concerns the source of their thought life and points out first that their gifts were not earned, but given, thus boasting here is immoral.  And secondly, Paul seems to ridicule their refrain and opinion of him:

For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

 You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. 11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.”   

Again here we essentially see the marks of true discipleship in Paul where according to this world’s wisdom the apostle’s life is ultimately unattractive, unsophisticated, and unbearable (v.9) “men condemned to death”, (v.10) “fools for Christ’s sake…we are weak…we are without honor”, (v.11) “we are both hungry and thirsty…poorly clothed…roughly treated…homeless;”, (v.13) “…we are slandered…the scum of the world…dregs of all things,

These descriptions of Paul the world loathes in its wisdom and the Corinthians have drunk deep from its’ well.  Thus, not only does Paul explain from where their gifts come, and ridicules their view of him, but thirdly he explains his motive for said descriptions and his argument from verse 1:

14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.”   

Paul does not want to shame but rather exhort them to follow his example as a father would to his children.  He can say this because he’s following Christ and by doing so, unlike the Corinthians, he’s living in light of the Gospel which is producing hardships that from a worldly perspective looks to be a wasted life.

So Paul not only wants them to imitate his faithfulness to Christ, but fourthly he goes on to explain that his motive in sending Timothy was for them to see what a real disciple looks like:

17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. 21 What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?

Note how Paul compares Timothy’s faithfulness to the Corinthians unfaithfulness by his disclosure of Timothy as “my beloved and faithful child in the Lord”.  Here we see Paul’s prior rebuke and necessary exhortation (vv. 17-18) to children in the Lord who are filled with pride and are losing their way because they heed worldly wisdom.

Timothy is a faithful man of God because he’s grounded in the apostolic teaching which issues from the Lord Himself (Mt.7:28-29).  Thus, a pattern of teaching obtains from Paul which Timothy replicates in every place he teaches.  He’s telling the Corinthians to heed Timothy’s teaching because it’s like Paul’s.

Finally, Paul addresses those who are arrogant and calls them out: “You can talk for sure, but can you walk it out?”  That’s what I see Paul doing by asking them to see their, “power” and not their “words” (vv.19-20).  What we know is that this power is from the Spirit which produces new birth in dead souls (1 Cor.2), not mere words, but as it were, “God breathed life giving powerful words”.

Paul is calling the Corinthians out on their ignorance to which their arrogance so swiftly blinds them.  We must remember that this pride still blinds people today from seeing and delighting in the Gospel of Christ, and is thus ready to damn the prideful into a Christ-less eternity where God’s just wrath awaits the ungodly.  That’s pride’s danger, but it’s remedy is a God-centered, Word-centered, Gospel oriented life.

(SDG)

Advertisements

A Tribute To Daniel Elijah Day

13238884_10207707080410068_684436908753380975_n

After an exhausting day of work, the tragic news an old friend relayed speared my soul and sapped what strength remained.  Daniel Elijah Day passed away at the age of 23.  I knew him while in his mother’s womb, from a distance I saw him grow, struggle and mourn, but the poem of Daniels life his friends related was very Christ-like and comforting.

They described Daniel as a man who sought them out when all others ignored them, a soul that gave hope to hopeless youth, love and acceptance to those lacking it, a “Pied Piper” of sorts whose insight, compassion and words deeply touched the many friends he made.  To the “Trifecta” my heart and prayers go out to you.

27914_10202946179966193_1949927744_n

James Day (Daniel’s father and long-time dear friend) asked me to share some words at the majestic “Ranch” in Fort Collins Colorado. As the scores of people drove onto this family farm property (approximately 300-400 perhaps), and each young person spoke, I refrained from speaking sensing I’d hinder their many insights of Daniel.  What follows is some of what I wanted to share.

Before Daniel was born, I met James and Kristen (his parents) at a Mexico outreach Missions trip sponsored by Hope chapel.  A few years later they, like Trish and I were married.  We shared a lot of life together such that sleep overs at the Day’s Hermosa Beach apartment were frequent.

In the Summer or Fall of 1992 Kristen found out (through a pregnancy test) that she was pregnant with Daniel and as she spoke to Trish, a peculiar topic arose, my wife was late with her monthly cycle.  What transpired was epic.  James and Kristen came to our “love-shack” rental in El Segundo with a pregnancy test for Trish. The test was positive, the four of us elated with joy and James and I hugged each other as we screamed and jumped up and down like two little kids.

During the Spring months of 1993 both Day and Tangari families enrolled in “Bradley Birthing Classes” where drug-free natural child-birth is taught. While many of our friends and parents thought we were crazy in our approach that did not sway either family.  Daniel was born several weeks before my daughter Alexandra and that year the Day’s and Tangari’s learned the ups, downs and joys of parenting.

As so many people experience, the Day family moved out of state and eventually ended up in the “Rocky Mountain” state of Colorado.  Our family took a trip to Colorado in the summer of 2000 but then both of our families had grown.  The score was tied; Days three kids (Daniel, Jessie, David), Tangari’s three kids (Alexandra, Karina, Sergio D.).  We enjoyed the Ranch, the Cash la Poudre River, Estes Park, food and crashing at the Wellington home.  It reminded me of those early years in Hermosa Beach, California.  Those memories are forever precious to the Tangari clan.

13260092_10209632038468477_7444684636609585007_n

Several years later, Kristen and the children moved to Carlsbad, California.  I painted the house before they moved into it (Daniel’s room was painted black) and our families continued to connect whenever possible.  My son (who idolized Daniel) followed him and David with their skateboards bombing down the Carlsbad hills one summer as all the kids had a sleep over in that beautiful sunny town. Those were fun times, and Daniel loved to host fun.

Daniels wit can perhaps be captured by a game he taught us while driving down the road.  When we passed a sign, the object was to make a threatening “diddy”.  For example, “I’ll El your Segundo”—passing the town, or “I’ll Rancho your Park”—passing a street sign, or “I’ll Dough your Nuts”—passing Winchell’s.  I gotta say, I laughed long and hard along with my kids.

When the news of his death came, it pierced our family’s heart.  To Kristen, James, Jessie and David know that you are deeply loved by the Tangari’s and we will forever miss you Daniel Elijah Day.  A piece of us died with your death. (SDG)

Reflections From 1 SAMUEL 22-24: “A TALE OF TWO KINGS—Part 1”

29995_1_samuel_t_sm

The trials of David continue to unfold as he hides from King Saul in caves and forests (22:1-5).  In chapter 22 a turn of events reveals the type of man David was:

 

“So David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all his father’s household heard of it, they went down there to him. Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him. (Vv.1-2)

 There was a quality of character and leadership that David possessed that even in the worst of times his brothers (who once despised him) came to him for direction and hope.  David gathered unto himself (I think by God’s doing) people that were also like him: distressed, indebted and discontented.  How ironic that David would be surrounded by people who could relate to his plight, but it seems that God will often do that for us so that we don’t lose heart in the battles of life.   

            Saul’s madness once again manifests as he has the priests of Nob killed because they helped David in his hour of need.  When Ahimelech inquires of Saul and recounts David’s faithfulness it only leads to his death (22:11-19):

11 Then the king sent someone to summon Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father’s household, the priests who were in Nob; and all of them came to the king. 12 Saul said, “Listen now, son of Ahitub.” And he answered, “Here I am, my lord.” 13 Saul then said to him, “Why have you and the son of Jesse conspired against me, in that you have given him bread and a sword and have inquired of God for him, so that he would rise up against me by lying in ambush as it is this day?”   14 Then Ahimelech answered the king and said, “And who among all your servants is as faithful as David, even the king’s son-in-law, who is captain over your guard, and is honored in your house? 15 Did I just begin to inquire of God for him today? Far be it from me! Do not let the king impute anything to his servant or to any of the household of my father, for your servant knows nothing at all of this whole affair.” 16 But the king said, “You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father’s household!” 17 And the king said to the guards who were attending him, “Turn around and put the priests of the Lord to death, because their hand also is with David and because they knew that he was fleeing and did not reveal it to me.” But the servants of the king were not willing to put forth their hands to attack the priests of the Lord. 18 Then the king said to Doeg, “You turn around and attack the priests.” And Doeg the Edomite turned around and attacked the priests, and he killed that day eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. 19 And he struck Nob the city of the priests with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and infants; also oxen, donkeys, and sheep he struck with the edge of the sword.”     

This type of madness reveals not only that God had taken the kingdom from Saul but also that his thirst for righteous blood demanded to be satisfied.  Even though David is fleeing from Saul, he nevertheless makes time to ask God whether or not to help Keilah from being plundered by the Philistines (23:1-12).  The term for prayer used here is “David inquired of the LORD” as to which actions to take.

The text does not say to us that God used an audible voice, but what else could it be when the text reads, “And the LORD answered…and the LORD said” when speaking to David?  Assuredly, David was clear and acted accordingly.  This was intercessory prayer.  Ironically, the very people David rescued here from the Philistines would be the same people that would turn him over to King Saul given the opportunity.

What we see here is that David asks for direction from God concerning battle strategy and it’s granted, David asks if a people will either betray him or protect him and God answers him.  When sovereigns inquire of the LORD, answers often come.  What Saul however does not seem to get is that unless the LORD deliver David into his hands, he won’t be successful.

Perhaps the most revealing account between these two kings is where Saul’s thirst for David’s blood remains unquenched, but David stays his opportunity to kill Saul (24:1-9).  David knew he had done nothing wrong toward Saul but he also knew that God is the one who exalts leaders and removes them ultimately.  The text reads;

10 Behold, this day your eyes have seen that the Lord had given you today into my hand in the cave, and some said to kill you, but my eye had pity on you; and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’

The difference between David and Saul: the latter is merciless and mad; the former is merciful and sober.  When rulers reject God’s ways, they meander in a degree of madness that blinds their judgment.  This section ends with Saul’s confession and plea to David which are moving and sobering:

20 Now, behold, I know that you will surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand. 21 So now swear to me by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me and that you will not destroy my name from my father’s household.” 22 David swore to Saul. And Saul went to his home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

Saul’s confession reveals that he knew what he was doing was wrong but he couldn’t help himself (again, I think it’s because God’s favor was no longer on him).  Nevertheless, he pleads for David to be gracious to his house in spite of Saul’s wickedness and his request is granted.  This love/hate relationship is somewhat sick but also reveals the human condition that even when our enemies desire our harm, we can by God’s spirit truly bless them.  David’s dealings with Saul instruct believers on how to trust God with our enemies and treat them nevertheless with mercy.  Astounding!

(SDG)

Remembering My Friend: Mike S. Wilson

11753272_10207165204034285_1595941229438045497_nIt was a sunny late Wednesday afternoon when I received David’s call that his eldest brother, and my dear friend, Mike had died of a heart attack.

This news was not surprising to me because I knew Mike had health problems for some years, and yet it made me very sad.  Too young to die, all too soon!  Or was it?

Mike and I met in the late 1980’s while I was a steward at Hope Chapel in Hermosa Beach, California.  He was part of the surf ministry and I recall his physical presence grabbed my attention.

He looked like a “jar-head” surfer with a stocky build.  It reminded me of those “bad-surf-dudes” from 1970’s that you did not want to mess with.  But as is often the case, first impressions are misleading.

When I got to actually know him, he was witty, funny, and courteous. One afternoon in Hope Chapel’s sanctuary he asked me about  possibly going to the College I was attending—LIFE Bible College—in order to get more prepared for pastoral ministry.  I don’t remember the details of our conversation but the tenor was of “one serious about the kingdom of God”.  As so many do, Mike had a bright mind and was sensing a call to pastoral ministry.

Approximately one to two years later, I found myself driving out to LIFE Bible College three times a week with Mike and James Day—another dear brother wanting to get better equipped for kingdom ministry.  We three formed a special bond and as brothers tend to do “iron” often “sharpened” iron.

Sometimes we’d challenge one another to walk closer to Christ or wrestled with what Scripture taught about a subject.  Other times we’d comfort each other through tearful prayers.  And when appropriate, we comforted each other through laughter triggered by impersonations of the “Three Stooges”, “Cheech and Chong”, “Tony Montana”, and yes even “Staff and Church Members” at Hope Chapel.

Twenty-three years later much water has gone under that proverbial bridge.  What we envisioned for our lives in those earlier years of being in pastoral ministry in many ways—did not materialize.  This was a source of pain in Mike’s life and one I understand well.  But God addresses this reality and supplies His wisdom to us:

“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” And “Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, How then can man understand his way?” (Proverbs 16:9; 20:24)

There’s a lot we don’t know because we are creatures, limited in our knowledge.  What we do know, is that God is lovingly working out His eternal purposes in and through us because of Christ.  Here’s our comfort, here’s our joy, here’s our inheritance as God’s people.

Solomon wrote: There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—A time to give birth and a time to die (Ecc.3:1-2).  Mike’s time came, our time is coming.  What are we doing with the time God has graced to us?

Appropriate to this occasion is a partial exhortation from a poem Missionary C.T. Studd penned:

“Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.[i]

I miss my friend Mike.  It hurts deeply.  But to my brothers and sisters in Christ who remain, I pray: “that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thess. 1:11-12).

[i] Accessed (7/30/2015) http://i-am.org/members/index.php/156-devotional/493-only-one-life-twill-soon-be-past-only-what-s-done-for-christ-will-last

A Question On Love: Does It Have any Ultimate Reference Point?

love-160aWhat is love?.  According to one cable commercial from the  Ad Council which sponsors the “One Love Campaign” it asserts that love has no race, love has no gender, and love has no disability.  But what “is” love?

That’s a metaphysical question about love’s nature, or what-ness.  In our relativistic society, love is what we say it is.  But, if there’s a Creator who grounds all that is true, good, and beautiful, then love has a specific meaning and it’s based on what the Designer and Creator says it is.

See my recent post “realtivism” @ https://answerstotuffquestions.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/true-truth-and-why-it-matters_what-are-the-three-enemies-of-truth_-part-4.pdf.

Also, consider the article, “What is This Thing Called Love?” by Douglas Groothuis who addresses this issue and explains the difference between the love of this world compared to the love of God the Creator.  It’s worth the read, just click on the link: http://douglasgroothuis.com/2015/07/13/what-is-this-thing-called-love/comment-page-1/#comment-1717

Reflections From Mark’s Gospel: Chapter 14 “The Weighty Passion of Christ”

th (2)“THE PASSION OF CHRIST IS WEIGHTY: HE LOVES HIS BETRAYERS” Part 1

            Jesus’ teaching of the end times now progresses into Jesus’ passion.  His enemies were looking for an opportune time to kill him (vv.1-2); a woman anoints Jesus for his burial (vv.3-9); and Judas plots Jesus’ betrayal (vv.10-11).  In the last Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus predicts his betrayal (vv.17-21):

“For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” (v.21)

That statement must have ruined the disciple’s appetite!  Imagine being one of the twelve and hearing these words from the Masters lips.  Perhaps someone’s stomach turned (Judas?) or even fear gripped them that a cold clammy sensation rushed through their bodies?  Yes, perhaps.  Nevertheless, Jesus knowing this continues to break bread with them (vv.22-26):

22 While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” 23 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (vv.22-25)

Notice that Jesus accentuates this final hour as the end of the old covenant and the inauguration of the new, not through the blood of bulls and goats but with his own blood, which was to be shed not for all but for many. 

This text seems to be pointing to some kind of “limited’ atonement which goes along with (Mk.10:45) and accentuates the personal nature of Jesus’ death; “he laid down his life for his friends”—the disciples—those who will abandon all to follow him shortly (vv.26-31), the thought of which at best must have been unnerving and at worst perhaps horrific.

Jesus tells his trained men that: “you will all fail me tonight; you will all show yourselves to be cowards, just fare weathered friends”.  I can’t imagine how difficult that was for the disciples to hear.  How often do I deny Jesus by my life that tends to stray from the truth?  Don’t I emulate the disciples here when I willfully rebel against my Master?  Sounds like a horribly true contradiction.

What an incredible Savior who knows we will deny him and yet chooses to die on our behalf.  What an amazing illustration of love’s extent: even in betrayal Jesus would still die to ransom those he came to rescue.  Amazing!  Now Mark’s account transitions from the table to the Garden of Gethsemane where unlike in Eden, the second Adam demonstrates a resoluteness to do the will of the Father (vv.32-52).

Here, Jesus’ love for the disciples is evidenced by his invitation for them to enter into his pain by toiling in prayer with him:

32 They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.”35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” 37 And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. 41 And He came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

Jesus’ prediction of betrayal and death were about to be fulfilled.  The gravity of the moment increasingly intensifies step by step.  First, the adjectives of his temptation: “very distressed and troubled”, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death”.  Physical pain is, and can be unbearable, but the pain of soul who can measure, its magnitude is difficult to fathom, and often seems impossible to cure, much less endure.

Second, its stunning Jesus would ask these weak men to enter into his pain, to struggle with him in prayer, but he does.  Here we see the Master telling them to, “keep watch”.  What vulnerability, what a friend!  Solomon writes that it’s better to be in the house of mourning then in the house of feasting.  Why?  Perhaps it’s because grief and trouble alarm us out of the stupor that so easily engulfs us.  Perhaps it’s because on this side sorrow reminds us that things are not the way they ought to be.  Perhaps it’s a reminder of our own mortality and that we too must face death and God who awaits us.

Jesus here invites the three disciples to peer into his darkest hour of mourning, but they could not grasp its gravity—they fell asleep.  So, at table the disciples are informed that they will betray him, in the Garden they are invited to suffer with him, but Jesus had another source for comfort in anguish.

Third, Jesus cries out to God as “Abba, Father”.  He acknowledges his Father in the midst of this horrible experience.  The intimacy revealed in this cry is hard for me to swallow.  Here, Jesus’ relationship to the Father is unveiled for us to see that it’s unlike any other relationship recorded in human history.  The Son in whom the Father is well pleased is crying out to Him.  I’m stunned!  Here’s an ineffable moment for me.

The request of the Son to the Father, “Remove this cup—of God’s wrath—from me”  But Jesus remains faithful even to deaths door, “…yet not what I will, but what You will.”  Note that what results in this most intimate painful encounter is utter submission to Gods plan and desire.  A Godward life of prayer always produces God honoring submission to the /father, not rebellion.

Fourth, the disciples failed to pray three times for Jesus but he did not hold that against them.  Instead of retaliating he gave his life for them.  What manner of love is this?!

(SDG)

Reflections From Mark’s Gospel: Chapter 13

th (2)

“CHRIST AND THE END TIMES—BELIEVERS WILL SUFFER”

One of the most sobering sections in all of Scripture is where the eschaton—the end times—is taught.  It’s sobering because of how the biblical texts describe the horrific events that will transpire.  In this chapter, perhaps the critical verse is (v.31):

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away”

Maybe nothing is steadier to our understanding than the heavens above us and the earth below.  We take these for granted.  Nevertheless, they are preaching something of eternal weight and glory that we ought to heed.  The heavens and the earth were here before we arrived on planet earth and they’ll be here long after our existence is forgotten.  But the one holding it all together is declaring that his words are more solid, more sure than these phenomenal gifts of the heavens and the earth.

Thus what Jesus is prophesying will certainly come to pass.  It’s surer than the earth below and the heavens above.  In response to an observation one of Jesus’ disciples made, he said:

“Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” (vv.1-2)

Later on Jesus’ disciples asked him to explain what he meant in (vv.3-4) about the last days.  The first words recorded are; “See to it that no one misleads you….”  Jesus said that because many false Christs and prophets will arise and mislead many (vv.5-6, 22).  Several observations warrant their heeding Christ’s warnings:

First, “Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am he’ and will mislead many.” (v.6) Deception always lurks in the shadows and no deception is as lethal as religious is manifold.  As in the Garden when Eve was deceived by the serpent, so too Christ’s hearers must guard against the deceiver.  Thus, deception is assured!

Second, wars, rumors of wars, natural disasters, and famines will occur (vv.7-8) but these are only “birth pangs”.  Just what is meant by “birth pangs” I’m not sure, but contextually it seems that predetermined fearful events caused by human and divine agency must precede the end—the eschaton.  This also is assured.

Third, religious persecution will manifest, personal suffering will be endured at the hands of Jewish leadership, “you will be flogged in the synagogues…” followed by civic persecution, “you will stand before governors and kings, for My sake as a testimony to them.” (v.9)  This gospel message is costly and must be preached to all nations (v.10).  Arrests await but God’s presence will be there to shepherd the disciples in their interrogations:

“When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.” (v.11)

Thus, for Christ’s sake—His testimony will be heard by all who rule.  This too is assured.  This not only reminds me of Peter, John, and Paul in the Acts of the Apostles under Roman rule, but also of Daniel and his three friends in Babylonian captivity under king Nebuchadnezzar.  These men were severely tested but nevertheless remained faithful to the God of the covenant.

Fourth, the pain will not end with strangers but will “come home” when betrayal occurs via family members, thus showing their hatred of Christ and putting to death his messengers (vv.12-13).  To be hated by enemies is understandable, by countrymen it’s painful though bearable, but to be hated by family—brother, father, children—it’s heart breaking.  This is the cost of discipleship; it’s the cost of loving Jesus, it’s also a mark of a true believer.

Jesus continues, “You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (v.13).  Notice how the amplification of fear comes in degrees: it starts with deceivers, goes to natural disasters, then is followed by persecution form outsiders, and culminates in death from those closest to us.

Recall that Christ’s call to follow Him must trump our dearest relationships—this is true discipleship, this according to Him is what will show our worthiness.  Worthy not because of our smarts, nor our status in life but because of our choice of treasure—His loving kindness is better than life!  No one can compare, he’s Creator, He’s our Redeemer, and He is Judge!

Just as the architect of a house is more glorious then his creation by virtue of essence, so too is God when compared to the creature.  But the idolatrous move of treasuring the creature above the Creator is what dooms us all.  Therefore, whatever it is we do, may it not be treasuring the creature above the Creator.  Thus, death by family members because of the name of Christ is assured.

Fifth, there’s an end toward which history is moving and it can’t be stopped nor avoided.  There’s the Tribulation (vv.14-23) and the Post-tribulation period (vv.24-31) where signs are given to describe it:  “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand)…” (v.14)  Here, there’s an understanding, a knowledge his hearers can grasp and know the point of which is a tribulation unlike any that preceded it (E.g., Flood, Babel, Exodus?)  Consider Jesus:

“For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will” (v.19)

Scripture has recorded some horrible events but here Jesus is saying to us “you ain’t seen nothing yet!”  These future events have no comparison which reminds me of the book of Revelation—God’s last act—where He completes His redemptive plan for those who love Him.  Note how Jesus says these things in advance so that when they are occurring, his hearers will trust his word.

This time will see Christ’s return and the final redemption of the elect, but unlike the first tribulation period, where the hearer is to look for signs and thus act accordingly (vv.14-17), in this second tribulation the time of arrival is only known to the Father, nevertheless, the season does not seem to be hidden from the hearer (vv.28-37).

The doctrine of judgment in Scripture is the first one that came under attack (Gen.3) and continues to come under negative scrutiny.  Recall that in the OT where signs and wonders occur; two things are evident people experience: Rescue from God’s wrath or the Reception of His wrath (E.g., Flood, Babel, Sodom/Gomorrah, Exodus, Possessing the Land, Elijah and Baal Prophets, etc.) so too in the NT (Book of Revelation).  Why judgment? One may ask and Christ would respond,

“because you are bad at the core, your sin has separated you justly from your Creator, but I have come to fix that problem—that’s why I died and rose from the grave.  I’m your only hope, no others can help.”

It’s in light of this that the hearer is to be on the alert!  They are to be anticipating these moments when what precedes is evident to them.  Wow!  Many things did take place already but there are things yet to come, obviously since we are here.  But in view of this text, what manner of life ought to professing Christians live?

TRUE TRUTH and Why It Matters—“What Are The Three Enemies of Truth?” Part 4

thTO0GB385

RELATIVISM: THE FIRST ENEMY OF TRUTH

The notion of relativism is an old idea, not a “hip” invention of the 21st century.  The book of Judges 17:6 says that in Israel, “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes….  Again in Greek thought (Protagoras of Abdera) held that “man is the measure of all things” and that “truth is what appears to each individual”.[i]  Sadly, relativism is in vogue today such that true, truth seems archaic, civil interaction escapes us, and doing justice eludes us.

Christian Philosopher, Peter Kreeft quotes C.S. Lewis, on the importance of this issue which he called “subjectivism”.  In The Poison of Subjectivism, Lewis speaks on the perils of moral relativism and says:

“…it will certainly end our species and damn our souls.” Kreeft comments, ‘Please remember that Oxonians (those from Oxford University) are not given to exaggeration. He continues, why does he say, “Damn our souls?” Because Lewis is a Christian, and he does not disagree with the fundamental teaching of his master, Christ, and all the prophets in the Jewish tradition, that salvation presupposes repentance, and repentance presupposes an objectively real moral law. Moral relativism eliminates that law, thus trivializes repentance, and thus imperils salvation.”[ii]

This issue is a big deal and if you care about the truth pay close attention.  In this part we will be: looking at relativism as an enemy of truth that expresses itself culturally, societally, and individually.  Thus we will consider its implications and offer alternative solutions.  Click here for pdf.file      

[i] (Accessed 2/18/2014) from http://www.ucd.ie/philosophy/staff/mariabaghramian/Brief%20History.pdf

[ii] (Accessed 2/19/2014) http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/05_relativism/relativism_transcription.htm#1

Reflections From Mark’s Gospel: Chapter 7

th (2)CHAPTER SEVEN: “THE MISUSE OF HUMAN TRADITION: THE GOSPEL AT A RAPID CLIP” (MK.7)

This section in Mark records the proper and improper use of human tradition and weighs it’s authority (vv.1-13); the truth of what defiles a person (vv.14-23); and two more acts of healing in Jesus’ ministry.

There’s always a hierarchy in the affairs of men when it comes to worshipping God.  We tend to emulate the Pharisees and scribes when we ignore Moses and Jesus.  Let me explain.  The Pharisees and scribes took offense at Jesus’ disciples when they ate “bread with impure hands—unwashed”.  This was one of many traditions they strictly observed as a means of worship (3-5) but Jesus’ response to their inquisition was an indictment of hypocrisy:

“Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

NOTE HERE: The inscripturated word of God is the base of authority for how Jesus will argue, “It is written”.

True Truth And Why It Matters: Part One

truthUWHY DOES TRUTH MATTER IN CHRISTIANITY?

The Christian religion makes many claims the core of which is that its Scriptures (Old & New Testament) and its author (The Holy Spirit through mankind) care about what is true as opposed to what is not.  A simple definition of truth is: truth is that which corresponds to reality.  Thus whatever your evangelistic method is believer, you must placard this basis in order to be faithful to Christ.  To not do so is a waste of time considering the cultural climate of moral relativism.  Truth matters in Christianity because …(read more)