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Posts Tagged ‘sermon on the mount’

Israel_Palestine_FlagMy heart is broken today over the escalating violence in Israel and Palestine.  I ache for all the suffering on both sides.  

As an American citizen, I have no ground to confront the violence of any other nation.  We romanticize our “wars” no matter how pointless, and worship our military.  I love and respect everyone who serves, but I find it sad that reverence for selfless service is used as a barrier to discourage open discussion about what they are asked to do and how.  As the whole world knows, we love our guns too.  It’s hard to find an American, Christian or not, who doesn’t believe violence is an admirable way to solve a conflict.  

Not only do we support violence, but Christians here have some strange beliefs about who God loves and doesn’t love, and therefore some people are of more value than others.  As I try to see humans through God’s eyes, not political and religious bias, and realize none of us are without fault or deserving of more of God’s favor, it becomes increasingly painful for me to remember the lock-step allegiances I used to ascribe to, and the people I used to degrade in my speech.

Father forgive us for these blind hatreds and loyalties both.  We are all in need of mercy.

Violence begets more violence, unless you achieve complete extermination or brokenness of an entire people group.  Once again, my country was successful on this front too with the continent’s First Nations.  While their total populations dwindled to only 250,000 at one point, and many believed they would vanish forever, there are now millions trying to reclaim their identity, and heal from centuries of genocidal practices toward every part of their lives for generations.  Yet we are still proud for having put them under our feet and taken everything from them we could.  I believe we have convinced ourselves they deserved it.  The “settler” and the “pioneer” are some of the most revered icons of our history books, and indeed my own great-grandparents were among them.

Why do people with no power or hope of winning continue to fight and bring these battles of final wrath upon themselves?  (Explore “The Great Indian Wars”)  Because they see what little they have left continue to be taken from them, right down to their dignity and their ability to provide for their own families.  Food is cut off, travel restricted, the space they are allowed to live becomes smaller and smaller as more settlers move in.  They see lands their families worked and lived on for generations taken over so that houses can be built for those who hate and abuse them, with military protection.

To this day, few people ever stop to ask, “What right did we have?”.  

I am living in peace on a land that 180 years ago was a war zone between the invaders and the people that had lived here for thousands of years.  My people won, and are still proud of it.  But when I go back and read the history, the broken promises, and learn of the devastated people, all I want to do is cry.  Nothing then, nor now, will stand in the way of our prosperity.  

This blog was not started to be political, and this discussion is much more about what the heart of Jesus sees when he looks at the world, not all the lies we tell ourselves about who is better or worse.  As Christians, many of whom proudly “Stand with Israel”,  I plead with you to not stand for violence toward any human beings.  Endless discussions abound over what people have a right to do in order to defend themselves.  Jesus had a right, but He set the example that it was more powerful to not exercise that right.  The bigger question is, what is the revenge cycle going to solve, and when?  

Genocide is a high price to exact in order to gain security.  Yet it appears there are elements on both sides here who have made a pact to follow this track to the end.  I know it is not the desire of all the people on either side.  Which side has the ability to actually carry it out, and will it in the end be justified or later listed with all the other unfortunate events in history?  

Where would Jesus stand?  I would personally love to see Him standing somewhere on this earth anytime now.  But my grasp on eschatology and prophecies wane a little hazy.  All I know is that whether it’s next year or 500 years, my call is to stand in Love, not on either side of a battle line.

I am encouraged that many voices are speaking out, from Israel as well, and I feel less compelled to do so.  But my husband and I both have discussed how our own past support of political sides that blinded us to the humanity of those we deemed as “enemies” leaves us with a burden to speak out for love, truth, and honesty.  I am not on anyone’s side, or against anyone.  I am for Love.  And for those who choose to walk in it as the highest road.  

If you are wanting people to believe the Jesus you speak of, you must put down the gun – both literal and figurative.  My faith has been sorely tested more by those who profess to be of this religion than by any other challenge.  “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?”  Good question, Jesus.

 

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I want to share a dream a very close friend of mine had a few weeks ago. I believe that as we settle down from the holiday food, fireworks, and parades – the message of this dream is so relevant to believers in the United States – or any country that has a strong sense of nationalism, and consequently the mindsets that develop as we endeavor to protect our way of life from foreign and domestic threats.

We are deeply divided against each other and view many other people groups as a whole, as evil. People have been easily herded into passionate crusades of one kind or another since civilization has existed. There is always someone screaming for your undivided loyalty.

The message of this dream conveys so beautifully the truths I have come to understand in the last few years.

I dreamed our family lived in a hotel. But it wasn’t unusual, because the whole world, or at least our country, lived in this hotel. Our government, the Church – everything was in this hotel. And it seemed that everything was in chaos. Terrible chaos. Terrorists everywhere. Government officials were urgently walking into and out of meeting rooms, giving speeches, suggesting one thing after another.

community-300x201But permeating the chaos and terror, and with supernatural power, was a group of young people on whom the Spirit of the Living God rested for just such a time as this. They had no weapons at all, but they were a choir. A choir with the sweetest music imaginable. Music that I couldn’t describe as I told Wes about the dream the next day. Music that made the things of life fade into the background and God into clear focus. They were singing, “Jesus Saves” but it was nothing like the song we know. Infinitely more beautiful.

And these young people were being killed by the dozens. But not retaliating, just ministering the Spirit to all. Gladly giving their lives that others might see and live.

I woke up with such a clear view of the Kingdom of Heaven being around us and in us.

I don’t want to muddy the water here with many of my words, but a few things stood out to me as significant.  The hotel setting shows we are in a temporary situation here.  We invest so much energy into the crises of these times in worry, fear, and anger.  We set up idols of ideologies, and look to human constructs for peace and safety.

But those who recognize the Supernatural walk in the opposite realm of love and living sacrifice.  They realize that retaliation and revenge perpetuate the darkness.  They would rather suffer their own demise as a witness to love than to hate and kill in return.

The song “Jesus Saves” is more beautiful than anything heard before because it’s the music of heaven being played out in their lives – not just a song on their lips.  The message Jesus Saves has been abused and misused for centuries in horror and violence, against Jews, Muslims, Native cultures worldwide, and even between Christian sects.  This was not His way.  This new song sings and walks in the truth.

I see many people caught up and carried away in the currents of world events and choosing sides.  But I also see many, often a younger generation, who are willing to walk the Jesus Road.  Big changes are coming.  Of which Kingdom do we belong?

See also a more urgent plea: Babylon is in Your Hearts

 

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I have already written quite a lengthy post on legalism.. but had more thoughts on it recently.

One day Jesus was teaching a house full of scribes and lawyers.  The account (Luke 5) says  they were from every village in Israel so I am going to take a little bit of speculative license here and assume there probably wasn’t room in the house for many regular folks.  They were conducting an investigation it seems.  Outside four men are carrying a friend on a stretcher who is completely paralyzed.  They want to bring him to Jesus, but they can’t get through the wall of lawyers.  The lawyers would have summed up this man as a hopeless sinner, judging from his physical condition.  Their evaluation would not be questioned, but they would have not offered to help, nor would they have been able to.  Indeed no one was even foolish enough to ask them to help.  The only way around this obstacle seemed to be to come down from the top, through the roof.  These four men took their friend directly to Jesus.  They knew without any doubt He could do the impossible.

When Jesus saw their faith He simply told him, “Your sins are forgiven.”  The Law was appalled.  It said… “How can you DO that?”, outraged at this breach in procedure.  Then Jesus proved out the authority to forgive by healing his body as well, and the man walked out on his own.  They were speechless.  The law can say nothing in condemnation of healing (unless of course done on the Sabbath day..:)).  It can only watch in amazement.  Grace does not just forgive, it heals and makes all things new.  A changed life proves out a changed heart.

To me, this miracle is a parable in a picture.  The paralyzed man represents our fallen condition – totally helpless and condemned.  His four friends have no names and I believe represent the the Holy Spirit as He inspired four written testimonies,which bring all of us directly to Jesus.  The lawyers represent the “ministry of sin and death” – (2 Cor 3) – the thing which tells the truth, but cannot help us.  And the act of forgiveness and mercy that Jesus shows the helpless man is God’s heart toward all who seek His Son for their righteousness … by faith.

I wonder how the healed man conducted his life from that point on, and how he treated others he met who were lying helpless in a bed.  Did he look on them with contempt like the Pharisee or bend down to let the love of God flow through him to heal others?  A parable Jesus told about a man who received forgiveness of an enormous debt he could not pay, then afterward demanded payment from someone who owed him a small mount, without mercy,  indicates to me we can fail to extend to others the Grace we have received.

Our new life in Christ is manifested not only in seeking to live an upright life to the glory of  God, but also by the love of Christ flowing through us to others.  If the “new life” simply succeeds in adhering to a moral code, it is honestly no different than the thing which failed to help in the first place, and according to I John, is not new life at all, but a farce.   But sadly Christianity (not just cults) often defines this new life only as “being good”  (refraining from doing immoral things), or adopting a pious lifestyle with lots of churchy activity, rather than being love.  Some people can fake good, but you can’t fake real love.

Paul gives us only two options for the motivating force in our lives; flesh or Spirit.  If we do not walk in the Spirit (which manifests in purity AND love – Gal. 5) then we are in the flesh and no matter how upright, moral, well-versed in scripture we are, respected of men, or applauded for our integrity – we are still in our own inadequate righteousness.  We will not forgive others their shortcomings while we boast of our own accomplishments.  We won’t talk about Jesus and how He changed our lives but about our church or denomination and why it’s the best of all.  Because we do not sense our need for mercy we don’t extend it to anyone else.   We harbor resentment and encourage others in theirs, especially if it sympathizes with the direction of  our own.  We can be thorough Bible teachers but only relay information.  We cannot give living spiritual food because we have none to give.  Our houses may be immaculate, the picture of hard work and godly self-discipline.  But we probably wouldn’t want any unseemly people hanging around to mess it up.  We are pragmatic in our relationships and don’t have time for people who can’t further our agenda or make us look good.  We can tell everyone about right and wrong, have an impeccably orthodox doctrine and a spotless Biblical worldview when it comes to politics and social issues.  But we are strangers to love.  This kind of legalism is simply an outward righteousness devoid of  mercy, forgiveness, and compassion.  I John says this falls short of what we as children of God will exhibit in our lives.  Jesus said above all things, to love one another as He loved us.  When he said our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, this is a major  key difference.

We all have a potential legalist living in all of us.  Before we receive grace, we either rebel against God in total, or strive to reach Him on our own terms.  But even after we come to Christ we can still fall into this mindset so easily, because it is our natural tendency to focus on ourselves and become puffed up in what we see as our own success compared to others we know.

A person who has fallen into this trap will be a person that gives many others an opportunity to practice the love, patience, and forgiveness of Christ.  We cannot shun this brand of legalist and treat them as they treat others or we will become just like them.  We should take the opportunity to demonstrate to them what unconditional love looks like as we respond to them in a way they don’t understand.  They have seen a false standard of righteousness and thought themselves up to the task rather than seeing themselves as they are without abiding in the Vine of Jesus Christ and the  Spirit.  This is why Jesus came with new authoritative teaching.  I heard a sermon on the radio recently that had me cheering as we were driving down the road.  The teacher was pointing out that if you want to truly recognize your depravity,  study the Sermon on the Mount more than the Law.  What Jesus taught confronts the deepest inward motives of our heart, our secrets.  There is no wriggle room there for the Pharisee in us.  We have no choice but to cry “I fail” and go away in despair or to accept the grace that totally forgives and transforms us to be able to in any small measure, exemplify the life that Jesus describes.

Having begun in the Spirit, are we perfected by the Law (from any source, Moses or Church)?  – a rhetorical question asked by Paul, who knew both paths intimately. (Gal. 3:3)  Rather the answer is.. “If we live by the  Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:25)

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

For the law was given through Moses;

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  John 1:16, 17

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