It’s rigged!

When you hear the words, “it’s rigged”, your mind might go to the 2016 presidential election. Then candidate Trump made the phrase famous, infamous perhaps. Surprisingly, for Believers that extends well beyond the shady world of the political arena. While many of us fight for freedom, few of us have realized that we fight from freedom. Why? Simple. It’s rigged.

Paid in Full

Tetelestai. A Greek word meaning, “paid in full“. So, why would a crucified convict, with his dying breath, talk about accounting? It’s because of what our modern translation of “Tetelestai” would be. In our modern vernacular, we might say, without any degradation of meaning, “it’s rigged”!

“It’s rigged”. If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard that phrase in the past five years, I could probably retire by now. Whether it was candidate Trump or late-night comedians make fun of him, this phrase has gone viral. Perhaps it’s because there’s an underlying truth that we all have known for a long time. For example, too often we have watched the guilty walk free and the innocent suffer. Most infuriating is when it happens in politics. A crime that would send an “average Joe” away for life gets stuck in “committee” hearing just long enough for it to be forgotten.

Modern translation

However, as Christians, we should not despair. Of course it’s rigged! We’re the primary benefactors of such a system. Though it may not be in the here-and-now where we would like it you can rest assured. It’s coming. I know, sometimes you just want to scream at the top of your lungs. Other times, breaking a few dishes might be just what the doctor ordered. However, reality calls for a different approach. After all, despair Jesus teaches us is for those who have no hope. As Believers, we need to show the hope that people want to see.

I invite you to listen to a small excerpt from our Good Friday evening service. Our fervent prayer is that you are encouraged by these words. Not just in your everyday life but also in your walk with God. If you are blessed, make it a point to share it with someone.

What love!

What Love?

Today is my father’s birthday. Today my earthly father turns eighty-one. My father and I have come a long way in our relationship. Over the years we’ve learned together what love is. What love means. Beginning from when I was a child being fearful of what he would do or say if I did something wrong, to when I was a teenager and resentful that I was not understood and that, seemingly, my opinion didn’t matter, to now. Now, now that I’ve seen the look in his eyes when I graduated top of my class, to when he watched me get married to Michele, when we welcomed my firstborn Madelyn, my second child Claudia and then our boy Joseph into the world.

Finally, I can say with utmost certainty something that was true all along. That is, that man loves me more than his next breath, I am the apple of his eye. Therefore, there’s no hardship he wouldn’t endure, obstacle he wouldn’t overcome and no price he wouldn’t pay to see me live a long, fruitful, abundant, satisfying, productive, blessed life, pressed-down, shaken together and flowing over! 

Perfectly human

Above all, the person I just described to you is, again, my father. A human. A mortal man with character flaws, sinful by nature, bound by opposing interests of love towards his children and of self-preservation, confined by an imperfect and incomplete understanding of the world around him and how his decisions shape it and vice versa. In spite of all of this, I stand here and tell you that my father loves me, fully, to the best of his ability, and beyond my wildest expectations. I know that if it was up to my father to design and plan the rest of my life I would be in good hands; it would be full of selfless love and abundance of every kind and long years of good health with my wife and children and their children and their children’s children.

I know that if it was up to him, I would never know lack or want. I would have it that my children would be counted among the wise and powerful. We would lend and not borrow. Our tables would overflow with every good thing. We would be a stronghold for the righteous. I would have my family be a safe harbor during the storms. Furthermore, my descendants could no more easily be counted than the stars in the night sky. Again, this is just simply my father, my earthly father.

Perfectly imperfect

Yet, with all of his love and goodwill and good intentions, as sure as I know that he loves me, I also know that somewhere along the line he has, unknowingly, unexpectedly and unintentionally wronged me. Somehow. I can say that now not because I know of something in particular that he did. Surely I know it based on what I know him to be. Basically, a flawed human with an incomplete knowledge and understanding of himself, of me and the world around us.

But….as Brother Izzy would say…..”but God!” But God, who is Understanding and Wisdom and Perfection, loves me more than my father ever could and more than I could ever fathom.

The love of God is not like the carnality of human affection and its hierarchies. Surely, even the worse of human families “love” each other after a while simply out of pure habit. The best of human families love each, deeply, from the heart. All of it cheapened by biology. They don’t foster those same strong visceral feelings for strangers, do they? No, the love of God is not that of a father, a mother, a child, of a lover, of a friend or any other: it is all of those, none of those and some much more.

Perfected by love

God loves a part of me that my carnal affections can only say that they love. However, they don’t understand what it means. God loves my soul. My soul is precious to God. My soul is the life-spark created out of the void of space and time by God. He placed it into my very first cell. The reason God loves my soul because He created it. Not like a mother who nurtures a baby in her womb and her love grows with every movement and every additional awareness she has of the growing baby. No. God loved me fully and completely from the moment He first thought of me and decided to assign me to be born for such a time as this. 

Thankfully, in the fullness of time, God revealed himself. In this light, Saint Augustine explained that we were given two revelations. The first is the Holy Scripture. The second is Creation. Furthermore, he said that whenever one seemed to be in disagreement with the other it was due to our imperfect understanding of one of the two. In Scripture, God revealed Himself first as the Creator, then as the Lawgiver and Judge.

What Love!

Regrettably, for too many souls around the world their journey through His revelation stops there. Thanks be to God that we have come to know him as King, Father, Brother, Friend, and Redeemer. Lyrics and verse suddenly spring to mind like “I am a friend of God” and “son, do you know I still love you?” and “I know my Redeemer lives”. The Apostle John wrote, “what Love the Father has lavished upon us that we may be called His children!”

Because God loves us so much He steadily and progressively, through His Mercy and Grace, keeps moving closer and closer to us. In spite of this, we were trying to do our very best to run away from Him. The Israelites wanted Laws like the peoples that surrounded them so God gave them the Ten Commandments. Instantly, in their hearts, they pondered “who is my neighbor”? Still not satisfied, He filled in the “gray areas” for them giving them rules for everyday living. After filling three more Books with rituals and rules and procedures they were still unsatisfied. Then they asked for a king to be like the peoples around them. When they would not listen He gave them Saul. 

The Father’s Love

After He watched us break, compromise, detract, subterfuge, lie, cheat, steal, connive, murder and rationalize our way around every single possible Law, Rule, Procedure, and Advice, He came one step closer. He came close and gave us one Rule. One Law above all the Laws and the Prophets. The Law of  Love your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength…and love your neighbor as yourself. 

Unfortunately, He found us physically, emotionally and spiritually unable and/or unwilling to do so and therefore remaining under the weight of the Law and the power of Sin. Therefore, He took one final step towards us. One final solution. “Ego te absolvo”. He said “It is Finished”. “Paid in Full”. “Remember no more”. “Father forgive them”. The hymn lyrics tell that “I owed a debt I could not pay; He paid a debt He did not owe” that “whosoever will” come and accept freely!

Lavished in Love

Can you conceive it? Being deserving of Death and Hades and Hell and Torment, God sent His Son to die for my son, my father’s son and each and every single one of us! What kind of Love is this?! What father would sacrifice his son for hostile, belligerent, arrogant, self-important, self-righteous strangers or even estranged relatives? Adding insult to injury, He now calls me ”son”, “Heir and Co-Heir with Jesus”!

Finally. My father turned eighty-one today. I know that he loves me. Above that, I know he wishes me well. Furthermore he wishes me more than what he wishes for himself. However, there is One who loves me more than I could ever imagine being loved by someone. Let alone loving someone this way. He loves me more deeply and more fully. The reason I know this because He sent Jesus. God instructed Jesus, the firstborn of many brethren, to leave Heaven to come and stand in the gap.

Obviously, He came to pay our debts. So He came to settle our scores, remove our chains and open our eyes. Jesus came to wash us clean. He came to anoint our heads with oil; to cover us with His blood. Jesus give us news robes for our rags, put a ring on our finger, take us into the Holy of Holies, as honored guests at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and present us to God the Father as a Bride, perfect and without blemish! Amazing Love! 

Tell them about Jesus

The name dropper

I have a friend that is a major league bragger! He makes sure you know he’s well-connected! He’ll send me pictures of him with politicians, council members, lawyers, and anyone that is a decision maker of any kind. Now, don’t get me wrong. He’s a really good man. He’s reliable, always willing to help and obviously a good person to know. He’ll call me out of the blue and ask me how I’m doing and where I am and who I’m with. I know that what he really wants me to do is ask him how he’s doing, where he is and who he’s with. He’ll casually tell me that he’s at some big-wig meeting somewhere getting paid overtime to hobnob with the upper echelon of his organization.

Now I know he means well. But I also know that it’s also part of who he is. Being a “modest bragger” is a part of his culture. He’ll talk himself up but then immediately after he’ll tell you something like “yeah, well I’m sure you could do the same in my situation”, knowing fully well that someone else may not be able to. I’ll remind him once in a while that he doesn’t need to keep this up with me and that we go way back and he doesn’t need to constantly validate himself to me. He’ll immediately answer me back and say “well if I don’t brag, who will do it for me?”. I always find his answer very interesting: it’s immediate and the same every time.

The name deniers

How about us as Christians: do we brag to our friends of our connections, of our inside scoop, our Friend in High Places? When was the last time you confidently and humbly told someone “I am a friend of God, He calls me Friend!” What brag could be more truthful, more worthy of boast, more favorable, more reliable than having the Creator of the Universe calling you “friend”? Do we go around looking for an opportunity to share with friends about our most recent encounter with God and how He did something amazing in our lives and how we’ve seen Him move.

Do your friends and relatives know that you have a Friend that sticks closer than a brother, a Strong Tower in times of trouble, an ever present Help in time of need? I can’t wait for God to complete a work in my friend’s life! He will be a major league evangelist and preacher and worker in the fields. If this is how he brags about the humans he knows, imagine what God can do with him?

Inventory time

What about us? What has God been able to do with us lately? Have you called a friend you haven’t heard from in a long time and shared how God brought you through a difficult time? Have you called your unsaved loved ones and had the need to tell them of God’s Grace in your life? When your children are complemented by teachers and parents alike, do you take credit or do you forward it immediately to where credit is due? Have people ever seen you praying with your children before they enter the school building? How about blasting Christian Music in your car rather than the worldly songs? Have you ever stood on a street corner sharing tracks with a smile on your face and a song in your heart?

Live it

People need to not only hear that you have a friend in Jesus, but they need to want what you have! If we’re walking around down, defeated, depressed, drowsy, droopy, disheveled, no one is going to want anything to do with our Jesus! They’ll say “If I believe in your Jesus, I can look forward to being like you? No thanks, I’m good!” We need to live His Grace daily! We need to be going around singing and smiling and praising God! If someone asks you how you’re doing, don’t necessarily tell them where you are: “oh I’m having a rough day, week, month, year!”. Tell them what you are: “I’m blessed and highly favored!”, “God is good, I’m better than I deserve”. The Bible says “let them see you…and they’ll glorify your Father in Heaven”. 

More abundantly

God has put us here to be a light. We’re to be a sign post, a compass, a guide. A road map always pointing to His Son. No matter what storm of life you’re going through your attitude should be, “I am blessed beyond all measure!”. We are called to be the “salt of the Earth”. We’re here to give the place some flavor! We are also not called to be “cookie cutter” Christians.

God has created us all different because each of us has a different ministry: some of us are weird, nerdy, quirky, introverts: those brethren speak to people like them. Others are loud, jocks, Prom Kings and Queens. They are called to witness to people like them; still others are debaters and philosophers and thinkers. Regardless of how you are, God has made you special to reach people not in spite of how you are, but because of how you are! 

As friends of the King, we have a responsibility to be ambassadors for the Kingdom. Earthly ambassadors go out of their way to shine a good light on their nation. Even when something is plainly wrong for all to see. They call it “saving face”. As citizens of Heaven, we have an advantage: our homeland has no down side! How much easier is our task than that of earthly ambassadors?! How can anyone speak ill of something with no down side? It’s like speaking ill of water!

Yet, people are always looking at what you’re doing. Notice how no one is looking to see if someone is a good Muslim, a good Hindu, a good Buddhist; no, everyone has their critical eye turned towards the followers of Christ. They are ready, willing and able to cast doubt, blame, ridicule. The Bible says that we are to expect it. If they did it to Jesus, how much more will it be done to us? 

Show them

But being friends of the King is a privilege, being ambassadors for Christ is an honor. We must muster ourselves up to not merely act the part, but live it. A friend of mine was always fond of saying “Life is an interview: dress accordingly”. The Bible teaches us that we should be “living Epistles, easily read of all men”. As Christians we should carry ourselves in a manner that is befitting of our citizenship (Heaven). Our bloodline is Holy (children of the Most High). Our position (Royal Priesthood) is regal, and our destiny (co-heir with Christ) is beyond compare. 

When you start living according to who God created you to be and not what the devil and the world want you to believe, you will see amazing things happen in your life. Blessings you weren’t expecting, favor you don’t understand, influence you can’t explain. You were made for so much more!  As C.S. Lewis would say, more than a “mere Christian”. You are an overcoming, a chain-breaking, a legacy-changing, marriage-restoring, blood-bought saint of the Living God and no weapon formed against you shall prosper! We need to live this Christianity out loud with boldness and in love! 

Out of season

I remember a long time ago when I was just about 20. I was working at a branch of an overseas Italian Bank in the City. It took me a few days but I got a good sense of people. I have to admit. I read people very well. A week in and I started feeling very comfortable around them. As always, I smile a lot, laugh, tell jokes, do my work and go home.

I didn’t advertise the fact that I was a Christian. About a month or so in, I was having a conversation with a colleague and the subject came around to religion. Since we were both Italian she assumed I was Catholic. I politely responded and said in a very mousy voice, in Italian, “no, sono evangelista”, which means “I’m evangelical”. I will never forget her response. She took a breath and with a very long “o” sound at first she said “that’s what’s different about you?!?”

She was shell-shocked and relieved at the same time. Later, she shared that she had finally figured out what the vibe was she was. She told me that “I knew you were different and weird, but in a good way.” Imagine. She figured out that I was “different and weird” under all my sin and worldly living. How much more would she have been able to see if I had been living righteously? She saw, felt, she sensed God’s anointing.

Seemingly aware of His Presence in my life even when I was doing my best to hide it! She was able to read my “epistle” covered under all that gunk and soot and sin. But the Bible teaches us that we are Royal Priesthood, a peculiar people: we can’t hide who we are any more than a leopard can lose its spots or a camel hide its humps! We are created to shine. To stand out. We were anointed to plant in every field and saved to harvest wherever possible! 

In season

We are here to point people to Jesus; show them that there is a Hope, not just “beyond the clouds” but one that is real and practical and tangible, able to help in their everyday lives. We have to show them that there IS something about us, about our lives, in us, in our lives, that gives us an above-human strength to get up every morning and face life with a smile, a sincere smile and face life without fear, confident that life is good because God is good! People need to see us and want what we have! The Bible teaches us that in the “presence of God there is fullness of Joy”.

People need to see in us that our old nature, our sadness, our faults, our sins, our depression, our lack, our struggles were already paid for in full on the Cross: sadness does come, but doesn’t have our permission to stay: lack may come but it’s just a pit stop, it’s not the road God has for us; our old nature fights for a “comeback tour” but we don’t have to buy tickets to any of the stops; our seasons of depression is a surprise only to us, not God! So, as the Apostle Paul teaches us, in ALL things, give thanks to God, knowing fully well that is is more than Ready, more than Willing, more than Able, to do abundantly more than we could ever expect, imagine, or, most of all, deserve!

People need to see that our connection, our Friend, our “Only Phone Call”, our first Resume Reference is God the Almighty through His Son Jesus Christ. When people say it’s impossible for us to get that promotion, we need to be able to say with boldness “Once God makes up His mind, it’s a done deal!” If they tell us we’ll never get that loan, we say “No worries, the Owner of all things is a friend of mine!” Whenever they tell us you’ll never get into that college, we answer “I’ll ask the Head Recruiter and see what He says!”.

And around again

Rain, shine, hail, drizzle, blizzard, earthquake, drought, flood: whatever circumstances we may have around us, we rise above them through our Lord Jesus Christ. And people will be able to see this best, not in our triumphs, but in our defeats! It’s easy to be a “Fair-weather Christian” all is well so God is good. You need to turn that around: God is Good so all is well. If He leaves you out in the rain longer than expected or the job situation takes you beyond the unemployment checks. When the illness needs an extra round or treatment, the marriage counseling needs more time. If the kids are wondering off: will we still be faithful and say “All is well” believing that God is in control of everything.

He has our very best in mind for us: will they see you preaching and praising then? When it counts? Even when it hurts? How about when it’s hard? What if you can’t find the words, will you praise Him then? Will you say like Job, with a sincere heart, “Thou He slay me, yet will I trust Him!”. When it’s pitch black, will you trust that a new day has begun even though you can’t see the sun? Will you walk in victory in spite of the circumstances shouting out defeat?

No posing, please

You see, people have had their fill of “Fair Weather Christians”, but deep down inside of them God has put this yearning to want to hope for something better; they know that despite all our faults and all our mistakes along the way, Jesus is still the only answer to the void they feel inside, they just want to see it done, they want to see what it looks like!

They want to see that it’s real. Believe me when I tell you, when they question things in their lives, they think of you. When they come across a moral dilemma, they think of you; when they encounter a new challenge, they think of you. “What would Billy do in this situation; what would Jane say in this situation”? We are called to let our “light shine before Men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in Heaven”.

Tell them

Our light is not our own. It was bought at a price. A price we could not pay for a debt He did not owe. God is asking us: what will we do with that light, what will we do about His Son? Will we hide like I did for far too long? Hopefully, we will stand and be counted. Counted like Joshua, Caleb, Stephen, John, and Daniel. There isn’t a whole in Creation deep enough from which God cannot rescue and to which His Light cannot reach. People want to, need to see us boast in the Lord. Tell your friends, family, your neighbors, and coworkers, “My God is Able”. These souls need you to tell them. Tell them your smile, sunny disposition, faith, Peace, demeanor, your surrender, and your reasonableness, are not yours. They were bought at a price.

They need to know the Scandal of Grace. Grace is freely given. Since it was freely given then freely you received it. Therefore, freely you share it with them. Tell them there’s nothing they can do and nothing they have to do to earn it. Tell them that they too can claim their right to be called Sons and Daughters of the Most High, Heirs and coheirs with Christ, tell them they no longer have to live under the circumstances but they can live above the circumstances. They need us to tell them that God is always Good and God is Just even if life isn’t fair. Tell them they too can be Friends of the King! God loves them just the way they are.

From the mountaintops

They’re precious to Him. Tell them that. Tell them Jesus died for their sins. Why? So they can finally be at peace with God. Tell them to come just as they are, scars and all; to speak this simple Truth: “I believe that Jesus is Lord. I believe that God the Father raised Him from the dead”. Tell them that this simple Truth, this only Truth, has set them free! Free from who they were. From who they thought they needed to be. They are free from who they were told to be. Who they wanted to be. Freedom from who they thought they wanted to be. Tell them that now their life starts anew! They are renewed, redeemed and restored! They are reborn. Indeed, born again! If you receive this, let it be done as you have said, in Jesus’s name, Amen!

Mental Assent and believing

I’ve been going up for prayer for years. Some would think that I had a reserved spot. Not too central to be attention-getting but close enough to get some good prayer and get back to my seat. As we many other mental assent Christians, I’d feel better momentarily but be back to square one by 10am Monday morning. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the pastor! How is it he couldn’t get this right?  And what about the deacons? shouldn’t they be ashamed of themselves? Turns out there was nothing wrong with their Faith and believing. I was the problem the whole time.

In a recent post series, we talked about opinions, doctrines and Truth. This post on believing and mental assent brings us along similar lines. It’s kind of like the distinction people make between “facts” and “Truth” when they want to split an uncomfortable hair. Before we move on any further, let’s get a working understanding of what we’re talking about.

Believing

Many of us don’t have a specific definition for this term. For us believing is just that: believing. For example, “I believe my wife loves me and is faithful” is something we could easily put in the “belief” category. However there is a slight of hand that takes place that many of us are not aware. For instance, many of us are probably rocket scientists. Yet, if a rocket scientist were to tell us that the escape velocity from Earth is 11.19 kilometers per second, we wouldn’t give it another thought. We would simply “believe” them. However, upon closer investigation we actually gave our mental assent. For me to “believe” the escape velocity as stated by the rocket scientist, it would require there to be an affect on my life.

Quick Example

I had a colleague a few years back. He’s the eccentric type and you would know that about him the moment you met him. He has that “Kramer” vibe about him. Although the details of the conversation escape me, the result left a lasting impression. The story goes something like this. A student asks to go to the bathroom and is gone for the better part of the period. My colleague, feigning concern, ask the student, “is everything okay? you were gone for so long”! Not realizing he was being put on, the student admits to using the pass to check on some friends. To which my coworker said, “but you missed the whole lab”?

Now, everything up to this point happens a million times a day all around the world: students leaving the room to avoid the task at hand. However, what happens next I assume only happens in my colleague’s classroom. At this point, the student feel shame and embarrassment for getting caught in the act. He now says, “sorry”. The teacher replies, “you’re not sorry. If you were sorry you would change your behavior”.

Mind blown! Surely this wasn’t the first time the child had done this nor was it the first time he had extended such an apology after being called to task. However, although other teachers probably dropped it at the point only to see it happen again, this teacher drove it home.

If you were sorry you would change your behavior Click To Tweet

Mental Assent

As you’re probably use to by now, I probably have you asking, “what does that have to do with this“? The answer is simple. The student offered an apology that his mind could live with, the teacher required an apology that the soul would have to muster. The student gave the equivalent of a mental assent apology: brain-only. No deeper commitment needed, no deeper consideration required. The teacher on the other hand wanted the student to believe he was sorry. And the only way for that to show would be from a changed behavior.

My colleague wouldn’t describe himself as a Christian, much less a “John the Baptist”. Yet, the lesson he gave that student was Textbook gold (John 3:8)! He asked the student to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance”. Meaning, if you’re sorry show it!

Mental Assent Christianity

Unfortunately our problems with mental assent run deeper that overstaying our welcome in the hallways. In fact, if possible, they even go deeper than our lives showing signs of repentance from our sins. Many of us accepted Jesus decades ago and we’re good at the “Church” game: wait for the altar call, confess some stuff, cry it out, hug everyone there, and go back to your seat. I know it’s true. As I said, I had my own spot at the altar.

However, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with going to the altar. In fact, I encourage you to go as often as you need, every time you can, for as long as you want. But my prayer for you, for us, is this: the next time you go, bring the altar back with you. Let that change that you’re asking for stick! The altar is not a confessional. The altar is for dead things; things die on the altar! So whatever it is that keeps bringing you back to the altar, make sure it dies there next time. And if I had to guess, what keeps most of us going back is mental assent.

The altar is for dead things; things die on the altar! Click To Tweet

The sin of mental assent

If you think calling mental assent a sin is a bit of a stretch, hear me out. We’ve been talking about the difference between believing and mental assent. Believing is, we’ve established, something that changes your behavior: “I am faithful to my wife therefore will not cheat on her”. Mental assent, we’ve seen, is more of a reflex: “I’m supposed to apologize in this case so, ‘sorry’. There, I said it”. So, where does the sin part come in?

Rather than figuring out where’s the sin in that, ask this question: what do Believers have in common with demons? Hopefully the answer is “absolutely nothing”. However, that only applies is you are a not a mental assent sort of person. In James 2:19 we read, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder”. Did you hear that? Even the demons believe. Then notice what he writes next. He says that they “shudder”. Other translations have “tremble”. You can check every translation on the planet and in Heaven. They all say a word that depicts fear. Never a word that describes “repentance”.

Yes. It matters. The Bible is not just the Word of God, it is God. The words in the Bible are God. When Jesus was tempted, He answered back with the Word (Mat 4). He didn’t say “I think…”. He gave the Devil a three-point sermon based on the Word, God’s Word, Himself in verbal form (John 1).

Correcting Mental Assent

So if we want to distinguish ourselves from the “believing” of demons, we need let the Word sink in. As we read, demons believe and fear. They cower and tremble. Believing the Word is true they still deny its power (2 Tim 3:5). They cannot repent and await their Just end with trembling. After all, they denied God to His face in His throne room. That’s beef in my fridge!

But here’s the good news. Their end is not our end. The better news is that we can fix. And best of all, once we fix it, we’ll be wondering how we ever got along without it in the first place.

Here’s how it works. Ready? Believe every single Word in the Bible. Moreover, believe that it was written to you as if you’re the only person on the planet. You have to accept, in your heart, that if you were the only human on Earth, God would’ve still counted it worthwhile to send Jesus to die for you! Where the Bible you’re forgiven, take it; when it says you’re free, redeemed, healed, and all the rest: accept it, don’t argue it.

Just like that?

Correct. Just like that. In Isaiah 53, the Bible teaches me that Jesus died for my sins as well as my diseases. I use to spend hours asking, “really? How’s that? I still see sick people in church”? Then I realized. It’s because they still think the way I use to think! But it’s been there all along. Jesus said, “which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’ “? Thanks be to God that Jesus is Lord. And as Lord, He is lord over sins and disease.

Mental assent is what the Enemy wants us to practice to keep us defeated. We can believe whatever we want. That doesn’t bother him. In the end, living as though we are entitled to what we believe is the problem. That’s because he’s satisfied with Christians having doctrines, as long as they don’t produce anything of substance.

You have to accept, in your heart, that if you were the only human on Earth, God would've counted it worthwhile to send Jesus to die for you! Click To Tweet

Hockey mom, pitbull, lipstick!

Pitbulls

So, the difference between and hockey mom and a pitbull…. lipstick! I hope the title was tantalizing enough to draw your attention. It’s hard to believe that the first time I ever paid attention to that catchphrase in its entirety was twelve years ago! Then Republican Governor Sarah Palin was the witty, intelligent, beautiful, successful, traditional, and modest vice-presidential nominee: the definition of Christian counter-culture and an automatic and, therefore, a natural target for all sorts of slander.

I can still see her on the screen saying, “What’s the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom?… The lipstick”. She was militantly Pro-Life, accented by the fact that she had a child born with trisomy and a daughter who had a child out of wedlock; Sarah was a strong proponent of 2nd Amendment rights and religious freedoms and unapologetically Pro-God and Pro-Country. Governor Palin was the kind of gal that would have Tim “the Tool-man” Taylor grunting for hours at all sorts of Americana!

Now before you think this is a post about politics, let’s discuss the pitbull and the hockey mom for a moment. Governor Palin was a self-described hockey mom, shuttling her kids from one sports event to another and basically in charge of her children’s educational and social calendar. She remarked that the only difference between this quintessential American matriarchal figure and a pit bull is just the lipstick: hockey moms have frazzled hair, are knee-deep in messy breakfast dishes, piles of dirty clothes, smelly kids and soiled uniforms, and the only distinguishing characteristic from an animal used as home security system: the lipstick.

What's the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom?... The lipstick - @SarahPalinUSA Click To Tweet

Hockey moms

The media, needless to say, had a field day with her! Overnight, she became the dumbest, dullest, simplest, and most malleable mind in America (as they always attack your education and lack pedigree). Not to mention sexually backward and “anti-women”. That, in essence, is what the world thinks of Christian women and of Christians in general: dull-witted, naïve, gullible, and possessing a natural propensity to a “herd mentality”.  For Sarah Palin had to change to be touted as a bulwark of “what it means to be an American woman” would be, as Pink would say,  is  “everything you are”.

Too many times, as Christians living in this Post-Modern, Post-Christian society, we believe that the only way to get ahead at best, or tread water in the least, is to turn ourselves into whatever the culture expects of everyone; assimilate into automatons repeating whatever the mantra of the moment is. Christians have grown comfortable with the idea  of a compartmentalized “weekend only” Christianity. just don’t tell your friends that you’re going to church unless it’s those new hip churches where the pastors wear baseball caps on the pulpit and everything is a sports metaphor.  Unfortunately, we do little to help our own cause.

Although there is little we can do to address people’s ill-intentions and predispositions, what they readily do see of Christianity is this watered-down, teeth-less, “prosperity now” approach, that leaves people with a bad taste in their mouth even before they even encounter an actual Christian face-to-face.

Lipstick

I find it humorous. While this new spirit of the age preaches individuality and free-thinking and “everyone is right in their own way” they’ve built in an interesting little caveat. It doesn’t apply to a Bible-based Christian worldview or a wider Judeo-Christian worldview. 

The days keep coming and I get older and older. I realize just how very little I have in common with the majority of the people around me. The freedoms that I learned about as a schoolboy has become adulterated into obscenities. Too many people take vile personal licenses and call them “rights”.

So what if they call you names if they make fun of you? What if they ridicule you, belittle you, overlook you, and yes, persecute you!?The Western Church knows little of persecution. We think that hostile leftist politicians are the coming of the Antichrist while our brothers in the 10-40 Window put their lives and those of their families on the line every single day taking a stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Hockey mom, pitbull, lipstick! Click To Tweet

Other not-so-pretty things

Therefore, if your Christianity rubs people the wrong way, don’t stop. If the only redeeming characteristic about you is the lipstick, let it be; if they’re looking at you and wondering “what is Jesus doing adorning the face of that pit-bull?”, give Him praise. Let it be your testimony, that while you were yet a sinner, Jesus died for you (Rom 5), for me, for them, for us!

Therefore, wear your Christian peculiarity not with pride. The world encourages its inter-sectional herds it has created to be proudful. We do it with humility and grace. Give thanks that God saw it fit to save you. Tell them that they too can be wearing the lipstick on their face, all they have to do is ask Jesus to come into their hearts and do a miraculous new work in them.

But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - – Romans 5:8 Click To Tweet

There’s a bumper sticker out there somewhere that says “Not perfect, just forgiven”. Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, or any other politician professing to be Christians are not perfect. Not by a long shot! However, neither are their accusers! We should not see what’s “peculiar” about Sarah Palin as an insult. Not as an insult to us. It is an opportunity for rejoicing. Firstly that we were different enough where people actually noticed. Secondly, we were counted worthy to suffer ridicule for His namesake.

And Buckley’s cough syrup?

If being a Christian was easy, everyone would be a Christian. “It’s not that Christianity was tried and found difficult; it’s that it was found difficult and [therefore] left untried”. Chesterton’s quote reminds me of the Buckley’s cough syrup commercial, “tastes awful and it works”. Every day Believers are called “bad” Christians. As Christians ourselves, let us not go along with the chorus and take a holier-than-thou victory lap for ourselves. But rather, come alongside each other and support those Christians. Remember, the accusation is not of looking like the world. The crime is of trying to hide behind their Jesus lipstick and failing miserably. I’m sure you can relate. 

It's not that Christianity was tried and found difficult; it's that it was found difficult and therefore left untried. - – G.K. Chesterton Click To Tweet

Who do the people say that I am?

Who do you say you are?

I have a friend whom I’ve known for a long time. After high school, he went into the Army and after that went straight into the Police Academy. He is the epitome of a soldier: happy and cheerful while off-duty but serious and orderly on-duty. He might as well walk around with a sticker on his forehead that says, “I am a cop”.

Whenever we would go out to the movie theaters or bars or diners, we would inevitably strike up conversations with total strangers. We would get to talking and people would ask questions to get to know us better and have a better sense of who we were. One of the questions would always be “what are you?”. Now, in our neck of the woods, that question was always in reference to ethnicity or nationality. His answer, however, would always upset me because I knew where it would inevitably end up. He would say, without missing a beat, “I am a cop!”.

Who do people say you are?

At this point, the conversation would take a sudden downturn. The tone would turn serious. The girls would get scatter and we would end up by ourselves at the counter. Again. For my friend being a cop is not just his profession. It’s who he is. His identity is built around his role, his profession. His reality is shaped by and constructed around his contributions to society. Everyone that knows him thinks of him as, introduces him as, and even stores him in their phone, jokingly and lovingly, as “the Cop”.

The Great I AM

In Scripture, we have countless examples of Jesus describing Himself beginning with the words “I am”; it was this above all, that enraged the religious people of His time more than anything: only God could utter those words and here he was, the son of a carpenter, using the “Lord” form when speaking of Himself. Jesus’s self-identity was clearly stated, in black on white, as inseparable from the Identity of the Father. So why would he ask his disciples, “who do the people say that I am?”. Was He suddenly unsure of His Deity, did He suddenly become sensitive to what the blogosphere of the day wrote about Him, or was He probing for the Truth among his disciples?

Some answered him and said “they say you are Elijah or one of the prophets”, others said “they say you are John the Baptist”. Then Jesus asked and said “but who do you say that I am?”. Simon Peter turned and answered “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” The Lord answered him saying  “Knowledge did not come from within you but as a revelation from the Father in Heaven”. There it was, the Rock upon which He would build His Church, the Truth of the Gospel in the flesh! 

Who do you say that I am?

But what about us: who do the people say that we are? Can they see who we belong to? Is our life a “Living Epistle, easily read of all men”? Do our friends, co-workers and acquaintances know of us as “My friend John” “Bill the Accountant”, “the real nice guy next door” or do they know us as we should be known: followers of Jesus Christ!

Tell me who I am

For many people “who the people say we are” carries much weight in their lives. From who to marry to where to live to what school to attend and what to major in, to where to work… even where to worship. For some, other people’s opinions not only shape actions but self-image and identity.

As children, our parents’ opinions and statements quietly and progressively shaped our self-image, our self-worth, and our identity. For the fortunate among us, their words informed us that we are special, loved, treasured, pretty, smart, talented, thoughtful, kind, adored, considered, appreciated, valued. For the less fortunate, their words informed us, at best, of not being those things. Regardless of which one was our reality, we listened, more carefully than they thought we did, and we made their words our internal mirror. 

Who does God say you are?

By the Grace of God through Jesus His Son, our old mirrors have been smashed to the floor, the shards crunched, recycled, re-kilned, and remade in the Image of Jesus. Where there was pain, now there’s healing. Fear give way to hope. Just as hate is replaced with Love lack is filled with abundance. Guilt is smothered by redemption the same way sin is drowned in forgiveness. Ignorance is overpowered by Wisdom as shame is robed in honor. And, as always, Life overwhelms Death and the Grave through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Does it show?

So our question to ourselves therefore must be: how much of this can and do people see in us? When looking at us, do they see Him? When they wonder what we are, do their own thoughts immediately answer their inquiry? Does their internal dialogue say to them “He’s a Christian”, “she’s Born-Again” or does it say “He’s Hispanic”, “She’s a Feminist”, “He’s a Teacher”, “they’re Republicans”. 

Great. You found God now!

For many of us, our biggest struggle in our testimony is not with strangers on the train or the lady in front of us in line or the customer service rep. on the phone. No, our struggle is with those who are intimately familiar with our inner workings, family members, friends and co-workers alike. They grew up with us and saw us and knew us for far too long for them to simply believe an “encounter” changed us so drastically.

Not impressed

Whether you were a “Christians” in name only or from another religion, coming home to share our new-found Faith is no small task. Everyone is more than ready, willing, and able to put your new identity to the test. They still remember where all your buttons are, what gets you going the most. Your Faith is questioned, prodded and tested. Your every word weighed, and measured everyday for an opportunity to say the dreaded “…and you call yourself a Christian?!”

Speak life

It is what we do in these very moments that will echo in eternity. Not only for us but for those to whom we are witnessing. G.K. Chesterton said, “it is not that the Christian ideal has been tried and found wanting; it’s that It has been found difficult and therefore left untried”. If we truly believe that everyone needs Jesus then we must act accordingly: we must live a life that shows that living for Jesus is not only possible but pivotal: it not only influences who you are now but where you end up later; they must see that; that anyone can accept Jesus.

No matter where or who you’ve been; that living for Jesus means living an overcoming life: not free from trouble but free from worry; that living for Jesus doesn’t mean perfect simply a work in progress and that He accepts us and loves us as we are not who we will become; living for Jesus means living as Jesus, no longer we that live, but Christ that lives in us.

Who do the people say that I am? Click To Tweet

The called-out ones

Living for Jesus has to be seen as the only possible alternative to their unfulfilled, empty, search for that lone yearning that cannot be described, cannot be expressed, cannot be named, cannot be identified: a yearning “too deep for words”. They have to look at us and see that there’s something about us that is different, that is special, that is desirable: a Peace surpassing understanding, a sweet reasonableness, a giving Spirit, a confident humility, a noble serenity, an unrelenting patience, a quiet mind, a pervasive diligence, a Truthful tongue anointed with boldness and Love, and a will that brings all thoughts and deeds into submission to the perfect Will of God.

People have to see us and want what we have! The logic is quite simple: what we have is of  greater quality, better priced, longer-lasting, better warranty and more readily available than anything anyone can promise, think, imagine or deserve. Our identity has to be physically, mentally, and psychologically indistinguishable from the Faith and the Savior we profess.

Living Epistles

If we truly profess that living for Jesus is not only possible but desirable then we must believe that people want to see a life well-lived for Jesus; their Creator built them with a yearning for more. Setting “eternity in the hearts of men” God left a “Jesus-shape void” in their hearts and minds. We must show that the source of all of our desirable qualities is not us. He filled our void. We found the missing puzzle piece. The Bible says “by this shall they know that you are My disciples, that you have love for one another!”.

We need to show the Love of God. Show them that what we are and who we are is inseparable from whose we are. We must show them that perfect Love casts out fear, perfect Love is kind, gentle, remembers no wrong, believes all things, hopes all things. Let’s not tell people what we believe, let’s show them what we believe: they’ll be able to argue what you say but they won’t be able to argue what they see you do, how they see you live, “a living Epistle, easily read of all men.” Scripture teaches us that we should let them see your good works so that they will glorify your Father in Heaven. 

Easily read of all men

Far too many people build their lives around others. Not only that but what those people say of them. Some say, “I am so-and-so’s fill-in-the-blank”. Others say, “I am from such-and-such a place”. However, as Christians, we are called to be there for them. Inevitably, when they are disappointed by fallible people, let down by loved ones, left behind by a significant other or when reality doesn’t match their mental construct, we are called to be there, living a life that points to Jesus.

When they fall apart, lose their way, and experience a moment of loss, our lives should be there preaching. Preaching silent sermons of what Jesus can do if you would just invite Him in. We have to be the kind of people that people want to talk to. We are to be approachable. What if that means being funny, good listeners, and sympathetic? Be it! Perhaps it means being empathetic, loving, patient, giving and kind. Make it happen. They shouldn’t confuse us for Christians. They should confuse us with Christ!

Is this who I am?

Who do the people say that we are? Are we quick to anger, slow to listen, men and women of compromise, “anything goes” or are we the kind of people that when someone is telling a dirty joke at work near you they say “sorry” and move away a bit further? Are we Peacemakers or are we rabble-rousers? Do we invite quarreling or reasoning? 

I’ve been worse

Showing people who we are takes lots of practice and courage. I remember my first attempts at witnessing to people usually went one of two ways: either I was overzealous and would overwhelm and scare them with the tome of information I had just learned or I would give them a list of all the things they were doing wrong in their lives, give them the ole Fire & Brimstone routine and send them screaming down the street. Baby steps. 

Praying for better

But in all seriousness, the Bible teaches us that “a Prophet is never accepted in his own house”. For all these people in our lives that knew us as the “old” us. Showing up to work  one morning or coming home from a “Open Tent Revival” as a Born-Again-Christian is quite the relational monkey wrench! We can’t wait to tell them of God’s Grace and what He has done for us. To tell them how our lives are forever changed.

Cursing and foul language are frowned upon. Lewd comments no longer accepted. Furthermore, the sinful lives we once shared can no longer be the basis of our relationship. Family and friends have seen us at our worst. The countless hours together gives them superpowers. They know what we will say before we say it. They’ve always taken us at our word, believed what we said and trusted our opinions. Now “Born-Again-Christian” is something that they cannot reconcile with the person they once knew. 

Royal Priesthood here I come!

I encourage you to let that be your testimony! Let this Wisdom, that seems like foolishness to the world, be our badge of honor! The Apostle Paul teaches us that we are a “Peculiar People”: let this awkwardness be our defining characteristic! Our goal is to be loving. When others are hateful we must be peacemakers: when others are looking for arguments and quarreling, let us be of a “sweet reasonableness”.

When others speak gossip, let us bring restoration. If others bring only insult, let us only compliment. In the same manner, where others judge, let us be mindful that we were all once “the least of these”. Let it be said of us that we “Speak Life”. That we are a weird and peculiar. That we are a counter-current, group of outsiders. Christians! And if you agree, Let us say: Amen!

Exemption Letter Time

The currency of fools

We were hoping that it wouldn’t have to come to this. We prayed for better. But free will is a tricky thing. Just ask Pharaoh. So, it’s Exemption Letter Time. Many of you have by now heard of someone or have been a victim of one of these scare tactics. From unelected bureaucrats, selected presidents, and power-hungry mayors and governors, religious freedom is under attack. Along with it, free will is under attack. Now, you don’t have to be religious to oppose a “vaccine”. Having your own opinion will do. Unfortunately for us, that’s a identifying characteristic of Public Enemy #1.

Exemption Letter Time

The Gold Standard returns

Our problem is not even the constant barrage of attacks and insults hurled at us. Instead, it is the feeling that we are alone in this fight. We put our hope in Amy Coney Barrett and she let us down. We put our trust in the in the Supreme Court and it just made it worse. Of course, as Christians we put our hope in God, the gold standard of Hope. But as we pray for God to work on hearts and minds, we must be active on our own. After all, we know that God is Able, but He is not in the business of forcing anyone: He’s no politician or bureaucrat. So, what are law-abiding Christian citizens to do?

The Exemption Letter

Regardless of what former NYS Governor Cuomo or the rest of the tyrants say, the United States is, above all, a nation of religious liberties. As such, people are free from religion in regards to its imposition. By the same token, people are free from government interference on its free exercise. Even if means that individuals take on more “risk” than politicians are comfortable with.

Although these rights have been etched in stone, we need to be prepared for pushback. You can always find someone that will challenge your rights. If those rights happen to be defending a Christian worldview then you’ve just become their top priority. In an effort to put forth the best offensive posture on the subject, we have drafted a sample Exemption letter. The letter below covers both the right to choose (agency) as well as religious convictions. I find it funny that the “right to choose” has such a narrow interpretation in culture these days.

Sample Exemption Letter

Above all, we are Christians. I have therefore left the introductory paragraph out. I strongly believe that each one of us will begin the letter as they best see fit. Taking into account both audience and tone is something that should be personal.

Opening statement

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, individuals have the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of religion. As part of their religious beliefs, many individuals object to vaccines. Employers are required to accommodate religious observances and practices unless doing so imposes an undue hardship on the business.

Enumerate your reasons

As a practicing Christian taking the vaccine goes against my religious beliefs for multiple reasons. The first is that the vaccine was developed from aborted fetal cell lines. It is well known that many born-again Christians are against abortion.

First reason

At this point, there is a series of Scriptures that avail themselves to our situation. I have included a handful. Obviously the list is not exhaustive. We could probably use the whole Word as reference and not be wrong.

The Bible states:

Exodus 20:13 “You shall not murder.

Psalm 139:13-16 “13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Proverbs 6:16-17 “16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood”

Job 31:15 “15 Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?”

I believe in the Bible. I believe the Bible is the Word of God and therefore carries the authority of God. His Word says that God forms babies in the womb. God has a plan and a purpose for their lives. Aborting a baby in the womb is murder. It is taking away another human’s life and is a sin. Taking the vaccine created from tests on aborted fetal cell lines goes against my religion. It is the product of abortion which is a sin. Since I will not give my assent to any abortion, I will not give my assent to whatsoever research may come of such sinful acts.

Second reason

In addition, my second reason has to do with free will. The Bible says that man has free will. We have the right to decide what medication and vaccinations that we can take.

The Bible says:

Genesis 1:26 “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

Genesis 3:22 “And the Lord God said, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and bad, what if he should stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever!”

Humans are made in the image of God. They endowed with the same mental capacities as our Creator. Therefore I can think for myself and make my own decisions. Genesis 3:22 explains how I have the ability to choose what is good and bad. I have the right to exercise my free will that was granted to me by God.

Therefore, I will use my free will to reject the vaccine. I have numerous concerns about the vaccine. One important concern is that there is no research on the long-term effects of the vaccine. Many people I know have gotten Covid after taking the vaccine. Others, unfortunately, died within days of getting a dose. Although this doesn’t prove causality, it makes me doubt its effectiveness. In addition, there is very little research done on how the vaccine affects fertility.

Always link it back

The Bible says:

Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea,”

I do not want to partake in any vaccine that could jeopardize my ability to reproduce and have babies which is something God has called me to do.

In Matthew 9:22 “Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.”

The clincher

This is the part of the letter where you apply these Scriptures to your individual case. You have to show that the reasons you have listed are an integral part of your life. The exemption letter is not a formality. If it were a formality the whole country would file an exemption. Having to explain yourself a bit, I feel, is a good thing. A religious exemption is exactly that: for religious people. We are not here trying to “work the system”. We truly believe what we are claiming and a few lines as to why we believe them is a great opportunity to share your faith with your supervisors.

1 Peter 3:15

I have faith in the body that God gave me to fight Covid. I have had covid and recovered within days. Since I recovered on my own from a disease that has a 99% survival rate taking the vaccine is useless for me. In addition, taking the vaccine would express lack of faith in my God-given immune system.

I want to do my part to keep everyone safe which is why I am willing to wear my mask and take Covid tests upon request. This way, my health status will not be the concern of anyone around me. If there this the option to work remotely I would also be willing to work from home. I know that some parents are requesting that school offer a remote option. I gladly volunteer if such an opportunity presents itself. This would be a win-win solution.

The past year I have been able to work remotely/with a mask and was very successful. I believe that this would be the best solution to protect my religious freedom and keep my fellow employees safe.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter and considering my religious exemption request.

Sincerely,

Wrapping it up

The exemption letter above is not meant to be the exhaustive. I built it around what I do for a living. I teach. The letter is modular, interchangeable, and fluid. Please feel free to use as you see fit. Please cut and paste what you like and leave comments with your own versions. I would love to be able to share them with everyone.

It’s My Prerogative!

What is love

Britney Spears and Bobby Brown agree, “It’s my prerogative”! So then the question remains, as per Night at the Roxbury: What is love?

Modern culture has been showing us these images of “happily ever after” ever since we were children. Since then, the campaigns for self-esteem and positive self-image have added a layer of complexity that has yet to fully play itself out in our modern-day lives. For example, today’s schoolchildren have never had higher self-esteem and positive self-images while displaying a total lack of actual skills according to internationally standardized tests scores. We’ve boosted children’s egos without appropriately nurturing their self-worth.

Baby don’t hurt me

The result, unfortunately, is a generation of individuals that have a distorted and misguided opinions of self accompanied by unrealistic expectations of others and relationships. When the novelty of the puppy love and the “honeymoon phase” wear off and things go don’t go according to what the romantic comedies taught us life should be, it must be the other person’s fault, after all…we’re perfect! Today’s society is full of such experiments gone awry. Broken homes, children’s damaged psyche, accompanied by the scourge of countless abortions and divorce, this last one increasingly more and more common even in the Church.

It’s my prerogative

The battle cry for all of this is the devil’s own words: “me, me, me!!!” People ask, first and foremost, “what’s in it for me?” while children tell their parents “you can’t tell me what to do!” It even goes beyond the confines of the home where teachers now suffer violent acts at the hands of their students. It seems these days that everyone has “it’s my prerogative” etched in their hearts. They are unhinged by any sense of allegiance or responsibility. Couples divorce because they’re “not happy”, pregnancies are “inconvenient” while others’ pains and struggles are “of their own making”.

But love, true Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, not self-seeking, nor easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

All you need is…

The only solution to a world gone mad is…Love. Not the la-di-da love The Beatles talk about but agape love God the Father shows through Jesus His Son. Add to that the brotherly love of the Golden Rule that Jesus taught us to practice with each other. Putting God first, others second and ourselves last is a sure-fire guarantee to find true fulfillment and J-O-Y: Jesus, Others, You!

King for a Day

Would you rather

When I was growing up we would play a game called “would you rather”. It went like this: one person would ask you to choose between to seemingly polar opposite. The most frequently asked was this: “would you rather be king for a day or live a lifetime as a slave”? You would answer the question and then the roles would revers or, if there were more people playing, the person that had just answered the question would now pose a “would you rather” question to the next person until everyone got a turn to ask and to answer.

Needless to say that your answer to this question spoke volumes of your outlook on life and, most likely, prepared the way for years of therapy. As you can imagine, not many kids were asking to be sheep for one hundred days: everyone wanted to be king, even if for just one day.

Triumphal Entry

Palm Sunday is the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem as a conquering king as the crowds shouted “Hosanna” and “Glory to God in the Highest” and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD”! But where did we get this idea of Jesus as a conquering king? After all, He told a friend to bring Him a colt that had never-before been ridden. None of that, at least to us, speaks of king! When we think of kings we think of thrones and soldiers and barricades and escorts and stretch limousines and horses and knights! Nothing about Jesus’ entry, apart from the adoration of the crowd said “Make way for the King!”? Or did it?

The religious types of the day. the scribes and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, Knew all too well the passage in Zechariah 9:9 that specifically foresaw this very scene:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Prophecy fulfilled

Surely, this did not escape them in the least! Great, so now we have proof that the Jews knew He was the coming Messiah. After all, anyone could prance in on a domesticated donkey. A unbroken colt? Let’s just say that the first time on the colt would not have been sooth sailing for anyone…That is, of course, unless you’re God Himself! Besides the fact the the Old Testament if full of precedence where kings rode on donkeys as a sign of peace (rather than on a warhorse as a sign of conqueror).

But what about the gentiles? And the Romans in particular, what would they have thought to themselves of such a scene? The layperson and the foot soldier both had vast knowledge of customs and behaviors. They would not have given the donkey thing much thought. The leaders, however, like Pontius Pilate and others, would not only have been aware of these not so subtle Scriptural reference to Zechariah but would have also brought in their own understanding of Semitic culture of the surrounding area.

Asinine Traditions

On top of that, Romans had a few traditions of their own when it came to donkeys. When Romans conquered a stronghold, they would parade the captured king on a donkey bound and facing backwards. The overthrown king would be made into a spectacle. His former subjects encouraged to take out their frustrations at him for losing the war would throw produce at him as he passed by.

But not so with Jesus! Jesus was neither bound nor put on the donkey against His will. He entered the city, with the whole of Jerusalem watching.  A whole host of foreigners from the Diaspora also found themselves in the Holy City. The people shouted “Hosanna”, which means “save now” or put more explicitly “set up your kingdom now”. These same people that chanted Jesus’ name and called Him Messiah one day would soon find themselves chanting “crucify Him” in less than a week’s time!

Jesus had, in fact, been “King for a day”! The terrible misunderstanding, if it can be called such, is clearly shown by Jesus. Approaching the city, Luke 19 tells us the following:

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

No king, especially Jesus

Unfortunately, the Israelites of the time wanted nothing to do with peace. In fact, they were praying for and expecting a violent overthrow of Roman rule over Judea. So they welcomed Jesus as king. However, not as the sort of King He had been preaching to them throughout His ministry. In fact, in Luke 23 Pilate asked Jesus “are you the king of the Jews”? Jesus replied “you have said so”. Pilate is satisfied. He turns to the chief priests and says “I find no guilt in this man”! Pilate was a shrewd politician and had quickly read the situation.

Maybe he saw Jesus as another misunderstood religious fanatic. Pilate wasn’t in the mood to make any more martyrs. With so many criminals around he wasn’t interested in shedding innocent blood. He quickly tried to remove himself from the equation. But the priests and the people wouldn’t have any of it!

King for a day

They welcomed Him as King and crucified Him as a blasphemer! But the story doesn’t end there. As many of us know and have experienced in our own lives: Jesus is alive! Jesus lives and will return one day soon and this time He won’t settle for a donkey. My most fervent prayer in this time of hardship is that, if you have not yet had a personal encounter with Him, you meet Jesus, the risen Savior. I encourage you to seek Him now before the Grace period expires.

Every day is King Day

Friend, if you’re reading this now and have not yet made a personal decision to make Jesus the Lord of your life I ask you that, if you are willing, repeat these simple words with me. Just say:

Dear Jesus, I repent of my sins, I acknowledge you as Lord of everything and Master over everything. I ask you that you come into my heart and that you take your rightful place as Lord and Savior of my life and of my soul!

Welcome Home

If you repeated this simple prayer with your heart, you are now “Born Again”. Your sins are forgiven. God no longer holds you responsible for them. You’re washed by the blood of Jesus. His blood was shed in your place on the Cross of Calvary two millennia ago. Pray that the Holy Spirit lead you to a Bible-Believing, Spirit-filled church. Then, be faithful  where He plants you. Ask Him to show you how He wants you to serve and do it diligently.

Greater than Jonah

Quite the fish story

In Part One of the series, we grappled with the greatness of the Temple: what it meant to the Israelites and the consequences and significance of Jesus’ statement of being “Greater than the Temple“.  Jonah preached the the greatest revival message in history. Over one million people came to faith in the God of Abraham on that day. Now Jesus tells them that one “greater than Jonah” is here.

The Sign of Jonah

38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”

39 He answered, A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here…

The Temple was the place where Jews communed with God. As we said in Part 1, it was the center of the universe for religious Jews and for good reason: it could be seen for miles in the desert sun, adorned in gold and precious stones it was a sight to behold. But now the people, and the Pharisees and Scribes in particular, ask Jesus for a sign. Having listened attentively for quite some time and not having been able to cause Him to stumble, they want Him to prove Himself. What more powerful sign could He offer them outside of doing what Jonah did: come back from the dead!

Time me!

Jesus even gives them the timetable: three days.  In chapters 16 and 22 of Psalms, David talks about how the Messiah would die and be resurrected. He explains how His body would not know decay and be resurrected from the dead. In Hosea 6:1-2, the prophet teaches us that:

“for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.”

Greater than Jonah

This handful of verses would have been well-known to the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus is explicitly telling the “wise” that He is the Messiah of Scripture. But, being the master storyteller that He is, Jesus goes a step further and adds insult to injury. He compares them to the Ninevites. However, and this is the insult, unlike the Ninevites that repented at the preaching of Jonah, they turn deaf ears to Jesus’ teachings. In fact, these Pharisees must be running up quite a seamstress bill. Jesus caused them insult with every word He spoke. Offended beyond repair. Consequently, so were their garments.

Jesus so far has told them that He is greater than the Temple: where they commune with God; and greater than Jonah: who came back from the dead after three days and brought a message of repentance to a rebellious people, who were not Jews, and they repented. What will He use next, in his trifecta of examples? Their most revered elder: Solomon!