Peace in a greeting, peace for eternal life

Matthew 10:12-13 As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.

When you visit someone, do you greet them or bless them?

What unworthiness would necessitate the withdrawal of a blessing? The immediate context appears to be hospitality or households refusing to take in the disciples (Mat 10:9-10), provide sustenance for them, and give tribute worthy of their meat (Mat 10:11). But what ministry from these messengers cause them to be worthy of the gift of meat?

Note, the phrase peace to you in the scriptures as a greeting, come from the Lord after he has been resurrected (Luke 24:26, John 20:19-21, and John 20:26). But curiously,  peace to you occurs only once in the Old Testament from the mouth of a servant to Joseph’s household, “Peace be to you, fear not…” (Gen 43:23). Without promoting a false understanding of prosperity, health, and riches, and the subsequent security that comes from financial provision, one can see plainly the provision God has given to the children of Jacob through the hand of Joseph, by means of Egypt, which is an interesting provision for Hebrews indeed. Continue reading Peace in a greeting, peace for eternal life

Looking Forward From the Plow

photo  ©2010  Klearchos Kapoutsis, FlickrDeath, the primary inescapable statistic that effects all humans. We all shall come face to face with its reality. When we view our lives in the light of death’s foreboding guarantee our perspective of the future should be impacted. The lives we live, words we say, and things we do all effect us significantly. Conversely, those things also effect the lives of others.

Personally, I have the predisposition of always focusing on that which I have lost. Generally speaking, there is a loss of pride and esteem when I think of the negative impact my former life has had on the lives of others. Personal responsibility is difficult to accept when the actions you have committed directly (or indirectly) resulted in someone else’s death or suffering.

Although everyone is accountable for their own decisions the inquisition of my own heart begs the question: Am I responsible for how they wound up? As one who is redeemed and considered forgiven of past sins I become the epitome of the skeptics argument. That is to say, I have been forgiven, but how do I make amends to the dead?

Continue reading Looking Forward From the Plow

Jesus binds the strong man

 Mat 12:28-29  But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  (29)  Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Just thought it’s interesting how the deity, authority, and omnipotence of Christ is consistently challenged. Whether it be a cult, individual, or scoffer, they all take their shot at diminishing the power of Christ. For example, the preceding verse depicts Jesus challenging the Pharisees and their allegations that He was casting out demons by the power of demons. This is typical of those who wish to dismiss or even worse deny what is truly the work of the Spirit.

The strong man’s house is plain to see as the house of the enemy himself, Satan. Many take this verse and misconstrue it into a prescription for binding Satan and binding his evil spirits/works upon them. But that is not what this passage “plainly” states. If we look at Scripture, we can see how easily the strong man’s house can be understood as being the enemies’ in this context (2 Cor 4:4, Phi 3:19, Eph 2:2)

Jesus’ powerfully proclaims His deity in the statement, “…kingdom of God has come upon you” and promptly places the Pharisees and their accusations in their rightful positions, which just so happens to be error. The Gospel of Luke echoes this very same statement (11:20). Jesus makes His point apparent, at least in a plain reading. Jesus asks them (Mt. 12:27) to account for who among them casts out demons and by what name do they do so? So Jesus states a powerful tangible here, “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God…” then they are basically in a whole lot of trouble, for the kingdom of God has come upon them!

So here’s the thrust of this passage. We have assurance in the power of Christ. No doubt He has asserted not only His authority (Spirit of God), and His strength (Mt. 12:30), but His grace for those who follow and attribute to Him all glory and honor! Jesus has bound the strong man, plundered his house and taken what was his (Us). Anyone else who would say otherwise and blatantly deny what Christ says is obvious and ignore the forgiveness of sins by the Son of God stands and stays condemned (Mt. 12:32).

Resolution of a patient heart

A reflection of the past can often stir a range of emotions. Venturing into this state can be positive or negative. In my personal experience I can testify of the struggle that occurs in my life and mind as a believer. The past plays a major part of how I’ve imagined the future, and ultimately has been a determining factor of how my future has played out. On a positive note, there can also be a positive resolve and hope for the future. Remembering the past, viewing the present, and seeing the future through the grace of Christ stirs the emotions of rejoice.

I once heard an adage that said, “We get better, but the wreckage of our past will show up one day needing resolution.” In those times the most trying aspect of the experience becomes a battle with selfishness and lack of control over my future. These battles come as a result of my own heart’s desire to be the sovereign ruler of my life, and the ultimate judge of the direction it goes.

The proverbial phrase, “I wouldn’t trade that experience for all the money in the world” applies here. As I often cite this, I also often wonder if I could give the past back, would I? A resounding no often follows as I am grateful for the path I’ve had to tread in order to wind up at the foot of the cross. I trust my Lord would’ve brought me through any other circumstance and at His feet no matter the trial, but am glad that grace was the end result either way.

1Pe 4:1-7  Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,  (2)  so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.  (3)  For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.  (4)  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;  (5)  but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.  (6)  For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.  (7)  The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

As I’ve meditated on the thoughts provoked by this particular text, I’ve considered the freedom I enjoy now and see no point in sorrow over the disasters of the past that stir the brokenness of an old man and an old heart. Simply stated, no matter the former the latter is greater, for it is filled with the hope that is in Christ Jesus. The patience (Gal 5:22) provided from the Lord through His spirit has created the resolve that allows one to view the past with an optimistic lens and persevere forward with purpose, but only is that purpose realistic when its worked out through living and proclaiming the Gospel.

The autonomy to worship gods and idols

Isaiah 40:18-19  To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains.

Scripture illustrates man’s propensity to create his own suitable standards. We value our way so much that even our standards as followers of Jesus Christ, start to become negotiable. When we find ourselves in this trap, we quickly begin making God like us, and in this we transgress His law (Exo 20:3-5). We begin to appeal to our own autonomy. Our defense and logic generally results in a self-righteous sentiment, “but God is loving, and understanding.”

'false idol?' photo (c) 2009, Erik Fitzpatrick - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Jesus spoke with a rich man who asked what was required of him to inherit eternal life (Mk 10:17-22), the Lord demonstrated the measurement by which men are evaluated and spoke to him of the law. But this man had great possessions, self-righteousness, and a trust in human attainments rather than Godly gain. But God’s love and understanding said (v21), “sell all that you have,” lay down your riches, follow me.

A scribe zealously assured that he would follow wherever the Lord went (Mat 8:19-22). And faithfully, those who approach Christ receive the ‘love and understanding’ of God. He draws out the truth of his motives by showing his utter lack. Following Christ wholly is dependent upon setting our affairs in order first. Man’s agenda to live life in accordance to man’s autonomy is minimized by Christ’s words, “let the dead bury their own dead.”

It is possible for Kingdom citizens to demonstrate faithfulness, realization of truth, and a casting out of dependence. Casting aside the old man we establish a desire to exchange our ways for Gods. The believers in Asia, under the instruction of the Gospel learned a better way. Their dependence upon magic arts and costly books quickly became irrelevant and they burned them, disposing of the foundation they once held dear, despite their cost, and established a new level to build upon (Acts 19:17-19).

All man is counted as dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1-2), and in his innate desire to worship something, has chosen idols in the place of God. Man has chosen autonomy that supplants the statutes of the Most High and casts out any need for dependence upon Him. But who is wiser than God? Who consults of themselves and receives counsel more worthy than the Lords (Isa 40:13-14)?

We must ask ourselves if our watches are stopped at a pivotal time in our own history. Is the mystery of God made known to us? Have we heard the voice of the Son of God and now live (Jn 5:25)? Or do we seek status in the Kingdom without subscribing to its requirements?

The rich man was dead, and subject to his idols. The man burying his father was dead and subject to his idols. The book burners were dead, but they heard the voice of the Son of God, received life, and cast out their autonomy, their choice to follow man’s ways, his knowledge, his books of wisdom. With Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God, the answer to idolatry is cost counting. Has God’s love and understanding set you free from your chained idols, who are dead works of man’s hands? Or are you still autonomous?

Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, renew in me a right spirit, cast aside my transgression, and illuminate my path with your righteousness. Lord, let my ways be your ways. Let me worship you and seek your will. Let me strive to follow you, the Good Shepherd. I do not want to be bound to the work’s of my mind or man’s hands, but to your word.

Love – is not a four letter word

It is…

  • a commandment of the Lord – Matthew 5:43
  • an admonition to do good to those who persecute you – Matthew 5:44
  • a practice of the Church toward each other – John 13:35
  • an indicator of one who follows the Christ, Jesus – John 14:15
  • a laying down of your life for others – John 15:13
  • consideration of your neighbor – Romans 13:10
  • a manner of proper correction – 1 Corinthians 4:21
  • and also a manner in which we must walk – Ephesians 5:2

There are so many other examples of love in the Scripture. Most notably the love of Jesus Christ who laid down His life for sinners, that they may come to God in repentance and granted salvation. I could be wrong, but it seems like this one characteristic of the Christian life is often taught, but rarely practiced. Let us remember these things in our reactions, interactions, and dealings with others today. And tomorrow as well.

Clearing the thorns from your path

Proverbs 22:5 Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.

If you could have a dollar for every time you remember a parent or elder reminding you of their past mistakes so that you might avoid them in your future, you might be pretty wealthy by now. Such is life that most of us, if not all, have turned an ear from a wise teacher or two and decided we knew better.

There is a place for the wisdom of 'Macro thorns' photo (c) 2005, q8 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/man, but separate from the source of all knowledge, the Lord Himself, man’s wisdom is insufficient to straighten our paths. Proverbs teaches us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight (Pr 9:10). Worldly wisdom, attained through worldly means, yields its own fruit, but it will not be the means by which our justification will come when we stand naked before the throne of God (Heb 4:13).

So then, what knowledge should we seek to attain? In light of the snares laid down in the paths we walk, desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and pride in possessions (1Jn 2:16), we must seek diligently to be in the will of God. The world, a proselytizer of all things ungodly, would have you believe that God’s will is unknowable, but the revelation of Holy Scripture states otherwise (2Ti 3:16-17, Eph 6:5-8, Col 1:9). Attaining knowledge of the Lord’s will in all things is preferable in living purposefully for the Kingdom of God. His wisdom is also profitable in the manner by which you conduct your life, for His glory, and His name’s sake (1Cor 10:31-33). The result of a godly life extends beyond the impact on your own life. It impacts all those who witness its effects.

The one whose path is laden with thorns and snares, this crooked one, by definition of crooked, is wayward, ungodly, and prone to straying. There is no contentment in godly living, the flesh is his compass, and his path is to go where he pleases. The snare is not mere consequence. It is purposefully placed to capture, limit, and hinder its victims. Choosing this path provides no excuse when life’s troubles and trials become overly burdensome. The ways of the crooked one produce a result that is eventually deadly.

In the same thought in which you read of certain trouble, the author provides an encouraging word of guidance. Unlike those times we chose to ignore the wisdom of our teachers, the Scripture provides ample teaching for us to be those who guard our souls against these stumbling blocks, and we will find ease in keeping far from them. In the same way that fear of the Lord breeds wisdom, it too shall provide means to resist temptation (Jas 4:7) and cause us to walk upright in His ways. The highway of the upright turns aside from evil, whoever guards his way preserves his life (Pr 16:17).

Heavenly Father, I ask you to abide in me through the power of your Holy Spirit, that I may be made to walk straight paths, strengthened to guard my soul against the ways of the crooked. Allow me to seek diligently your will, keeping my ways excellent in the sight of others that it might glorify you in the day of judgment, and that I may forever praise you for directing me to the gate that is strait (1Pe 2:12, Mat 7:14).