Wednesday, September 16, 2009

There must be more....

The Rich Young Ruler (or Surely I am Missing Something)

Mark 10:17-21 AMP
(17)And as He (Jesus) was setting out on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, Teacher, [You are essentially and perfectly morally] good, what must I do to inherit eternal life [that is, to partake of eternal salvation in the Messiah's kingdom]? (18)And Jesus said to him, Why do you call Me [essentially and perfectly morally] good? There is no one [essentially and perfectly morally] good--except God alone. (19)You know the commandments: Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother. (20)And he replied to Him, Teacher, I have carefully guarded and observed all these and taken care not to violate them from my boyhood. (21)And Jesus, looking upon him, loved him, and He said to him, You lack one thing; go and sell all you have and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come [and] accompany Me [walking the same road that I walk]. (22)At that saying the man's countenance fell and was gloomy, and he went away grieved and sorrowing, for he was holding great possessions.

The story of the rich young ruler has been told over and over again by countless preachers, teachers and theologians. Most with the same admonition, "Don't get too attached to stuff!". Yeah, that's a true statement. You can't deny the lesson here because Jesus follows up with His disciples in the next verses like this:

(23)And Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, With what difficulty will those who possess wealth and keep on holding it enter the kingdom of God! (24)And the disciples were amazed and bewildered and perplexed at His words. But Jesus said to them again, Children, how hard it is for those who trust (place their confidence, their sense of safety) in riches to enter the kingdom of God!

Okay, I get it. If you get caught up in what the world values instead of what God values you miss the boat. But let's take another look, focusing on verse 21. It says that Jesus looked at the rich man and loved him. That seems rather out of place in this story. Jesus is just about to tell the disciples how hard it is to be rich AND saved at the same time. But there it is, Jesus looked at the man and LOVED him. What could possibly evoke that from Jesus? Let's look at the rich man's question and statements a little closer:

"Good Teacher" said the rich man, " what do I need to do in order to be a part of God's kingdom."

Jesus gives him the sunday school answer (I believe) the man expected. Don't kill, don't steal, don't lie, don't covet, and honor Mom and Dad. I think it is the next statement from the rich man that prompted the swell of affection from Jesus.

"Jesus", said the man, " I've done that since I was a kid!"

If I may offer a paraphrase here, "There must be something else" is what I believe he was trying to say. Or possibly " Jesus, there has to be something I am missing." Or maybe, "If this is all there is I'm not sure I want it."

I believe the fact that the rich man was questioning all that RELIGION had to offer gave Jesus hope. Maybe Jesus thought to Himself, "That's it son! Reach a little further past the rules you've been taught by religion and find Me!" So Jesus answered, probably with some enthusiasum, "Yes! You are right! There IS more than cold rules and dead religion! Sell all that stuff your religion has convinced you is a blessing from God and follow Me!"

Jesus' heart must have ached a little as the rich man walked away.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Help, I did something Stupid!

This past Sunday we had the pleasure of meeting with Brother Kim Vedros, or Master Kim as he is affectionately known, at our house church gathering. I am always challenged by his understanding of the Word and unique perspective. Bro. Kim shared a word from Psalm 107 concerning God’s faithfulness to us when we cry out to Him.

So, because of Master Kim I have been meditating on Psalm 107. This is the part that caught my heart:

Some are fools [made ill] because of the way of their transgressions and are afflicted because of their iniquities.
They loathe every kind of food, and they draw near to the gates of death.
Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivers them out of their distresses.
He sends forth His word and heals them and rescues them from the pit and destruction. Oh, that men would praise [and confess to] the Lord for His goodness and loving-kindness and His wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving and rehearse His deeds with shouts of joy and singing!

(Psalm 107:17-22 AMP)

This caught my attention mainly because, like most of us, I can appreciate being “afflicted” because of my iniquities. Did you ever do something stupid that you can’t fix? Or been faced with a problem you TRY to fix and it only gets worse? I know I have. Then when it finally gets bad enough, the light bulb comes on. “I know”, I say to myself, “I’ll call on God!”

This passage in Psalm 107 reminds me of the story of the woman with the issue of blood in the Gospel of Mark:

And when Jesus had recrossed in the boat to the other side, a great throng gathered about Him, and He was at the lakeshore. Then one of the rulers of the synagogue came up, Jairus by name; and seeing Him, he prostrated himself at His feet and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, so that she may be healed and live.” And Jesus went with him; and a great crowd kept following Him and pressed Him from all sides [so as almost to suffocate Him]. And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had endured much suffering under [the hands of] many physicians and had spent all that she had, and was no better but instead grew worse. She had heard the reports concerning Jesus, and she came up behind Him in the throng and touched His garment, for she kept saying, “If I only touch His garments, I shall be restored to health”. And immediately her flow of blood was dried up at the source, and [suddenly] she felt in her body that she was healed of her [distressing] ailment. Jesus, recognizing in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around immediately in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” The disciples kept saying to Him, “You see the crowd pressing hard around You from all sides, and You ask, Who touched Me?” Still He kept looking around to see her who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had been done for her, though alarmed and frightened and trembling, fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith (your trust and confidence in Me, springing from faith in God) has restored you to health. Go in (into) peace and be continually healed and freed from your [distressing bodily] disease.” (Mark 5:21-34 AMP)

Now it is not my intention to say that this woman was a “fool” or “afflicted” because of her iniquities. But because of her ailment she “had endured much suffering under [the hands of] many physicians” AND gave them all her money. The result of her physicians’ ministrations even left her worse off than before! Then the woman heard about Jesus. “If I can just touch Him” she said. Psalm 107 says they “cry out in their trouble”. If our crying out doesn’t touch God what good is it? In Psalm 107 they “touched” God by crying out to Him and He sent forth His word and healed them.

The Gospel of John calls Jesus the Word of God:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 KJV)

The woman cried out and reached out to touch the Word (Jesus) sent by God. And on top of it all Jesus turns to this frightened, trembling woman and calls her “daughter”. Now that’s when you have really touched God.

Monday, May 18, 2009

He ain't heavy....

It has been a while since I have posted anything, but the house church is still going well. The hustle and bustle of daily life has captured my time lately. This Sunday was a good time of communion with my brothers and sisters. The scripture passage I keep coming back to lately is Hebrews 12:14-15:

“Strive to live in peace with everybody and pursue that consecration and holiness without which no one will [ever] see the Lord. Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God's grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing), in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoots forth and causes trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it” (AMP)

Paul’s encouragement to the early church in verse 14 was “strive” to live in peace with everyone. The word strive is defined in the dictionary as follows:

To exert much effort or energy; endeavor; To struggle or fight forcefully; contend.

This is not a very passive word. “Striving” for peace takes effort and requires endurance. Paul is saying. “Boys and girls, peace is worth the effort. Put your back into it and fight for peace.”

But that’s not all. On top of the hard (dare I say impossible) task of trying for peace with EVERYBODY, Paul says “pursue holiness”. Here we are faced with another verb, yet another action word. “Pursuing” is anything but passive. “While you are striving”, Paul said, “put on your track shoes and run after holiness, ‘cause if you don‘t have that you won’t even see God.” So here we are with our boxing gloves on fighting for peace and our track shoes on running after holiness. You do remember that Paul was writing to the church?

Now, as if we don’t have enough to do with all the striving and pursuing Paul throws in “looking out for one another”. Don’t I have enough to do already?! It’s hard enough trying to look out for myself, now I have to watch out for others too? I think maybe Paul is being a little unreasonable. But there it is, “see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God's grace”. What grace is it that has to be “secured” or held onto? I think John said it best in his gospel:

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14-17 KJV)

So in light of Paul’s “encouragement” to the church, am I doing all I can? Or am I so busy looking out for myself I can’t watch out for my brother? Am I sure that my brothers and sisters are secured, strapped down, tied onto, and carried by the “grace and truth” that IS Jesus Christ?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

BJ's Graduation Party Invitation

Join us on Saturday, May 16, from 5-8, to celebrate BJ's graduation from LSU.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Will you be my friend....

This past Sunday we met at the Hill household for our communion time together. We shared a Mexican fiesta (not siesta) of south-of-the-border style casseroles and sides.

During this past week Sharon and I were discussing the word friend as it pertains to the body of Christ. One of the worship songs that we sing on occasion is “Fire of God”, and the chorus says:

Fire of God, burn in me,
Consume all my wickedness
So I will not love this world
So I will not be a friend of this world any longer
So I will not be a friend of this world any longer

When we were thinking about this chorus these questions came to mind; what does it mean to be a friend of the world? What does it mean to be a friend of God?

The chorus of this song is a reference to the scripture in the epistle of James:

"Do you not know that being the world's friend is being God's enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God." (James 4:4 AMP)

The interesting part of this passage is that the intended audience is the church. It is addressed to those who claim to know and follow Jesus. The friendship with the world that James is referencing was happening inside, not outside, the church.

So how do we become friends of God instead of the world? Let’s look at another passage in the book of James:

“Was not our forefather Abraham [shown to be] justified (made acceptable to God) by [his] works when he brought to the altar as an offering his [own] son Isaac? You see that [his] faith was cooperating with his works, and [his] faith was completed and reached its supreme expression [when he implemented it] by [good] works. And [so] the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed in (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on) God, and this was accounted to him as righteousness (as conformity to God's will in thought and deed), and he was called God's friend." (James 2:21, 22 &23 AMP)

Abraham believed God and proved it by obeying Him. Jesus said the same thing in the Gospel of John:

“This is My commandment: that you love one another [just] as I have loved you. No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends. You are My friends if you keep on doing the things which I command you to do. I do not call you servants (slaves) any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing (working out). But I have called you My friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from My Father. [I have revealed to you everything that I have learned from Him.].” (John 15:12-15 AMP)

The only thing that Jesus requires is obedience and He calls us friends. What a wonderful promise. Jesus will be our friend if we just obey. What a novel concept!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Broken Bread or stale toast?

The first "Easter" service observed was of course when Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women went to the tomb where Jesus’ body was. They went to anoint His body with spices they had prepared for burial, but what the women discovered was an empty tomb.

"But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, [the women] went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had made ready. And they found the stone rolled back from the tomb, But when they went inside, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus." (Luke 24:1-3, AMP)

To be fair they really did not expect an empty tomb. However, they did bring what "they had made ready."
The spices they prepared were brought to the tomb to anoint His body. What these women made ready was not for them at all, but for the Lord they loved.

We, as Christians today, also bring what we have "made ready." The difference is what we have made ready is ourselves, spent on our own selfish desires. We get dressed up in our new Easter clothes, dye eggs, give the kids candy and "go" to church instead of being the Church. We go to the tomb of our religious obligation and call it a "sacrifice" because it is a sunrise service.

However, the resurrection story does not stop there. They discovered the empty tomb and something else:

"And while they were perplexed and wondering what to do about this, behold, two men in dazzling raiment suddenly stood beside them. And as [the women] were frightened and were bowing their faces to the ground, the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among [those who are] dead? He is not here, but has risen! Remember how He told you while He was still in Galilee That the Son of Man must be given over into the hands of sinful men (men
whose way or nature is to act in opposition to God) and be crucified and on the third day rise [ from death] And they remembered His words." (Luke 24:4-8, AMP)

The women went to the tomb seeking to serve the Lord and were reminded just who it was they were seeking. They were reminded that Jesus is the Lord of the living not the dead. What if the angels who were at the tomb with Mary Magdalene that day were at most of our resurrection celebrations? The message would probably still be "why do you seek the living among the dead" just like it was back then. Most church-goers today think Jesus will be right where we left Him last Easter; just like the two Marys and the other women at the tomb of Jesus on that resurrection morning. So why do we seek the living among the dead? Do we think our cold religion will keep Him frozen in place for our next visit?

Later in the Luke chapter 24 Jesus actually shows up:

"And behold, that very day two of [the disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, [which is] about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things that had occurred. And while they were conversing and discussing together, Jesus Himself caught up with them and was already accompanying them. But their eyes were held, so that they did not recognize Him." (Luke 24:13-16)

Why didn’t the two disciples recognize Jesus? Could it be they did not expect Jesus to be in their everyday walk? Since they were discussing the recent events, they probably thought Jesus was just where they left Him. Could that be why so many today don’t find the living Jesus? Maybe we think that Jesus is still where we left Him.

Fortunately that is not the end of the resurrection day story:

"Then they drew near the village to which they were going, and He acted as if He would go further. But they urged and insisted, saying to Him, Remain with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent. So He went in to stay with them. And it occurred that as He reclined at table with them, He took [a loaf of] bread and praised [God] and gave thanks and asked a blessing, and then broke it and was giving it to them When their eyes were [instantly] opened and they [clearly] recognized Him, and He vanished (
departed invisibly)." (Luke 24:28-31, AMP)

The recognition of Jesus took place in the breaking of bread, not the partaking of the bread. A common phrase that means "fellowship" is "breaking bread." Isn’t it amazing that they finally recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Brokenness reveals Jesus every time. And brokenness must occur before we can partake of what Jesus offers.

We don’t want a broken loaf these days. We want the unbroken and stale bread of religion. We would rather choke on religion than share what we have by the "breaking of bread" (fellowship) with Jesus and each other. Isn’t it time that we give up our holy days of obligation and playing christian dress up? Isn’t it time we become the Church, the Body of Christ, and allow Him to walk with us daily?

The tomb is empty folks and He is risen.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

You gotta serve somebody...

Today at house church we shared Ms. Jan’s favorite meal, homemade grilled hamburgers. Ken mixed up some 100% ground beef with seasonings and we grilled ‘em fresh. They were good. But before all of the eating stuff, we shared with each other what the Lord has shown us individually during the week.

Sharon shared with the group that she had been listening to a CD by Rita Springer. The song All My Days has a line in the bridge that says “Here am I so in Love with serving you”, “you” being God. So many times our thoughts about “loving” God are just thoughts. What does it mean to serve God? Jesus made it plain to His disciples that our love for one another should be so evident that the world would know we are His. “I give you a new commandment”, Jesus said to His disciples, “that you should love one another as I have loved you. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, by your love for one another.” (John 13:34 & 35, paraphrased). I think it has been mentioned before, but for clarity sake, love is an action word. Love is proven through relationship, sacrifice and service. The “proof” of our love for God is our love for each other.

This “love” that we are COMMANDED to have for one another is not optional. The americanized gospel taught today puts the premium on serving self rather than others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we simply obeyed the commandments of God? There might be revival in that kind of thinking……