Category Archives: God

Counter Balance

GTY_woman_on_scale_kab_140723_16x9_992It is Tuesday morning.  I awaken and the first thing I do is I head to the hall and step on some medical scales that will tell me if I have been a good boy or a bad boy.

These are not those scales with flashing digital numbers, these are the ones that have the two big blocks of steel that run on a slide and when the indicator is balanced, that is your weight.  My weight is measured by a counter weight on the scale. It stands opposing every fat cell in my body, and…  IT DOESN’T LIE!

My weight is determined by the counter weight!  Now that is worth pondering because the Christian life is very similar.

David, the former shepherd now King of Israel, rehearses this idea in one of his songs. In he draws the contrast between two seemingly opposing ideas, two counter balances.  On the one hand he sings of the omnipotence and omniscience of YHWH while on the other he concludes the song with hatred! It does not seem to be fitting conclusion to the song.  Praise then hatred. Strange!

How does one explain such contrast?

Perhaps the Lord gives us a peek here of his COUNTER BALANCES in this Christian walk. Both extremes are seen here, they are vocalized, embraced, and equal and acknowledged by YHWH.

My praise for the Father today also measures my hatred for wickedness.

David sees them both as something that compliments one another. After asserting, “How precious to me are your thoughts O God!  How vast is the sum of them… I awake and I am still with you,” he then concludes the song with:

“O that you would slay the wicked O God.  O men of blood depart from me!  They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take tour name in vain!  Do I not hate those who hate you O Lord? And do I not loath those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.”

And then he seems to challenge the Lord with this audacious claim by saying:

“ Search me O God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

This appears to be so bold.  His hatred for the wicked is put up for examination before the Lord and he is completely confortable with the test.

The scope of Jesus’ majesty creates in me a single mind, a single eye that puts me at odds with the world. It surrounds me with His omnipotence and at the same time it surrounds me with enemies.

In our day David would be branded a bigot.  Hatred for any reason is politically and socially unacceptable.  But that is an illusion.  Hatred will remain among us until Jesus returns.

Now it must be asked is it wrong to hate the wicked?

David would think it is not.  He hates those who hate the Lord and then opens himself to the highest court for examination.  He seems completely innocent in suggesting that the wicked be destroyed. But how does this flesh out for us with Jesus’ message of loving your enemies?

First, it is completely impossible to love your enemies if they are not your enemies to begin with. I think this is the point David makes in his song. But I would ask, “Should they remain your adversaries?”

David hates his enemies because he sees them as enemies of YHWH. That is why we hate! It is covenantal to hate those who stand against the One we are in covenant with and love the ones who are with Him. David is no stranger to covenant and his comments reflect so. Yet, Jesus comes to broaden the covenant with an invitation for all men calling them to come and lay down their weapons of resistance and become sons of the King.

The surest way to change your enemy is to make him your brother.  For this reason we preach the Gospel to all men, men who were enemies of God but now are made sons through the redeeming task of Christ.

Secondly, Love and hatred always work in tandem with one another.

Amos put it like this, “Hate evil and love good…” () Love and hatred are like the scales I use each day to weigh myself. My weight is counter-balanced with the blocks of steel on the other end.  My hatred is countered by my love and visa versa.

The world will tell you it is “unchristian” to hate but I think the Bible challenges that notion.  Yet we are not at liberty to respond to this hate in the manner the world does. We as His children have been given the grace and the task to meet their wickedness with the love and truth of Christ.

We will not shrink from identifying the wicked nor will we reject them by being silent.  We will proclaim the only One who can change an evil soul into a Saint.

We won’t rant and rave.  We won’t use carnal methods to belittle or strike.

We will simply proclaim!   Wickedness will be addressed either by His grace through Christ or by His wrath in judgment. Either way it will be addressed.

One final note:  Are you over weight with either love or hatred?

Don’t get on the scales unless you are ready to learn the truth but then again you may be at the perfect weight!

HE IS THE PERFECT WEIGHT!

SELAH!


139:1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (ESV)

ERROR: No results were found for your search.

THE FUTURE

Future

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is known!

It was told!

It is certain!

The recent decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States have unleashed a flurry of speculation and fear among the religious community.  No one can deny that change is accelerating and our country as well as the world is moving at break-neck speed to a conclusion, one which is debated with much earnest in the social media.

Underneath all of this speculation is a towering fear that things are spinning out of control and the powers that once gave us a complacent life are now in jeopardy. The “monuments of security” such as the presidency, military supremacy, economic stability and moral stability are eroding and it is causing a national angst.

It is a justified fear, if you are standing on your own!

But if you are His, if you have, as Jesus told Nicodemus been “Born Again” the future is not a mystery.

Jesus took his “students” to His favorite classroom, the Mount of Olives and taught them some alarming things. This was not a class that any one had expected.  It was a class on THE FUTURE.

In the middle of His discourse he makes an astounding statement.  “Be on guard; I have told you all things before hand.”  In other words all the things that would challenge us as His children of a different Kingdom in the difficult times ahead, he gave on that lonely hillside.

But what were these things he was talking about?

Their ears stood at attention as he told them of their future, and ours as well! “There will be imposters who come saying they are the Christ and will lead many astray.  Wars of incredible violence and even news reports of such will fill the news media and alarm the population.  Those who are not killed in these wars will be paralyzed by the fear that they are approaching their own borders.  Earthquakes of unprecedented strength will occur even in the most unlikely places causing worldwide famine with millions starving, even in developed countries.  Persecution will arise by unjust laws aimed at Christians, regulations and edicts that will attack their foundational beliefs and force them to choose my law or their king’s. My sons and daughters will be hated by all men, even those in their own family for the stand they take. Teenagers will call 911 to arrest their folks because they refuse to allow their daughters to have an abortion. Tribulation will come that will shake the very soul of man and in that storm of fear one will come forward and declare he is the Christ. “

Jesus continued, “ But when they bring you before the courts let the Holy Spirit form your response. The stage I will put you on is too big for you to take the credit and say anything you want. Use the opportunity wisely and let my Spirit tell you what to say.”

continues with other signs of what is ahead but let it be said,

OUR FUTURE IS KNOWN

OUR FUTURE WAS TOLD

OUR FUTURE IS CERTAIN

The disciples’ heads must have been swimming as they listened.  This was not what they imagined his future kingdom to be like. Most of us do not either.

But two things seem to stand out in his discourse.  One, we have alluded to but will expand on here, namely, our response before our accusers.

Facebook is an excellent platform to communicate with others far beyond your locale but the responses I have seen to the present abrupt changes seem to be mostly responses that have come from emotion more than from The Spirit.

Perhaps we should regard our counterclaims as those that reflect the Risen Lord rather than our rage.

Then coming to the end of we see Jesus’ exhortation to the 12, “STAY AWAKE!”

It is vital for those in power to numb the populace for their agenda to progress.  This numbness comes in a wide variety of ways but regardless how it inflicts its stupor, we are called to remain awake and vigilant.  We are the children of light and see with eyes that can penetrate the darkness.  This ability to see is what will propel many of us into conflict with the current regime.

So, our future was designed for us! You are here in this time at this place for this moment!  He knew you would be here when it all breaks lose and He has invested a heavy price to insure your success.

So fear not!

Be wise!

Stay full!

Live light!

And never retreat!

Even so Lord Jesus… COME!

 

 

 

 

 


13:1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (ESV)


13:1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (ESV)

This Magnificent Man Day 3

images

THE PORTAL

 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

 “In those days…” They were without a doubt days that would change history. Calendars would determine their dates by the arrival of this man.    Here another figure joins John at center stage but this man is the One of whom John spoke, the One whose sandals were more honorable than the prophet’s reputation.

Jesus leaves home. Few outside his immediate family have a clue to his future.  Jesus has grown to become a man working hard in his father’s workshop.  Hands roughened by years of working with wood are now destined to heal the sick, comfort the hurting and overturn man’s carnal ambitions. All his years at home were in preparation for a brief three and one half year ministry. Our culture demands instant results and often we demand them from unqualified men but one must ask, “What qualifies men to lead?”  As we look to the Prime Example in Jesus it would seem quite natural for God to take His time in carefully molding His will and character into the lives of those who bear His name. Jesus was at it were, hidden for thirty years while God was preparing both His Son and those who would receive Him.  Growth takes time, even for Jesus!

The day comes when he leaves his family and is guided to a river.  He stands in line with families, children, aunts and uncles waiting to enter the waters.  Others don’t recognize him but then it’s his turn.   John looks towards the next candidate and recognizes his cousin. The Baptist knew what others did not.  This was no ordinary man and certainly one that needed no repentance.  Mathew describes the moment with a sense of hesitance on behalf of John but John will agree to Jesus’ request.

I wonder what went through John’s mind and his heart as he lowered his cousin into those gentle currents. Questions undoubtedly raced through his mind when suddenly the clouds began moving rapidly as though they were being torn apart by an invisible hand.  Looking up it seemed Jesus could peer beyond the physical and see that innumerable host of angels gazing on as the Lamb of God fulfilled all righteousness. In plain view of those observing the Holy Spirit descended like a gently dove upon him.  And then suddenly The Father spoke from heaven. His words were heard by all but understood by only a few.  Perhaps some thought it was thunder but Jesus heard them clearly.  What other men mistake as something of nature those who have ears to hear walk away with understanding.  The Portal between heaven and earth literally stood before John!

Mathew the tax collector records it in the following way. “ This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” But Mark puts it more personal by saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Baptist may have seen the same thing but the message from heaven was not so much for others as it was for Jesus himself.  One must consider that if YHWH would give such a clear testimony of Jesus’ sonship what more will He do to assure you that you are His?

The entrance and continuance for the believer in the Kingdom of God is not something that must be guessed for or wondered about.  Jesus is fully capable of presenting Himself with such clarity that doubt is overcome by knowing.  A voice may not break forth from heaven or a dove lite on your shoulder but that chest-pounding confirmation of the Holy Spirit will arrest your heart and settle you into the absolute confidence that you are his!

His baptism will be his inauguration into his work.

Messiah has come!

Now it begins!

 


In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (ESV)

This Magnificent Man Day 2

images

 

Forerunner

 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel ‘s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

 “John!”  Wam! Bam!  Front and center!  The mystical John simply appears. Other Gospel writers give us a little history about this “enigmatic man” but Mark doesn’t waste time on things like lineage, or the family tree.  For Mark it is “get on with the story.”

Times had been strange indeed for Israel.  Having another country dominate over them was not to their liking.  There were revolts, uprisings and of course all the intrigue and politics of trying to appease the occupying force. But people lived pretty much in a normal system.  Families knew one another; kids played together and teenage boys dated the girl down the street. Yet, out of this somewhat normality, there appears a man who, well, breaks the mold!

The Prophet is not dressed in linen nor does he carry phylacteries on his forehead or arm.  His unusual dress, a skin tunic and a leather belt easily identify him in the crowd.  One would suppose that that alone was enough to make the man stand out, but there was something else.  His message.  It was so off the norm.  He spoke like no one else using wild animations, launching words that became like arrows convicting even the most hardened hearts.  Those who listened could not listen with indifference.  There was no yawning in his crowd, no eyeballing the girls, just a people riveted on what they saw and what they heard.

Such is the nature of the Prophet’s message.

His pulpit was a tree stump; his audience was composed of a wide variety of people who came out to the desert to get a look at the latest “Headline.”  John’s message was focused on one word REPENT! A sense of urgency ignited his words and the people who heard him were caught in this current that would eventually lead to the Lamb of God.

Oh the people came. From all over Judea and Jerusalem the news had spread and people planned their vacations not to go to the beach but rather go to the desert.  John’s message offered hope, it offered a future that seemed beyond imagination and… it offered a new King.

The river Jordan was the backdrop for this “Rural Revival” as there was ample water to baptize the vast throng of people. Some stood on the shore watching and wondering while others joined the long line of men and women, boys and girls, who entered the waters to be baptized and confess their sins. One would suppose that tears mingled with the waters of Jordan as sinners for the first time ever could finally feel clean. As they approached he might have taken them in his arms and dipped them into the waters and upon rising he would say something very strange: “I have baptized you with water but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

“What is this?” they wondered. “We have never heard of such a thing.”  But they would and things would never be the same again.

John was not a master of gimmicks or technique. There was no stage with multicolored lights or sound equipment that could make one heard all the way to Jericho.  There was just a man who embodied a message that was more than mere words spoken. His message was demonstrated and what it said was, “I am nothing in comparison to the One who is coming!”

John had that strange itch, knowing that Jesus was on his way!

 

 

 


John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (ESV)

This Magnificent Man! Day 1

fb78cb1b63708303e4d2f02fb8ba7bea

Over the past several months I have been immensely enriched by taking a hand in hand journey with Peter and Mark. My adventure in Mark’s Gospel has drawn me into the scenes, the smells and the sounds of a time in the past and has enlivened  my senses to a Jesus who seems to come out of the pages.

I will begin to post my journey here on “Thoughts From My Moleskine” and I want to invite you to come with me, eat with me, feast with me.  This is not a technical work as much as it is a story, one that calls us to enter into.

Now… we begin.

THE BEGINNING

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,  “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

Beginnings start at the beginning and Mark sets in motion the story, not just any story but a story that has impacted all of creation and shall continue to do so for all eternity.  This is the story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is filled with amazing joy and deep pathos.  There are tears of profound saddness  and shouts of Hallelujah, babies, demon possessed, prostitutes, raging seas, jealous followers, cruel death and an empty tomb.    But our narration does not begin in a manger. It begins with the pen of an aged Prophet, seven hundred and fifty years earlier who is drawn into the far distant future.

Sitting at his desk Isaiah is arrested by the Holy Spirit.  This is no strange thing for this man. It is not a sudden fit nor is it a trance but rather a beckoning to come aside and listen. He is accustomed to such special moments, accustomed but never comfortable with them.  He sits attentive smothered with great respect and a sense of awe.   His wife a prophetess in her own right understood the things he saw and heard and even his sons were named to reinforce the prophetic narrative of Judah, but this didn’t make anything better for his kinsmen.  The enemies of Judah would soon surround her and the life span of her walls seemed numbered.

Smoke from Babylonian campfires would one day soon fill the nostrils of frightened Jews. It was a bleak time but it belonged to YHWH and he was about to speak something that men would hardly believe.  It is during this difficult season that God points to a future that seems like a pipe dream to those who hear it.  In the darkness of men’s pessimism the Holy Spirit interjects Himself and sounds forth a different narrative, one that contradicts the story on the ground.

Prophets do that! They see an alternative and then against all odds proclaim it with an assurance that causes the “brokers of power” unavoidable tension.

Mark sets the stage with a quote from Malachi and then concludes with a passage from Isaiah’s fortieth chapter.  The prophetic announcement bursts forth like a sonic boom with a “voice of one crying in the wilderness.”  He uses words like ‘messenger,’ ‘voice,’ ‘crying,’ and ‘wilderness.’  This is no political machine or a new conqueror about to come to the forefront appearing like the proverbial knight in shining armor.  It is herald by a single man, a man who would be called the last and the greatest of all the prophets.  It is the urgent disclosure that someone is coming and you’d better get ready!

Imagine it.  Isaiah was telling people not yet born to set their house in order and brace themselves for the dawning of a new era!

This is where Mark begins!

 

 

 

 

 


1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’” (ESV)

The Pen of the Prophet

images

Isaiah was not your average card carrying prophet of the times.  His message flew towards the hearts of Israel like keen edged arrows.  They were sharpened with anointing and launched with zeal, yet, these words were often scorned and ridiculed but in time they would proven to be frightfully true.  Then it would be too late.

From his quill he worded divine phrases that originated far from his desk.

“Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and writers who keep writing oppression to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right; that widows may be their spoil and that they may make the fatherless their prey. “ 

Israel had left her moorings in YHWH.  What had begun as a weak tribe that cared for its members and took care of each other had become a metropolis of unfettered greed and secularism. She had slowly but very consistently wandered from the paths of His righteousness to the point that recovery was impossible. Legislators composed laws that would oppress the people and steal their lands through a form of “Eminent Domain.” The powerful preyed on the widow, a signal of the poor, and would abuse the worker with unjust wages.

The dearth of genuine pursuit of God resulted in an internal weakness that formed a kind of “imperial rot” among this once noble nation. The Power that once guided them through impossible difficulties would now turn against them and the only defense they had for that was DENIAL!  “YHWH would never turn on his people, we have the temple! We have the law. We are the chosen ones.” And so denial was well entrenched in the hallowed halls of politics and religion.

But the prophet is about to shatter their illusion. An army is coming from the north that will undo everything achieved over the past three hundred years. The history of their great leader David and the magnificence of Solomon’s empire will be swept away by a cruel and vicious people who will show no mercy but most surprisingly of all, they will be a people equipped and sent by YHWH himself.

“Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury!  Against a godless nation I send him and against the people of my wrath I command him…”

Here is what seems a strange thing indeed – God enforces Israel’s enemies to come up against her and to conqueror her and all with the strength provided her by YHWH.  Assyria will come and repay for what Israel herself is guilty of; she will take the spoil, seize the plunder and tread down the residue.

This ambition does not come from Assyria herself but rather YHWH births it.  He is behind the scenes prodding Assyria to come to Israel to render His judgment.

But in Assyria’s’ victory he is destined to become proud and arrogant, assuming falsely that he was the one who did this great feat.  He boasts that his own hand has gotten him the great victory and YHWH will punish the “Speech of the arrogant heart.”  .

The prophet foresees that when God has finished his will on Mount Zion having used Assyria to accomplish his will, he then will punish the arrogant heart and the boastful look of the king of Assyria.  He too will be judged.

Now give close attention to the following!

The United States in a similar way has been used to right injustice, tear down evil regimens, topple ruthless dictators, liberate the oppressed and in so doing build an accord with those rescued countries for profit and gain.

But it would seem that our victories have been annulled by our arrogance.  We have forsaken God, only calling on him when we want a divine endorsement for our conquest or to protect our cherished barns of riches, which one could call our economy. Our alliances with long-term allies are deteriorating, as they feel increasingly used by the Great Eagle.

God is not just forgotten in our country but rather he is wholeheartedly rejected.  We scorn him and make light of him.  We do not consider nor declare that it was He who used us to topple evil.

Now, we have become that evil!    Everything is imploding around us.  Government cannot govern. Our Chief Executive appears to play more than lead. The economy is driven by greed and not helping others.  Our enemies are attacking from all sides and our borders are no longer borders but rather open gates.

The moral fabric is in a state of rapid extinction as this once great nation proudly declares, “By the strength of my hands I have done it.”

But the ax has no right to boast against the one who uses it. This “imperial swagger” opens the way for a wasting sickness among his stout warriors and a consuming fire beneath the glory that was once shone by her citizens

Assyria had a divine role in the scene of Israel’s history  – but then the powerful one committed national suicide by boasting that it was from himself that the victory came.

America could learn from Assyria… but she will not.


10:1 Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
and the writers who keep writing oppression,
to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be their spoil,
and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
What will you do on the day of punishment,
in the ruin that will come from afar?
To whom will you flee for help,
and where will you leave your wealth?
Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners
or fall among the slain.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.

Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger;
the staff in their hands is my fury!
Against a godless nation I send him,
and against the people of my wrath I command him,
to take spoil and seize plunder,
and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
But he does not so intend,
and his heart does not so think;
but it is in his heart to destroy,
and to cut off nations not a few;
for he says:
“Are not my commanders all kings?
Is not Calno like Carchemish?
Is not Hamath like Arpad?
Is not Samaria like Damascus?
10 As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,
whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
11 shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols
as I have done to Samaria and her images?”

12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. 13 For he says:

“By the strength of my hand I have done it,
and by my wisdom, for I have understanding;
I remove the boundaries of peoples,
and plunder their treasures;
like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.
14 My hand has found like a nest
the wealth of the peoples;
and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken,
so I have gathered all the earth;
and there was none that moved a wing
or opened the mouth or chirped.”

15 Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,
or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?
As if a rod should wield him who lifts it,
or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!
16 Therefore the Lord God of hosts
will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors,
and under his glory a burning will be kindled,
like the burning of fire.
17 The light of Israel will become a fire,
and his Holy One a flame,
and it will burn and devour
his thorns and briers in one day.
18 The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land
the Lord will destroy, both soul and body,
and it will be as when a sick man wastes away.
19 The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few
that a child can write them down. (ESV)


10:1 Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
and the writers who keep writing oppression,
to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be their spoil,
and that they may make the fatherless their prey! (ESV)


Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger;
the staff in their hands is my fury!
Against a godless nation I send him,
and against the people of my wrath I command him,
to take spoil and seize plunder,
and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. (ESV)


12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. (ESV)

The Lap

IMG_0341

 

He is not a champion, no ribbons, no medals, but he occupies a place above multitudes because he is mine.  He came to us by way of the Veterinarian. Living in the streets of Guadalajara he was hit by a car and crawled into a friend’s restaurant broken, skinny afraid and alone.

His family was never found so he came to us and became a “Whitener.”  Meals were welcomed but such abundance was hardly known. You could tell by his protruding ribs.

He walked around those first few days in a daze.  Not really knowing who we were, cautious of the other dogs (who welcomed him to their bowl) he slowly began to adjust.  Through the process he latched on particularly to me. He would walk with us up the mountain and find his place at my feet.  But feet were not enough for him.  He soon found what he was looking for, a lap.

Now he owns it.

Bud is constantly by my side. He is there when I wake up and when I go to bed.  When we walk the mountain, Mandy, our Standard Poodle, will lead the way but Bud lags behind walking always by my side. The speed of the climb is not determined by Mandy but rather by his master.

When it comes time for a bath he grudgingly submits but when it is all over the play begins.  Nothing feels so good as being clean!

There were times when my work would cause me to be gone sometimes for weeks and weeks.  But he never despaired. Coming home after a long absence I would see his head outlined against the dark room peering out the window like he never left the whole time.  His head would begin to sway as his tail danced!  It looked like he was grinning. The door opens and I am greeted by pure joy!

Bud was not bought in a store or from a breeder, he was found and he seems to know it.  Always thankful for the slightest attention he lives for one thing, me!

My friend has taught me much. For many of us there were no accolades in our past to warrant being chosen.  Instead, for most of us we came by way of the “Veterinarian,” broken, malnourished, afraid and abandoned.  Colliding with cruelty we found refuge by a stranger who took us in.  There were others that we found different from ourselves but they shared their “bowl” with us.  We had become one of them.

In this new environment it was evident that something mysterious had happened to us.  We didn’t know what it was called but we knew it was real. Things were different. But most of all, the one thing that stood above all the rest was this “Stranger” who took me in.  We began to hear his voice.  His smell became familiar.  His spanking was hard but so were his hugs.

At times we could not find Him.  Long periods of absence were dark times but hope kept us at the window. There was no interest in the “bowl” or in the fun of “walking the mountain.”  All that mattered was “When will I see Him again?”  And then….  From the dark street emerges the One I love!  Our hearts skipped a beat and we could hardly wait for the door to open.

In He walks.  Majestic, filled with hugs and kisses we sit without formality rolling on the carpet. The long wait is over. He is here!

The lap!

It is on the lap where His hands just rest upon you, were you kiss them. It is there where you smell His breath, hear his breathing and stare at His face.

On the lap I am safe!

On His the lap I am home!

Going to Bethany

holy-land--bethany-munir-alawi  2

 Perceptions are quirky things. They are conclusions formed through our personal experiences – history – prejudices – fears – knowledge and hopes.

Sometimes they are accurate and sometimes they are not.  Nevertheless these perceptions are the end results of a unique filtering system that each one of us has, even Thomas!

The scene.  Jesus has been told that his friend Lazarus is dead. He deliberately waits two more days before starting out to Bethany. Earlier in the week Jesus and his disciples had escaped out the hands of an angry mob that tired to arrest him and kill him.  The event of the angry riot is still fresh on everyone’s mind.  The “mob” is an unpredictable thing.  It can be a passive assemblage of people and then turn into a dangerous weapon within minutes.  The disciples had seen its fury before and now Jesus says, “We’re going back!”

When Jesus speaks there is no discussion, no arguments to change the Master’s mind.  They know by now that He is not following the “whims” of man or desires of His own but rather His steps are to fulfill the will of His Father.

Vs. 16, “Then Thomas called the twin said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us go that we might die with Him.”

Perception!

His mind filters the Master’s command and all he sees is the crowd’s anger, Jesus bent on returning and a funeral for thirteen men.

But Thomas has yet to learn that Jesus is no ordinary man.

Perhaps he considers, “Who is this Lazarus fellow that would put us and our Master at such high risk? Is this man worth dying for?”

But perceptions as we mentioned earlier can be flawed.  Jesus commands His death. He will give His life at the right time but not now!

Thomas doesn’t understand and neither do we.

Jesus goes back to the danger of the crowd to raise the dead not be the dead!

A whole different perspective has been discovered. The filter systems are unreliable.

This all so different!

This is no ordinary man!


Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (ESV)

The Prophets speak in 2014

The prophets 1

Recently I was with a group of men who were discussing the Old Testament Prophets and how their message relates to our present times.  The conversation followed the path that I have heard many times before, attempting to interpret current policies, world economy, political figures and military might.  No doubt these prophetic announcements of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the rest, spoke beyond their times all the way to us but the temptation we face seems to be to fixate on explaining what is happening around us today.  We are deeply ingrained with the question “Why is this happening.” We want answers to what is happening on the news. Yet in our attempt to answer this we may miss the whole point of the prophetic narratives.

It would seem to me that the prophets spoke of the nations such as Babylon, Egypt, Assyria more as backdrops to the main character of the narrative namely Israel.  Why do I say this?

Peter gives us a hint as to how to approach such matters.  In 2Peter3:11-14 he speaks of the last days , a new heaven and a new earth, the burning of the elements and a promised new righteousness to come.  But then in he states “ Therefore beloved since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish and at peace.”

The message is clear. The emphasis is not on what is going on around me; it is on what is going on in me!  The focus is on the heart rather than the alignment of nations and despots.

These words of the Seers give us hope and strength in these unstable days.  How? By knowing we are not the first to feel the oppression of Egypt or the rage of Babylon.

The prophets do indeed speak today.

They warn.

They strengthen,

And they point to absolute victory!

Modern day prophets would fare well to do the same.

“ Therefore beloved since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish and at peace.”

JWIII


14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, (ESV)

LIFE AFTER THE BASKET

hebrewslavesinEgypt

After the Basket, then what?

is part history lesson and part dirge. It speaks of the deliverance that YHWH gave to his people from the harsh pharaonic reign of acquisition, cheap labor and military might. It speaks of freedom; freedom from the pressure of production, the schedule, deadlines, penalties.

It speaks of…

Life after the basket!

Asaph the song writer recalls the time, …”I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were free from the basket.”

“Shoulder,”  “hands.”  Asaph’s terms seem so… harsh, so manual.  But then “shoulder and hands” are contrasted with another pair of words; “relieved and free”.

These are what our shoulders and hands were meant for.  Our shoulders were meant to bear a lighter yoke and our hands to be raised in praise among the dance of liberation!

Then the basket! It was a large woven basket that was a vital tool for their work.  It was an instrument well known in their slavery, the “dump truck of progress. “ With it they carried the material for making bricks, the mud and straw and when the product was ready they transported it the same way, in the baskets.

It was back breaking work but God had delivered them.   Such hardships are not meant to be forever.

Now what?

How would they live or be sustained as free men?  No slave driver meant no food.

Freedom can be uncomfortable, scary and dangerous.  There is no more heavy labor but neither is there any sure table to sit at.  No more quotas and…no more leeks.

With the desert all around, no water and unbearably cruel heat, “What shall we do?” they would ask.   COMPLAIN!  And so they did.

But the Psalmist is not through!  He boldly declares that there IS life after the basket!

YHWH asserts, “I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of the land of Egypt”.  Am I not capable of giving my people a sumptuous feast even in the desert?  You ask me, “Can the Lord prepare a table in the wilderness?”  Didn’t I make the Wilderness?

So listen here you former basket carriers, He seems to say, “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”   If I am big enough to relieve burdened shoulders and cramping hands from unbearable and impossible loads, I think I can fill you with more than the grocery stores of Goshen.  Walk with me and its “Coupon day” everyday!

No more baskets yet with this liberty comes a painful abundance.  I say painful because it is beyond our control.  At least with Pharaoh they knew what they were getting but with YHWH in the desert there is no more Egyptian Social Security.  Nothing they get now is earned or owed to them. There are no government entitlements where they live.  It depends on the kindness of the One who drowned Pharaoh’s army.  This is something they must learn to trust in.

“Trust me” He seems to say.  Expect breakfast.  Pharaoh is a man I am God.  Decide!

So I must choose – meager sustenance along with forced labor and oppression or… freedom from the certitude of slavery and the abundance that comes with it.

 There really is life after the basket!

JWIII

 

 


81:1 Sing aloud to God our strength;
shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
the sweet lyre with the harp.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our feast day.

For it is a statute for Israel,
a rule of the God of Jacob.
He made it a decree in Joseph
when he went out over the land of Egypt.
I hear a language I had not known:
“I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
10 I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

11 “But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.
13 Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
14 I would soon subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes.
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe toward him,
and their fate would last forever.
16 But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” (ESV)