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Lazarus

Let’s jump right into Scripture today.

Well, first a bit of background. Jesus’ good friend Lazarus dies while Jesus is away. Jesus gets the news and stays another two days.

There is no question. Lazarus is dead. Fully, truly dead. [Read more…]

Dividing God

Scissors cutting heartI have been blessed with the opportunity to lead the tween/teen class for church, and the material I’ve been provided is very good. However, in today’s lesson (based parts of Amos) it appeared to separate God’s judgment and discipline from God’s love.

I think this is a mistake. I love my 7 year-old more than life itself, and might, out of that love, be “long-suffering”…but if I never never called him to the carpet when he needed it…how loving would that be?

Not very.

Ditto when it comes to the larger world. For instance, in a classroom it would not be loving for a teacher to never correct a student…not loving to that student nor the rest of the class that suffers because of that child’s misbehavior. I’m sure you could start thinking up a bunch more examples (e.g. enabling a drug-addicted son or daughter).

So, I don’t think that our Lord’s justice and discipline are separate from His love. Instead, I believe it is a vital…loving…aspect of it.

And I would suggest Hebrews 12:5-7 confirms this (emphasis mine):

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Praise God He loves us so much He will do whatever it takes to set us straight!

An Entry from the Tone Police Manual

If you click on the image you can see a larger version of this entry from the Tone Police Manual (1 Corinthians 13:4-7):

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

You can read more about the Tone Police here. (The complete Tone Police Manual is readily available…it’s the Bible. :-))

Assuming the Best in a Skeptic’s World

Asking Jesus for forgivenessAlthough I’ve been trying to behave and not spend my birthday surfing the web (since I am blessed with a family that is far better than anything the Internet can offer), this tweet intrigued me:

I took it as Ravi Zacharias endorsing the statement…a head scratcher for me. So, I followed the link to this article:

“On the Critical Need for Constructive Thinkers”

First, without the 140 character limit of Twitter, here is the full quote:

In our own day, skepticism has replaced the pursuit of excellence as the defining characteristic of great thinkers, and this is of far more than passing significance.

You really ought to read the whole thing, but a couple of key quotes: [Read more…]

I Do Not Remember…

Mark JensenMark, I do not remember how it was to live with you the first five years of my life…

But I do remember you spanking me—not as cruel torture by a decade older brother—but as a kind sibling helping his frequently-disciplined younger brother no longer feel pain when he got spanked by his parents.

Mark, I do not remember why mom and dad kicked you out of the house when you were fifteen…

But I do remember you coming to visit, sick as a dog, and me selfishly pushing you (successfully) to give me your coin collection (which you kept in one of mom’s thread and needle containers).

Mark, I do not remember the next time I saw you…

But I do remember excitedly visiting a Mark Jensen mom found listed at a nearby hospital, only to walk in and see it wasn’t you.

Mark, I do not remember the exact year I got to visit you in Seattle during one of my business trips…

But I do remember taking your picture at the top of the Space Needle. We were brothers again.

Mark, I do not remember what I did to have you insist I be out of your life again…

But I do remember during the Seattle visit how you told me that when you were kicked out of house none of your friend’s parents would allow you to stay. You didn’t say it, but you were so alone. My heart broke. So, if me being out of your life meant less pain for you, I cared enough to accept it. You had more sorrow before becoming an adult than anyone should have their whole life.

Mark, I do not remember our last interaction…

But, it doesn’t matter. You are gone. You were alone. Nobody even knows exactly when you died.

Well, Somebody remembers how we spent our first five years together, why you were kicked out of the house, when I next got to see you, the year we were atop the Space Needle together, why you last insisted we lead separate lives, our last interaction, and the exact moment you entered eternity.

Surely a God who knows whenever a sparrow falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29), knows all of that and more. All your pain and all your smiles. All your sorrows and all your joys. All your demons and all your angels. “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”1 You may have never realized it, but you always have been of more value.

Mark, God will show you the love you refused to receive from your family and me. Will you be in heaven? I do not know. However, I do know the God who cares for sparrows cares for you and that your demons will torture you no more.

Mark, I do not remember the last time I told you, “I love you.”

But I do.


1 Matthew 10:31, English Standard Version.

UPDATE: With info from a sibling, corrected a couple of ages in the post.

And Who Is My Brother?

Ignoring a man in need

Narrowing Down Our Responsibilities

I assume most of us here today are very familiar with the story of the good Samaritan. To conserve time we won’t read it all, but let’s turn together to Luke 10:25-29 and see what led up to it:

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

First of all, you know it doesn’t bode well when a lawyer is involved, eh? 🙂

Now, this person isn’t a lawyer as we think of it…instead, the Holman Christian Standard Bible translates it as “an expert in the law” and the Common English Bible as a “legal expert.” This guy won’t be able to defend you in a modern criminal trial or sue a doctor for malpractice, but he should be able to comment authoritatively on what the Jewish Law said…well, at least what the Jews of that time thought it said.

And, as we can see in what we read, Jesus confirms the lawyer actually got it right.

Well, that is, until “desiring to justify himself” the expert in the Law didn’t stop while he was ahead.

What do you think “desiring to justify himself” means? The Common English Bible starts verse 29 with, “But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right…” and The Message paraphrase states, “Looking for a loophole…”

[Read more…]

SDMF and Hell’s Angels

Black Label SocietyAlthough I can appreciate almost any style of music that includes a melody, I am especially drawn to tunes with heavy guitars. Over the years, Ozzy Osborne has had a knack for not only putting out songs with great guitars—he also attracts especially talented guitarists. (For those not familiar with Ozzy, he first became famous as the lead singer of Black Sabbath—another guitar-laden band.)

Perhaps Ozzy's most famous guitarist is Rhandy Rhoads, who is considered one of rock's best even though he died at the age of 25 in an airplane accident. Rhandy's death was hard on Ozzy…but life does go on, and Rhandy was ultimately replaced by Jake E. Lee, who was later succeeded by Zakk Wylde.

Which almost gets us to the acronym in this article's title. 🙂 [Read more…]

Would Jesus Use Facebook?

Facebook imageAs an avid user of Facebook it would seem especially important for me to answer this article’s title. However, I’ll admit that I never slowed down enough to ask myself its question; instead it only came to mind when a friend (in a Facebook message) mentioned that "since joining Facebook [she has] often wondered if Jesus would use Facebook."

Quickly…without opening your Bible…what’s your gut reaction? Yes or no?

[Read more…]

A Father’s Hand

Heavenly Father's handMore often then not, when I run errands close to home I am joined by a most affable companion. For instance, if I ask Augie if he would like to go to T-Bird I am guaranteed a hearty "Yes please!" At this point whenever he sees me throwing on shoes and the like, he assumes it is his duty to escort me and immediately says, "Bye bye mum mum."

And I am not complaining :-)…although "mum mum" isn’t always so amused at his energetic willingness to abandon her…

Getting from the house to the car is generally a safe and effortless task, but Augie is still a bit small for the front deck’s stairs, so he prefers to hold my hand. As a whole my grasp is fairly light, but once a few weeks ago he started to slip and my grip quickly tightened, keeping my munchkin from toppling over. [Read more…]

Symphony of Christ, 4th Movement: The Culmination

Recap

We are now through three of the Symphony of Christ’s four movements…

The Promise

In the first we saw the creation of the heavens and the earth; our original parents almost immediately blow it by losing trust in God; and our Lord…instead of giving us the destruction we deserved…giving a promise of a Messiah instead. Perhaps what stood out most in that movement was how, by demonstration, God confirmed His words in Exodus 34:6-7:

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation" (ESV).

The Anticipation

In the second movement we heard the repeated melody of a promised savior in the Old Testament…and by the time our Lord was due to arrive, expectation in Israel was high for a Messiah:

  • An earthly king who would rule the world or
  • A suffering servant who would bear our sins or
  • An apocalyptic judge who would come in the clouds from heaven

The Incarnation

The Promised One arrived in the third movement. We heard much of the Nativity Story, and discussed 10 reasons Jesus came:

  • To redeem us
  • To adopt us
  • To make us rich—but not in a "health and wealth" kind of way—true riches!
  • To destroy the Devil
  • To deliver us
  • To become our high priest
  • To provide a propitiation for our sins
  • To help us when we are tempted
  • To sympathize with our weaknesses…and (most of all)…
  • To manifest the Father…to show people what God is really like!

When the movement completed we were left staring into the eyes of the ultimate "sibling savior"…an infant who wasn’t born to provide bone marrow for her brother or sister. No, the treatment our disease required was so extreme our Sibling Savior was born to die

[Read more…]

“Jesus loves me (but not you), this I know…” (Part 2)

Jesus and childrenPart one of this discussion quoted a tweet from Steve, a famous Christian artist who is now also a pastor in Florida. In response to my question whether God loves everyone, this brother in Christ responded that God does not saying, "His love, as is His grace, is salvific & not common."

The first half wrapped up noting those who think like that musician do have a scriptural basis for what they teach, whether it is Psalm 5:5 saying (of God) "you hate all evildoers,"1 Psalm 11:5 noting our Lord’s "soul hates the wicked," or (perhaps most famously) Paul quoting the Old Testament to remind his readers of God’s statement, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Romans 9:13; see also Malachi 1:2-3). We were left wondering if our axiomatic assumption that God loves all people is wrong. Additionally, where should we start in order see if we should agree with that godly Floridian—or instead have the confidence of the toddler from northwest Arkansas that is expressed in this other tweet from my friend, Daniel?:
[Read more…]

“Jesus loves me (but not you), this I know…” (Part 1)

Jesus with ChildrenI think most English-speaking Christians are familiar with the children’s song “Jesus Loves Me,” which begins with the words, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” I’ve appreciated the fact that within our little congregation we don’t consider it unworthy of adult attention, and hymn 1014 in Songs of Faith and Praise has made it into our worship repertoire multiple times this year (thanks Winslow and Warren!) Even if we didn’t have a congregation half-composed of children, it is an appropriate hymn to have in constant rotation (to borrow a radio term).

The belief expressed in the first three words of the tune (“Jesus loves me”) are so widely held and seem so obvious that it would be fair to say they are axiomatic (“self-evident or unquestionable”1). Even if we insist on actual evidence that Jesus loves us, the most famous verse of the Bible quickly comes to mind:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, English Standard Version).

Deductive reasoning. God loves the world. We are part of the world. God loves us.

Or does He?

[Read more…]