Foreword:

Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.

A note for all my readers: I've been experimenting with YouTube videos for Bible teaching for a while, and I'm working through Revelation here. My YouTube videos are currently short studies in Matthew, and at present I'm posting videos on Revelation as well. Both appear on the blog, which is turning into a Vlog. I encourage you to subscribe to my YouTube channel for better coverage.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Compassion in Troubled Times.

One of the most important matters in the Christian life is compassion.
I’m not talking about the compassion that we all need from God, but about the compassion that we show on His behalf and because we belong to Him. One of the longest of Jesus’ teachings is about this;  it illustrates exactly what I mean, and what we need to do:
Matthew 25:31-46:
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was hungry, and ye gave me food: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came to me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink?
38 When did we see you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you?
39 Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and came to you?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily [truly] I say to you, Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me.
41 Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was  hungry, and ye gave me no food: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

There are a lot of different things in play here; Jesus gives one of His longest messages about compassion in the context of His judgment on the nations; there is no reason to think that this is a mere “story,” or parable, just intended to make a point. He was looking into the future, and asking us to go with Him to that final hour when He judges the nations regarding their treatment of Christians. As it's pretty easy to see from current events, everyone except Christians is treated with compassion and care in certain places. That's so much of a truism just before Jesus returns that it becomes a means of distinguishing "who's who" in God's eyes:

Here are some thoughts:
  1. Jesus expects His people to care for each other, and to see them for who they are. Notice how this is all expressed, with the phrase, “When did we see You…” the message contained in this is that we can actually see Jesus in His suffering people. That is, if we train ourselves to look. In some sense, they are transparent, and He shines through.
  2. Compassion is felt, but results in action. We can have all the sympathy in the world, but not really be compassionate (sympathy can be one of the cheapest forms of hypocrisy). One of the most interesting phrases in the Bible as it relates to Jesus is, “He was moved with compassion and…” what inevitably follows this phrase is an action. There really is no way around this. If you see with His eyes, you want to exercise compassion, and not only in your mind, but in what you DO. Failing to offer compassion to one of Jesus' followers defines YOU, in a way that you definitely don't want. The result of failed compassion is everlasting judgment and loss.
  3. However, it's wise to also consider the following: Compassion requires judgment. It’s obvious from the way Jesus is speaking here that He intends for us to know WHO we are helping. The current idea is that we ought to help all the homeless, or all the poor, or all the suffering, or some such thing. I doubt He intended that, since His own ministry was one of constantly choosing people in order to help them. He picked out the one widow whose son had just died in Luke 9:11; He selected the blind man in John 9, and so forth. It’s true, on occasion He healed everyone brought to Him, but we most often see Him picking just one. Did He do that because He thought these were “more worthy?” No. He did that because He saw who they really were, and what the Father intended for their lives (Hence, it's important for us to know that, too, based on what Jesus says in Matthew 25, above). Consider John 5:1 and following:  “After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue  Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent(disabled) folk, of blind, halt, withered, [waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool, and troubled the water: whoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatever disease he had] (the bracketed paragraph is not included in most modern versions).  A certain man was there, who had an infirmity thirty eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been like that a long time, he said to him, Do you want to be  made whole? The paralyzed man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steps down before me. Jesus said to him, Rise, pick up your cot, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, picked up his cot, and walked...
  4. WHY? You may ask. Why did Jesus “pick people?” What about all the rest? Why not heal all of them indiscriminately? Jesus relates this back to the sovereignty of God in Luke 4:25-28--that God gets to choose. For us, the lesson is that each of us has limited time and ability--and we must concentrate ourselves where God directs us, not just jump from thing to thing. Jesus will not condemn us for going where He tells us and doing what He says, and He takes the responsibility for our direction and for selecting our ministries as long as we obey Him.
  5. EVEN JESUS followed directions, therefore it is certainly right for you to do so: See John 5:19: Then Jesus answered, and said to them (the Jewish leaders), Verily, verily, I tell you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do: for whatever things [the Father] does, these also the Son does. In other words, Jesus' ministry was always directed by the Father, and Jesus submitted Himself to His Father's direction. Philippians 2:5-8 gives the rationale for this. We also exercise compassion when we can, but always under His direction.

Read the context in John 5 with some care here, since a MISreading can give you the idea that the Son is less than the Father. The Jews understood Jesus' statements differently than that, as is evidenced by the fact that they tried to kill him for equating Himself with God: (John 5:18):
Therefore the Jews sought even more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God...The original expression used here is often used to denote mathematical equality, such as 2+2=4. In other words, the Jews themselves “got it.” Jesus the Messiah is God, manifest in human flesh. That was always His claim, and that was what finally got him convicted of blasphemy and crucified.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hostility toward Christians, part 2

I've been thinking a while about what causes so many problems in the political system, what causes people to hate Christians, what causes us Christians to become such idiots and do stupid and sinful things, why do people have internal drives that make them do evil themselves or be subject to evil? Of course, as to the last, we can immediately remember that temptation has to do with our own evil hearts and that there would be no temptation if we didn't have that answering desire in our hearts. Like James says, in James 1:14: "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own desire.".
However, that's not the whole story. Our political problems are caused by spiritual warfare, as are our personal  problems.

I want to discuss this briefly, with the Apostle Paul as our main teacher. He's got good advice for us in Ephesians 6:10 and following:

The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel...

Of course, you got it right away. The government, the evil that we see, the various evils and sins we get into, the murders, the anger, the greed, immigration, the politics--you name it, it's all part of the same thing:
For our struggle is... against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

The real problems of this world are all connected to the darkness that rules this world. Satan himself said that very thing to Jesus in Luke 4:6 "And the devil said to Him, "I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish."
So there you have it. Who rules the world? The REAL ruler? think hard. What's your conclusion? Figure it out yet?
It's not...Putin.
It's not...Trump.
It's not...Trudeau.
Yup. You got it.
Yet the darkness only rules temporarily, and definitely not completely, but there is tremendous power in evil, and its influence covers the world. That evil is centered in "spiritual forces of darkness;" in other words, evil beings.
So when you ask, "Why are things the way they are," your answer is in the passages you've just seen, and in the passages to follow. It's a simple solution. It's the truth.

ON THE OTHER HAND:

Jesus is the Light. The Light of the world. However, the darkness doesn't "get it, nor do those who walk in darkness.
John 1:4: In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (literally, "did not take hold of it;")

Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world; whoever follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life;" so the answer to darkness is light--not "conflict with darkness;" why? because if two dark forces collide, what do you have? Just more darkness.
Peter put it like this (2 Pet. 1:19):
So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts,,,
In other words, it's imperative that we know and understand the principles of Scripture, so that the darkness doesn't deceive and overwhelm us. 
One of the clearest revelations of Scripture is that the solution to the problems of our world is not political, social, financial or whatever, but spiritual--and that solution is embodied in a person, Jesus Christ.

Just as evil is embodied in a person, and in the dark forces that rule over mankind, so good and light and beauty are embodied in a Person, Jesus Christ.

It's possible to be overwhelmed with evil. It's possible to succumb to all the proposed solutions for the problems we face in this world, and actually see at the end that you've failed to solve any real problems.

However, the truth is that you can come to Jesus Christ, worship Him, receive everlasting life, and have THE solution for your own life. He is also the answer to all the evils of the world in which we live.

John said: 1 John 2:8: I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.

The darkness began to pass out of the universe when Jesus Christ entered time and space as a little baby. It has been passing ever since. The war involved in the reclamation of our universe for God will be cataclysmic, but it will be final

It's true today, though, "That the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." 
Nor will the darkness overcome you, if you "walk in the light, as He is in the light," and make God and His Son Jesus Christ your guide and Lord. Instead, God will light your path all the way to the glories of His throne and your future heritage in heaven.
Psalm 16:11: You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Your present may be filled with problems. You may be living your Christian life with difficulty. TAKE HEART! Be of good courage! God will lead you into His eternal home through His grace and glory.