The Chosen People

Hard Lessons Learned

After a crazy vision of a sheet being let down from heaven full of “unclean” animals with a command from God to eat, the apostle Peter is led to go to the house of a Roman centurion, to share the gospel. Normally, being a good Jewish boy, Peter would have flat out refused, but the sheet thing has him expanding his horizons a bit. He goes, the Holy Spirit falls on the whole house full of Romans and they all start speaking in tongues and praising God, leaving Peter to proclaim; Acts chapter 10-

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.  But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—Acts 10:34-36

Jesus is Lord of all.

We have see over and over again throughout the gospels and through much of Acts—example after example of Jesus wanting this message of the Father’s love, and the Spirit’s desire to heal and deliver, being for all persons regardless of nationality, gender or status. Jesus’ last words before he ascended back to heaven were that the Apostles were to go and make disciples of all nations.

We have seen the early church scattered and the message being brought to other nations and peoples by the persecuted church such as to the Samaritans and the Ethiopians. We have seen Paul being appointed by the Lord as a chosen vessel to carry the gospel to the gentiles.

Yet for all this, in the first years of the church there is still a deep seated and unshakable bigotry on the part of the Jewish believers, particularly on the ones who should know better, the Apostles.

They just can’t get over this notion that has been taught them since childhood, not just them, but countless generations of Israelites, that they are chosen by God, at the exclusion of all others, by virtue of their linage as descendants of Abraham to whom the promise was first made, that they would be a chosen people through whom many nations would be blessed. And that they are not to mingle, to be intermarried, have fellowship with or eat with anyone who does not worship the Lord their God lest they become unclean.

This notion originates in the law and the prophets. But it was meant to protect and preserve them from their own weaknesses, not from other people. And it was never meant to engender a hatred for anyone. The prophet Jonah learned that when he refused to go to the hated Ninevites with a message of warning and opportunity for the Assyrians, and ended up in the belly of the great fish thinking about how, apparently to God, all lives matter—even Assyrian.

Photo by Elianne Dipp on Pexels.com

Although Jonah finally went and preached to the Assyrians in their capital city of Nineveh, in the end, the Assyrians would become a larger influence on Israel than Israel ever was on Assyria, because Assyria was more than happy to share their gods with Israel. And, as a result, God would use Assyria to mete out his Judgement on Israel for their adulteries.

He would later do the same to Judah with Babylon.

But, instead of learning the importance of being a light to the Gentiles, they doubled down on separating themselves once they were allowed to return from exile. They were the chosen people and no one else in the world had any right to oppress them or had a share in their inheritance.

Isolationists

So now, in Peter’s day, this notion of superiority and separation has been taken to the extreme by the post exilic Jews who are determined to not get led astray again by foreign Gods and carried off once again by foreigners as punishment for their unfaithfulness.

Sounds like a good policy, but they have taken it to the extreme at the urging of their rabbi’s, priests and pharisees who see total isolation from all things non Jewish as the equivalent of holiness. When in reality this isolationist theology is preventing them from being the light to the world God had always intended for them to be.

And it was preventing them from thinking they had any personal responsibility in it all—they were children of Abraham, what else do you need to know? Even Jesus had pointed out the problem with this notion on more than one occasion. Yes they were chosen and set apart, but not because they were somehow a superior race that would just skate into God’s graces by virtue of their heritage.

It was God keeping a promise to Abraham, and being determined to bless the world as a result.

I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” Gen 26:3-5

God had chosen Israel as a people set apart as keepers of his covenant and his word. Not so that no one else would have access to it, but so that it would be preserved and passed down for all to know.

And we will forever owe a debt of gratitude to the chosen people, the descendants of Abraham, for preserving that word for us. And, for ultimately fulfilling the promises given through them that all would be blessed and that we would see a great light to lead us from the darkness, in that our Savior, the Messiah, came to us from the lineage of David, a descendant of Abraham.

And that even that message, the gospel of Jesus Christ, was shared, written and preserved for all the world by the Jewish—very Jewish— Apostles of Jesus of Nazareth.

Continue to pray that more and more of the Jewish people will come to the Messiah for salvation and for the peace of Israel.

And let the God of Abraham, fill you, let him open your eyes, let him set you free—free at last. Through His son and by His Spirit. Amen

The Fire

Baptized with Fire 4

Nothing refines and purifies like fire. In scripture, God’s word is often called a fire, a consuming fire.

“Because you speak this word,
Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire,
And this people wood,
And it shall devour them. Jer 5 :14

So in that sense, the power of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of fire, is the word of God empowering our hearts, coming alive in us, becoming real and irrepressible.

It gives the words of God that we speak of God, the words that we speak for God, an anointing that cuts to the hearts of those listening, that sets the captives free and gives hope and healing to the broken hearted, God’s word in the mouth of a Spirit filled believer is life being spoken to a dying world that desperately needs to hear it.

Jesus had said; “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth.” 

And that irrepressible message, that irresistible fire is what Peter was speaking.

On the day of Pentecost Peter spoke about a five minute, off the cuff sermon, and people were cut to the heart and ready to give their hearts to Jesus, the same Jesus whose execution they had demanded just a few weeks earlier.

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
    until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 

Acts 2:35—37

That only happens when you are speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit as he is opening ears to hear and hearts to receive the words that he inspired. Now that is an irrepressible fire.

And one I want.

Content or contender

A few years ago Donna was texting back and forth with a gal from our church and she got a text back that really troubled her. We were driving somewhere together so she read me the text. “Content not supported.”  The last thing a pastor and his wife want to hear is that someone in their flock does not feel supported. But why would she be content in that?

Then it suddenly hit me—“Let me see that!” She showed me the screen and I realized what was going on. It was an error message that said, Content not supported” You gotta love the English language. Apparently she was trying to send a photo or an emoji that was not being recognized between the phones. And my not so tech savvy wife misunderstood—to our relief.

Are you content with your content?

To me it comes down to a simple question. Are you content to just be born again? Being born again is indeed wonderful and very real. Having the breath of life breathed back into you as a free gift of grace when you recognize your need for a Savior and realize that Jesus is that Savior.

You are made alive from the inside, sealed by the Holy Spirit for salvation, and there is a joy and a peace that comes with that. But there is more available—and that’s the real question. Are you really content with just being saved—knowing you are going to heaven, that you are loved by God as you do your best to try to live the life his word encourages you to live while you do your best to get along in a world that seems dead set on undoing everything you believe about, and try to do, for Jesus?

Or are you going to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit as well? To not just be saved, but to be empowered, to not just have the light, but to emanate the light. To not just survive, but to thrive—to make a difference in this world, to not just have a reason, but to have a purpose and a mission, a fire and a passion, a power and a whole selection of gifts to supplement the talents you were born with?

Are you ready to be a warrior for Christ, on the offense instead of the defense? Are you content? Or do you want to be a contender?

Are you ready to receive power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. Because Jesus is ready for you.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

If nothing else, you should desire the power to live a life that is pleasing to God, to love like Jesus does, because trying to do any of that in the flesh is usually a losing proposition.

The power makes our message irresistible.

Mocked and Mobbed

The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial is one of mocking, misery, injustice and slander. All against an innocent man.

Just the day before he was the long awaited King, the Son of David come to restore the Kingdom, in the minds of the adoring crowds. But today, those same crowds are calling for his death. And they use the title, King of the Jews, to mock and convict him. Their adulation has turned to mocking.

The mob is a dangerous and fickle beast. Our forefathers recognized this and it is why we have the court system that we do, or are at least supposed to have, where all are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. And all have a chance to defend themselves and to face their accusers. Jesus was convicted and sentenced to death here merely to gratify the crowd who demanded justice for a crime that could not be named or proven.

That is also why we in this nation have a representative form of government, restrained within a long standing and time tested Bill of rights that is supposed to prevent rash and emotional sentiments from ruling the day no matter how big or loud a mob demands it. We are not supposed to be ruled by the whims of the crowd, much to the surprise and dismay of many today—we are not a straight out democracy. Reason and truth are too hard to hang on to when emotions and peer pressure are running high. We are a representative republic, governed by representatives that we choose.

Jesus is the victim of mob rule here, straight up on the fly democracy, subject to the verdict of the people who were persuaded by those who were supposed to be the experts in these things, to demand the release of a murderer at the same time they are demanding the execution of a man who has never committed a crime in his life.

This is probably not the usual track you see a preacher take when he is teaching on the trial and conviction of Jesus but I believe there is an important and relevant message here for the church today. We cannot get caught up in popular sentiment and assume that just because most say something is so, or because the experts say it is so—that it is.

And when those popular sentiments turn against us, when the band wagon we refused to jump on tries to run us over, we must not give in, and we must realize that sometimes the best response is just what Jesus did here. Stand on truth, don’t waste your breath arguing with the hysterical and the liars, and never compromise who you are—a child of the Most High God.  A God who in the end will not be mocked and will remember all the mocking and pain inflicted on his children.

We must not be swept up by crowd or emotion driven passions and become hysterical caricatures useful as tools for those with whatever agenda. You stand apart, you stand strong, you stand dignified and tall—even if you must stand alone. The quiet and nonplussed demeanor and reaction of a child of God, to the abuse of the mob, drawn from the hope and the strength of our faith, will drive the mob insane with fury, but it is our victory and our greatest witness and may even win some to Christ.

“Surely, this man is a son of God.” —The words of one Roman soldier after all he witnessed on this day when the crooked politicians and the lynch mob prevailed over the body of Christ, yet could not break his spirit.

That soldier spoke as one, not as a mob, because, after all, mobs are made up of individuals. Individuals that, when all the noise and peer pressure subsides, must wrestle with all they have just been part and parcel to.

But what about us? How do we respond to the mob?

For years I read the story of Jesus’ bogus trial and marveled that Jesus did not do more to defend himself, to stand up to and counter his accusers and mockers. But he remained mostly silent, speaking only a few words, basically just confirming their accusations against him, which of course had to do with his claims to be the Messiah, the Son of God. With very few, yet poignant words, he confirmed both to the Sanhedrin and to the Roman court that he was as they said, the Christ, “the Son of Man who would return with the clouds of heaven”, and that he was, in answer to Pilate’s query, “the King of the Jews.” Thus he was crucified for telling the truth.

But he didn’t argue his case—that he really was the Christ, the King. He didn’t explain how the scriptures bore that out. He didn’t use any of the mike dropping responses that he had so often used against those who challenged him or perform any of the miracles he was so widely known for, he just went along, as the prophets said he would, like a sheep—dumb before it’s shearers and then led to the slaughter. We know he had to die to fulfill his mission to purchase our salvation. But how could he be so passive about it? It’s not really passiveness though—there’s a real dignity to his unflappable nature in the face of such horrific mocking and abuse.

The strength and wisdom behind Jesus reactions and responses to his abusers and accusers becomes more evident and admirable the more you understand who Jesus is and the nature of men. Jesus once taught that the meek would inherit the earth. Meekness is not weakness. It takes incredible strength and restraint not to respond in kind to mocking and abuse, to stand tall when others are doing their utmost to knock you down. Often the best defense is a refusal to rise to the bait, to let the evil have their say and to let them fully expose themselves in their foolishness and hate. Hate always proves itself the fool if given enough opportunity to do so. Even Pilate here was beginning to have his doubts as to the legitimacy and justification for crucifying this supposed rebel and troublemaker. As heartless and hardened as Pilate was, he was struck by the strength of one who would so calmly face and stand tall in the face of such abuse and frenzied accusation. And he even tried to find a way to release Jesus. “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them. Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” Mark 15

But the mob continued to vote no. And Jesus continued to stand tall and refused to debate with those whom he knew he could not dissuade. He was listening to his Father and he knew the prophecies, he knew he would be mocked, scourged and crucified no matter how he responded. Evil was having its day, or so it thought. It was actually playing right into God’s design to overcome death itself.

But today, standing before the dignitaries and the thronging holy day crowds in the City that God had chosen for his Temple, it sure seems like Jesus would have had a great opportunity to expand on why this was all a mockery and that they were all being duped. I think Jesus also understood that they were past that. He had spent three years doing just that already, they knew the truth yet they chose to accept the lies. There comes a point when you must realize that you have nothing left to prove; you know who you are, your life and words have proven it time and again, and it is only the wannabe’s who are still squawking.

Jesus was not going to dignify their foolishness any longer and his actions today would become his greatest witness to date. That is something we all need to learn from. Honorable restraint and wisdom comes from listening to the Father, and from knowing where you stand. Truth in the light of lies needs no defense, does not dignify a response, when it is evident that the one perpetrating the lies will not hear nor stand for truth—and will only mock it when it is present.

We win in the end, our God will not be mocked-nor will his children!

Rapture or Rupture

Everyone who has an opinion of how things are going to shake out in the end is often so adamant that they are right, that there is really little use in arguing with them—kind of like arguing politics on Facebook, a losing battle and a total waste of energy. Too many people just accept what they hear, assuming that it must be in the bible somewhere, when often it isn’t, at least not in an inarguable form.

Rapture or rupture

I have been taught a lot of end time theology by a lot of really smart people and have studied it extensively myself, and the more I learn the more I am convinced that the only way the arguments are going to be settled is by living through the times spoken of, and then looking up one day and seeing Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven.

If that happens before, during or after all the stuff hits the fan?— we’ll all find out together won’t we.

Most of God’s people missed the Messiah’s first coming because they were convinced they knew how it was all going to happen, it seems much of the church is determined to make the same mistake.

There’s big money that has been made by having the most popular and convincing interpretation of the end times—books, movies, seminars, even end time communal wilderness compounds complete with bomb shelters. (I live in Montana, a haven for preppers, cultists and hermits) But the ones that irk me the most are the ones, well respected evangelical teachers, that say if you do not believe what they do then you are not saved.

I’m sorry but being convinced that you are going to get raptured before times get bad during the final battle for the souls of this world is not a prerequisite to salvation, anymore then hiding in the mountains like a hermit so you can survive the tribulation is will absolve you from your responsibilities in the last days or save your sorry butt.

Believing that Jesus Christ is Lord and that God raised him from the dead, confessing with your mouth and believing with your heart, is what gets you invited to heaven. And we are called to be witnesses, and to speak on behalf of the Lord in good times and in trouble. And you cannot do that if you are not in the midst of things for whatever reason, rapture or ruptureraptured from the earth or ruptured from society.

The Battle is here

I plan to be ready for anything that happens, because, in case you haven’t notice, we are already involved in a battle and either you were prepared and you are fully engaged or you were napping in your comfy tent and now you are running back and forth in the camp and wondering where the mortar fire is coming from and how could we possibly be under attack!?

Blood moon

And, I’m afraid some are just sitting on their cots folding their socks hoping the trumpet sounds the retreat before the platoon leader notices that you haven’t responded to the call to arms.

Wherever we are in our walk with the Lord and wherever we are on God’s big calendar, we should always be ready, always be expecting trouble and always engaged in the battles before us. Those times when the Lord does call us to go up on the mountain with him are for rest and refitting are so that we can continue in the battles ahead, not hide from them.

The important part is that we do not fear the fight, because, in reality, that is the only real weapon that the enemy has anymore. And he is real good at striking fear into the hearts of men, and he is especially adept at finding ways to neutralize the Lord’s army by finding things for them to fear as well. It’s usually subtle things disguised as reason and wisdom, tolerance and judiciousness.

We can’t offend anyone, we can’t stand out or seem different or weird. Just keep a low profile when it comes to things of the Spirit but exude wisdom and learning in religious matters along whatever theological bent gets us the most accepted and brings more people under our influence.’

Polished preachers preach politically correct sermons book ended between professional performers specializing in tweaking the emotions. And the house is full.

Where does that leave you when your cushy world is threatened? Scared and clueless, shocked and confused—impotent and spiritually bankrupt.  We must keep our souls strong, sound and secure.  By your patience possess your souls.”

Possess your soul

10 Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. 14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost19 By your patience possess your souls. –Jesus  Luke 21

betryaed accused

This little exercise in total fear induced government control we are experiencing is probably just a foretaste for us of what may come—unless we are diligent and keep praying, standing for truth and reaping the harvest while it is still ripe.

This is a time for God to shine, for his church to pray for, and see the sick healed, to speak truth to power and to trust and follow. That’s what the early disciples did and that is why so many came to the Lord. They took the commands of Jesus to heart and fearlessly went forth in his power—they possessed their own souls.

Speak truth and walk in the light while it is still called today, tomorrow may be too late.

 

Find your freedom in Christ today, download my latest book.

Barbarians in the Kingdom

book cover

Perfect Love

Well, today is Palm Sunday, the anniversary of the day adoring crowds lined the main street into Jerusalem and waved Palm branches in celebration and welcome of their coming King. Ironic that if we did that today we would be arrested, but I digress.. .

The streets and the city were packed with people come for the Passover feast in the Holy City and to offer their sacrifices at the Temple of their God, like a St Paddy’s day parade in Butte MT, only with less beer.

The Israelites were ecstatic because they believed that, finally, here comes the long promised and much anticipated Messiah, the anointed king who would restore Israel to glory and power as God’s chosen people, the one who would overcome their enemies once and for all—at that point the enemy was Rome.

We find John’s eye witness account of this day in his gospel, chapter 12

The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:

“Hosanna!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
The King of Israel!”

14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:

on the foal of a donkey

Their king had come, and they would now overcome all those who persecuted them so. The Romans were oppressing them, their own priests and the Pharisees were taking advantage of them, relishing their power and getting wealthy off of them. Their puppet king Herod was abusing them, the tax collectors cheated them, as did the merchants in the temple courts.

The devil himself was abusing them, everywhere Jesus went he was driving out demons from people who were driven to do horrible things to themselves and others. Jesus delivered people from their demons, their illnesses, and even forgave their sins; giving them renewed hope, loving them when others scorned them. He even raised the dead—surely this is our King, this is our time for glory!

But Jesus had not come to overcome Rome. He came to overcome a much more fearsome and dangerous enemy, death. Death and the fear of death. Jesus came to perfect love. And he did.

Because he was perfect love. Only a perfect love could have, or would have, done what Jesus did—for us. Jesus does not only ask us to keep our eyes on him as we walk the high iron of life, he takes the pain out of the fall if we should miss a step.

In the 1st letter of the Apostle John he writes a lot about perfect love:

12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love19 We love Him because He first loved us.

1 John 4:12—20

 

Perfect Love

“Love perfected—perfect love” We find perfect love four times in that section of scripture. What is perfect Love? Well, the short answer is Jesus.

Only a perfect love would have left the Father’s side in heaven, become one of us and taught us what love was even at the peril of his own life.

Only a perfect love would have ridden into Jerusalem on that humble little donkey that day knowing full well that he was a wanted man and would soon be facing a Roman cross.

Only a perfect love would have suffered and died as he did at the hands of those he loved, and begged forgiveness for those who nailed him to that cross.

Only a perfect love could have lived a life in this messed up world full of pain death and sorrow, temptations and seductions, greed and injustice, without ever having sinned.

Only a perfect love could have suffered the injustice of being falsely accused, beaten brutally for no good reason after being betrayed and abandoned by his closest friends, mocked and scorned as he suffered a horrific death on a crude wooden cross made from a tree he created.

Only a perfect love could have done all of that without ever having sinned, and knowing that he didn’t have to do it, that at any time he could have called down twelve legions of angles to take him away from the pain.

But that would have been a failure, that would have been selfish, that would have revealed a crippling fear that just did not exist in is heart, because perfect love casts out fear. And not only was Jesus perfect love, he knew he was perfectly loved by his Father and he chose to trust Him—no matter the pain.

And because of all that, perfect love raised him from the dead— perfect love overcame death. God is love, and in him there is no fear. And now that love abides in us, God abides in us.

Because he has given us of his Spirit.

How often do we forget that?

abide in him

Remember what it means to abide? It means to live in, reside in, to remain somewhere. We get to live in God, to live in his love. And his love, his very Spirit, lives in us. We who have confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, have no need to fear, for love has overcome.

It is a love that we can trust infinitely.

Our King has come, and he rules in our hearts–if we choose perfect love.

And by the way, have faith, He has overcome our enemies.overcome praying mother