Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Yeshua in Isaiah: Journeying On

Thank you, readers, for hanging in there with this journey to find Jesus, through His Hebrew name, Yeshua, in the Old Testament.

We have some more verses before we leave Isaiah. These verses recount the sins and hopelessness of the people and how God, once His judgment has been satisfied, longs to bring His people back. Our God is One who seeks relationship regardless of what we have done.

Let's look at Isaiah 52:10:  "The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation (yeshua) of our God."  

I see Christ on the cross, baring His arms, bearing our sin, in front of all the people who came down that road that day, and for all time.  Did the people realize what they were gazing upon?  Would have we had we been travelling the road that day?  

Would we have even noticed the wee Baby in the manger that night or even cared?  God opens up His salvation plan for all to read, for all to see, and yet we carry on, as if nothing has really changed.  But that Baby changed everything.

Here are the lyrics from a John Elefante song (yup, we're talking the 80's) but the message is as powerful now as it was then:  

Just another early morning as the sun begins to rise,
Like a million other mornings just the same.
The people of the town begin their ordinary lives,
Unsuspecting of a world about to change.
This was not just any other day...no, not just any other day.
Little did they know that on the other side of town,
The sin of all humanity would bleed beneath a crown,
Of a man whose only blame was being born a king...

And I wish that I could have felt the rain on me,
I wish that I could have felt that rain!
I would have looked into Your dying eyes
and stared at You in disbelief and thought,
"Is this what you've been telling me, 2000 years!"

It was business as usual, nothing different at all,
As dusk would cast a shadow and the night began to fall,
But no one stopped to notice that before this day would end,
The sick and the afflicted needn't ever hurt again.
Not just any other day...It was not just any other day.
As a small crowd gathered just beneath the dying Son,
The fulfillment of a promise had been done!

And I wish that I could have felt that rain on me,
I wish that I could have felt that rain!
I would have heard with my own ears, as You shouted out in fear and said,
"Father, why have You forsaken Me?"
Not just any other day...

That Baby grew up and carried a burden heavier than any wooden cross: the sins of all of us.  

God's redemption is hiding in plain sight.  As He says in Isaiah 56:1, "Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation (yeshua) is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed."  

He revealed His plan throughout the Old Testament.  His Son's name echoed like a soft melody, calling us back to Him.  What sin had destroyed, His Son would redeem.  Christmas Day and Easter morning...two days that forever changed the world.

How can I say this with such blessed assurance?  Because they changed me.



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Yeshua in Isaiah: Glory to God!

We are continuing our study to see if Jesus ("Yeshua") is in the Old Testament, and lo and behold, He is there, whenever the word for salvation ("yeshua") is used. We are exploring Isaiah.

I read something recently that stopped me in my tracks. Isaiah's own name is replete with meaning that coincides with Jesus' name and His mission.  

From this website on Biblical names, www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Isaiah, look at what Isaiah's name means...  (My comments are in parentheses. I can't help it.)

     The name Isaiah(u) consists of two parts: The final part is יה or יהו, both abbreviated forms of יהוה; YHWH or Yahweh. (Only God alone can deliver us.)
     The first part of the name Isaiah comes from the root-verb ישע (yasha'), meaning to be saved or delivered:  (That is what we need:  deliverance from sin, ourselves and death.)
     The root-verb ישע (yasha'), probably originally meant something like to be wide or spacious (in Arabic it still does), and its counterpart is the verb צרר (sarar), meaning to be narrow, to bind or to be in distress. Our verb ישע (yasha') means exactly the opposite: to be wide, to be loose or delivered, and to be saved.  (I love how the word contains the idea "to be loose or delivered."  We are set free in Yeshua--our bonds are broken, our chains are unlocked.  We are unbound. Wow.)
     This root and its derivatives occur 353 times in the Old Testament. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes that deliverance indicates a movement from distress to safety, and generally must come from some somewhere outside the party oppressed. The one who brings this deliverance is known as the "savior," and this may be a human agent delivering from any kind of earthly oppression, to God and man's deliverance from evil. However, any human savior is regarded as empowered by YHWH, and so, all deliverance comes from YHWH; the God of our salvation and deliverance (Psalm 68:19-20).  (Wow...Isn't this amazing?)
     The derivatives of this verb are: The feminine noun ישועה (yeshua) meaning salvation (Genesis 49:18, 2 Samuel 10:11).
     For a meaning of the name Isaiah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Yahweh Is Salvation, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Salvation Of The Lord.
     A remarkable feature of the name Isaiah is that it consists of the same two elements as the name Joshua (יהושע). The name Joshua is the Hebrew form of the Greek name Jesus, and most probably the name by which Jesus the Nazarene was known by His contemporaries.

So, suddenly the passages in Luke where Jesus is in the synagogue and is handed the scroll of Isaiah, and He proceeds to read:  

     The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
     because he has anointed me
     to proclaim good news to the poor.
     He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
     and recovery of sight for the blind,
     to set the oppressed free,
     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  (61:1-2)

makes this moment in His ministry all the more powerful. The Savior is reading from the prophet whose own name echoes that salvation is of the Lord.

You could argue that if Jesus is in the Old Testament, you would expect a lot of verses to speak of Him in Isaiah, and this is true.  

Jesus quoted out of the three sections of the Hebrew Bible (which then represents the whole), the Torah, the Neviim ("Prophets") and the Ketuvim ("Writings").  So, let's see how often Jesus' name occurs in each of these divisions, which also then could be argued to cover the whole Old Testament as inclusive of Him:
  • Torah: 1 (Genesis); 1 (Exodus).  These two books cover the beginning of all mankind, our fall due to disobedience, and our need for atonement. Yeshua will be of the woman's seed and will crush the head of the serpent, who deceived Adam and Eve.  Exodus, while a huge event of liberation for His people in Jewish history, it is also a foreshadowing of the ultimate Deliverer leading His people out of bondage.  
  • Neviim: 2 (2 Samuel); 1 (2 Chronicles); 15 (Isaiah); 1 (Micah), 1 (Habakkuk); 1 Zechariah. Isaiah, whose own name means salvation, is abundant in Messianic references.  Isaiah also foretells the consequences of his people's sin--destruction and captivity--but also of their return and restoration.  No wonder Jesus read from this book when He began His ministry and that His name is abundantly used throughout it.
  • Ketuvim: 14 (Psalms)  No surprise here, either.  God made a covenant with David where He promised that his kingdom would never end. Jesus fulfilled this as King.   
So, as we approach Christmas, let's take a few more verses where Yeshua's name is mentioned in Isaiah:  

             How beautiful on the mountains
             are the feet of those who bring good news,
             who proclaim peace,
             who bring good tidings,
             who proclaim salvation, (yeshua)
             who say to Zion,
             “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

Look at these words and the words from Isaiah 61:1-2; they both carry the theme of restoration.  It is little wonder that Jesus spoke them in reference to himself.  

You also hear Isaiah in the song of the angels in Luke 2:10-14, joyously announcing the Messiah's birth.  I have italicized the overlap of the words:

And the angel (a messenger of good news) said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David (Zion) a Saviour, (salvation--yeshua) which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, ("your God reigns") and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Where was this song sung?  Over the mountains and fields of Bethlehem.

God's details about His Son in His Word take my breath away.  

Isaiah echoes in Jesus' life from the very beginning.  


























Tuesday, November 15, 2016

It Is Autumn in America

The other day, my husband had a doctor's appointment.  I went outside to wait for him and I walked over to a little park.  I watched the morning breeze gently move the last dried leaves clinging tenaciously to the branches of the oak trees. They made the rustling sound that reminded me that soon sound would disappear altogether from the trees.

Trees in winter are silent and stand as a mute witness to the season that just passed.

It was one day before the election.  I stood there looking at the trees and wondering, what season is America in?

The fiery colors in the leaves had given way to a dull brown, dry and ready to fall to the ground at any moment.  The oaks give me an insight to where I believe we are.

The green leaves and the fiery leaves are now dry.  We live a culture where kindness is derided as weakness and bombast and vulgarity (unless it's too specific in its targeting of certain groups) is celebrated as "transgressive" and "edgy."  Certain groups--minorities, women and gays--are to be treated with respect, and rightfully so.  Yet, people of faith can be mocked and excoriated--those who cling to their Bibles and their guns, as our President so tactlessly said.  His words were allowed to stand, because certain groups do not need to be treated respectfully.  Wrongfully so.

No, I am not waxing nostalgic for the "good old days."  The 60's were a time of great upheaval and the social fabric of America was torn.  Some ideas had to go--racial discrimination, women as second-class citizens--but some ideas needed to stay:  respect for differences, and treating others as you would like to be treated.  Yup, the Golden Rule in a nutshell.

We are now in autumn in our country. The leaves will all soon be upon the ground. The post-election anger and rioting is disturbing. The acrimony is overwhelming.

 Jesus spoke about anger and its results: “You have heard that it was said to the people in the old days, ‘You shall not murder’, and anyone who does must stand his trial. But I say to you that anyone who is angry with his brother must stand his trial; anyone who contemptuously calls his brother a fool must face the supreme court; and anyone who looks on his brother as a lost soul is himself heading straight for the fire of destruction." (Matt. 5:22, Phillips)

I love the Phillips translation.  It captures so well where angry words can lead.  Jesus associates anger with murder--wow.  But what you believe, you will act on.  Eventually.  Anger has a habit of building up--like molten lava. Lava bubbling up from the earth builds up the crust.  Anger about sin and its destructive effects can well up inside of us and cause us to right wrongs.  But molten lava, building up over time, will explode and cause great destruction.  Anger that is not channeled into positive action will build up and explode, leaving destruction in its wake and the fundamental problem still unsolved.  

The anger I see is explosive and sinister.  Why?  It is divisive and not seeking to unite, but ignite.

Jesus knew all too well the human heart: "But the things that come out of a man’s mouth come from his heart and mind, and it is they that really make a man unclean. For it is from a man’s mind that evil thoughts arise—murder, adultery, lust, theft, perjury and blasphemy." (Matt. 15:17-20 Phillips)

Evil thoughts are not just thoughts--they will eventually lead to action.  Jesus' list of behaviors resulting from evil thoughts is sobering.  They are also a warning.  Any generation, any group, anyone, can become an instrument of hatred.  Ideas can spur us to great good or great evil.

Those oak trees in the park reminded me that after autumn, comes winter.  Winter tests us with its cold winds, snow and rain. The skies are gray day after day, and the sun rarely shines through.  But, in the words scratched upon a wall by a Holocaust victim:

"I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.

I believe in love, even though I don't feel it.

I believe in God, even when he is silent."

But He is not silent in the winter.  We need to sit at His feet and listen, and not be distracted by the winter storm's howling and the biting cold.  We need to be His hands and feet and bring the only antidote to hate that truly works:  love.  Not mushy, gushy, sin-ignoring love, but the love of Jesus, expressing Himself through us.

Winter leads to spring.  Let this time in our nation be a clarion call to those who follow Jesus to be His voice, His love and His action.  

Spring means renewal and growth.  

Jesus means renewal and growth.







    

Monday, November 7, 2016

Election 2016 versus Eternal Value

In our survey of the Old Testament, and our inquiry as to whether Jesus is present there, we have found that His name is mentioned in many places, all within the context of "salvation," that is, yeshua, which is translated into "Jesus."

I have been slowly making my way through the book of Isaiah.  

The Jews divide the Old Testament into three divisions, Torah ("Law" or "Instruction"); Neviim ("Prophets") and Ketuvim ("Writings"). My thesis is if Jesus is in the Old Testament, He will be represented in all three areas; if you search my previous blogs, you will see yeshua is in Torah and in Neviim.  We will explore Neviim momentarily.  

Yeshua is especially rich in Isaiah, which is not too surprising, given the theme of Isaiah is salvation from captivity.

Character and name are inextricably linked in Jewish culture. Joseph is told by the angel that Mary "will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21).  

His name designates is who He is and what He will accomplish.  

Luke, who is telling the story from Mary's point of view, says, "Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.'” (1:31-33)

From the beginning His name, His mission and Who He is is all contained within the name, Yeshua.  

Now, let's look at our next set of verses from Isaiah, chapter 51:6-8:

"Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment
and its inhabitants die like flies.
But my salvation [yeshuah] will last forever,
my righteousness will never fail.
Hear me, you who know what is right,
you people who have taken my instruction to heart:
Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals
or be terrified by their insults.
For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
the worm will devour them like wool.
But my righteousness will last forever,
my salvation [yeshuah] through all generations.”

Let's spend some time with this, on the eve of one of the more contentious elections I have seen in quite a while.  

In these verses, God is reminding His people of how temporary all of this is--the world, us, the physical universe.  Scientists have given an expiration date to the sun itself--5 billion years.  Now, to us, that's a long time, but it shows that even the sun is not around forever.  

God is putting everything in perspective here.  He is saying that the only thing not temporary is Me and what I offer: salvation. Why?  Because My righteousness emanates from My character, Who I am, the great I AM--"will never fail."  In fact, God's name, Yahweh, is taken from He told Moses His name is:  "I AM Who I AM." This name means, I have always been and will always be--thus, what I am and what I do is eternal.  

Now, in theses verses, He is saying because of Who He is, we are not to be afraid of what "mere mortals" do to us.  Their threats, their bombast, their arrogance, will not last.  We mortals have an expiration date, and so does what we do.  

So, what gives what we do meaning?  We who have taken His "instruction to heart" know "what is right."  If what we do is predicated on His Word, what we do will have lasting value.  His Word will not fail as Isaiah says in 40:6-8:

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

So, all the fluster and bluster of this election season, seen from an eternal perspective, will have no lasting value unless it is predicated on the Word of God. 

So, how to proceed?  

Jesus is our salvation--He saves us from our sins.  His name throughout Scripture attests to that.  

He also came to live in us:  "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20)

We live by His power within us: "The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you." (Rom. 8:11)

He is our wisdom: "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."

So, we need to pray for His guidance, wisdom and direction.  That is why He came and that is why He longs to live out His life and power in us: to accomplish things on this earth that will have eternal value.  

Let us, as we approach the Savior with all aspects of our lives, echo the words of Simeon, a man who gazed upon the baby Jesus in the Temple:  "When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.'”

Amen and may God have mercy on this country.  






Thursday, October 20, 2016

What Do To With THOSE People...Part II

I just got home from a trip to the east coast.  We drove through Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

I stayed in a hotel named after Calvin Coolidge's dad and the room where the son/president stayed had no number on it--he was a bit suspicious.  I visited Emily Dickinson's house--that was a treat.  I adore her poetry and to step into her world was lovely.  I was privileged to read one of her poems to the tour group.

I suppose my affinity with Emily is how nature was her schoolhouse, and the lessons she learned about life, death, God and immortality take my breath away.  I, too, have lived in the mountains above Boise, Idaho, and have learned much about God, His character, life and love and how His hand is never too far from His creation: "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear." (Is. 59:1)

So, as we drove through New England, and saw the beautiful fall colors of the trees, I kept asking the Lord, "What do you want me to learn from this?"  Then, this morning, looking at my previous blog post about how we deal with people who are not aligning their lives with Biblical norms, it hit me: change is slow, uneven, and sometimes rather hidden for awhile.

As my pastor points out, we are quick to shower a new believer with God's forgiveness, but we are even quicker to throw them under the Condemnation Bus when after a while, their lives are not aligning with Biblical norms.  Yet Romans 8:1-14 sounds the clarion call:

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

I quote this long portion for a reason.  It outlines the transformative process that we all undergo once we are born again.  It takes time for us to live according to Christ in us.  He provides the power; we must surrender each and every area of our lives to His lordship.  Some areas of our lives may be instantly conformed to Him; others will take time.  So, let's allow the trees of New England to illustrate the process.



Look at this tree.  Half is in glorious color; the other half still speaks of summer and spring, with just a hint of fall colors.  Why haven't the tree's leaves all turned at the same time?  One side was closer to some other trees; the other side was fully uninfluenced by other trees.  It had more direct sunlight but also more direct contact with the chilled air.  Within this one tree is a variety of color.

Doesn't this speak to our walk in Christ?  We have surrendered certain areas of our lives to His lordship and the glorious color of His power is evident.  We have not surrendered other areas and they still speak of the old nature, the old us.  We are changing, yes, but at an uneven rate.  Christ wants all of me, but not all of me wants Christ.  


Here is a group of trees, all next to each other.  Only one is showing evidence of the change, even though all the trees are nourished by the same soil and receive the same amount of light each day.  

Not too dissimilar from church, is it?  We sit with others who seem not to evince Christ's work in them, even though they are hearing the same pastor's message and fellowship with the same people week after week.  We show the power of Him in our lives and expect others to be experiencing the same rate of change that we have. 

But these trees have taught me a valuable lesson:  Change is uneven in myself.  It is equally so in others.

So, what do we do with those people?  We trust that the same loving God who is infinitely patient with us is likewise with them; if we don't see the change, pray that it will come through an obedient heart.  Pray for such a heart.  Condemnation never won anyone over.  

The church will face those people in every generation.  Why?  Because human nature needs to be transformed by Christ in every generation, regardless of the sin that is being expressed.  He wants us to reflect His glorious power and presence and can only do so with surrendered hearts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What Do We Do With THOSE People? Part I

The church, from its inception, has faced the conundrum, "What do we do with those people?" We are studying Jesus in the Old Testament through His name, Yeshua.  This ties in because if He came to bring us salvation, then who exactly is the "us"?

Yeah, I know, you're thinking, "The whole world, based on John 3:16--you should know that!" but in reality, we have always wrestled with what "the world" means and has meant throughout history.

 Let's go to the book of Acts and see this early debate:   

 When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church,      including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”

So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”
(15:4-11)


Can you see it?  All throughout the Old Testament, the Jews were promised salvation from their enemies, their sins and their captivity.  God's love never would fail them: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lam. 3:22-23)  Each generation longed for the day of Redemption, embodied by the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52-53.

Many Jews in that first century AD said, "It is Jesus!  Yeshua is the promised Messiah!"  Even though the Old Testament alluded to the universality of God's love, many Jews chose to stay focused on their own nation.  Jonah, for example, a prophet called to preach to those other people, the Ninevites, disobeyed God by running away rather than to have fulfilled his calling.

In that first century, Jesus became the Great Divide.

Earlier, Jesus asks the disciples who they think He is:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
(Matt. 16:13-18)

Now, fast forward to the new church as chronicled in Acts.  It's no surprise it is Peter who broke the stalemate.  He declared the Messiah once before, and now here he is again, speaking to a wider audience.  Peter, in his flesh, would have preferred to keep Jesus exclusive to his people (remember the sheet with all the food on it that he was commanded to eat?) but now, under the Holy Spirit's revelation, he gets it: Jesus is for all people, for all time.

Let's take a moment to go into the mind of a good, God-fearing Jew in this first century, sitting in at this council and debating the issue:

Those people.  Those Gentiles.  They eat food sacrificed to idols (which we know are demons); they engage in public nudity at the gymnasium; they enjoy pederasty; they enjoy prostitutes; they worship gods--gods under every rock and in every tree, and their worship is equally as scandalous.  

Their orgies defy description, and their behavior, oh dear.  Their women are not modest.  They place unwanted babies outside to languish and die, all because some father doesn't want the child.  I could go on, but I am feeling nauseated. They, in a word, make me sick. 

Those people.  But here is Peter saying that the Holy Spirit, the Almighty's precious Spirit, has been given to the Gentiles, cleansing their hearts because of their faith (is it even possible for such people to even have faith?)  He is saying God is making no distinction.  It is true that the Law is a heavy burden, and I have failed more times than I can count to obey it, but those Gentiles...they don't even try to be moral!  They are steeped in sin.  But here's Peter saying their faith has saved them.  Our precious Messiah, Yeshua, has saved them.  Oh, Lord, what am I to think?  I feel as if the whole world is spiraling out of control...

Ponder this man's conundrum for awhile. Maybe you sympathize with his horror, or maybe you are aghast at his judgmental attitude.

Maybe you're thinking, Hey, lighten up, I am that Gentile.  I am the descendant of those people, and without Peter and Paul's courage to take the message outside the walls of the synagogue, I wouldn't be here.  

Now, fast forward to now.  Who are THOSE people we are debating about?  Think about this and pray.  We are not alone in this and yet the answer is the same for every generation:  Jesus.

To be continued...





Friday, September 23, 2016

Satan's Endgame

We are looking at Jesus in the Old Testament, especially in the book of Isaiah.  We are going to digress a bit, but not really. 

If Jesus' name in Hebrew, Yeshua, means "salvation," then one might ask, "Saving from what?"  Of course, we would respond, "From sin and death!"  

We distill Jesus' ministry down to: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Eze. 36:26) Then we would quickly add: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

Sin and death:  These are the two greatest obstacles from fully experiencing God in this life.  Jesus came to give us victory and life.  

We have passed Theology 101.  Or have we?

Yes, but we have missed a key point that I had driven home to me this week.  Let me share what happened.

My husband is an eminent scholar in the field of gun rights.  He was asked to speak to the Texas Bar Association in Austin on Wednesday.  The presenter before him spoke about two cases he was an expert witness for.  The stories broke my heart.

Both involved domestic violence.  Two women had hooked up with two men who were involved in the biker subculture.  The first woman was a Christian.  She met him and he was willing to go to church with her.  Over time, his drug abuse and ill treatment of her led to finally kick him out.  Her fatal "mistake" was to say disparaging things about his biker patches and his biker club.  After screaming, "I am going to kill you!" he jumped on top of her with a knife.  She was able to get the knife and she stabbed him to get him off of her.  He went to the hospital with fourteen stab wounds and she was convicted of 2nd degree murder.  Her case was overturned, however, and the judge agreed that she had indeed acted in self-defense.

The second woman, after twelve years of being involved with her biker partner, and having found him in their home having intercourse with another woman, said disparaging things about his club and his patches.  He later menaced her with a knife and having threatened to kill her and her family, she drew a gun and shot him.

The presenter was discussing self-defense, juries, and women whose self-esteem is so low that they cannot see themselves with any other guy, thereby putting themselves at risk.  It was a sobering presentation, complete with ER and autopsy photos.  

My point?  We Christians tend to focus on the sins that people commit.  We look at the adultery, the homosexuality, the greed, the pride, the abuse, the whatever, and say, "You should not do that." 

We are horrified at what people do.  The presenter did not mince words about what losers these two men were; he repeatedly used the phrase, "***holes" in describing them.  Looking at their tats, their pictures and their attitudes, it was a label that easily fit.  In fact, the audience laughed their agreement every time he used that word.

I was horrified at what he presented.  I felt anger that these men had pushed these women to such a breaking point that one was stabbed and the other shot.  I felt awful that these women stayed with these men and now themselves were being viewed as criminals.

I was focused on what everyone had done.

Let me bring up a quick analogy.  A person walks into a room filled with numerous bottles of poison. The person is trying to select which one to drink.  We run in and focus on each bottle, and list all of the consequences of drinking such and such poison.  While we are talking, the person turns around and gulps down a bottle of cyanide.  We quickly say, "How could you do that?"  We then proceed to tell the person the horrible things cyanide does to the body.  Only after much detailing of poison and its effects do we yell, "It'll kill you!"  

We focus on what the person did and what will or could happen.  Then, almost as an afterthought, do we say, "It will kill you."

Now, let's go back to our presenter.  We listened to the horrible aspects of these people's lives and what they had done.  It was almost an afterthought that all of these behaviors would result in death.

Then it hit me:  Satan does not care what you DO.  He could care less what bottle of poison you drink.  His endgame is your death:  six feet under and cold as dirt.  Did any of those four people wake up that morning and say, "What we are doing will lead to our death.  We need to stop,"  No.  The one young man laying on the coroner's table never thought he'd end his day like that.  

My point is this.  We need to stop focusing on what people DO and focus on what will happen in the future.  Your drug habit will lead to death.  Your adultery will lead to death.  Your greed will lead to death.  Your pride will lead to death.

We are so focused on the horror of the sin, we lose sight of the most horrible outcome of all:  the death of the sinner.  

Oh, come on, you say, how could my adultery lead to death?  Adultery is the poison in the bottle. Once you introduce it into your life, Satan now uses it to separate you further and further from God and as the sin courses through your spiritual bloodstream, the more vulnerable you are to his attacks.  He isn't concerned what poison you drank; he just wants you to drink it and that starts the process.  He wants you dead.  The means are not his thing; the end is.

At the end, all four lives were destroyed.  The two women served time.  One man was dead and the other severely injured.  Even though one of the women was exonerated, her life is forever changed. She is a Christian and now has left death to enter life.  I pray for the other woman and the man who survived.  Satan would like the job to be completed and until we are in Jesus, Satan will not let up until we are dead.

That is why Jesus so focused on bringing life.  He is the Antidote to the poison of sin and its result, death.  Jesus says that Satan the thief is out to "steal kill, and destroy."

As followers of His, let's focus on the endgame:  Satan's is your death, by whatever means necessary. 

Jesus' is your life, and He provided the means:  His death on the cross.   

So, in loving the sinner and hating the sin, let's expand that to loving the sinner and hating the death that awaits them, if they don't find Jesus.

Let's be diligent to show the trajectory of the sin, and not let the sin itself steal our focus on sharing the beauty of Jesus.  He is Salvation, and He is what we need to counter the wiles of Satan. 





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