Friday, August 26, 2016

Jesus in Isaiah: Where Do You Stand in Troubled Times?

We are exploring Jesus in the Old Testament, and this next verse is a Holy Wow!  It is from Isaiah 33:6:  

"He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." (NIV)

The word in Hebrew for "salvation" is yeshuw'ah--Jesus' name.

The King James translates this verse like this:

"And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure."

"Sure foundation" and "stability of thy times."  Wow:  This so speaks to us today.  

Right now, it's Trump This and Hillary That.  Who will  do what.  We are hoping, deep down inside, that the Right President will turn this country around.  For some, that means go deeper into a left-wing vision, of open borders, a place for refugees, free health care, limited to no ownership of guns, low-cost education and America getting out of the way of world affairs.  For others that means a wall, vetted refugees, repeal of Obamacare, 2nd Amendment rights, and America returning to being a world leader.

I am truly not trying to be nasty as I summarize what I believe each candidate stands for--these are my impressions from the speeches they have given.  But when elected, presidents tend to forget the speeches and do what they intended to do all along.  In other words, in an election years, presidential promises are pie-crust promises:  easily made and easily broken.

But notice the list of what has been said (again, my impression, not a condemnation) versus Isaiah's vision.  He, too, is looking at Someone to provide stability and certainty in the current (then and now) times.  But, Isaiah, unlike today's politicos, sees the real issue.  First, and foremost:  We need saving. We don't need yet another program, plan, promise or priority.  We need to have our hearts changed, and our standing before our God changed.  Why?  

Yup, the s-word:  SIN.  We are blinded, broad-sided and collided with sin.  It's in us, controlling us and making us blind to our deepest need:  Him.  

Our salvation in Him provides a "rich store."  Unstable times deplete our store.  Our resources.  Our hope.  We throw up our hands in numb despair and say, "What are we to do?"  But, Isaiah says that in yeshuw'ah/Yeshua comes "wisdom" and "knowledge."  

Wisdom in Isaiah is not just a desirable and much needed quality in troubled times: It's a Person. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30:  "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."

God's plan all along was for us to seek wisdom from Him and Him alone.  But, by Adam munching on the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he no longer sought God.  He sought wisdom now from within.  That "within," now having been corrupted by sin, meant that wisdom and knowledge would be anything but.  

God's reclamation of Adam's children meant giving us not only a new heart (otherwise it would be putting godly lipstick on a sinful pig) but also returning us to the real source of true wisdom:  Jesus Christ.  That is why we are no longer in Adam, but in Christ:  "So it is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit." (1 Cor. 15:45)  Jesus, as the last Adam, came to bring us back to the Garden, so to speak.  We are now able to walk in the newness of life and perfect fellowship with God because of Jesus' death on the cross.  

The debt was paid and now we are saved.  

With Jesus, now as our very Wisdom from God, we ask Him for guidance and knowledge on how to navigate in these troubled times.  Our respect for God, ("fear" in the verses from Isaiah) is our "treasure": precious and of the utmost value. That respect means following the One that God sent: 
"Jesus answered and said unto him, 'If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.'" (John 14:23)

Jesus is our very Sure Foundation, our very Rock that we stand on: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matt. 7:24-27)

So, where do I stand in troubled times?  On the Rock.  

Is that synonymous with voting for Trump?  Being a right-winger?  No.  It means shutting my mouth and doing a heart check:

Am I regularly praying for those in authority?  "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Tim. 2:1-3)

Am I seeking His will for how I am to participate as a citizen?  "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." (John 14:12-14)

Am I ready to share my faith if asked why I am doing what I am doing? In other words, do I listen to Him and move political discussions into a way to talk about eternal matters: "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:  Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ." (1 Pet. 3:15-16)

Presidents come and go.  Yes, we are citizens of this world, but we must keep the eternal perspective. 

Before election day and on the day, I will be praying.  I will not fear, become angry or bad-mouth what is going on.  Standing on the Rock gives me confidence to face the storms, pure and simple.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Not Judgin’, But Not Budgin’

This is a wee departure from our talk about Jesus in the Old Testament. It's important topic to cover,
especially these days.

So often we hear today, especially in Christian circles when controversy comes calling, “Don’t judge. That’s the unloving thing to do. Jesus calls us to love.” True enough. No one would support the idea that Jesus calls us to hate, even though some people would accuse us of doing so in His name.

Let’s explore this whole judgment thing. The old saying, “A text without a context is a pretext” may apply here. If we don’t view the scripture on not judging in its context, it can be used to shut down legitimate discussion about morality and other topics people fear will create discord and offense.

Let’s begin with the familiar verses from Matthew 7:1-3: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

These verses are very simple. Look at the larger context: These verses come from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is laying down the principles of the Kingdom of God. Just as Moses came down off Mount Sinai carrying the stone tablets inscribed with God’s commandments, so too does Christ stand on the mountain with the new commandment of God: to love one another.

So, in this context, love rules. We want mercy from God but how we love to mete out justice to others. I want to keep my eye, but I want to take off your hand. No. The Law of Moses arbitrated relationships, between us and God first and then with each other. Fairness, mercy and compassion underpinned Moses’ Law.

Jesus’ Law is no different, except that love is the operational force, in addition to fairness, mercy and compassion. Thus, how you treat others will directly affect how God sees you. The same standard you use will be then the same standard He uses.

I want mercy, God.

Fine. Show mercy.

I want understanding for my shortcomings, Lord.

Fine. Show understanding for others’ shortcomings.

I want to do right, but when I fail, I don’t want to be punished beyond reason.

Fine. When others fail, offer a punishment that is for their restoration, not destruction.

My shortcomings are not as bad as that person’s—I deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Fine. But your prideful plank has blinded you to the seriousness of what you do.

But he’s got the sawdust of sin in his eye! I must remove it!

Fine. But your prideful plank will not allow you to see his failures objectively. Focus on you. I will focus on him. I am the Great Physician.

Now let’s look at Luke 6:36-8: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Again, fairly straightforward. Mercy is love applied to justice. Yes, people sin. Yes, people hurt one another. But Jesus is saying that judgement and condemnation are not in the vocabulary of the Kingdom of God. The word He is presenting is “forgiveness” only because that is what His Father does. If we are His children, we must follow the Father, knowing that our Father knows best.

Now, I could end right there. You could say, “There it is! We all need to love one another! When someone is sinning, who are you to say anything?”

But there’s more. Let’s go to the verses in John 5:9-15:
     So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what
     he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the
     Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even
     greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. For just as the Father
     gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. In addition,
     the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, so that
     everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son
     is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him. I tell you the truth, those who listen to my
     message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for
     their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. And I assure you that the time is
     coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God.
     And those who listen will live."

Jesus moved, taught and judged us all with permission from His Father. All He did was in fact under commission from His Father.

We, who follow Jesus, can and should do no less.

If we are called to make a judgment, it must be based on what the Father has revealed. The Father has revealed His will in the Bible. So, if we judge, it needs to be based on that; culture, modern thinking and what makes us feel good is not the foundation upon which we judge.

What is the word "judge" mean in the Greek? There are three meaning: One means to judge, as in a court of law. 

The next meaning to critically evaluate something, or to be discerning. One of the spiritual gifts is discernment, so using it is part of our walk. We need to make judgments as we navigate this world. "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matt. 10:16)  Shrewdness comes from evaluating a situation fairly and objectively; snakes do not run into rocks.  So, discernment is part of judging.  We need the Holy Spirit's revelation of the Father's will in order to be discerning and wise.

The third meaning is a judgement that condemns.  We cannot take God's authority, cloak ourselves with it and then act in His stead.  He and He alone will judge the world. 

So, does that mean we cannot judge at all?

No.  Look at John 7:24: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."  We cannot issue condemnatory judgments, but judgments based on mercy, love and compassion.  

Mercy calls sin, sin, but also factors love into the equation, as Jesus did.

Love speaks truth, but also factors patience for change into the equation, as Jesus did.

Compassion takes a person's hand, and if that person is willing, leads them into freedom by leading them to Jesus.  

Thus, we must make an inventory before we speak, and look without wavering into our motivation for saying what we want to say.  Let us ask with bold honesty:
  • Are my words based on the full counsel of God (Acts 20:27)?  Or have I cherry-picked verses to satisfy my position?
  • Have I prayed for the right words in the right tone?  The right words delivered in a harsh tone will destroy their potential for a positive message.
  • Have I prayed for the other person's heart to be open to the words I say?  Pray for tilled soil in this person's heart, so that the seed of the Word will fall into a productive place.  Only the Spirit can prepare the soil.  No argument ever won a person to Christ. 
If the answers fall in line with His Word, then I must speak, trusting that:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Is. 55:10-11)

Walk in His authority and in His love.  The two are inseparable, as we and the Lord should be.


I am indebted to Lloyd John Ogilvie's The Greatest Counselor in the World--A Fresh, New Look at the Holy Spirit for the part on the three meanings of the word "judge."



























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