The Thing about Secrets…

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The Thing about Secrets…

2 Kings 17:7–20

This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They had worshiped other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had introduced. The people of Israel secretly did things that were not right against the Lord their God. They built for themselves high places at all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city; they set up for themselves pillars and sacred poles on every high hill and under every green tree; there they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the Lord carried away before them. They did wicked things, provoking the Lord to anger; they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this.” Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law that I commanded your ancestors and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” They would not listen but were stubborn, as their ancestors had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. They despised his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their ancestors, and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false; they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do as they did. They rejected all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves cast images of two calves; they made a sacred pole, worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. They made their sons and their daughters pass through fire; they used divination and augury; and they sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.

Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. The Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel; he punished them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had banished them from his presence.

John 6:25–35

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

The thing about secrets is… they don’t stay hidden. Tweet: The thing about secrets is... they don't stay hidden.

Time and life have a way of unraveling our conspiracies, setting the truth free. In fact, I believe that the best kept secrets are ones with a very specific plan to reveal the truth to certain people, at certain times. How many people have kept a secret for the majority of their lifetime, only to have it publicly shared upon their death. These post-mortem confessions have revealed thousands of hidden heroes and villains throughout history.

We love a good mystery, but the payoff for us occurs when the truth is at last revealed. In fact, our anticipation grows with every truth revealed. The question, the curiosity, the unknown secret may draw us in, but it will not keep us unless the truth is at last revealed. Cliffhanger stories in books and movies, the ones that end with too many questions, too many secrets left uncovered, are notorious for inciting the rage of audiences. Things can be hidden for a time, but they must eventually come into the light.

Sinning in Secret

Sin often begins in secret. Perhaps our conscience leads us to believe something is wrong, so we try to keep it hidden. Sometimes we are unaware of our own misdeeds and they are kept secret, even from ourselves. It starts small, but accumulates over time as we begin to realize that, once we start, we can’t stop. Habits form. Our expectations change. We become unsatisfied with what we have and want more, so we take what is not ours, harm relationships, and despise others from afar.

We become addicts. There is a lot of shame connected with that word, but, depending upon whatever sin is connected with it, we may or may not realize we have an addiction. People who are addicted to idolatry today are not called addicts, they are called fanatics or groupies, and they simply spend their time and energy worshipping a sports team or performer. They are not seen as being shameful, perhaps just a bit overcommitted to one cause. When we become fanatics of our own family, we are called devoted and we wear that name with pride. Yet loving something more than God is still a sin, and we will keep it in the dark, often by avoiding talking about God at all.

Sometimes we are forced into sin. Children are sold into sexual slavery every day. They are used to transport and sell drugs. We have used children all throughout history to get our own way, oppressing them into becoming sinners themselves, under our authority. I think God probably judges that a bit differently than when we go off sinning of our own initiative… however, that sin marks those children and often shapes them into becoming oppressors themselves later in life, addicted to their own sin and destroying the lives of others. At some point, everyone has to take responsibility for their own actions.

That leads us to the next type of sinner: the one who won’t stop. Addicts are the ones who have no power to stop sinning. Yet there are others who simply enjoy their sin too much and choose not to stop. This is us when we just don’t care enough. We want our way, regardless of what it will cost others. I think the best example of this is not the wealthy man abusing his servants (something that seems distant from ourselves) but the grumpy customer abusing her waitress, never satisfied with her order. Those who verbally insult and attack customer service people, treating them as less than human would fall under this category, as Jesus taught us that we are not to only love God, but also to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Complainers quickly become abusers of others and without gratitude, there is no grace present.

Seeking in Secret

Secrets are not inherently sinful though, they are simply meant to be temporary. Many good things begin in secret. Some of the followers of Jesus began by seeking Him in secret. Nicodemus, for example came to Jesus at night, when others would not find them, and learned about the Kingdom of God. Jesus Himself described His kingdom, almost as something invisible. It was a secret. Not a secret He was trying to hide from the world though… it was a secret He was trying to reveal.

Yet even in the revealing of this secret, Jesus took care that it was not passed like gossip in the street market. He shared about the coming kingdom in parables that invited people in, but made them have to do some seeking themselves. They had to work to discover the mystery of Jesus.

Some people did not want to have to do any seeking. They just wanted to be protected, healed, and fed. They wanted the miracles without the teaching and definitely without any commitment on their part. Their secret was that they believed in Jesus, but they did not believe in His Kingdom or His mission… and they wanted to keep that secret as long as possible.

Those who sought him during the day were sometimes looking for a quick fix to the problems they faced in life or sometimes just to fit in with the crowds around them. Those who sought him in secret were taking a risk and were looking for the truth about Jesus and the Kingdom He was bringing with Him.

How to seek

Aren’t we supposed to be open in sharing our faith with others? Yes, but there is a difference in sharing your doubts and questions and sharing what you have learned from Jesus. Sometimes we get the two mixed up and we are very public with our doubts, instead of taking them to Jesus in private prayer… and we are too timid with the testimony we have when Jesus makes a difference in our lives. As Jesus said himself,

“Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!”

How then do we seek God?

First, we need to get out of our personal darkness. We cannot seek God and hide from Him at the same time. That is not a limit on God’s ability, it is a limit of ourselves. Either we want to be found by God, or we do not. We have to decide for ourselves first.

Second, we need to seek the light of Christ. Disappointment with the results of Modern (18th-19th century) philosophy led many 20th century thinkers to conclude that anything could be true except Jesus. Having a bias against something is just as bad as having a prejudice towards something. It’s the flip side of the same coin. You cannot call yourself open-minded and refuse to seek Christ on principle. Tweet: You cannot call yourself open-minded and refuse to seek Christ on principle.

Does this mean you cannot find truth anywhere other than Christ? No. But Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of God insomuch that all truth resonates in Him and all lies are exposed by Him. Because He is the Truth1, He can act as the ultimate filter of what is true and what is false. We however, will miss out on that benefit if we refuse to seek Him.

What secrets do you fear coming to light?

What can you do to bring Christ into those secret places in order to set you free?

  1. John 14:6

Fear That Makes Us Forget

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Fear That Makes Us Forget

Exodus 33:1–6

The Command to Leave Sinai

The Lord said to Moses, “Go, leave this place, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, and go to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, or I would consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

When the people heard these harsh words, they mourned, and no one put on ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, and I will decide what to do to you.’ ” Therefore the Israelites stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

Philippians 3:13–4:1

Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.

Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. 4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. “

Fear

When is it right for Christians to fear?

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With all the literature and Christian media out in the world that teaches us not to be afraid, and all of the media that strives to incite fear within us, it can be difficult to understand the relationship with fear that God intends us to have.

To begin with, we need to admit that fear is not inherently bad. It is a natural response to preserve life (typically our own). Here, natural does not automatically imply of the flesh or sinful. It means, God created us this way. One could argue that there was no fear until sin entered into the Garden of Eden, but you don’t find any eating (especially of meat), clothes, or even much communication between man and woman until after the fall. Basing the absence of fear on one passage here is a little shaky.

It becomes even more tenuous when faced with the number of times God Himself commands us to fear… usually Himself. But this is not really fear, it is actually a command to love, you might think. I’m not so sure. There are separate commands to love God, and these commands actually use the word translated as love as opposed to a separate word used for fear. Why use two separate words if you mean the same thing? Because fear is not a sin. It is not inherently wrong.

If I had to sum up what holy fear is, it would be the fear that keeps us humbly obedient to God. Let’s say we are on a cruise ship out in the middle of the ocean. Some of us can swim very well. Others cannot swim at all. Even those who are willing to dive into the ocean will keep to the water closest to the ship because they know, without the safety of that ship, they will eventually tire and drown. Or they might get eaten by sharks… who knows! Either way, fear keeps everyone connected to their source of life and safety. It is the same with God. Fear keeps us connected or at least close by Him. It prevents us from wandering off down wrong paths, on our own.

When is it wrong to fear?

Just because God commands us to fear Him, does not mean we should fear everything else too. Many forms of idolatry, in certain cases even the literal worship of idols was motivated by fear. I would suggest that much of the religious sacrifice of humans and infants, both in ancient times and today, was and is motivated by the fear of something other than God. Abortion is a social issue that is riddled with feelings of fear – both for those for and those against it.

There is a difference between fearing actual danger and simply fearing discomfort. Some people would rather die early than face the discomfort of getting a serious medical exam. Some people take their own lives rather than face the discomfort of shame. Have I blamed all the popular social evils on fear yet? Some people would rather join in with racist groups and propaganda rather than face the discomfort of losing friends and family, and possibly being persecuted themselves, for the sake of standing up for what is right. Some would rather fight because trying to reason makes them feel too vulnerable.1

Doing the right thing, following God’s will is often not the most comfortable or convenient choice. There would be no reason for salvation, redemption, and empowerment by the Holy Spirit if following God was easy. Most of the time, it feels more like the path less travelled. How do you tell the difference between holy fear about danger and faithless fear around discomfort?

Forgetting

Some of the answer is going to always be intuitive. Danger and discomfort are subjective concepts… not everything is dangerous for everyone all the time. Choosing whether something is dangerous or merely discomforting is not the difficult part. Being honest with ourselves about why we made that choice is where we sometimes get into trouble.

You see, the experience of fear sometimes makes us forget things accidentally. Put another way, the source of our fear distracts us from remembering certain things. Sometimes, they are things like appointments. A few days ago a pipe burst in my bathroom, flooding the room and pouring down into the basement. In all the excitement (and fear of plumbing bills) I completely forgot choir practice that evening, well after the plumbing problem was solved. The experience of fear caused me to forget. Sometimes this happens in more drastic ways, such as when people awake to a house on fire and get clear out into the street before remembering that they have children inside. Fear makes us forget.

Sometimes, under the oppression of fear, we intentionally forget things, or choose not to remember them. Many Christians, when faced with open hostility to their faith, intentionally forget the warning that Jesus gave us when he said:

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” – Mark 8:28 NLT

We just don’t want to think about it, when we fear we might be in danger. We choose to stay back instead of stepping up in obedience. We choose to let fear lead us instead of walking by faith.

Remembering

Memory works both ways. Sometimes we accidentally forget. Other times we accidentally remember. We have moments when we get a chill, or we suddenly feel warm. We get goose pimples and shake, and many other symptoms that sometimes seem like the oncoming of illness… yet we know that is not it. We know that we have been in the presence of God, because He has reminded us of Himself, and sometimes a specific thing He has done.

Those moments, when God spontaneously enters our lives and reminds us, are powerful and important. Yet God does not intend to lead us around on a short leash of divine interventions. Intentional times, set aside to remember God’s love and power in our lives are not only more efficient… they are commanded. Indeed, the Last Supper, the Institution of Holy Communion, was given to us as a command to remember the mighty works of God in our world and in our lives.

Taking time each day to intentionally remember God is a way of choosing to go forward, choosing to let faith lead. We lose our reasons to fear when we let faith lead us, specifically our faith that God will be there for us every place He leads us. It is not faith in ourselves and getting our own way, it is a faith that wherever God commands us to go, He will be our guide and provider.

This is where Faith connects to Love. John tells us, there is no fear in love. We may begin our journey following God out of fear, because we are afraid of life without Him. As we grow however, we begin to follow Him out of love for what He has done and is doing in our lives.

What fears distract you today?

What love do you need to remember to help you choose faith?

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  1. That says something right there!

The Warning

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The Warning

Exodus 32:15–35

Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, written on the front and on the back. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” But he said,

“It is not the sound made by victors,

or the sound made by losers;

it is the sound of revelers that I hear.”

As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.

Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” And Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are bent on evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off’; so they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

When Moses saw that the people were running wild (for Aaron had let them run wild, to the derision of their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. He said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor.’ ” The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. Moses said, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.”

On the next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.” But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.”

Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf—the one that Aaron made.

Jude 17–25

Warnings and Exhortations

But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; for they said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.” It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on some who are wavering; save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.

Benediction

Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Prediction of sin

There are cries of joy and cries of pain, and they are unmistakable. They are universal. But there is another kind of cry too. It is a cry of ecstasy, of revelry, and of wild, unfocused celebration.

Tweet: There are cries of joy and cries of pain, https://ctt.ec/T4p71+ is another kind of cry too ...a cry of ecstasy, revelry, and wild, unfocused celebration.

We all experience temptation, but some of us like the experience more than others. It is one thing to get caught up in the trap of sin. It is another thing altogether to go looking for it. We may be weak and prone to failure, but often we bring trouble upon our own heads simply because we went looking for it. Experiencing failure creates an expectancy that we will fail again… and again… and again. We do not have to live very long before we actually have a harder time imagining ourselves withstanding and getting victory over temptation in our lives. Failure looks more like the reality, and so it becomes.

Where is God in the mess of all this? God knows and prepares for our sin. One of my own personal pitfalls I fell into as a teenager was that the holiness of God was like being clean… which meant God could not get dirty. (Cleanliness is next to Godliness perhaps?). At the time, I thought it was showing reverence to God… separating Him from the common and broken in our world. What I did not realize though was that it was actually limiting Him and forcing Him out of our world. More importantly… it wasn’t true. Genesis 2 shows us in the second creation account that God has no problem getting His hands dirty, quite literally.

Let’s be honest though, our hesitancy to put God and sin in the same room together has nothing to do with dirt. It has to do with guilt and worth and the spiritual stains that mark us. So where is the scripture that shows us that God can handle our sin fullness? Just look at Jesus.

Promise of Holiness

The Jews were waiting for a Messiah and their religious and political interpretations of the Messiah were so intertwined as to be almost indistinguishable. Religious purity was the same as political purity and the Messiah had to be both for them to accept Him. So if you want a good scripture to begin seeing how God handles being in the presence of sinners… start here: Luke 7.

This chapter has one story after another of Jesus coming into contact with different kinds of uncleanness: gentiles, sinners, etc. As it turns out, what it means for God to be Holy means that His Holiness is not threatened by our sin… it overcomes it. In fact, most interactions we have with the holiness of God tends to leave us marked for the better.

God’s holiness changes us, even accidentally. We react to the truth when we come into God’s presence. It gets our attention and often gives us a sense of warning of where not to go. We find forgiveness, grace, consequences, and discipline… often none of it comfortable or convenient, but all of it leading us someplace better.

The Apostle Paul tells us, therefore, we have no excuses. Not because Paul does not understand our natural bent toward sin. We have no excuses because God is able, and willing to help us, if we will only ask. Sometimes, we don’t even have to ask, we just have to be willing to receive it. Whether it comes as a cleansing spirit, purifying us from the inside out, or simply as a warning. We defeat the power of sin on us the same way we do everything else by faith. We keep our eyes on Jesus and follow His lead.

What sin would you predict yourself falling into today?

What promise of God encourages you to trust God to give you victory over that sin?

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Going to the Party

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Going to the Party

Exodus 32:1–14

The Golden Calf1
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your own wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”
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But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Matthew 22:1–14

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet2

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Celebration

What is this journey of faith all about? We’re going to a party! Tweet: What is this journey of faith all about? We're going to a party!

It is not one of those parties that you remember walking in the door and waking up the next morning, and nothing in between. It is not a party where everyone stands around dressed up, bragging about their accomplishments in life. The Bible describes it as a wedding party although it is probably not going to be like any wedding party you have ever been to. We could spend weeks and months digging deeper into what exactly is meant by this wedding, probably chasing down quite a few rabbit-trails on the way… but this much we can take as a foundation: This party is about starting a new life together with God.

How to get there? That is probably the most commonly asked question. From Nicodemus to Billy Graham, and beyond to the great seekers , apologists , and even atheists – everyone wants to know how to get there. So how do we get there?

It’s not about finding a map or going through a series of motions. Traditional weddings were thrown by the groom’s family (the bride brings a dowry to share from her family) and were probably held at the groom’s family home. The groom would build on additional housing on the family land to be the new home for his wife and himself. So, how do we get there? Just like Rebekah in the book of Genesis, we follow our groom back to his home. That’s how we get there.

What will we go through to get there?

The first thing we have to do to get to this wedding party is to leave home. I’m a bit biased, having left home a number of years ago myself and relocating to another state, but it strikes me that the first of many excuses many people give for not following Christ’s call on their life is that they were raised in a good home, in a good family, and don’t want or need to leave that. Sometimes it sounds like (and I know this is not the case) they are claiming they were born Christians and born in heaven already… and for many of them, they expect heaven to just be an extension of their own personal family they had growing up. They are going there to see mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa again.

I contrast that notion with the fact that nearly every follower of God in the Old Testament and follower of Jesus in the New Testament were asked to pack their bags and move out of obedience to God at some point or another. It is rare that I have met a Christian leader who was not called to change jobs or move away from family at one time or another. Our first step toward the wedding party is leaving home.Tweet: Our first step toward the wedding party is leaving home.

Along the way, we learn to trust in God’s provision for us. Without the comforts and control of our home environment, we can find ourselves lost, scared, running out of provisions, not knowing where we are going and not knowing how to get back. Every time my wife and I head out the door, we say “It’s always an adventure.” in the spirit of Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings. It’s not easy and it is not nearly as comfortable as just sitting at home… but the rewards for that adventure are so much better.

Relationships are forged in the fire, and our trust in God – our faith, is made real when it is put to the test. We may try to test God’s faithfulness all we want, but it will gain us nothing. When God tests our faith though, we find out what it really means to have a relationship with Him. Going through the adventure of life together helps us discover and form new ways of life with Jesus. We begin to practice here on earth the way we will live forever in heaven and in the New Creation. In our relationship with Him we truly become a new creation ourselves. How we get there and what we go through do not matter near as much as how we are changed and prepared for eternal life.

Unholy Celebration

We get into trouble when we get ahead of ourselves. Like Aaron and the Hebrew people who pressured him in Moses’ absence, we are sometimes guilty of starting too early. We are impatient and want to skip to the end. We don’t just want to know the end of the story, we want to be there, missing all the stuff that happens in the middle, especially if we think that there are parts of the journey we won’t like.

Yet we know we cannot really skip to the end. So instead, we end up throwing our own party, instead of following Jesus to His party. That’s the devil’s real deal: –

It’s a trap! We cannot throw a party that brings us any real joy and hope because we are not sources of life… we are just the recipients of it. Even if we gave everything we had away, including our very life, the whole lot would run out before everyone made it to the party. Compared to the riches of Christ, we are all just beggars.

Sometimes we are not trying to replace God, we are just refusing to go further. Enough is enough, and we are tired, sick, sore, and have had our fill of suffering through this journey. As in marriages, there are points throughout the journey where the individuals question whether it is worth it to go forward at all. Some days it just seems easier to quit, to stop where we are, to sit down, and refuse to go another step. Perhaps this is why God commanded us to take breaks in our journey and remember how far He has taken us.

These attitudes and attempts to hijack God’s own celebration are wrong. They fall short, not because several details are off here and there, but because these kinds of parties or decisions are all about me. Jesus summed up the Law as loving God and other, and our attempts at trying to bring the focus of the world around us upon ourselves is not just missing the mark, it is working against God and causing others to stumble.

Holy Celebration

The great wedding celebration we are going to, on the other hand, is all about God. Well, almost entirely. We have a very important role in it. We are getting adopted (or married, depending on your perspective) into a new family. It is just that we are not the host. We are honored guests. Our role is simply to receive with gratitude as we observe the manners of our new home.

If we are meant to receive, what will we get? Our materialistic world is bent on owning things. We have all forgotten the real power of relationships. In loving relationships, mi casa es su casa… what’s mine is yours. We actually gain more through being present in relationships than we could ever acquire by buying, winning, earning, or stealing on our own. This is the lesson the prodigal son learned that his older brother could not grasp. What we get is a relationship with God, an invitation into His family, and because we get that, we get everything.

Something else happens as well. We change. The journey from where we are now, to where God is taking us, changes us and makes us into the kind of people who fit in God’s kingdom. We cannot find our own way to fit, but God can make us fit. That is the ultimate gift we receive. New life. New life that doesn’t break down and quit because it is faulty. New life that only grows brighter with each day we spend with our God. Now that is something to celebrate!


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  1. (Deut 9:6–29)
  2. (Lk 14:15–24)

The Threat of Life

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The Threat of Life

John 12:1-111

Mary Anoints Jesus

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The Plot to Kill Lazarus

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

I’m not big on perfume or cologne. I went through that middle school phase where we all wore too much cologne all the time, but ever since then, I’ve not cared for it much. It makes me wonder, why Jesus just sat there and let Mary put a whole pound of perfume on him. Apparently, so did everyone else. Judas went so far as to complain about it. I find it unusual that he complained about the money that could have been saved, but no one complained about the smell.

I believe I recall Dr. Ben Witherington teaching that this perfume may have had the special purpose of anointing the bodies of the dead during the funeral preparations. This might be the kind of thing the women were taking to Jesus’ body on Easter morning. Why then, did Mary have it at the point? Was she one of the few who honestly believed that Jesus was heading to His death, and if so, why was she putting it on Him so early? Dr. Witherington suggested that this may have originally been bought for her brother Lazarus who did indeed die, and whose body had begun to stink 4 days into his burial. Judas was right in that it probably cost Mary and Martha quite a bit of money to purchase, which makes me think it was something they had saved up while Lazarus was sick, or that they had saved and sold as a final act of love for him. The gospel accounts do not tell us for sure, but if we take it to mean that this perfume was meant for Lazarus, who was then raised from the dead, Lazarus did not need it anymore and by bringing him back from death, Jesus had, in a strange way, earned that burial perfume for Himself.

The second passage here speaks to the growing concern about Jesus gaining popularity with the people – particularly because of the resurrection of Lazarus. Many had seen him dead and witnessed that resurrection, so it could not be easily denied. Both of these two accounts deal with the threat that new life brought to the people around Jesus.

What do I mean by threat of new life? We all have a script for life that says something like: you are born, stuff happens, then you die.

The most important thing you can do is stretch out the “stuff happens” part as long as you can… preferably with good things. But what if that script is wrong? What if Jesus showed that for some people, their script read: you are born, stuff happens, then you die, then you come back… and life goes on forever after that?

If you knew that you would be raised into a body that would not get sick and hurt ever again, but you would have to have your heart stopped for a few days to get it, would you do it? I think many people would. I think there would be a long line of people who would trade away self-preservation for the chance at a life without pain. New life.

If this were offered, the medical industry would go out of business. Economies would crash. People would quit caring about things like they do now. Some of us might just become self-absorbed slobs who quit caring about work, food, anything… why rush? We only have forever. But I think there might be others who would make it there purpose to make sure every person would have the chance to experience this as well. World peace and an end to suffering all over. The very existence of these kind of people could topple governments and would be a threat to anyone in power. It would be a messy blessing.

Death is really less of a threat than life eternal because we know we all face death anyway. Death is not a punishment, it is a normal part of our script. Life, however, is much more uncertain… and uncertain can be scary.

How do you hope to experience the new life found in Jesus?

What part of that new life do you hope to experience today?


  1. (Mt 26:6–13; Mk 14:3–9)

The King of Humility

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The King of Humilty

Matthew 21:1-111

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

“Tell the daughter of Zion,

Look, your king is coming to you,

humble, and mounted on a donkey,

and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” “


  1. (Mk 11:1–10; Lk 19:28–40; Jn 12:12–19)

Seeing is believing

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Seeing is believing

A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection1

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”

“Behold!” He said.

It was not the first time Jesus had this discussion with them. At the beginning of their time following Him, Jesus had told them there would be a cross involved. They would suffer, as He would suffer. This was not the second time either. This was the third time He sat them down and explained what was going to happen in Jerusalem, and now it was almost too late to turn back. They had spent 3 years together trying to get to this place, and here they were in the home stretch. Jesus was preparing them for the big finale.

Yet somehow it took them all by surprise. Why was that?

As wild as our imaginations can be sometimes, they are all fairly limited to recycling material we have seen before. I find it oddly humorous to note the number of television episodes that are based on real life situations. We cannot invent enough new crimes for late night TV so we borrow from the local newspaper and spice it up a bit. Then someone watching that program is inspired to commit a crime of their own based on that, with a twist. They end up on the internet news the next day and the TV writers have new material to work with. It’s an endless cycle of rehashing the same old stories.

Even Disney got involved, not only reselling age old fairy tales, but remaking their own former versionsof them and marketing them as such. (I’m excited to see what Guy Ritchie will do with the Aladdin remake!)

All that to say, when it comes to imagining totally new things, we are not so good at it.

So when Jesus tried to explain that victory over sin and death would come from a cross and that new life for everyone would come when He was brutally executed… well, remember these people had never seen movie special effects. I’m sure they passed it off as something to be taken spiritually or philosophically, but not literally. I mean, even for those who actually saw it all happen, most could not even believe it then.

A few months ago I had the privilege of riding on an airplane during a thunderstorm. It was Incredible watching the lightening bounce from cloud to cloud, so high up in the air. It struck me then, like it must have struck the first astronauts about how few people in the history of the world had ever seen what I was witnessing right then and there. Seeing something as simple as lightening expanded my beliefs about what God can do. What about you?

What has Jesus told you that you may have to see to truly believe?

Can you walk with Him a little further today, even if you cannot see the big picture yet if where He is taking you?


  1. (See also: Mt 20:17–19; Lk 18:31–34)