The Good


The Good

Exodus 7:14–25

The First Plague: Water Turned to Blood

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water; stand by at the river bank to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was turned into a snake. Say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you to say, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.” But until now you have not listened. Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord.” See, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall be turned to blood. The fish in the river shall die, the river itself shall stink, and the Egyptians shall be unable to drink water from the Nile.’ ” The Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over its rivers, its canals, and its ponds, and all its pools of water—so that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout the whole land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’ ”

Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and of his officials he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the river, and all the water in the river was turned into blood, and the fish in the river died. The river stank so that the Egyptians could not drink its water, and there was blood throughout the whole land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts; so Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians had to dig along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the river.

Seven days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile.”

Matthew 12:22–32

Jesus and Beelzebul1

Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see. All the crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.” He knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

The Gospel message has been sometimes reduced to Good News -> Bad News -> Good News [(although some leave out the initial Good News)( The initial Good News is that God created us to be good. The Bad News is that we chose to reject God and our place in the world. The second Good News is that God sent Jesus into the world to forgive and redeem us, giving us a second chance and the grace to do better through the Holy Spirit.

That is the forest view, oversimplified, a bit rough, and a bit crude. It cuts through sweeping landscapes of fields and forests, river valleys and barren canyons, mountains and minefields. God’s grace is not a line graph or a V-shape, it is a continent whose physical features tell a story, not a formula and we cheapen our worship and witness of God when we reduce Him to what He does rather than who He is. (The way we often confuse human beings with human doings)Tweet: God's grace is not a line graph or a V-shape, it is a continent whose physical features tell a story, not a formula and we cheapen our worship and witness of God when we reduce Him to what He does rather than who He is.

There are more than two instances of Good News. Even in God’s judgment, sometimes even in punishment, there is Good News to be found. Consider the first of the plagues against Egypt. All their water turned to blood. God started off small, but very visible. Everyone would have noticed their water had gone bad. However, it was only the fish who were killed, and the livelihoods of the fishermen disrupted.

The imagery was strong and undeniable though. Just as you killed the Hebrew children in the previous generation, so now you will literally bathe in and drink blood. For the Egyptians, who had similar values of cleanliness, this would have been one of the worst kinds of uncleanliness they could face. In one day, God showed the entire nation to be unclean because of the sins of their past.

The Good news of this judgment is that God gives us warnings. He does not leave us without conscience or concept of law and order and often times He spells out our wrongdoings plain as day. When trying to discern God’s will I have found that while God may be slow to say yes, His “no’s” are very quick and clear. A cruel god would leave us to fend for ourselves. One aspect of the Good News is that God does not expect us to figure it out all on our own.

But there is an even greater Good News. God does does not let wrongs go on forever. He rights them. Jesus Himself had no second thoughts about casting evil spirits out of people. Unlike His contemporaries, Jesus saw these people who often did horrible things as a result of their spiritual oppression, not as criminals, but as sick persons in need of a doctor. This may have inspired the notion that the Church is a hospital for sinners. I’m not completely in favor of that metaphor, but if it is the one we are working with, we need to follow Jesus’ own example and make sure it is a place that people actually get well. Jesus never intended the Church to just be a waiting room. Cures often involve drastic, even traumatic measures. Hospitals do more than hand out little pills. They surgically remove tumors, administer injections, and in extreme cases even amputate limbs and transplant body organs. Hospitals get the bad out and put the good in. So does God.

What good news is God sharing with you today?

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  1. (Mk 3:19b—30; Lk 11:14–23)

The Debt of Justice


The Debt of Justice

Genesis 28:10-19

Jacob’s Dream at Bethel

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

Romans 8:12-25

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Future Glory

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

In truth, this week we have only scratched the surface of a Christian perspective and responsibility for justice. It is a subject both deep and wide, and it is easy for us to get lost in it. However, it cannot be avoided. In many ways, it is like learning to swim. Some people never do and just choose to avoid water for their entire lives (which means they miss out on a lot of incredible experiences). Today however, we do not live in a remote desert wilderness, isolated from matters of justice. The entire world today is like the city of Venice, Italy where you can avoid water only if you refuse to leave your home. So we had better learn to deal with it.

Two very influential theologians today support this idea. Scot McKnight author of several books and a blog called Jesus Creed has been tackling the false dichotomy between social justice and personal evangelism in church ministry. These issues that have divided “evangelical” churches from “mainline denominations” for decades have come to a head where the whole Body of Christ has undergone enough loss and transition that we must face the truth of just how out of balance we have become.

No longer can social justice be attributed to a slippery slope to political socialism. Indeed, I suspect that when social justice does become political socialism it is not because justice is being done, but rather individuals neglect their own responsibilities for taking care of social justice issues, thus leaving it to the state to pick up the load. The difference between individual morality and social justice is only a matter of scope. Wherever many individuals are practicing good morality, you will have social justice, because, as Scot McKnight points out: the command we are given by God is to love God and neighbor.

I believe N.T. Wright another prolific author and blogger would wholeheartedly agree. He comes a bit more from the perspective of reinterpreting New Testament Theology as a whole, and in doing so has both garnished a bit more attention and a bit more controversy, particularly among evangelicals of a more Calvinist leaning. I believe, beyond the massive amount of New Testament research he has done as a historian and theologian, his greatest gift to the Church has actually been in rewriting some of the apologetic classics of C.S. Lewis, a scholar from Wright’s own church tradition.

As an example, Lewis wrote Mere Christianity, a journey into the Christian faith, starting from the philosophical point of belief in the existence of God – a very sensible, modern approach. Wright wrote, as a post-modern interpretation of that book, Simply Christian (notice the title connection). Instead of beginning at the philosophical point of belief in God, Wright begins with the concept of justice, of right and wrong, and our experience of the brokenness of the world. You have to get through most of Lewis’s book to end at that point.

Why does Wright begin there? Because that is the starting point for most people today. Belief in God is no longer a theoretical issue, something we can convert people with well-crafted logical arguments. It has to have some meat on it. There needs to be some practical application. The post-modern world cries out with JamesYou believer that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that…”. What difference does your faith make? That is the first question of non-believers (and believers alike) today. That question inherently involves justice.

Every leader in the Old Testament from Moses on dealt head on with issues of justice, and in fact, most social justice movements today take their cues from the Old Testament prophets. Pre-Moses (so if you limit yourself to only the book of Genesis) you still find justice in the Patriarchs indirectly. Whereas they spent less time arbitrating peace among others, every one of them was called to give up their own self-serving way of life and follow God in a way that blessed others.

Paul articulates personal involvement in social justice in this way: We are not debtors to the flesh, but to the Spirit of God. He describes the suffering we are called to not because of our own wrongdoing, but on behalf of others. It is precisely how we follow Jesus.

Where do you notice and experience injustice in your life today?

How is God calling you to respond?

Sharing Responsibility


Sharing Responsibility

Exodus 14:9-25

The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.”

The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”

Matthew 7:15-20

A Tree and Its Fruit1

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

More and more, thanks to people like Buck Brannaman and Jackson Galaxy, we are discovering that animal care, whether they be exotic pets or livestock, is done better by leading than by driving. It is safer for us and the animals and far less frustrating if we get some degree of understanding of the animals with which we live and work.

Gizmo, one of my two cats has developed her own communication system with me. She is incredibly finicky about her litter box being clean and staying clean all the time and when she wants my attention (a.k.a. she wants her bathroom cleaned) she reaches up near the television and begins to paw at anything she can pull down there. For too long, I thought she was actually after something up near the TV. In fact, she just noticed, that was where my attention seemed to be and she wanted it, and, like many children discover, doing something irritating is a quick way to get attention. Food, Water, Bathroom, these three main needs she has, and her trick to get my attention is to paw at the TV or, if that doesn’t work, paw at me directly, tugging on my elbow if I’m sitting down.

God could have driven the Hebrews from Egypt, but instead He chose to lead them. Even when they had Pharaoh on one side of the parted Sea and the road to the Promised Land on the other, they still had the choice to turn back with every step they took, and they knew it too. Yet God does not drive us like cattle into His kingdom. He invites us. He speaks to us. He understands us. He treats us not as equals, for that would be untrue and not helpful as we do not live and act perfectly the way God does. He treats us instead as His children (although this is still a stretch for us).

There are times when He disciplines us and when the world begins to crash in upon as a consequence of sin and brokenness, and God pulls us out without our say so. Most of the time though, He simply sends the invitation, often with a small gift for the day, and waits patiently for us to follow. He often does this through other people, and in doing so, shares responsibility with us for helping transform the world into the full potential He created it with. Our challenge is then to determine which of the many messengers that come our way come from God.

Thankfully, Jesus gave us some help with that. “You will know them by their fruits.

Where is God leading you to take responsibility in His Kingdom?

What fruits have come from your efforts serving God?

  1. (Mt 12:33; Lk 6:43–45)

Fear, Justice, and Blessing


Fear, Justice, and Blessing

Ezekiel 39:21-29

Israel Restored to the Land

I will display my glory among the nations; and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. The house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God, from that day forward. And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt treacherously with me. So I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them.

Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for my holy name. They shall forget their shame, and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they live securely in their land with no one to make them afraid, when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have displayed my holiness in the sight of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God because I sent them into exile among the nations, and then gathered them into their own land. I will leave none of them behind; and I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God.

Hebrews 6:13-20

The Certainty of God’s Promise1

When God made a promise to Abraham, because he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Human beings, of course, swear by someone greater than themselves, and an oath given as confirmation puts an end to all dispute. In the same way, when God desired to show even more clearly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it by an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Depending on which side of justice you stand on at any given moment, you may have a variety of feelings. Typically we associate anger as the feelings of the victims of wrongdoing, although this is not always the case. Likewise, we often expect some degree of fear in the perpetrators, especially if they have thus far escaped punishment. When we are faced with issues of justice involving an all-knowing and all-powerful God though, we get pushed into one of those two camps: anger or fear, even more often. People change. God does not.

Mark Batterson writes about letting go of fear and distraction and focusing on your immediate surroundings. In his book, The Circle Maker Mark challenges us to start small, in our immediate areas of concerns (desires and fears) and begin to pray for revival to begin in those areas. It is a beautiful concept and it relates well to how we experience and involve ourselves in justice.

There is so much injustice in the world, that it is impossible to take it all on at once. So instead, we break it up into various pieces and assign them different degrees of worth. If I asked you personally, which was the worst kind of injustice: racial injustice, economic injustice, spiritual/religious injustice, or political injustice – you might tell me they are all equally bad. However, a quick glance down your Facebook page would probably give us an idea of which of these you focus on more, to the neglect of others. We can’t do it all. Our best and brightest look for the connections between various forms of injustice, and while they may be seeing the bigger picture, it does not make correcting situations easier, it only make it more complicated..

So for today, lets focus on something we can actually work with: our own justice issues. What if we drew the circle around ourselves and asked God to bring justice there? How would that make you feel? Fearful or happy? Could you really stand for God’s will to be done through your life, even if it was not being done in everyone else around you?

Yet the path to true blessing goes through justice, just as the path to eternal life goes through the cross. You have a cross too. Jesus did not die on a cross so you could avoid justice yourself. He died on it so that you would live through the experience of justice being done. And that may not be truly accurate either, because He calls us to come and die so that we might be raised again (born again) in new life. We ourselves have to undergo justice and put away all that is not in God’s will if we are going to reach blessing on the other side.

What fears come to mind when you think of justice being done in your life?

What joys come to mind when you think of justice being done in your life?

What can you do today to invite God’s will and justice to be fulfilled in you?

  1. (Cp Gen 12:1–3)

Chosen to Bring Justice


Chosen to Bring Justice

Isaiah 44:1-5

God’s Blessing on Israel

But now hear, O Jacob my servant,

Israel whom I have chosen!

Thus says the Lord who made you,

who formed you in the womb and will help you:

Do not fear, O Jacob my servant,

Jeshurun whom I have chosen.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,

and streams on the dry ground;

I will pour my spirit upon your descendants,

and my blessing on your offspring.

They shall spring up like a green tamarisk,

like willows by flowing streams.

This one will say, “I am the Lord’s,”

another will be called by the name of Jacob,

yet another will write on the hand, “The Lord’s,”

and adopt the name of Israel.

Hebrews 2:1-9

Warning to Pay Attention

Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.

Exaltation through Abasement1

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,

or mortals, that you care for them?

You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;

you have crowned them with glory and honor,

subjecting all things under their feet.”

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

One of my favorite television shows over the last decade has been Leverage, a show which was a modern day take on Robin Hood with elements of Mission Impossible (Condolences extended to the family of Martin Landau), one of the stars of the original Mission Impossible television series – a great show of that time period). Unlike the superhero movies which have grown in popularity since the Marvel Universe took off just prior to 2010 (Iron Man, Captain America, and Avengers) the team of “heroes” on Leverage do not have superpowers. Well, that is not entirely true… they have super skills, sometimes impossibly good skills in computer hacking, acrobatics, martial arts, and cooking. They represent a buffet of the height of human potential that always threatens to veer off that pinnacle and crash upon the rocks of self-interest and villainy. Essentially, they constantly struggle with the cross of being “good at” something and being “good for” something, as they seek to use their abilities to right wrongs and bring justice to those who have escaped or been denied it.

All of these shows have reflected and inspired our culture with the idea that one person can make a difference and that a team of people can make a real difference in the world, and furthermore, that you and I should be out forming teams to make a difference in the world. In comparison with the popular law enforcement shows of the 90’s and early 2000’s, this new brand focuses on you and I taking over when the official instruments of justice fall short. Pulling back out of the television, we also have seen a rise of publicized protesting and violent attacks – some in the name of justice and others due to a variety of other factors. There is backlash again as supporters of law enforcement counteract these cultural forces in a vast cultural discussion across the nation about justice and our role in it as citizens, written not with ink or type, but with blood on the streets. Going further, if we are to be honest, this whole discussion would probably take place with real words instead of guns were it not for the heavy influence of drugs and money – and the interconnectedness between them – that has permeated our society. In a very real sense, I fear many are fighting in the name of justice, but have crashed upon the rocks of self-interest, having been pushed off their pinnacles by drugs and money, the real villains of this story.

Scripture reminds us, and Hebrews in particular, that we all, as God’s children, are given a special privileged place in the world, along with responsibilities that go with it. God places us above the angels themselves in value, even if we do not have the supernatural power given to them. If we choose just a few verses of scripture, we can make a case that God created us to be super-powered instruments of justice, out to set the world right. But if we read more thoroughly, God expands that thought and shows us how in a way that may surprise us.

The ultimate example of a superhero is not Batman or even Superman, but Jesus Christ. Yes, I know that sounds like a Sunday School answer, but here is why. It is not because Jesus is more powerful than any of them. It is not even because Jesus is without sin and they all have faults and failures. It is because, while they all embody power of some kind, Jesus Christ embodies – meaning he shows it all His very being – humility. Humility and Justice do not sound like good friends, but in fact, there has never been a better marriage than between the two. Looking at race riots in our nation, whose legacy lives on stronger: the Klan, the Black Panthers, or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s? The battles continue, yes, but only one of these groups has streets and buildings created in honor of them, and it was not because of power, but because of following the model of humility. Internationally, dictators vie for power to win the hearts of their people through fear, but one woman, Mother Theresa won the hearts of the world, Catholic, Protestant, and non-Christian alike… through humility.

Our challenge today, while the world charges us to fight for power, the many of those in power got there and fight to stay there, is to watch the example of Jesus in the scriptures and in our lives, and find ways to use humility to bring the much needed justice to our world.

How do you experience the humility of Jesus?

Where do you see the need for justice?

How can you reflect the humility of Jesus in your own life to make a difference in those lives that need justice?

  1. (Cp Ps 8:1–9)

The Golden Rule vs. Karma


The Golden Rule vs. Karma

Obadiah 15-21

For the day of the Lord is near against all the nations.

As you have done, it shall be done to you;

your deeds shall return on your own head.

For as you have drunk on my holy mountain,

all the nations around you shall drink;

they shall drink and gulp down,

and shall be as though they had never been.

Israel’s Final Triumph

But on Mount Zion there shall be those that escape,

and it shall be holy;

and the house of Jacob shall take possession of those who dispossessed them.

The house of Jacob shall be a fire,

the house of Joseph a flame,

and the house of Esau stubble;

they shall burn them and consume them,

and there shall be no survivor of the house of Esau;

for the Lord has spoken.

Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau,

and those of the Shephelah the land of the Philistines;

they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria,

and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.

The exiles of the Israelites who are in Halah

shall possess Phoenicia as far as Zarephath;

and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad

shall possess the towns of the Negeb.

Those who have been saved shall go up to Mount Zion

to rule Mount Esau;

and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.

Matthew 13:10-17

The Purpose of the Parables1Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:

‘You will indeed listen, but never understand,

and you will indeed look, but never perceive.

For this people’s heart has grown dull,

and their ears are hard of hearing,

and they have shut their eyes;

so that they might not look with their eyes,

and listen with their ears,

and understand with their heart and turn—

and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

Everybody needs saving, but nobody wants to save anyone else. God let Israel know, through the prophet Obadiah, that this attitude won’t get us far. “As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.” The idea of universal reciprocity is not a new one, especially in the Eastern Hemisphere, through the philosophical and spiritual concept of Karma. I must profess ignorance as to how Judaism and Islam respond to this concept, but Christian apologists claim that karma does not exist, especially on a spiritual level, because of grace.

The West seems to fall in love with it over and over again because it seems fair, and we like the idea of getting what we think we deserve. This is really attractive if we are an extremely good person and deserve reward. However, if you believe, as the Apostle Paul did, that we are all sinners and deserve punishment, karma is not a comforting thought. Paul believed that any good we receive in life is not our just rewards served to us by the karma-infused universe.

I think there is another reason to question karma as well. Justice does not always happen. That may be why the concept of karma was created. On the whole, lets say the guilty are punished and the benevolent rewarded 75% of the time2. That would make karma the rule unless it is broken by the 25% of the times that justice does not occur. In those occurrences, the idea is that sins not punished in this life are punished in the next, through a cycle of endless reincarnation. Here is where it really breaks down for me though. Since the proponents of karma fully admit that justice is not always received in this lifetime, they apply the idea of past-life consequences to present day ethics. What that means is that, to them, if something bad happens to you, you probably had it coming, perhaps from a past life, and if something good happens to you without reason, it was from a former good life you lived. The next step of this philosophy is applied to socioeconomics which creates levels of society based upon wealth and then reinforces it morally so that the wealthy are viewed as good, whether they act so or not. Their sin is excused away as either something that will be dealt with in the next life, or as something they deserve to get away with because of good they have done in a former life. The whole moral structure is built upon the assumption that we live many lives and are only judged across the span of them, not in the present.

Jesus, on the other hand, taught that justice is coming for everyone, but not until the very end. In the meantime, we are all given grace, simply by the postponement of judgment. Further grace is given in forgiveness – which sounds simple at first, but involves a substantial cost. For God to be just, a price must be paid, but rather than exact it from us, God took that punishment upon Himself by giving up His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. In doing so, God demonstrates the Golden Rule as a way to live life, even when justice does not reward you immediately. Whereas karma teaches us to live unselfishly for selfish gain, God’s Law encourages us to live unselfishly for unselfish reasons. With no guarantee of reward, it looks like God is crazy, and that is why Jesus explains that many people just won’t get it because they are looking out for themselves, not looking to obey God and be good. God’s way seems harder, true, but in the end, there are no guarantees for reward for the good we do. And if Paul is right, justice may not bring the happiness we desire anyway.

How do you desire to be treated?

How do you treat others in your life?

Where do you yearn for justice to be accomplished?

You can find out more about Jesus and Justice by checking out my book Jesus Politics here.

  1. (Mk 4:10–12; Lk 8:9–10)
  2. Although I think this is a high estimate

Holy Evolution


Holy Evolution

Jeremiah 49:7-11

Judgment on Edom

Concerning Edom.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:

Is there no longer wisdom in Teman?

Has counsel perished from the prudent?

Has their wisdom vanished?

Flee, turn back, get down low,

inhabitants of Dedan!

For I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him,

the time when I punish him.

If grape-gatherers came to you,

would they not leave gleanings?

If thieves came by night,

even they would pillage only what they wanted.

But as for me, I have stripped Esau bare,

I have uncovered his hiding places,

and he is not able to conceal himself.

His offspring are destroyed, his kinsfolk

and his neighbors; and he is no more.

Leave your orphans, I will keep them alive;

and let your widows trust in me.

Ephesians 4:17-5:2

The Old Life and the New

Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Rules for the New Life

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. 5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

If the word “revolutionI” implies a turning back than I suppose the term “evolution” must, in its pre-Darwinian root mean a turning forward. Most of us are against both revolution and evolution because it implies a change of natural state for us into something we have not yet seen. Even if we want to have a revolution and return to a time 50 or 100 years ago, we never truly go back, we just change into something similar, but different.

It happens in politics and it happens in our own lives as well. We grow and change and it makes us uncomfortable not knowing what tomorrow will bring. The death of Fidel Castro is a good example of this. The people of Cuba have been split as to whether to see this as a moment of new freedom or a reason to fear the future, for while Castro brought fear into many who did not support his policies, he also helped protect Cuba from being taken over by the drug lords that threaten and hold much political power throughout much of Central America. Change is not necessarily good or bad… it is just change, and we may encounter a bad surprise if we take on the attitude that it cannot get any worse than it already is.

Darwin’s evolution theory/concept/however you define it, is based upon the idea that the strong1 survive and the weak die. However, the definitions of strong and weak are rather fluid and undergo a kind of evolution themselves. What was considered strength 3000 years ago – muscles, child-bearing hips, an ability to go long periods of time without food or water, do not get you as far today. Communication skills may not have been key back in the ancient world, but they certainly are a strength today. It’s more than brains as well. The kinds of things that get you ahead today are not necessarily math and science in the classical sense. In our market-saturated economy, people skills and behavioral analysis have taken precedence over chemistry and geometry. What was once considered weakness is now considered strength… and still we continue to change.

God has another take. He brings justice down upon the strong – particularly the strong who lord it over others instead of caring for them. Then He invites the weakest of the weak to come join Him and be honored. That is Who God is throughout all of scripture, and He calls us to take on that same character ourselves. We are asked to turn over our strengths and serve in weakness, trusting in Him instead of ourselves. It is a holy evolution, that works contrary to what we all, creationists and evolutionists alike, consider to be the basic law of nature. We think if we want to survive and thrive, we have to be strong. God shows us that if we want to live and live abundantly in His grace, we have to be weak instead. Are you weak enough to live in the grace and justice of God?

What do you consider your greatest strengths to be?

What weaknesses do you struggle with?

How is God redeeming all of these?

  1. To be fair, Darwin’s claim was survival of the fittest not necessarily the strongest, but the concept remains the same.