Archive for March, 2010

The Prince of Peace

We know the story, or so we think, because we heard about this stuff in Sunday School. It’s the story of Palm Sunday, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Book of Luke tells it best as Luke transports us back in time to the last week in the earthly ministry of Jesus (Lk 19:28-48).

 Wow, what a week it was! With His instructions to the disciples to go and find the colt in the village, Jesus seems to be doing exactly what His disciples expect Him to do; take charge, make a bold statement, enter Jerusalem as the Messiah that He is.

 The crowds in the city have swelled to several hundred thousand, filling the streets of Jerusalem as pilgrims and residents of the city prepare for the Feast of Passover, the most memorable feast in the history of the Jewish people.

It is this Passover feast that celebrates and recognizes God’s deliverance of the nation of Israel from the slavery of Egypt. The Seder meal of lamb and bitter herbs and other symbolic foods will be eaten this week, reminding the first century Jews that God freed their ancestors from the oppression of Egypt.

Jesus however, is not traveling this road as a revolutionary, He is traveling the road as the Prince of Peace.

This was an occasion which called for praise… yet the Saviour is met with anger and assaulted with demands from the Pharisees. “Teacher rebuke your disciples,” they shout; because the disturbance has become intolerable. And here comes the comment of the event, the comment that would focus their reality…

Jesus answers, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

 Stones crying out? Now there is an odd concept. What our Lord is saying here is that there are times and seasons that God’s children are suppose to define and proclaim to the world, because they are the ones best fitted to do it. They experience the mighty works of God. They know Who it is who is behind these things. They are the ones who should understand the meaning of “triumph”; after all Jesus has become known for His ability to overcome all broken-ness and crush all darkness. The disciples are the ones set apart by God to proclaim the greatest Truths and to help the world experience God’s heart. But what if they won’t do it? “Well then,” says Jesus, “the stones will cry out.” That is, that which is not designed for this purpose, which is not particularly prepared for it, will begin to define the Truths for a stiff necked people.

I believe that in a very real way we either listen to the kind message of grace that comes from the Prince of Peace or on some level we are introduced to the voice of judgement. We can give our ear to our Heavenly Father’s invitation and remedy the ache of our troubled souls or the violent stirring of disaster looms heavy at our back door. There are praises which God desires to be uttered, if for no other reason than to sharpen the clarity of a national hunger for Peace… within.

Were this Prince of Peace not to be received then we all would miss the day of our visitation (Lk 19:41-44).

We will not be saying “oops, sorry I missed your call,” but finding no stone upon another, our enemies will bring forth our destruction. Hear the praises and visitation is a sure thing, but silence the human voices and the stones’ volume will become deafening.

You see what makes for peace is not a lack of strife, but the recognizable Presence of the Prince… He is our Prince of Peace!

Words & Passion

Please let me speak

Hi My name is James

Some things you just have to stop talking about. I find it amazing that humans use so many words in a day… its in the thousands. I can honestly say that I have never counted my words, but there is research that tells us that the average person uses over ten thousand words everyday. This makes my ears hurt just thinking about it.

If we look at the concept through Biblical eyes we see some interesting principles. I think we often believe conversations are pretty innocent, that words are just tools for communication and we should have the right to freely express ourselves. The problem with words is that they carry power, because they hold a seed within them, they are a fruit of our life’s passions. They express our beliefs, our feelings, our perceptions and our thoughts, so unless they are governed by great character and a set of well balanced internal spiritual laws; they can carry lots of potential damage to all who listen… even to the one who is speaking them. Sometimes those seeds get lodged in the soil of listening hearts and begin to produce curses and brokenness (Mt 12:36). So I repeat: there are times when you just have to stop talking about some things.

One of the most valuable principles to me, about words comes from the New Testament book of James. He says, “Therefore my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save the souls” (Jms 1:19-21).

  1. The word “swift”, (tachus) in Greek means quick, fleet and speedy and seems to encourage our passionate interest in being hearers.
  2. The word “slow”, (bradus) in Greek means dull and inactive, like a couch potato during a lazy afternoon of watching TV.

So what I find interesting about these two words is that they both speak about our passion… the desire and motive for doing something. James is saying “be intentional”… be very passionate about hearing, while at the same time, do not let passion be the reason for speaking. The key principle in James’ thought here is controlling our passions. Speaking is not evil, but it must come out of a proper motive. 

Talking too much often leads to passionate outbursts and God is wanting us to understand that this is not righteous behavior and can even destroy or hurt, those who listen. Remember that the listeners are doing their listening with great passion… sometimes listening can be a painful experience.

The answer to our problem is in the “implanted word” which can save the soul. Its this implanted word that transforms the passions of our life. We are called to get rid of those things that pervert our judgement and blind our reasoning skills, like filthiness and wickedness, because they make our passions go off course. We should remind ourselves often that this implanted word is alive inside of us in the person of the Holy Spirit and that He will help us if we yield to His Presence. We are New Creatures in Christ and we have power within to guard our passions. The Bible says,

“Guard or keep your heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life” (Prov 4:23).

If we will choose to guard our hearts and control our passion through practicing these new habits of being swift to listen and slow to speak, then I am confident we will have greater impact on the world around us.

More Boldness

I want to bring a thought that has never been so real to me than in these recent days. In our Western Culture and particularly among Christians in the “Bible Belt”, people perceive offending someone as the worst sin in the world. I believe it stems from a disrespect for authority and a disregard for honor.

I have watched people of incredibly poor moral character come unglued when somebody gets corrected by a voice of authority around them.

Some people act like they are the spiritual truth police, when somebody gets their feelings hurt.

Oh my you just offended “Sister so-n-so” …why, who do you think you are… asking her to wait and share her comments at the end of the service? Its amazing to me to watch how hypocritical people can become.

Jesus dealt with this issue all of the time… from being misunderstood (Jn 10:6, 19-20) to accusations of blasphemy (Jn 10:33) to even plotting His death (Jn 11:53) and finally (without cause) crucifying Him. An innocent man – Pilate said “…I find no fault in Him.”

It is the character of the hypocrite to judge others more harshly than we judge ourselves(Mt 7:1-3).

“None is righteous, no not one…” says the Apostle Paul (Rom 3:10), altogether we find no person in the Bible who claimed to be perfect. Yet when it comes to offended people, there is probably more blood shed on that basis than any other problem in our world today. Let me add that many folks can become offended over the color of your socks.

So much of what we get offended by is not sinful behavior at all, but would be classified as somebody’s personal preference.

 I hear the words of Jesus when He addressed this issue, “hypocrites… you strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Mt 23:23-24). Interestingly Jesus in this passage is calling the Scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites” because they would pay their tithes in front of the crowds to be seen, yet they would omit the weightier issues of the Law like justice and honoring their parents or loving their neighbors.

I know people who have children they won’t even speak to, because they got offended by the choices they made that were different than their parents’ generation. The sad thing about this issue is that I do not believe it will change until Jesus returns.

Offense is a choice we make when we do not feel safe… we lash out or we hide away and allow our selfish heart to rule our behavior.

These feelings are toxic and are the root system of most division and strife that show up in our Christian fellowships. Note: the Pharisees in Jesus’ day chose to be offended because they believed Jesus was a threat to their position (Jn 11:48). They could not feel safe around His teaching and healing ministry because people were following Him… the system was unable to stretch to embrace the New Life found in His ministry.

The Prophet Jeremiah was told to rebuke the “Shepherds” who were preaching soft words, Elijah sternly dealt with the Prophets of Baal, John the Baptist commanded all the Jewish leaders to repent and bear fruit that showed an openness to the coming Messiah and now for some silly reason we cannot call each other into accountable relationships for fear of offending somebody’s feelings. Well, I say enough already its time to step out and declare the Truth of this generation’s failure with a willingness to repent and not hide behind our positional titles or achievements to keep peace at all cost. Like the early Apostles’ prayer after Peter was released from jail (Acts 4:29-31), we must seek God for more boldness

the kind that stirs up the feelings of the religious and shakes the atmosphere in those places we are called to have influence.

The School of Hard Knocks

How many of life’s lessons have you learned through the “school of hard knocks”? I’ve certainly learned a few that way. They make great testimonies if you survive them, but I don’t recommend it, because its the hard way.

There’s a better way! God’s Word is full of great teaching experiences with individuals just like us… people given as examples for us to understand ourselves and our connection to a God we cannot see.

I decided a long time ago that if I could study God’s Word and see myself in the pages of those stories, it would be a much better way to learn and a lot less painful.

 It doesn’t make the “school of hard knocks” irrelevant, because I still remain a lifetime member, but it helps me realize I do not have to repeat my mistakes all of the time in order to get the message.

Let’s look at an account of Jesus ministering salvation to a man in the Bible story called “The Rich Young Ruler” (Mk 10:17-22). We see here an example of a man who really desired to have eternal life and although he was actively pursuing it, he was continually sensing in his heart an emptiness that left him wanting more. His intent seemed pure, because we see him run to Jesus and kneel at His feet. If desire or good intentions could obtain salvation, he would have gotten it, but Jesus as the author of eternal life, didn’t accept his conditions.

Many people today don’t consider that it is really important what you believe. I have heard people say, “it’s just your intentions that count”.

The example shown by this rich young ruler proves that there is more to our salvation than good intentions.

 This man was seeking the right thing, and he even came to the right Person, but he was bound by his love of riches and wouldn’t surrender his heart. The rich young ruler walks away from Jesus sad and without hope, yet the “Giver of Life Eternal” stood ready to instruct him in the very thing he wanted.

This story illustrates better than any how we all learn… when we set our hearts to hear we gain understanding, but when we are bound by other things then nothing gets through.

So often the “school of hard knocks” kicks us around until we determine to set our hearts right.

I would encourage you to not wait for the rough treatment in the “school of hard knocks”, but look into the living Word of God and find the wonderful Truths that people just like you discovered in their journey with God.

My favorite verse speaks to this very issue: (Jn 20:31) “…these were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Faith & Humility

More and more I am becoming convinced we are on the edge of an enormous Kingdom breakthrough across the globe. Yet as my heart expectation grows, my awareness of just how far I drift at times from living a Spirit empowered life bothers me.

No matter how I think I am doing spiritually I know there must come a balance between my faith and my humility. I find faith without humility inevitably becomes presumption, while humility without faith never ascends above oppression.

Consider with me that the nature of faith is to possess the promises of God and to overcome the forces of darkness that aim to destroy our access to our spiritual inheritance. Israel was commanded by God to possess the Promised Land and to remove the present inhabitants because God had already given the land into their hands (Deut 6:23 & 7:1-2).

 Scriptures tell us… without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).

 So I truly believe, faith unites the human heart to God. Christianity without faith is like a computer without electricity… all the circuits may be in place, but there is no light, no power and no access to the promised potential.

Yet, where faith possesses the promise; humility surrenders to the One who made those promises. Christ as our example of the perfect balance of spiritual faith tempered by humility, laid down His life and said that we also should lay down our lives for one another.

The Bible is clear that there will be a time when every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil 2:10-11),

…that the kingdoms of this world will finally become the kingdom of our Lord (Rev 11:15).

However, Christ’s response to subduing the world is that He then “delivers up the kingdom to the . . . Father” (1 Cor 15:24).

 This is the humility of Christ: what He conquers, He then surrenders. I find in myself the faith to conquer, but less of the humility to surrender. You see, the motive behind the exercise of our faith must mature until what we have gained through faith becomes an offering we now surrender back to God. Our goal is not only to create a better life and see breakthroughs personally… but through surrender, to extend the Kingdom of God into all the Earth.

Faith brings to Earth heaven’s provision… while its humility that brings God’s promise into those provisions.

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