WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Friday, August 31, 2018

It’s Tradition! - 9/2/2018


Mark 7:3-9
(The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!

We Love Traditions…
It used to be tradition in our family to “help” babies celebrating their first birthdays to make a mess of their birthday cake (and themselves).  The theory is that a baby left alone with a birthday cake will naturally shove their hands into it (up to their elbows) and plow into it (face-first) as well.  That’s the theory anyway.  However, if a baby in our family ever deviated from the theory then it was expected that somebody would help out by giving baby a little shove on the back of the head sending it face-first into the cake – and that was how a picture perfect moment would be born.

Our lives are filled with traditions, from the simple every-day tradition like which sock we put on first in the morning to the elaborate way in which we celebrate Christmas; then our traditions get more magnified as we add in elements of the spiritual.

Jesus as Tradition…
In many ways, the traditions that we have in our times of the worship of Jesus are not problematic.  Our methods and customs in worship are comforting as we actually need familiarity.  Have you ever noticed that you like songs at church that you actually know and sung in a way that you can sing with?  I actually believe that many of our traditions are good as they help us to worship.  However, there is also a limit to the worth of our religious traditions.

In the American culture, Jesus has become a huge tradition.  A majority of America claims to be Christian because they “believe” in Jesus but few would admit to being a “devout” Christ follower.  This culture of Jesus tradition makes us sort of stupid at times as we claim to be subservient to God in Christ but we create all sorts of dumb stuff to burden ourselves and loved ones.  Read the scripture above if you don’t know what I mean.  Because of our traditional Jesus culture I have a motto that states, “Jesus is not as petty as we are."  Seriously, think about the things that you do in your religious life and ask if what you do actually matters to Jesus who sacrificed his life for you.

The main problem that I see with our Jesus tradition is that our personal worldly traditions easily bleed over into our spiritual practices - and we call this“right”.  In our culture we place a very high value on self –reliance and working hard.  These qualities I agree with because they are great qualities.  The problem is that these qualities fail at the Cross.

The Cross is NOT Traditional…
In our culture, we wear crosses around our necks as adornments.  However, the Cross is the exact opposite of what we value as humans.  We value self-reliance and hard work but the Cross of Jesus demands dependence and trust in someone else, leaving us dependent and vulnerable. 
In the realm of spirituality, we largely depend on ourselves so that we will be acceptable to God.  We assess ourselves about how good we have been, or how well we have followed the rules, or how much money or time we have given.  And in these self-assessments we deem ourselves as acceptable to God or not.  And all the while the Cross communicates that your deeds and actions will never be acceptable
Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus went to the cross for one reason and one reason only, because YOU were not able.  In the grand scheme of things you were subject to the wrath of God.  As the offspring of Adam, you are under the curse of sin and death.  As the idiom goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and in this case you were as much under the curse of Sin and Death as our grand sire Adam.  The Cross proclaims that you are not self-reliant but totally-dependent as it calls us to give-up our self-reliance and trust in the death of a man who claimed to be God.

It is traditional to believe that somehow you can be good enough to please a Holy God when the reality is that you cannot.  The very idea proves that you need to get a proper understanding of what the Holy is.  The Cross of Jesus is an affront to human sensibilities of pride and work-ethic and doesn’t really make sense to us.  But it is in the non-tradition of it that we find acceptance by a Holy God.

The Peace that Passes all Understanding…
When Jesus hung on the cross, he held our sins and died because of them.  With his blood he gave to God the death required because of Adam's sin and that blood covered over our sins.  Now God calls that sin "justified" which is a term that simply means that the price has been paid and the debt is retired.  (This really is the ultimate of mortgage burning parties.)

When you and I go to the non-traditional Cross of Jesus, we must humbly repent and trust Jesus with our sins and then accept from him righteousness, and this is the justification of our sins.  This is the method of the nontraditional cross and this is the only way of salvation and peace with a Holy God.

Romans 8:1-2
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

When we have accepted Jesus as the Cross demands, we are no longer subject to God’s condemnation of sin because in Jesus we are given new life – the old has truly gone and the new has indeed come.

As we live our new lives of faith in Jesus we no longer live according to the traditions of men but we live completely dependent upon Jesus.  We live by faith alone in him, and that is the most difficult tradition of all.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Heavenly Realms - 8/24/2018


Ephesians 6:10-18

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

I always seem to forget that my struggles are actually a result of a spiritual reality; that even though my eye-balls may see a physical cause to my earthly woes, that the underlying reality is actually of a spiritual concern.

Have you ever seen the movie The Matrix? (1999)  It’s a sci-fi movie where the real world is merely a computer-generated wool pulled over the human’s eyes but a few people have broken free of the ruse and are determined to get the truth out.  The movie is of course fictitious but the element about the real-world being a ruse, that bit strikes true to the reality of the spiritual world in which our physical world exists.

When my wife and I are having a spat, I too quickly and easily get sucked up into the battle with her.  It isn’t until later after we have both said hurtful things to one another that I remember that the only one honored in a faltering marriage is the evil one.

When my children aggravate me because they are just being children, and then only after I have unloaded all of my adult fury and power over them, in order to wield them into physical obedience, do I remember that the Evil One desires for me to destroy my family.

When I discover at the end of the month that there is a whole lot more month than money and I begin to connive, cajole, bargain, and steal to make my month end as I want, I am reminded that it delights the evil one that I am not practicing faith and trusting in God.  

My life is like everyone else’s as there are countless trials and struggles, but when I stop and remember that my physical reality is merely a part of a much larger spiritual one, then it helps me to calm down and remember to adjust myself and take on a posture of faith; the faith of God through Christ my Lord.