The Third Commandment

www.bible.com/72/jhn.13.34.hcsb

Jesus was once asked what are the greatest commandments in the Law. He said that the two greatest commandments were the Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. These didn’t change with the advent of Christianity. We are still expected to follow these commands under grace. But Jesus then added a third commandment, one distinctive to the Christian faith and experience. He said that Christians ought to love one another. Weird, huh? It seems like that should be a given. If I love God and love neighbors, wouldn’t I love my fellow Christians?

It seems to me that Jesus knows us better than we think. But what commandments have we violated more than this? And do you know what excuse we use to avoid obeying this commandment? They don’t believe like we do. We don’t associate with them. We don’t fellowship with them. We don’t do anything with them that might look like we love them. Hmmm.

Should there be recognition of doctrinal differences? And are there boundaries that denominations should not cross, boundaries of orthodoxy? Is there orthodoxy? Should the Bible have the final say on what we ought to believe, or should the Church? Because if we are going to disobey this commandment of Jesus, then we ought to have a really good reason. Is our reasoning strong enough to “tithe mint and dull and cumin, but avoid the weightier matters if the law”?

This is the tension between love and truth. Many churches exclude others based on truth. Other churches avoid truth and include everyone based on love. Is the “other” in one another a person also saved by grace, washed in blood through faith in Christ Jesus who must also live up to a code of conduct expected of the Christian?

It is very easy for us to dismiss “one another” when they don’t believe as we do, or their practices are different. We may stand and point fingers at each and declare “heretic”! all day long. But we forget that we are all fighting he same battle, the same enemy. And this enemy has enjoyed much success because he has us fighting each other instead of him. Are there greater evils in the world than a rival denomination? It seems we have bigger fish to fry than making sure everyone believes in exactly the same way.

I believe that every denomination has a problem in its doctrine somewhere. Nobody has it right. And I don’t know if this side of heaven we’ll ever figure it out. But I do believe some have it more right than others. Certain essential doctrines like the resurrected Christ, His atonement for our sins, the veracity of the Scriptures, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church and a host of other things. But let us not turn on each other over petty things, like worship styles and architecture, crowd sizes and preaching styles. We have a bigger mission. Let us learn how to love one another, despite our differences, learn to combine our strength and defeat this enemy’s work among us.

God bless you all today.

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Obedient to Death

www.bible.com/72/php.2.8.hcsb

Nothing shows us the dedication to the mission like a willingness to die for what you believe in. Really, nothing else, not giving of bast fortunes or sending many others to fight. Nothing shows your dedication to an ideal by offering your own life as forfeit. It says that your belief is more important than life itself. We call such people martyrs.

So what did Jesus die for? He died for sin, the perfect sacrificial lamb for the sins of the world. He died for men, dying in their place to remove the pall of judgment upon their souls. He died for Himself, so that He could restore the relationship between Himself and men through portal of His sacrifice. He died so that He could demonstrate His own love for men by being raised from the dead and showing God’s power over death. As you can see there were many things going on that day.

But I think the most important reason is that He died for me. He died for my family. He died for my friends, so that we could all live together with Him.

Thank you Jesus for being obedient unto death, so that you could show me how to live.

God bless.

Bread and Water

www.bible.com/72/jhn.6.35.hcsb

We live in an age where food is king. In our culture, food exists on every corner. Our question isn’t “can we eat today?” But “where do you want to eat today?” Our options are almost limitless. Even the poor have “food stamps” to make sure they don’t go hungry. We emphasize how and where we eat. We also put priority on the kinds of food we eat. Are we getting enough fiber? Are there enough greens? What about protein? Are there too many carbs or sugars? Is it gluten-free?

When Jesus speaks to the crowds in rural Galilee, the people He speaks to don’t have any of those options. They can’t just “go out” to get something to eat. Their food was earned by the sweat of their brow and the tool of heir hands. As Paul says later, “a man who does not work does not eat.” We have surely disconnected the two. For Jesus to offer Himself as bread and water to this crowd was saying to them, “I offer you the essentials of your daily life. I want you to receive me as such.” He is bread and water they do not have to labor to receive. He is as basic and essential to life as these, and He offers Himself freely to them, so that they could really live. He offers them life beyond the borders of daily struggle to life abundant, life everlasting.

Something we overlook in our daily regimen is vitamin J. Maybe it’s time we included Him.

God bless you today!

Jesus Triumphant

www.bible.com/72/luk.19.38.hcsb

Was it a victory lap? When Jesus rounded the last turn and gazed upon the city from the hilltop, did He think He was coming in victory? The people certainly did. They proclaimed “Hosanna” and “Blessed be the One who comes in the Name of the Lord!” Jesus arrived as a King would atop a donkey. He did not arrive on a charger or war horse, but on a donkey, in peace.

We call it the Triumphal Entry, the Sunday before Easter just as it was in that week before the Resurrection nearly 2000 years ago. We celebrate it as Palm Sunday, for they waved palm branches before the donkey’s path into the city. But was it truly triumph that waited for Jesus? The synoptic gospels show Jesus making his way to the Temple and clearing out the money-changers, in effect, declaring judgment on those who would convert the house of prayer into a den of thieves, a place of merchandise instead of worship. No one dared oppose Him because they saw Him as a prophet, and prophets often did powerfully symbolic things. And then Jesus left the Temple and went back to Bethany. Did He walk back?

Jesus’ triumph seemed to be fleeting, for in a few short days, He would be hanging from a cross outside the city. They would be calling for this prophet’s crucifixion at the top of their lungs. He would be scourged at the end of a Roman whip. He would be dead before the week was over.

It is not triumph as the world sees. That’s what happens today. The world sees a King who did not take his throne. They could not see the King who longed for the throne in each man’s heart. They looked for s politician, not a Savior. Jesus knew that true change would not come through laws and rulers, but by His own blood. Let us celebrate the triumph of a Savior, not over enemies, but over death itself. That is Jesus triumphant.

Stop It!

www.bible.com/72/psa.46.10.hcsb

Almost always rendered “be still and know that I am God” I think HCSB nails the original context here. “Be still” can be understood so many ways, and even applied to situation to which it was not intended, like Christian Meditation (which isn’t Christian if you were wondering).

“Stop fighting” drags this verse right back into context. The passage is about the peace God gives when He puts an end to fighting by His mighty power and protection. While God is a man of war (Exodus 15:3) He also puts an end to war. God’s demand here is cease this pointless rebellion against His and His people. He will win. There is no point in your struggle against Him.

We talked this week in Small Group about rebellion. We have this rebellion we acquire through our teen years (or even when we are 2) of resisting what anyone tells us to do. I have two teenage girls in the house. We have our moments. We hate being told by others, want to be captain of our own ship and so on. We only rarely acknowledge our need for a parent until we are out of our depth. At the same time, we deeply desire the approval of our parents, showing that we can do it on our own. It is hard to manage this conflict.

God appeals to our deep need for a parent, a father’s love. It goes much deeper than we are willing to admit and is satisfied only in worship. I challenge you this morning to “stop fighting” and surrender to the One who made you.

Love you all. God bless.

Reap a Different Crop

www.bible.com/72/psa.126.5.hcsb

The Bible affirms the law of sowing and reaping. What you sow, you must also reap. If you sow bad behavior, you will reap bad consequences. If you sow kindness, you will reap the same. All of that works pretty much as predicted. And then there is this verse.

If the law of sowing and reaping holds, sowing in tears means you will reap a flood of tears. You have to sow joy to reap the same. But this verse stubbornly refuses to comply with the law as we understand it. This is a promise from God.

So we also need to quote verse 6. 6  He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. The law still applies (this in a literal sense). As we go out to sow seed, we are weeping. When we go to reap, we are joyful at the harvest. Tears aren’t being down, but seed. Tears reflect our emotional state as we are in the act of sowing.

I believe that when they went out to sow, this grain seed represented the last of their food, a sense of security. To sow it meant to trust their last meal to God with only hope of a return. This is not unlike sacrificial giving, when you give when it hurts to do so. When giving to God means you will be giving up something else that you treasure. That would be sowing in tears. The promise here is that you will reap with joy when the harvest is finally tallied. This is consistent with the law of sowing and reaping.

God bless you today!

Revolutionary

www.bible.com/72/rom.1.16.hcsb

Jews AND Greeks? Are you serious? God wants to save both of them? What about the Romans?

Seriously, the power of God is the gospel. Without regard to piety, reverence, law-keeping and ritual, the gospel has more power than any of these. The gospel is a story. It is the story of an Almighty Creator God who wants to save His Creation, namely Man from his own rebellion. So God sends His Son as witness and testimony to the care and love of God. Man kills the Son in the ultimate act of rebellion. The Son rises from the dead in order to demonstrate His forgiveness for sin. He is the God who loves us despite our evil to compel us to change.

This requires of us in humanity a desire to return. Under the right circumstances and conditions, something in us will revive that had died. It is our love for our father. Our desire to be approved and loved by our father. Our desire to make our father proud of us. It is as deep-seated in us as our need to breathe. It transcends culture and language. And the gospel is the power of God to restore that fundamental relationship despite our sin and grief and guilt. It is God who forgives, who stands ready to receive us back when we’ve realized in the hog pen that being in our father’s house, even as a servant, would be far better.

I challenge you with the gospel today. I know this world is lost and broken. It has Daddy-issues. But the gospel is stronger. The world has rebellion, strife, murder and death, but the gospel is stronger. It is the power of God unto salvation. And it is ours to wield simply by telling.

God bless you today.