Saturday, November 23, 2013

First Things First

First Things First, But Don’t Neglect The Others

1. "God never tires of forgiving us." Gospel truth.

"And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him." Luke 15:20

"If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared." Psalms 130:3-4

"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." Heb 8:12-13

"My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world."  1 John 2:1-2 (NLT)

2. Jesus went about doing good.

a)What Jesus didn’t do. His public ministry only lasted three years, and in those years his sweep of ministry was incredibly narrow. He is God. Think about all the things Jesus didn’t do.

• He didn’t reform the government

• He didn’t solve orphan care

• He didn’t wipe out poverty

• He didn’t improve medical care

b) Jesus taught principles that applied to all of these situations. Though Jesus had the opportunity, resources and ability to address many needs He limited himself to a very narrow mission; "to seek and save the lost".    Everything He did pointed to that one task. He knew that in this fallen world there will always be hundreds of desperate needs screaming for attention, but only one can be the most important.

"For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always." Matt 26:11

3. Jesus did good and set people free

"The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ--He is Lord of all--that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him." Acts 10:36-38

Although He healed people, fed crowds and occasionally raised the dead, Jesus didn’t make any of those the focal point of His time on earth. He knew the more time He spent focusing on secondary issues, no matter how desperate or urgent, the less time He had for the main thing.

a) Be ye warmed and filled.

"If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" James 2:15-16

As church leaders we believe our ministry or our church should be effective in a dozen or more areas. We feel obligated to meet as many needs, to fill as many gaps, to respond to as many crises as possible. How can we say we love God and not feed the hungry, care for the sick, educate the children, fight for the underdog, shelter the homeless, provide for the handicapped and adopt the orphans? All of this while we promote small groups, conduct church services, perform weddings and funerals, host VBS, send kids to camp, and counsel people in crisis.

b) Yet reaching out with Christ is still first priority.

"Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did." Acts 8:4-6

"Blessed are You, Lord our God: in Your love You create all things out of nothing through Your eternal Word. In Your love You redeemed the world through our Lord Jesus Christ. In Your love You empower Your people through the gift of Your Holy Spirit. For these and all Your mercies, we praise You: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Blessed be God forever!" [Old Prayer]

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Come To The Feast

All things are ready, come to the feast!

"Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' " And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God." Rev 19:9

"Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." Luke 14:23

"And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!" Luke 15:6

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me." John 6:44-45; Isaiah 54:13

At the heart of Christianity is an invitation to the Lord’s feast. The Church is "not only for good people;" the invitation to be a part of it concerns everyone. At the Lord’s feast we must "participate fully" and with everyone; we can’t pick and choose. Christians can’t be content with simply being on the guest list – not participating fully is like not joining in.

First of all, the Christian life is an invitation: we only become Christians if we are invited." It is a "free invitation" from God to participate. You can’t pay to get into the feast: "either you are invited or you can’t come in." If "in our conscience we don’t have this certainty of being invited" then "we haven’t understood what a Christian is."

A Christian is one who is invited. Invited to what? To a shop? To take a walk? The Lord wants to tell us something more: You are invited to join in the feast, to the joy of being saved, to the joy of being redeemed, to the joy of sharing life with Christ. This is a joy! You are called to a party! A feast is a gathering of people who talk, laugh, celebrate, are happy together. I have never seen anyone party on their own. That would be boring, no? You have to party with others, with the family, with friends, with those who’ve been invited, as I was invited. Being Christian means belonging, belonging to this body, to the people that have been invited to the feast: this is Christian belonging."

The Church is not the Church only for good people. Do we want to describe who belongs to the Church, to this feast? The sinners. All of us sinners are invited. At this point there is a community that has diverse gifts: one has the gift of prophecy, another of ministry, who teaching. . . We all have qualities and strengths. But each of us brings to the feast a common gift. Each of us is called to participate fully in the feast. Christian existence cannot be understood without this participation. ‘I go to the feast, but I don’t go beyond the doorway, because I want to be only with the three or four people that I familiar with. . .’ You can’t do this in the Church! You either participate fully or you remain outside. You can’t pick and choose: the Church is for everyone, beginning with those I’ve already mentioned, the most marginalized. It is everyone’s Church!"

Jesus said some who were invited began to make excuses: "They don’t accept the invitation! They say ‘yes,’ but their actions say ‘no.’" These people, he said, "are Christians who are content to be on the guest list: chosen Christians." This is the Church: to enter into Christ is a grace; to enter into the Church is an invitation." And this right cannot be purchased. "To enter into the Church is to become part of a family, the community of Christ. To enter into Christ is to participate in all the virtues, the qualities that the Lord has given us in our service of one for the other. To enter into the Church means to be responsible for those things that the Lord asks of us." Ultimately, to enter into the Church is to enter into this People of God, in its journey towards eternity." No one is the Star of the Church: but we have ONE," Who Has Done Everything. God "is the Star!" We are His followers . . . and "he who does not follow Him is the one who excuses himself" and does not go to the feast:

The Lord is very generous. The Lord opens all doors. The Lord also understands those who say to Him, ‘No, Lord, I don’t want to go to you.’ He understands and is waiting for them, because He is merciful. But the Lord does not like those who say ‘yes’ and do the opposite; who pretend to thank Him for all the good things; who have good manners, but go their own way and do not follow the way of the Lord: those who always excuse themselves, those who do not know joy, who don’t experience the joy of belonging. Let us ask the Lord for this grace of understanding: how beautiful it is to be invited to the feast, how beautiful it is to take part in it and to share one’s qualities, how beautiful it is to be with Him and how wrong it is to dither between ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ to say ‘yes,’ but to be satisfied merely with being a nominal Christian.

Monday, November 4, 2013


“Strange Fire.”  How is this to be understood?  We certainly do not want to find ourselves fighting against God.  Acts 5:34-39.  We should read the Bible as we do a newspaper to learn facts.  And we should read with a sense of the mystery which God is performing in this world. 


Nadab & Abihu were disobedient to God in an arrogant way.  They showed a contempt for holy and sacred things.  [Compare Acts 5:1-11 and what happened to Ananias & Sapphira.]  It is implied that they were drunk when they offered this strange­ fire.  It is also implied that they were in competition with Moses & Aaron and the Jehovah system.  Perhaps they were tainted with the idol worship of the Canaanites?  This must all be understood in view of the dedication of the Tabernacle.  God Himself had given the priesthood to Aaron, and it was not a family thing just because Aaron was Moses' brother.  This dedication was a very solemn thing and this had to be impressed on the people that it was Divine Authority in action.  God was speaking to these former slaves in ways that they could relate to and understand.


Note that Aaron and his other two sons were not punished.  They had done what they were told to do (Lev. 8:4-36; 9:1-24).  "But the offense was of a far more aggravated nature than such a mere informality would imply. It consisted not only in their venturing unauthorized to perform the incense service -- the highest and most solemn of the priestly offices -- not only in their engaging together in a work which was the duty only of one, but in their presuming to intrude (unauthorised entry) into the Holy of Holies, to which access was denied to all but the high priest alone. In this respect, "they offered strange fire before the Lord"; they were guilty of a presumptuous and unwarranted intrusion into a sacred office which did not belong to them. But their offense was more aggravated still; for instead of taking the fire which was put into their censers from the brazen altar, they seem to have been content with common fire and thus perpetrated an act which, considering the descent of the miraculous fire they had so recently witnessed and the solemn obligation under which they were laid to make use of that which was specially appropriated to the service of the altars, they betrayed a carelessness, an irreverence, a want (lack)of faith, most surprising and lamentable. A precedent of such evil tendency was dangerous, and it was imperatively necessary, therefore, as well for the priests themselves as for the sacred things, that a marked expression of the divine displeasure should be given for doing that which "God commanded them not."—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary


"And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the Lord spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.'  So Aaron held his peace."  Lev 10:3 (NKJV)   "Then Moses made careful inquiry about the goat of the sin offering, and there it was--burned up. And he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron who were left, saying, 17 "Why have you not eaten the sin offering in a holy place, since it is most holy, and God has given it to you to bear the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord? 18 See! Its blood was not brought inside the holy place; indeed you should have eaten it in a holy place, as I commanded."  Lev 10:16-18 (NKJV)  But Aaron explained: "And Aaron said to Moses, 'Look, this day they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord, and such things have befallen me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord?' 20 So when Moses heard that, he was content."  Lev 10:19-20 (NKJV) 


"Aaron, whose heart was too much lacerated to bear a new cause of distress but his two surviving sons in the priesthood for the great irregularity. Their father, however, who heard the charge and by whose directions the error had been committed, hastened to give the explanation. The import of his apology is, that all the duty pertaining to the presentation of the offering had been duly and sacredly performed, except the festive part of the observance, which privately devolved upon the priest and his family. And that this had been omitted, either because his heart was too dejected to join in the celebration of a cheerful feast, or that he supposed, from the appalling judgments that had been inflicted, that all the services of that occasion were so vitiated that he did not complete them. Aaron was decidedly in the wrong. By the express command of God, the sin offering was to be eaten in the holy place; and no fanciful view of expediency or propriety ought to have led him to dispense at discretion with a positive statute. The law of God was clear and, where that is the case, it is sin to deviate a hair's breadth from the path of duty. But Moses sympathized with his deeply afflicted brother and, having pointed out the error, said no more."—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary.  NOTE THAT GOD ACCEPTED THIS.  They had acted in faith and not arrogance.  They were not arrogantly defying God as did Nadab & Abihu.  They had respected God even though they had omitted some of what they were told to do.  Note: "For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Romans 4:3 (NKJV)  Aaron and his remaining sons believed God.


"Moses rested satisfied with this answer. Aaron acknowledged that the flesh of the sin-offering ought to have been eaten by the priest in this instance (according to Lev. 6:19), and simply adduced (believed), as the reason why this had not been done, the calamity which had befallen his two eldest sons. And this might really be a sufficient reason, as regarded both himself and his remaining sons, why the eating of the sin-offering should be omitted. For the judgment in question was so solemn a warning, as to the sin which still adhered to them even after the presentation of their sin-offering, that they might properly feel 'that they had not so strong and overpowering a holiness as was required for eating the general sin-offering'" (M. Baumgarten).

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Life Is Stranger Than Fiction

Life is stranger than fiction

“Ordinary life is serious stuff.”

Remembering Harvey Pekar.  I thought this was worth passing on.

 [This is adapted from some things Harvey wrote in American Splendor, a cartoon strip in a magazine. He was a Jew with roots in Poland. The NYT Book Review: "Pekar lets all of life flood into his panels: the humdrum and the heroic, the gritty and the grand." The Chicago Sun-Times: "[Pekar] has a vision that makes daily city life – a ride on the bus, a run-in with a boss, or simply buying bread – dramatic.”]

I Gotta Work To Pay The Bills
It’s 5:15 AM, just before I HAVE to get up.
In a couple of weeks I’ll be Fifty-four.
One more year and I’ll be Fifty-five AND
I’ll have my thirty years in with the VA.

 But I can’t retire on that pension – 56%
of my present salary. Oh! Oh!
When I was Forty I thought I could do it.
Now the time is HERE and I CAN’T.

SO, what’s the end for me? WORK!
Work until I DROP! HAH!
My income as a writer isn’t good enough
to fill in the shortfall. Golden years!!!

 You get OLD, can’t rest. Work, work, work -
then the GRAVE!

Meanwhile, your health goes. CANCER.
A deteriorating hip. Oh I’m scared
of getting a hip replacement. A week
in the hospital with those antiseptic smells.
Crazy people screaming at night.
So you can’t sleep. And they wake you up!

 I’d rather keep on limping the rest of my life.
The pain’s not too bad. I can do my work.
But now I see the END!
You work – to keep alive – to DIE.

 You kid yourself into thinking that stuff matters.

I’m so scared to get up out of this bed.
I’m TERRIFIED. But there’s only one way
for me to go since I’m not gonna KILL myself.

 Push up outta this bed, and get inta the
dumb routine. Get involved in the boring work.
That way you don’t think about DEATH,
at least not for a while.

Get tired. Go home. Read a book.
(One you’re supposed to do a review on.)
Nod off at 7:30 with your CLOTHES on.

 The LUCKY ones think it means something.
Wish I did. Work – to live – to DIE.

But I got PUBLISHED! In a real magazine!
In the best Jazz magazine in the country!
A nationally distributed magazine!
Plus I wrote for Downbeat!

 It made me feel like something more than
a file clerk in Cleveland (which I am).

And record and CD reviews.
At least I get paid a reasonable amount.
And I still love listening to the music.

 The first writing I ever had published
was when I was 19, by the “Jazz Review.”
For the next 17 years I wrote for a variety
of American, Canadian, and English Magazines.

 I focused on great musicians who had been
ignored, but who were fantastic!

Well, let’s get this thing going.
I think if you feel rotten most of the time,
you’re always gonna feel lousy,
Your glass is always gonna be half empty.
Anyway, I look at it this way –
anything that doesn’t kill me
could be the basis of one of my stories.

[PS: Hope is why Jesus is important.  John 16:33.]

Jesus knocking at your door

This is JESUS knocking at your door.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." Rev 3:20

"And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully." Luke 19:5-6

Satan wants us to think that God has turned off His phone, closed His door, and written off the human race. But JESUS (who is God) is at our door, knocking and asking to come in to share Life with us.

1. Christ the Lord.
When Jesus decided to go over to Zacchaeus’ house, the crowd was appalled. They all "began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house.’" If Jesus had cared more for what people said about Him than for what God was asking of Him, Zacchaeus would have continued in his sin, and the countryside would have continued to suffer from his injustice. But Jesus knew His mission, and He didn’t let vain gossip and opposition deter Him from it. He is the Lord, and He will rule His Kingdom according to His own standards, whether or not everyone else is comfortable with it. True Christians will do likewise.

2. Christ the Teacher.
In this passage Jesus teaches us about Himself. He provides a living parable that illustrates the entire meaning of the Incarnation, and then, just in case we didn’t get the message, He summarizes it for us: "The Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost." Christ’s whole life while He was on earth was dedicated to bringing people back into friendship with God.

"So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, "Come back to God!" For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ." 2 Cor 5:20-21 (NLT)

3. Christ the Friend.
Zacchaeus was joyful because salvation came to his heart, but Jesus was even more joyful, because the shepherd loves the sheep more than the sheep can ever love the shepherd. Jesus brings joy to our hearts whenever we welcome Him into our home, our soul, and our mind. Jesus longs for us to reach out to Him in faith as we eat the Lord’s Supper. Now, in prayer we speak to Jesus of our plans, our hopes, and our struggles.

"I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." John 10:14-15

4. Christ in my life.
God, what did You create me for? You made me to live in communion with You. You want me to get to know You, more and more, for all Eternity, as best friends keep getting to know each other better – and the more they do, the more enjoyable the friendship becomes. I want that too. I want to share in Your work. Whatever You want me to do, I want to do, because I want to follow You…

"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him." 2 Cor 5:17-18 (NLT)

"And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." John 17:22-24

"You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you."
John 15:14-15

"Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah." Acts 3:19-20 (NLT)