Boasting in Jesus

Boasting in Jesus

On April 16th,  we celebrate Easter for the 1,987th time since Jesus rose from the dead in 30 AD.  What a great opportunity to boast in the Lord’s greatness!

What has Jesus done?  Well,  first he lived an absolutely perfect life,  never sinning once in thought or word or deed.  He loved the LORD his God with all his heart,  soul,  mind and strength.  He also fully loved His neighbor as himself,  praying for those abusing Him.

As the new-Aaron,  Jesus became the perfect high priest who reconciled His people to God (Hebrews 9:12).  In fact,  He is building those people into a new temple where God himself will dwell (1 Peter 2:5).

Jesus is the architect-builder of new Jerusalem–a holy city,  cubed just like the Holy of Holies (Revelation 21:16;  1 Kings 6:20).  In fact,  that cubed city measures 1,379 miles.  That’s something like the distance from Bryan College in Dayton to just beyond Gallup,  New Mexico.  A cube that size could fit inside the Moon,  and the eight corners would stick out over a hundred miles each.

As the new Joshua,  Jesus is dividing the land by lot,  giving it to the meek (compare Matthew 5:5 with Numbers 34:17). 

As the new Adam,  Jesus is creating a family of righteous people “having been made perfect” by God (1 Corinthians 15:45;  Hebrews 12:23).  Those redeemed people one day will perfectly share Jesus’ perfection (1 John 3:2).  Adam’s sin exiled all humanity from the Garden of Eden.  Thus,  God stationed Cherubs to guard the tree of life.  Cherubs were on the veil of the temple (Exodus 26:31).  When Jesus died on the cross,  His death ripped the veil in the temple in two (Matthew 27:51).  Those in Christ now have access to God in true Eden.

Jesus,  as the true seed of Abraham,  brings blessing to all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3;  Galatians 3:8).  That new spiritual family is growing,  in spite of opposition from everywhere (Isaiah 9:7).

Jesus as the new Moses wrote the law of God on the hearts of His redeemed.

Through normal, ordinary Christians,  Jesus has worked for unity among nations,  built orphanages,  worked prison reform,  passed child-labor laws,  cared for the homeless,  built Women’s shelters,  fought for the rights of the unborn,  and called out kings and governments for inconsistency to God’s law. 

Jesus is the lamb who takes away the sin of world.  His death clothes His bride with righteousness just as God clothed Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21;  Romans 13:14).  His redeemed share a paleo-orthodoxy which stretches the arc of human history.  His followers are changing the world.

On Easter,  let us all “Boast in the LORD.”

Jesus and the Living Dead

Jesus and the Living Dead

Perhaps the most pitiable person in the Bible is the man in Mark 1:40 who was terribly and utterly afflicted with leprosy.

Imagine having a disease so deforming that when people saw you,  they recoiled in disgust.  Imagine yourself reeking of rotting flesh,  oozing wounds,  and lesions.  Imagine fumbling to tie dirty bandages with deformed fingers or hobbling with rotten,  crippled feet. 

Lepers often have collapsed noses and blind eyes.  In fact,  the bacterium causing leprosy attacks the nerves so that eventually lepers harm themselves without even knowing it.

Many in the Old Testament had leprosy.  Miriam was struck with leprosy when she criticized Moses’s marriage to an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12:1-10).  God struck King Uzziah with leprosy when in pride he tried to serve as priest (2 Chronicles 26:21).  Gehazi extorted money from a healed leper,  Naaman the Syrian,  and God struck him with that same leprosy (2 Kings 5:27).

Aaron said of Miriam’s leprosy,  Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away” (Numbers 12:12).  So Leprosy was almost a living death. 

The Bible says that you and I were dead in our sins apart from Christ (Ephesians 2:1-3).  Spiritual leprosy infects us from conception,  and without Christ,  it destroys all.

In Mark,  the leper came to Jesus and said,  “If you are willing,  you can make me clean.”  He considered himself completely dirty before God,  and he knew he could not help himself.  Jesus touched him and said,  “I am willing,  be clean.”  Jesus is so powerful and so full of life,  that he transforms the living dead into a new creation. 

Could that be a spiritual picture of what Jesus does for us (2 Corinthians 5:17)?  We all were inevitably headed to spiritual destruction,  but Jesus’ power makes us new.

Moses outlines two gifts which the healed leper should offer (Leviticus 14:1-14).  Jesus tells the man to offer those gifts (Mark 1:44).

The first gift is two live birds:  one dies and bleeds into living water;  the other is immersed into that water and flies away free.  Then,  the priest sprinkles the healed man with that bloody water.  The second gift causes the healed leper to go through a ceremony which looks similar to the one which makes Aaron a priest (Exodus 29:20):  blood is placed on his right earlobe,  thumb and big toe.  Since those were areas often attacked by leprosy,  Jesus’ command implies he had restored the man’s ravaged body as well.   

Jesus pleads for his redeemed just like Moses pled for Miriam.  Jesus saves Christians from a life of utter living death.  May we all live in the joy and thankfulness of that healing.

When Jesus Smeared Mud on a Man’s Face

Disability,  Beggars and God’s Glory

Imagine that you are blind.  You’ve been blind all your life.  You want to see like everybody else,  but you cannot.

That was the life of the man born blind in John 9.  He had been blind from birth;  all he could do was sit outside the temple and beg.  Day after day,  living off the charity of others.  Never able to go into the temple.  Just waiting for someone to pity his miserable soul.

And sometimes that pity was not kind.

Children would taunt:  “Look at that guy.”  “I’m glad I’m not him.”  Adults would say,  “Don’t touch him,  he’s dirty.”  “Don’t get too close you might catch something.”

Day after day,  year after year,  how those words must have hurt.

But none hurt as much as those of Jesus’ disciples:  “Who sinned this man or his parents that he was born blind?” 

The blind man knew exactly what they were saying:  “This man or his family was so inherently wicked that God struck him with blindness from birth.”

Jesus retorts,  “Neither this man sinned nor his parents,  but this blindness happened so that the works of God might be evidenced in him” (John 9:3).  This man’s blindness is for God’s glory! 

Imagine you are the blind man at that moment.  You hear someone spit.  You have heard that before.  Did someone spit in disgust at you? 

Then you feel something slimy on your eyes.  Someone has taken spit and is smearing mud it all over your useless eyes! 

Now Jesus tells you to walk to the pool of Siloam about two football fields away.    

Why? 

John tells us “Siloam” means “the one having been sent.”

The disciples had the mistaken view (a view fully shared by the scribes and Pharisees) that they were spiritually better than other people.  The disciples even argued about who was best.  They struggled with judging other people. 

So Jesus gave them something to think about.  He rubbed mud on this man’s eyes.  He put “Adam” on this man’s eyes and told him to wash in the “Sent One” so that he might see.

Perhaps what Jesus did was not so much for the man but for the disciples.

We all are born spiritually blind because of Adam.  We all are excluded from the holiness of God’s worship because of sin.  Yet God means our healing and forgiveness to show forth His glory;  “I once was blind,  but now I see!”

The world probably mocked that man as he walked to Siloam.  He may have even wondered,  “Will this really work?”

But Jesus had the power to heal him,  and Jesus has power to restore you,  for God’s glory.

God’s Greatest Gift

The Greatest Gift

God so loved the world that He gave . . .

He gave the greatest gift in sending His Son to be the savior of the world.  That gift was great because of the enormous cost.  God the Father would have to allow His beloved Son to spend a lifetime in poverty and want.  When Mary and Joseph offered the two turtledoves at Jesus’ circumcision,  that offering was the one provided for a poor family (Leviticus 5:7;  Luke 2:24).  Scripture says of Christ,  “though being rich,  yet for our sakes’ he became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9). 

The cost was great to the Father because he would have to allow that Son to suffer at the hands of sinful men and to bear the sin of the world.  In fact,  God the Father Himself would have to crush His own Son (Isaiah 53:10).

God’s gift was great because it was given to ungrateful people.  John says,  “He came to his own things,  and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11).  He was “despised and rejected” (Isaiah 53:3).  We esteemed him “smitten of God and afflicted” (53:3).

Christ’s gift is great because the incarnation lasts forever.  Jesus in heaven continues to be fully God and fully man.  Jesus has added a human nature to his divine one forever.  That means that in his human nature,  he will submit as a man to God forever (1 Corinthians 15:28).  He will forever be the mediator between God and man.  He will forever bear the scars of the crucifixion.  He will in his human nature carry the limitations of his glorified human body.   These things are added to Him without in any way diminishing Him as God.

This gift is great because it produces freedom.  Matthew says,  “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (1:21).  For us,  our greatest problem is the sin nature we inherited from Adam.  That nature taints all that we do.  Jesus came to free us from that,  to break the power of cancelled sin,  to remove us from its very presence and ultimately to transform us into the very image of Himself.

This great gift allows us access to the presence of God and restored Eden.  We are not banished from Eden like Adam and Eve;  Jesus’ gift has taken the guardian Cherubs out of the way and welcomed us to the pleasure of His presence forever.

So what does that gift mean for us?  It should call us to a life of giving to others,  a life of service to Christ for the needs of the world.

May we become a gift that keeps on giving.

The Bible and Modern Christian Holidays

Halloween,  Thanksgiving,  Christmas

Happy children’s faces,  family,  love.  That’s what these days mean for me.  They are central holidays in our calendar.  They are “holy days.”  So do they have anything to do with the Biblical Christianity?

Halloween is eve of All Saints’ Day,  November 1st,  in the liturgical calendar.  Hence,  October 31st is Hallows’ eve.  That day in 1517 saw Martin Luther nail 95 theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg,  Germany.  Many call October 31st Reformation Day.  All churches apart from Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox trace their start/renewal to the reforms begun then.

Thanksgiving grew out of similar protestant and Puritan celebrations for fasting and prayer in 17th-century, old and New England.  Later,  Abraham Lincoln in 1863 proclaimed the last Thursday in November as the national day for “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Christmas celebrates Jesus’s birth,  December 25th,  and its origins are somewhat obscure. 

Augustine (354-430),  in,  On the Trinity,  4.5,  suggests that Jesus’ conception was March 25th (exactly nine months prior to Jesus’ birth 12/25).  Augustine,  Julius Africanus,  Hippolytus and others connect that conception with the future day of his Passover suffering.  It would not surprise me at all if that was exactly what God did. 

Passover is a lunar celebration (the first full moon after the spring equinox).  Jews call that date Nisan the 14th.  Since Jewish calendars add an extra month every 3 years to stay in line with the solar calendar,  that is why Easter falls on different days every year.  Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox—the first Sunday after Passover.

God directed Jews to take a lamb into their homes on the 10th of Nisan.  They are to keep it 5 days from the start of the 10th to the end of the 14th.  As that day was ending,  Jews would kill their lamb sometime before sundown. 

Jesus is “our Passover lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7).  He was taken into Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan (John 12:1,  12).  He remained in Jerusalem from Sunday afternoon (the start of the 10th with the Triumphal entry to his death at 3:00 pm on Friday).  He died on the Jewish end of the 14th as the Passover lambs were being sacrificed (John 18:28,  39;   19:14).  He rose on the “day after the Sabbath” following Passover—Sunday morning.  That was the time for the offering of “firstfruits” (Leviticus 23:10-11).  Paul even calls Jesus the firstfruits of them that slept (1 Corinthians 15:20).

I wonder if all Biblical holidays are related to Jesus.  Has God orchestrated all these days to fill our hearts with glee in Christ?

How Could God ask Abraham to Sacrifice His Son?

Does God Ever Ask for Too Much?

It might seem the answer is,  “Yes.”

Consider commands like “Deeply love (agape) your enemies” (Matthew 5:44),  or “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48). 

Many see Genesis 22:2 in that light.  God commands Abraham,  “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering.”

Isaac means “laughter,” and he was the delight of Abraham’s life.  Yet God commands the slaughter of that very son,  promised by God, whom Sarah and Abraham had awaited 30 years through long, tear-filled nights and month after month of disappointment.

Now sacrifice him!  And not simply that but sacrifice him as a burnt offering.  That means Abraham was to flay,  dismember and then completely burn up Isaac’s body (Leviticus 1:3-9).  All that would be left was his son’s skin which would be a gift to the one making the sacrifice (Leviticus 7:8).

How could God possibly be commanding this?

Had not God Himself promised that Abraham’s offspring would be like the stars (Genesis 15:5)?

Had not God Himself given the son (17:19;  18:14)?  Now God commands Abraham to kill him at Moriah (“the bitterness of the LORD”) on the very spot of Solomon’s future Temple (2 Chronicles 3:1).

The three-day,  43-mile journey from Beersheba to Jerusalem was the most bitter of Abraham’s life.  Every step heightened the dread of slaughtering this obedient son.

When Moriah was in sight,  Abraham placed the massive wood on Isaac’s back (enough wood to burn up a human body,  Genesis 22:3-6).

How bitter was it for Abraham to watch Isaac carry the wood,  stumbling along the way,  obediently struggling under the massive load?

God waited until Abraham had the knife in hand about to slaughter his son,  and then God’s angel said,  “Now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld your son,  your only son from me.”

When Isaac stumbled up the slopes of Moriah,  it is strangely similar to Jesus stumbling toward his death under the massive weight of the cross.  Just as Isaac carried the wood on which he would die,  so Jesus carried the cross on which he would die.  Moriah and Calvary are but a few hundred yards apart. 

As Abraham struggled to imagine slaughtering his son,  so too the LORD struggled from all eternity with the bitterness of allowing His Son’s public crucifixion.

God the Father says at Jesus’ baptism,  “This is My Son,  My only Son . . .” echoing the words of Genesis 22:2.

Maybe the question for us is,  “Does God give too much to redeem us from the curse of the law?”

Yahweh and Jesus

Jesus Christ is LORD

What do we mean when we say “Jesus Christ is Lord”? 

Many people trifle with the word “Lord.”  Greeting cards and banners declaim,  “Lordy,  Lordy,  look whose 40!”  I’m sure you’ve heard:  “Lord almighty” or even “Jesus” is a quasi-curse word when someone smashes their thumb or accidentally backs into another car. 

But what do the words “Jesus is Lord” mean according to the Bible?

In Greek,  “Lord” often refers to absolute rulers of antiquity.  The Roman emperors and Persians kings were called “Lord.”  It means sovereign,  absolute monarch or king.

Christians use “Jesus is Lord” to describe Jesus as the absolute ruler of everything.  As creator,  he holds the atoms of the universe together (Hebrews 1:3;  1 Corinthians 8:6).  He owns every square inch of ground.  He owns your body,  the air you breathe,  the electricity in your nerves,  the ground underneath your feet,  the food in your mouth and the very seconds you pass each day.   

Paul presents himself as a “slave” to Jesus.  Christians should regularly pray,  “Thy kingdom come!”  God’s sovereign rule is a treasure worth any price  (Matthew 13:44). 

Christ presents the gospel as a call to accept the good news of God’s rule (Luke 4:43).

“Calling on the name of the Lord” is not an appeal for Christ simply to take part in one’s life.  Rather,  it is an appeal for Christ to take over.

Wanting God’s rule is a necessary part of repentance from one’s sins (Matthew 3:2;  4:17;  Mark 1:15;  Luke 14:29). Repentance is an utterly helpless,  spiritually bankrupt person turning away from self-rule and coming to a perfect,  sovereign,  powerful,  loving and holy King who promises to love his people out of their sins.

But “Jesus  is Lord” means more than even that. 

In the OT,  Lord sometimes appears in all capital letters,  “LORD.”  There,  it represents God’s most sacred name, Yahweh/Jehovah.  The New Testament applies Yahweh/LORD texts to Jesus (Isaiah 45:23;  Joel 2:32;  Isaiah 40:3 in Philippians 2:11;  Romans 10:13;  and Mark 1:2).

Jesus is not simply any Lord.  He is the LORD,  Yahweh incarnate.  He is YHWH having come to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).  Jesus even bears “the name,  the one above every name”,  and monotheistic texts like Isaiah 45:23 and Deuteronomy 6:4 apply to him.

Jesus affirms that the Father has given him his sacred name (John 17:11-12).  Thus,  Jesus shares the name YHWH with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Joel 2:32 proclaims,  “All who call on the name of the LORD will be saved.”  Christians call on the name of the Lord Jesus for salvation (Romans 10:13;  Acts 2:21;  1 Corinthians 1:2).

Even so,  “Come,  LORD Jesus!”

Trump/Clinton and the Kingdom of God

Our Election and the “Kingdom” of God

Division seems the order of the day in American politics.  Perhaps rightly so.  We are electing the leader of the free world.  Our future could hang in the balance.  Who will best provide people with the opportunity to go as far as their intellect and industry can take them?  Who will best protect the widow and the orphan?  Who will care for the helpless and innocent among us?

Our candidates offer ideas for great jobs,  effective education,  powerful defense,  and a host of other pressing needs.

But if this election is like others,  even the most ardent supporter today will likely regret their choice in a few years.  The fond hopes of election night will give way to the stark reality of flawed character,  incompetence even lies.

Is Clinton or Trump our answer?  Is our most basic need a better leader for the free world? 

Or is our real need a leader to make the world better—a leader to make the world free?

Jesus said that any man who commits sin is a slave to sin (John 8:34).  Christ offers his life and death to free people from the power and penalty of their sins.  Jesus offers himself as the emancipator from the tyranny of one’s own fallen nature.

Jesus preached the kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17).  He saw God’s rule as the ultimate good news (Luke 4:43).  He saw submission to God as the hope for all mankind.  We are to seek it (Matthew 6:33),  to pray constantly for it (Matthew 6:10),  to treat it like the greatest treasure in the world (Matthew 13:46).  In fact,  Jesus said that those who realize the ultimate worth of kingdom would be willing to part with everything just to get it (Matthew 13:44).

The kingdom of God is the reality of God as king,  God as the boss,  God as the only lawgiver in Zion.  When individuals,  societies and cultures reject God’s rule,  chaos results.  The book of Judges outlines 13 failed rulers and repeats this theme:  “Each man did what was right in his own eyes because there was no king” (Judges 17:6;  18:1;  19:1;  21:25). 

If Jesus were king,  what would the world look like?  What would it look like if we honored God as God completely with all our hearts,  souls and minds?  What would it look like if we loved every single person on the planet the exact same way we love ourselves? 

Jesus knew that for society to flourish,  God must be God.

Many of us will obsess over polls for the next 100 days,  but my hope is not in the next president.  My hope is the king.

From the Curse of Eden to the Crown of Thorns

From the Curse of Eden to the Crown of Thorns

“Thorns and thistles shall the land bring forth for you,” (Genesis 3:18).  With these words,  God exiles Adam from Eden and sentences him to hardscrabble life among thorns.  Those thorns would be a constant reminder of what he lost in Eden. 

But could those thorns point to God’s grace as well?

The burning bush (“seneh” in Hebrew) is a thorn bush (Exodus 3:2).  When Stephen quotes this passage,  he spells out that it is a thorn bush (see New American Standard Bible,  Acts 7:30).  That thorn bush was at Mount “Sinai” which is perhaps related to “seneh”/thorns.  Mount Horeb is Sinai’s other name,  and it means “destruction.”

So why would God get inside thorns and promise restoration to an Eden-like land flowing with milk and honey?  Why does he promise this at Mount Destruction/Thorns? 

The Tabernacle is mostly Acacia wood (“shittim” in Hebrew,  Exodus 25:5-38:6).  Thorny spikes cover Acacia branches.  If you prick your finger on Acacia thorns,  the resulting mycetoma can cause death without massive treatment or amputation.

So why would God command Moses to build the Tabernacle out of thorny,  deadly Acacia wood?  Why would he command that Acacia wood be covered over with pure gold?  Are not thorns a result of the fall?  How can God command a Tabernacle to be built from thorn wood?

Moses leads Israel to Abel-Shittim “the field of thorns” (Numbers 33:49),  but the law-giver cannot bring the people into the Promised Land because he has broken the law.  Disobedience keeps him in exile just like Adam.  Joshua (“Jesus” in Greek) crosses the Jordan and leads God’s people into the Promised Land.

So what does all this mean?

Well,  what should have happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden?  Their rebellion brought all sin and death into the world.  They rejected the rule of God and declared themselves King and Queen in Eden.  God could have stripped away their fig leaves.  He could have hung them naked to die on the tree.  He could have crowned them with their cursed thorns.

But God chose another way. 

God got in the midst of thorns and promised to take his people to an Eden-like land flowing with milk and honey.  To make that promise good,  God would get into thorns a second time.  He would bear the destructive,  thorny curse of Sinai’s law.  That generous mercy and love would eventually win the heart of his new Eve,  the Church.  His love will make her untemptable by evil.  His love will cover over her rebellion and make her the very Temple of God.  His death in thorns clothes her with righteousness.

Thorns and grace?  Absolutely.

How Does God Experience Time?

God and Time

Isaiah 57:15 says that God inhabits eternity. 

The Hebrew word for “inhabit”,  according to ancient scholars,  means “dwelling in a tent.”  The root is the same as that of the tabernacle/tent in Exodus 25:9.  God lives in eternity the same way you or I inhabit a tent.  He experiences all of it at the same time. 

Martin Luther (1483-1546) states,  With God there is nothing that is earlier or later, swifter or slower; but in His eyes all things are present things. For He is simply outside the scope of time.

The Bible says God experiences time differently than humans experience it.  A day with the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day (2 Peter 3:8;  Psalm 90:4).  Moments to God are incredibly long and incredibly short at the same time.

Augustine (354-430) says of God, “Your present day does not give way to tomorrow, nor indeed, does it take the place of yesterday. Your present day is eternity.”

Psalm 90:2 states,  Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

In God’s experience of reality,  future events are described as past.  For example,  the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8,  see NIV and KJV).  Of this verse,  H. D. M. Spence writes,  “What was foreknown to and ordained by God is spoken of as having taken place.”

In Isaiah 46:9-10,  God declares that he alone knows all of history,  and that his purpose in it will stand and accomplish exactly what he wills.

Anselm (1033-1109) says of God,  “You are outside all time.”

When people stand in God’s presence,  time does strange things:  Moses can pass 40 days without food,  water or sleep,  yet he suffers no ill effects.  Aaron’s dead staff blooms and bears almonds in just one night.   

Jesus as God chose to tabernacle with us by the incarnation,  entering into space and time.

This is the God who holds your life in his hands;  this is the God who would rather die than see you excluded from the Garden of Pleasure.  This is the God clothed with colossal power who bids you to pray to him today.

God commands all things to work for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28).  Joseph can say of the evil planned by his brothers,  “You meant it for evil,  God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:30).

Ephesians 2:10 teaches,  “We are his workmanship,  created in Christ Jesus for good works,  which God prepared beforehand,  that we should walk in them.” 

May we seek to do those works by his power.