Sunday, October 30, 2011

THE CHOSEN FEW AND YOU


Israel had a rich historical relationship with the Almighty. The nation wore the title ‘Chosen Ones’. Everyone in the nation knew that there was an expectation with the religion. They had a track record for obedience/disobedience and success/failure.

Many would live with the tension of knowing the Law and falling short of its ideals. Still, they had national pride knowing that God was on their side. It would not be dissimilar from people who think of Canada as a country founded on Christian principles, or Americans believing themselves to be a Judeo-Christian nation. There is a sense of destiny and protectionism that comes from this kind of pride.

As Jews in Jesus’ time listened to their teachers, they would hear a message of repentance. God was issuing a recall to His people to come back and be restored. The teachings of the rabbi Jesus were especially tough calling for a level of performance that not even the Pharisees had achieved.

As Jesus taught the heart values of the Law, many listeners became convinced of their shortcomings. Some would try and double up their devotion. Still others would walk away crying that Jesus’ teaching was too demanding. They would stay with religion as usual, preferring the drudgery they knew to the risk of great change.

Consider the call to compete in this account of Jesus’ teaching:


Luke 13:
22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
   He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
   “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
   26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
   27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
   28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”


The question asked is ‘Will God only save a few?’ Jesus answers with ‘What about you?’

Make every effort to get into God’s Kingdom through a small, narrow door. The Greek word used for making an effort is ‘agonizomai’. It conveys a meaning of great struggle. The same word is used by Paul[i] to illustrate the efforts of an athlete in training. Great sweat and discipline would be required to work for the prize.

Such restrictiveness would not surprise this Jewish audience, since it was already taught that Israel was God's elect nation. Second Esdras 8:3 reads, "Many are created, but few are saved." The surprise in Jesus' reply is not that access may be limited, but who gains entry.
The basis of the refusal is the Master's declaration that he does not know those who knock. Earlier, when there had been opportunity to get to know the Lord, those outside had not been interested. So the Lord now says, "I don't know you or where you come from." The Lord's denial perplexes those who appeal for entry, since they once had meals in Jesus' presence and listened to his teaching in the streets. But Jesus' reply makes it clear that exposure is not knowledge. Something more than presence is required in coming to know Jesus. So he tells them, "I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!" Outward contact with Jesus means nothing; inward reception is everything. There is no bargaining with the Lord here. The issue is simply did you know him? [ii]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: CLOSE ENOUGH TO HEAR GOD BREATHE


Greg Paul's book 'Close Enough To Hear God Breathe' tells intimate stories of the author's life illustrating God's great intimate story of Creation, The Fall, Redemption and Consummation. He talks about his family, children, failure and success in marriage, sex and street ministry.

I read this book with a lump in my throat ready to shed tears on any given page. The great themes of God are manifest in our mortal existence. Greg reminds us of that.

Greg Paul is not a haphazard writer. He writes brilliantly and is too provocative to avoid an enduring legacy.

Greg Paul is a pastor and member of Sanctuary (Toronto), an inner-city church where saints and sinners worship together. It is a church without the protective, social insulation more prevalent in 'nice' safe suburban communities. It is the church Jesus frequents when He is in Toronto.

Get this book.

__________________

"Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson".





Saturday, October 22, 2011

NOTES FROM THE ARMCHAIR CRITIC




As an armchair critic, I’m always in awe of the contestants on American Idol, Canadian Idol and The X-Factor. The singers range from surprisingly talented to tragically self-deluded. What do these shows tell us about human nature?
  


We like to judge others. We would like to be direct and opinionated like Simon Cowell or we would like to tell the truth gently like Paula Abdul. We may have strong opinions about how the judges judge, but it doesn’t change the fact that we are twice the judges from our view in the living room.

 Some people refuse to accept the judgments given to them. Ever see the outtakes after someone is told that they are not coming back to the show or going on to Hollywood? Some graciously accept the judgment while others are convinced that the judges are idiots who do not recognize talent when they see it.

 Competition is emotional and life changing.  Winning, losing and awaiting judgment brings on tears, outbursts and elevated emotions. Contestants set everything aside for the chance to win. They quit their job at Burger King, break off an engagement, leave the baby at Grandma’s or graduate from rehab determined to come home with the title.

 Most will lose the contest.  Ultimately, one out of many thousands will finally win the contest. Everyone dreams and believes they can win, but the vast majority will not get past the auditions in their city.

Turn off the television and look at your life. What quality or talent do you have that you compete with? You may not be an entertainer or athlete, but most of us are competing in some way. There is a Simon or Paula in each of our lives that we perform for and await their judgment.


 Every child brings a scribble home to show the parent.

Everyone seeking a partner wants to impress to interested parties.

Teachers may want to dominate your ignorance.

Gossips want the inside scoop to shock others with.

Perfectionists fight against themselves endlessly without satisfaction.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

KNOCKING ON HEAVEN'S DOOR


Not a half-hearted knock… Bang that door! There is nothing like desperation or great need to move you from being polite to intense. If there is no immediate answer, keep knocking until you get an answer.

Sometimes we give up too quickly with prayer. Take courage and walk right up to that door.

You would not go knocking unless you had a need. Do we sometimes sit at home in our need instead of going to God’s door?

There is an interesting message Jesus gives to the church in Laodicea. They were self-reliant and comfortable enough to believe they were okay on their own.

Revelation 3:
17 'You say, "I am rich. I've become wealthy and don't need anything." But you don't realize how pitiful and miserable you have become. You are poor, blind and naked.
 18 'So here's my advice. Buy from me gold made pure by fire. Then you will become rich. Buy from me white clothes to wear. Then you will be able to cover your shameful nakedness. And buy from me healing lotion to put on your eyes. Then you will be able to see.
 19 'I correct and train those I love. So be sincere, and turn away from your sins.
 20 'Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If any of you hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with you. And you will eat with me.

You may not be in crisis today. You have done everything right in your eyes and naturally have entered the golden years. But what does God see in you?

Jesus saw a church that had no more passion. It was a church running on autopilot but about to crash. Instead of being a church knocking on Heaven’s door, Jesus was knocking on their door!

When we fail to see our need for God, Jesus comes knocking. He has the insight and healing agents we need to deal with our problems.

Out of love, Jesus comes to confront us. He invites Himself in for supper. What kind of friends would invite themselves over for supper?

Could it be that the Arnold at your door is actually Jesus knocking? Take him for ice cream. You may need it more than He does.




Saturday, October 15, 2011

QUICK THOUGHT FOR SEEKERS


It’s good that we learn to ask God for help. But, words are not always enough. Jesus teaches that there are times when you need to go look for the answer. Seek it and you will find it. While you are asking God for help, listen for direction. You may get ideas of where you need to look to get your answer.

The midnight caller needed bread for his guest. He did not have it and had to leave home in search of it. It is not a lack of faith to look around. Investigate your options.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

THANKS FOR ASKING


Ask God and He will give to you. So, what is the catch? Just ask God? We are more like jailbirds who get wise to the fact that the free cigarette or candy bar is actually a payment for a future favor.

We avoid asking some people because of the strings attached. We may get discouraged by the long line of Arnolds ahead of us making their requests. Rather than appearing to be greedy, we ask for nothing.

In your relationship with God, there is no one who has more audience with God than you. He is not tired or limited in any way. He has your full attention.

What midnight distress are you facing? What inadequacy or shortcoming prevents you from functioning more fully? What unexpected need or injustice is moving you towards desperation?

We are free to ask for help. Repeatedly…

How many times will a friend not say, “You could have asked me. If I had known, I would have helped.”

There are times and situations when not even our best friends can help solve a problem. But, they can be supportive and listen. If they can do that, what more can God do? God can do much more than we ask for. God can do more than our imagination permits.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

INVITATION TO INAPPROPRIATENESS


Social rules are often based on respecting the needs of others. Jesus and other wise writers in Scripture talk about humility and honoring others. Avoid being presumptuous. Do unto the other as you would have them do unto you. Be faster at listening than you are at blurting out your thoughts.

We are also taught to respect God and approach with appropriate protocols. Worship and gratitude are essential approaches to a Holy God.

Jesus is provocative. He claims intimate friendship with the Father and invites us over to his house. He tells the story of the midnight caller and invites us into a seemingly inappropriate way of approaching God.

Would you persist in bothering a friend if you had an emergency? If you could not reach them on the first phone call, would you try their cell phone, their work phone, email and Facebook?

So why do we stop short in bringing our desperation to God?

Luke 11:
 9 "So here is what I say to you. Ask, and it will be given to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. 10 Everyone who asks will receive. He who searches will find. And the door will be opened to the one who knocks.
 11 "Fathers, suppose your son asks for a fish. Which of you will give him a snake instead? 12 Or suppose he asks for an egg. Which of you will give him a scorpion? 13 Even though you are evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more will your Father who is in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"


Jesus taught people who knew about desperate circumstances. Many lived in poverty and had concerns for paying the bills and having enough to eat. They watched while people they knew were whipped, jailed and even crucified by the Romans. Injustice abounded with heavy taxation and oppressors going unpunished.

To people that needed daily help just to stay alive, Jesus tells of a Father who loves to be with them and meet their needs. He is more approachable than their willingness to ask for help, seek answers and knock on doors.

In a world where politicians and religious leaders promised something good and delivered disappointment, Jesus tells of a Father who is truly generous and thoughtful. How are we to approach this God Jesus describes?

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