Knowing our place

John 1

The endorsement. The mission.

How cool would it be to know exactly where you fit in the history and development of the world? The World. Capital W World.

John the baptizer knew where he fit in Gods plan. The big Plan, capital P plan for the capital W world. The World for all time forward and backward.

“Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders[c] in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”[d]

24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 “I baptize with[e] water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me,the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.”

It’s good to know who we are and know our place but it is even better to know who Jesus is and his place in our world and our life.

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”’

Jesus is the son of God.

From our perspective in history we know what happened to him. He was beaten and crucified, hung, pierced with nails through his hands and feet, hung on a cross until dead.

John called him “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. This is what that image was about. Annually the Jews would take a perfect lamb, select it and set in in amongst the family as a pet for four days and on Passover slaughter it and eat it. You can read about in Exodus 12. The lambs blood was protection against the plague of death that was coming on Egypt. Painted on the door posts and top of the door frame.

This is a new thing that God was doing.

He came down, became a man and walked among us. He came to be a sacrifice for our sin. God would sacrifice himself for our sin. He will be our lamb for sacrifice.

God himself has paid for our sin by sacrificing Jesus on the cross.

I’m jumping ahead in the story only because John the baptizer saw what the mission was.

The forgiveness of sins is available to us all today.

Will we receive the gift?

Is there someone we know who hasn’t heard this news yet?

3 bags on my back

Allegories are usually wasted on me. I read Watership Downs in high school and thought it was a story about rabbits. In my early 20s I read a Christian allegory, I think it was Pilgrims Progress but I’m not certain. In the story the characters were on a journey to the celestial city. Each evening they would walk down to the river and some of them would put rocks in their back packs. They would purposely add to their own burden. It didn’t make sense to me or to the main character in the story. Little did I know that at the end of the journey those rocks were revealed to be prayers for other people. Sometimes we shoulder the burden for others as we walk our journey.

That idea has stuck in my head.

Yesterday I was on one of my daily walks and I have a plan to beautify the path I walk. I have some flower seeds that I plan to plant along the way. They are wild flowers so they won’t require water. I envisioned myself like Johnny Appleseed walking down the path and tossing out the seeds from a seed pouch slung over my shoulder.

Then I remembered Jesus story about the farmer who cast his seed and the seed was the word of God. I realized that that was my real mission in life, to spread Gods word.

But I knew that wasn’t all of it. Gods word needs to be shared in context or it doesn’t make sense. The context needs to be in an actively loving and forgiving and serving life. So I boiled that down to grace and mercy, AKA, forgiveness. That’s how I arrived at what I shared below here. I hope it makes sense.

I could see myself on life’s journey with 3 bags over my shoulders. Each bag carrying an essential element to the Christian life.

3 bags. Seed salve and supplication

As Christians We each start out the day with 3 bags over our shoulder.

Each morning two are full and one is empty.

Salve. One full one is forgiveness. Our job is to Empty it. His mercies are new every morning. We are forgiven our sins as long as we forgive the sins of others.

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Seed: One full one is Gods word, we are to share it.

“But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”’

This bag we can fill up ourselves. The Holy Spirit can bring seed to us but as we mature we will become more actively involved in filling our own bag. If we don’t become active we won’t mature.

“12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!”

Supplication: The empty one we are to fill. It is for the needs and concerns of others. We fill it while walking through life meeting people and asking the age old question; how can I pray for you?

We empty it each night as we pray. ( or throughout the day), for our needs and the needs of others.

The Holy Spirit can at any time fill these bags. He kinda has a mind to do that. He will Give us extra forgiveness, give us the perfect seed to plant in someone’s heart, show us a need that only God can meet in some ones life. We may wake up in the middle of the night with a burden that we couldn’t know on our own.

Three bags. A bag of Seed, the word of God. We read it and study it and store it up and then we share it with others. A bag with Salve, Gods mercy and forgiveness that we have freely received, that now we must also freely give to those we meet. Grace and mercy are the healing ointment for a hurt and broken world. Then supplication, our prayers to this awesome God we serve, for the people that he is sending us out to serve. Prayers for their needs and for their salvation.

That’s what it’s all about. 3 bags.

Before

John 1

The beginning.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.”

Jesus being God. He pre-existed everything that was created by God. Jesus was there when there was nothing, not just darkness but a total void and vacuum, and God said “let there be light”. And light though it had never existed before suddenly came into existence. The creation was made through Jesus. Jesus is the word of God so when God said, that was Jesus right there.

Jesus is the light of the world. We see who we are when we encounter him.

I am feeling very inadequate to be talking about these huge spiritual concepts. But here goes…

Can you imagine building something big enough to walk through? A model village where you built every building, painted every detail, created beings to live in the village and use it. Their very existence and way of life was dependent on you. And you visit this village but no one knows you or recognizes you as the creator?

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

That is a big deal, a big thing, a change in the way that God had dealt with man. God had been a presence in the world. He revealed himself in very big, very Godlike ways, burning bushes, plagues on enemies, bread from heaven, water in the desert, water parting. Big ways, but now there was this man, a guy, a carpenter who started gathering a following.

A rugged prophet out in the wilds said that he was special.

“15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”)

Jesus, fully God, fully man.

That is enough to think about for today for me.

Some assembly required

Titus

Paul’s True son in the faith.

Left alone on the island of Crete.

Left to straighten out, reinforce, assign leaders, good leaders.

What are the qualities of a good leader?

“6 An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe[b] and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

Titus was also supposed to silence the opposition. If this were a movie that would mean snuff them out. I don’t think that’s what Paul meant here.

Once Paul was being harassed by an evil spirit that was in a slave girl. She followed him taunting him and mocking him.

“Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

Acts 16:16-18

This did not go smoothly for Paul and Silas. They were arrested, beaten and flogged and thrown into prison. And God even used that. They were in chains in the prison having a worship service and God sent an earthquake that set them free. But they didn’t use that to escape. They shared Jesus with their terrified jailer and he and his household were saved.

We have the Holy Spirit living in us, he can give us a heart for our taunters and words to use to change hearts and minds.

“For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”[c] 13 This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith.”

A rebuke sharp enough to silence people with evil intent. I’m not sure what that would sound like. The Holy Spirit does know and can use us if we are listening to him and ingesting the words of God.

We will encounter some people that just don’t want what we have and will try to destroy what we teach.

“To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”

There will be times when we are opposed. Answer this question and then proceed with caution. Are we trying to win arguments or win souls?

It is helpful to me to remember who i was, how i was and where i was headed before i met Jesus. It’s all about sharing Jesus with people like us, who don’t deserve His mercy and grace but can receive it freely, just like we did.

Two words

How many words does it take to change a life? It sounds like at a setup for a joke. It isn’t.

Matthew 9 tells us about when the author met Jesus.

“9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”’

Jesus said two words and changed Matthew’s life forever. Matthew in turn has helped tell the world about Jesus.

Who can be included in this following of the teacher Jesus? It’s a special group of people. Who is Jesus looking for? Who is Jesus seeking? Who goes to a doctor? The sick. Who is Jesus seeking? The ones of us who admit we need his help.

The apostle John said in his first letter, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

When we are sick the first step to recovery is admitting that we need help.

I need help from Jesus. I need to be released from the burden off all my mistakes and blunders and disobedience. He is ready to help. He ready and waiting to forgive me yet again. His sacrifice, his bloody brutal death paid for all of it. And then he rose from the dead, victorious over sin and over death.

His mercy is inclusive. It is offered to all of us. Who needs a doctor today? A doctor who can wash away all of our sin? I do.

With two words Jesus changed Matthews life who in turned told the world about Jesus and by writing them down, has helped the world hear those words, follow me.

Are you coming?

Now and later

Long term or short term solutions? Why not both?

Matthew 9 starts out with the story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man. There is more details about the story in Mark 2 and Luke 5. The mans friends were so determined to get their sick buddy to Jesus that they hauled him up to the roof, made a hole, rigged some ropes, and lowered their buddy down from the ceiling. Kind of like a reverse jewel heist.

“Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”’

(Matthews version is underwhelming in suspense and drama. )

I wonder what his friends thought about going through all the trouble to get their buddy to Jesus, only for Jesus to forgive his sin. But the story continues.

“3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 Then the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.”

My long term problem is the sin that separates me from God. If it isn’t taken care by the time I die I will go to hell. My short term problems, health, wealth (or lack of), clothing, shelter, they are what I pray about, what I worry about, what consumes my focus and energy but the real problem of sin is much more serious.

As I’m writing this I’m listening to an icy wind howling outside. It’s 19 degrees with a 9 mph wind. According to my weather ap It feels like 8 degrees. It reminds me of the harshness of our world and how real our problems are. Life can seem long but it’s measured in years. Death and what comes after? We can’t measure because you can’t measure something that continues forever. Eternity is eternal.

Is it easier for Jesus to heal me or forgive me? Which is more important? Healing seems very important when I’m sick but Since healing will only last my lifetime how important is it? Forgiving my sin will change my life for now and forever.

I am so grateful that I can go to Jesus and be forgiven and ask for healing. I know I will be forgiven, I don’t know if I’ll be healed. I think I’m still getting what’s important.

More…

But wait, there’s more…

How many times have we heard that line in a TV ad?

The next story in Matthew 8 is about Jesus healing 2 demon possessed men that lived in tombs.

When I read it through I was distracted by the fact that Matthew talks about two men but when Mark and Luke tell the story they only mention one.

I did some extra research and read what the experts had to say. While reading about that, one expert mentioned the fact that while Jesus was in the midst of a successful ministry time, crowds were gathering, he hopped in a boat and went to the very place where two men who were being tormented by a demonic legion lived. No one could contain these guys. Not only were they busting ropes, they were breaking chains. If they couldn’t be contained then they also couldn’t be helped. Jesus dropped everything and crossed a lake in a storm to get to These men.

“28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes,[c] two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

32 He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.”

Jesus knows us, knows our troubles. He knows where we are and what we are going through and how to set us free and is able to set us free. No matter who or what or how many, Jesus can set us free. These men were not able to be held prisoner by anything but were in fact enslaved by evil. Jesus set them free with a a word. He said to the legion, “go!” And they went.

I want add just a little from Luke’s telling of the story.

“34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”

Jesus can restore us. He can bring release from enslavement to evil, he can bring sanity back. Jesus sought these guys out. He then set them free when no one else could. They couldn’t be chained or freed.

Today, right now, Jesus is still seeking the lost hurt and damaged. How do I know? I am one. I am damaged on the inside and the outside yet, Jesus loves me. He sought me out and is in process of making me whole.

He loves us. Will we allow Jesus into our lives and let him clean us, clothe us and set us right?