Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul the Apostles: A Devotional Commentary

Acts 15:1-21 Some men came down from Judea and taught the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised after the custom of Moses, you can’t be saved.” Therefore when Paul and Barnabas had no small discord and discussion with them, they appointed Paul and Barnabas, and some others of them, to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question. They, being sent on their way by the assembly, passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles. They caused great joy to all the brothers. When they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the assembly and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all things that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” The apostles and the elders were gathered together to see about this matter. When there had been much discussion, Peter rose up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the nations should hear the word of the Good News, and believe. God, who knows the heart, testified about them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just like he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you tempt God, that you should put a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” All the multitude kept silence, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul reporting what signs and wonders God had done among the nations through them. After they were silent, James answered, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has reported how God first visited the nations, to take out of them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets. As it is written, ‘After these things I will return. I will again build the tabernacle of David, which has fallen. I will again build its ruins. I will set it up, That the rest of men may seek after the Lord; All the Gentiles who are called by my name, Says the Lord, who does all these things. All his works are known to God from eternity.’ Therefore my judgment is that we don’t trouble those from among the Gentiles who turn to God, but that we write to them that they abstain from the pollution of idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood. For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Acts 12:1-11 Now about that time, King Herod stretched out his hands to oppress some of the assembly. He killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This was during the days of unleavened bread. When he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. Peter therefore was kept in the prison, but constant prayer was made by the assembly to God for him. The same night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains. Guards in front of the door kept the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side, and woke him up, saying, “Stand up quickly!” His chains fell off from his hands. The angel said to him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” He did so. He said to him, “Put on your cloak, and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He didn’t know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened to them by itself. They went out, and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. When Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I truly know that the Lord has sent out his angel and delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from everything the Jewish people were expecting.”

Matthew 16:13-20 Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” They said, “Some say John the Baptizer, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” Then he commanded the disciples that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.

Peter and Paul did not always agree. Peter and Paul had different personalities. Peter was killed by crucifixion and Paul was killed by beheading. But both were tortured and killed for the same reason. Both confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Both regarded their mortal lives as being a small price to pay in comparison to their eternal rewards. Jesus laid down His life for them as their Good Shepherd. Peter and Paul laid down their lives for Jesus and as good shepherds laid down their lives for His sheep and their sheep. Peter and Paul both beautified the Good Shepherd's pasture with their blood. Christ does not promise us riches or popularity. Christ promises suffering for His disciples. He sheds His blood for us and gives us His blood to drink so that we will be willing to shed our blood for the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. The Good Shepherd shed His blood for our sins and gives us true life even when the world kills us.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Trinity 4: A Devotional Commentary

Genesis 50:15-21 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us, and will fully pay us back for all of the evil which we did to him.” They sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father commanded before he died, saying, ‘You shall tell Joseph, “Now please forgive the disobedience of your brothers, and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ Now, please forgive the disobedience of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also went and fell down before his face; and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore don’t be afraid. I will nourish you and your little ones.” He comforted them, and spoke kindly to them.

Romans 8:18-23 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us. As it is, the creation waits with eager expectation for the revelation of God’s children. Indeed, creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that creation will also be delivered from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the totality of creation groans and labors in pain until now. Moreover, so do we who have the first fruits of the Spirit! We groan within ourselves, awaiting the adoption, the redemption of our body.

Luke 6:36-42 Therefore, be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free. Give, and it will be given to you: a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure, it will be measured back to you.” He spoke a parable to them. “Can the blind guide the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but after being fully trained, everyone will be like their teacher. Why do you see the speck of chaff that is in your brother’s eye but do not consider the beam that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck of chaff that is in your eye,’ when you do not see the beam that is in your own eye? You hypocrites! First, remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly in order to remove the speck of chaff that is in your brother’s eye."

Nothing is more offensive than hypocrisy. One of the first things that an unbeliever will complain about is how hypocritical Christians are. Christianity has lost its identity by being turned into a list of rules to follow. Ever other religion is about rules and how to keep them. If you want a religion based on following rules, become a Jew or Muslim. The Christian looks down on all those who do not follow his list of rules and sets himself up as a teacher of others. Sometimes these rules are derived from Scripture and sometimes they are derived from the person's own imagination but either way they they deny who Christ is and what He did.

Jesus depicts the self-appointed teacher as a man who is walking around with a giant beam in his eye, trying to remove the specks out of the eyes of the people around him. We love to give advice on things that they know nothing about. We think if we read some article about a subject in the paper that now we are experts. Or if we found a solution to a problem in our lives then it can be universally applied to everyone else. If only everybody else raised their kids the way that we do the world wouldn't be so full of spoiled brats. We expect everyone else in the world to life by our own life principles.

We convince ourselves that we do a pretty good job of following God's laws and look down on those who don't. In fact we convince ourselves that we do a pretty good job of following God's law by looking at others who by our judgment are doing a horrible job at it. That guy over there is a rotten adulterer but you have been faithful to your spouse for your whole marriage. If only that guy over there could be more like you the world would be so much better. But when you make this judgment you are walking around with a giant beam in your eye. That adulterer over there probably knows he is a sinner and hopefully will come to believe that Jesus died for his adultery. But you don't think you are an adulterer and so the beam remains.

You want to read this passage as if it were saying that you have no business judging your brother if you have committed more outward sins than he has and that you are free to engage in your speck removing as long as you have put your days of adultery behind you. But the beam in this passage is the belief that you can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and declare your own righteousness before God. You might be able to convince your brother with the speck in his eye that his adultery is not beneficial to him and get him to stop but by doing so you are just making him your disciple and leading him down the path to hell. You're just a blind leader pulling your brother into the pit with you.

By faith the beam is removed. You come to see that you are a poor, miserable sinner--far worse than the guy standing over there. By faith you come to see that you have no righteousness of your own and that you need the blood of Jesus to cleanse you from your sins. When that beam has been removed from your eye, then you can bring Christ-crucified to others. In humility and in recognition of your own sinfulness, you can tell people about the savior--not about some savior that they just need but the Savior that you need to. You'll stop looking at the specks in the eyes of others and won't try to enroll them in a moral improvement program. You are a sinner and God hung dead on a cross for your sins. Why even think about the specks?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Nativity of John the Baptizer: A Devotional Commentary

Isaiah 40:1-5 “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak comfortably to Jerusalem; and call out to her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received of Yahweh’s hand double for all her sins.” The voice of one who calls out, “Prepare the way of Yahweh in the wilderness! Make a level highway in the desert for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The uneven shall be made level, and the rough places a plain. The glory of Yahweh shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken it.”

Acts 19:1-7 It happened that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper country, came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They said to him, “No, we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” He said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe in the one who would come after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke with other languages and prophesied. They were about twelve men in all.

Luke 1:57-80 Now the time that Elizabeth should give birth was fulfilled, and she brought forth a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had magnified his mercy towards her, and they rejoiced with her. It happened on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him Zacharias, after the name of the father. His mother answered, “Not so; but he will be called John.” They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” They made signs to his father, what he would have him called. He asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.” They all marveled. His mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue freed, and he spoke, blessing God. Fear came on all who lived around them, and all these sayings were talked about throughout all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them laid them up in their heart, saying, “What then will this child be?” The hand of the Lord was with him. His father, Zacharias, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and worked redemption for his people; and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets who have been from of old), salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; to show mercy towards our fathers, to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he spoke to Abraham, our father, to grant to us that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, should serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the remission of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the dawn from on high will visit us, to shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child was growing, and becoming strong in spirit, and was in the desert until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Zacharias was struck dumb by God until the birth of John the Baptizer. Zacharias was part of the Old Testament priesthood and the voice of prophecy had ceased for some time until Jesus came to fulfill all the prophecies. Not only did the prophetic voice cease but there was no understanding of the prophetic voice of the Old Testament. Over time the church began to believe that the Old Testament Scriptures were a list of rules and regulations that they were capable of fuflilling j John the Baptizer stands between the two testaments and was sent by God to prepare the way of the Lord. He did not come bringing his own words and ideas and calling people to follow him. He came preaching Christ. John the Baptizer began to preach Christ while in his mother's womb. John the Baptizer leaped in his mother's womb when he heard Mary's announcement. When John the Baptizer came out of the womb, he opened the mouth of his father, who represented the Old Testament. By revealing Christ, John the Baptizer revealed the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies. By revealing Christ, he opened the mouth of the Old Testament.

John proclaims Christ to those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. He told them that Jesus us saves us from our enemies--from sin, death and the devil. John the Baptizer points us to the way of peace--Jesus.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Trinity 3: A Devotional Commentary

Micah 7:18-20 Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the disobedience of the remnant of his heritage? He doesn’t retain his anger forever, because he delights in loving kindness. He will again have compassion on us. He will tread our iniquities under foot; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob, and mercy to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.

1 Peter 5:6-11 Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries on him, because he cares for you. Be sober, self-controlled and watchful. Your adversary, the devil, roams around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brethren throughout the world experience the same sufferings. But after you have suffered a little while, may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, make you perfect, restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the glory and the power unto ages of ages. Amen.

Luke 15:1-10 Now, all the tax collectors and sinners were coming close to him to hear him. But the Pharisees and scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” So Jesus told them this parable. “Which one of you, if you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that was lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing! Coming home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, telling them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous who need no repentance. Or what woman, if she had ten drachma coins and lost one, would not light a lamp, sweep the house, and look hard until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying: ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma coin which I had lost!’ Likewise, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Which one of you, if you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them would leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness to go search search for the one? Would anybody do this? This doesn't seem to conform to good shepherding practice.

But keep the context in mind. Jesus was eating with sinners. Jesus was eating with lost sheep. Jesus is eating with the prostitutes and murderers and idolaters. Jesus is not eating with the religious leaders as a good Messiah would be expected to do. He's not meeting with the rich and famous. He is eating with the lost sheep. Jesus is not interested in finding the found but in finding the lost. If the ninety-nine are abandoned, hopefully they will realized that they are lost and can be found by Jesus as well.

Jesus says that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous who need no repentance. Do the righteous even exist? Absolutely not! But we think we are righteous. We think that the angels in heaven must be rejoicing over every little supposedly righteous act that we do. I come to church every Sunday and sing some songs to God. Surely the angels must rejoice in my righteous acts. But the Shepherd is the only righteous one. All we do is get lost.

The Shepherd doesn't sit around waiting for us to repent. The Shepherd knows that we are lost well before we do and comes running out to get us. We repent because the Shepherd finds us. After the Shepherd grabs us we see how miserable we really are and how wonderful the Shepherd is. We repent of our life of wandering. This isn't a one time event but a daily activity. We stray every day and the Shepherd picks us up and brings us home.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Knights of Rhodes by Bo Giertz

Wipf and Stock sent me a complimentary copy of The Knights of Rhodes by Bo Giertz for review. Bo Giertz was a Swedish Lutheran pastor, well-known for his book The Hammer of God. Both The Knight of Rhodes and The Hammer of God are historical fiction and both have theological points to make. The Hammer of God is very explicit in the theology that it is teachings. Various pastoral situations are set up where either liberalism or pietism is pitted against orthodoxy and orthodoxy is shown to provide the real answer to the problem. The Knights of Rhodes does set the theology of glory up against the theology of the cross but it is much more subtle. Greater attention is paid to the story and the historical events in The Knights of Rhodes. The Knights of Rhodes is based upon actual events that ocurred beginning in 1521 when Christian knights defended the island of Rhodes against the Muslims. The author provides a list of characters at the beginning of the book and notes whether or not they were actual people or characters created for the book and there are lots of characters. The stories contained in the book are based on actual events. Giertz just fills in some of the blanks. At times, it seems that many of the characters are unnecessary to the basic story but they do help provide an understanding of the entire c0mmunity and how it funcitioned. The story kept my interest and was very well told.

Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the editing. There are spelling and punctuation errors all over the place. I'm not sure if there is a single page in the book that does not have quotations marks some place that they do not belong or absent where they should be. Most of the time I was able to figure out who was speaking and what was going on but there were a few times, including what seemed to be a pretty important part of the book that I was not able to. Some of the quotations marks were so consistently wrong that it led me to believe there was some sort of formatting error that ocurred when transferring the text between different formats. I just don't understand how all these errors made it through the publication process.

The story was excellent. If you are willing to work your way through all the typographical errors, I highly recommend this book. Hopefully, there will be a second edition that corrects these errors.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Trinity 2: A Devotional Commentary

Proverbs 9:1-10 Wisdom has built her house. She has carved out her seven pillars. She has prepared her meat. She has mixed her wine. She has also set her table. She has sent out her maidens. She cries from the highest places of the city: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” As for him who is void of understanding, she says to him, “Come, eat some of my bread, Drink some of the wine which I have mixed! Leave your simple ways, and live. Walk in the way of understanding.” He who corrects a mocker invites insult. He who reproves a wicked man invites abuse. Don’t reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you. Reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Instruct a wise man, and he will be still wiser. Teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom. The knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 1 John 3:13-18 11 Do not be surprised, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren. Whoever does not love his brother remains in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that eternal life does not remain in a murderer. This is how we know what love is: that he laid down his life for us. We too should lay down our lives for the brethren. But if someone is well-off in worldly possessions and sees one of the brethren in need and yet refuses to help, how does the love of God remain in such a person? My little children, let us not love only in word or speech, but in deed and truth. Luke 14:16-24 But Jesus replied, “A certain man gave a great banquet and invited many people. At supper time, he sent out his servant to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, for everything is ready now!’ But they all began to make excuses. The first told him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please have me excused!’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen and I must go try them out. Please have me excused!’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come!’ That servant came back and reported these things to his lord. At this, the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in the poor, the maimed, the blind, and the lame.’ The servant said, ‘Lord, it is done as you commanded, and there is still room!’ The lord then told the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled! For I tell you that none of those who were invited will taste of my supper.’”

A "certain man" invites the all the rich and successful people to come to his feast. But the rich and successful refuse to come and many of their excuses are entirely reasonable--one of the guys just got married! This "certain man" gets very angry that these people will not come and so he plots revenge in the oddest possible way. He invites all the lower class folks to come to the party. But there is still room and this "certain man" doesn't want to see any empty places, so he invites the scum of the earth--the prostitutes and the drug dealers and the murderers. And all these low-lives gladly come. They don't have anything better to do. They don't have any previous engagements to attend to. Why pass up a free meal? And so this "certain man's" house is filled with the scum of society who have nothing to offer him and they know it. And the rich and successful will not partake.

And so it is with Christ. Christ invites us to partake of the feast. We feast on His very body and blood. He gives us the medicine of immortality. We have nothing to offer Him. We are dead in our sins. If we were more important, if we were alive, we might be convinced that there is something more important we could be doing. But we're dead and we know it. Christ did not come for the living, but for the dead. The living are excluded from the feast. The feast is for the dead. The feast is not for the righteous but for sinners. We do not come to the feast to show how good we are but as a confession of how bad we are. And Jesus is good. Jesus feeds us His own body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Feast of St. Barnabas: A Devotional Commentary

Isaiah 42:5-12 Thus says God Yahweh, he who created the heavens and stretched them out, he who spread out the earth and that which comes out of it, he who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk in it. “I, Yahweh, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and make you a covenant for the people, as a light for the nations; to open the blind eyes, to bring the prisoners out of the dungeon, and those who sit in darkness out of the prison. I am Yahweh. That is my name. I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to engraved images. Behold, the former things have happened, and I declare new things. I tell you about them before they come up.” Sing to Yahweh a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is therein, the islands and their inhabitants. Let the wilderness and its cities raise their voices, with the villages that Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing. Let them shout from the top of the mountains! Let them give glory to Yahweh, and declare his praise in the islands.

Acts 11:19-30; Acts 13:1-3 Now, those who had been scattered abroad by the oppression that arose in connection with Stephen had traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they were only proclaiming the word to Jews. But some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, spoke to the Greeks and preached the Lord Jesus when they arrived in Antioch. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. News of these things came to the ears of the Church which was in Jerusalem. So, they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced. He encouraged them all to remain close to the Lord with a resolute heart. Indeed, Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and many people were added to the Lord. Then Barnabas went out to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year, they assembled with the Church and taught many people. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Now, in these days, prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and predicted through the Spirit that a great famine would take place all over the world; and it happened in the days of Claudius. According to their ability, each one of the disciples determined to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea. This is indeed what they did, sending their gift to the presbyters through the hands of Barnabas and Saul. Now, in the Church that was at Antioch, there were some prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen the foster brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they were liturgizing to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them on their way.

Mark 6:7-13 Calling to himself the Twelve, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He told them to take nothing for their journey, except for a staff: no bread, no wallet, no money in their purse. He also told them to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter into a house, stay there until you depart from the area. If any place does not welcome you and if people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Amen, I can tell you that in the day of judgment, things will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for that city!” They went out and preached that people should repent. They also cast out many demons and anointed with oil many people who were sick and healed them.

Barnabas was called to bring light to the nations. He was sent to bring the Light--Jesus Christ to the nations. Barnabas was sent to open the eyes of those blinded to their own sin and free sinners from the Devil's dungeon. Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit so just as the Holy Spirit cannot stop talking about Jesus, Barnabas could not stop talking about Jesus. Along with Paul, he became an Apostle to the Gentiles. Barnabas called all people to repentance. Barnabas told everyone that they were sinners and in need of a Savior. Barnabas brought them Jesus. Barnabas baptized them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Because Barnabas preached Christ-crucified and not the works of man, the Jews were angry. All religions, including Judaism teach that a person is saved by his own works. The Jews had this in common with the pagans. Paganism is less offensive because it is a tit for tat system just as Judaism and Islam and all the other religions are. But Jesus is offensive. Jesus hanging dead on a cross says everyone fails and everyone's good works are nothing but menstrual rags. Your good works are nothing but dung. Jesus did it all.

Because Barnabas preached Jesus they hated Barnabas just as they hated Jesus. They would not have hated Barnabas if he came preaching life principles. Barnabas spoke of Jesus. They had not real arguments against what Barnabas was saying. So because Barnabas spoke of Jesus they dragged him out of building in which he was preaching the Gospel. They beat and tortured Barnabas. They stoned Barnabas to death. They burned his bones after he was dead. All this because Barnabas brought Jesus.

So it is today. Jesus is still offensive, especially in the church. When you insist that ministers bring you Jesus they call you Satanic and slander you and gossip about you. In some places they might even kill you. But it's all worth it. Because you get Jesus. You receive the blessings of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. You are set free from the dark, bondage of your own good works. Your sins are forgiven. You can rest. All this because you have Jesus.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Trinity 1: A Devotional Commentary

Genesis 15:1-6 After these things the word of Yahweh came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Abram said, “Lord Yahweh, what will you give me, since I go childless, and he who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram said, “Behold, to me you have given no seed: and, behold, one born in my house is my heir.” Behold, the word of Yahweh came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir, but he who will come out of your own body will be your heir.” Yahweh brought him outside, and said, “Look now toward the sky, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” He said to Abram, “So shall your seed be.” He believed in Yahweh; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness.

1 John 4:16–21 We know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? This commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should also love his brother.

Luke 16:19–31 “Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores. It happened that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom. He cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in the same way, bad things. But now here he is comforted and you are in anguish. Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ He said, ‘I ask you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house; for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, so they won’t also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.’”

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is not a moralistic tale. Jesus is not saying all the poor people get an automatic ticket to heaven and the rich who fail to care for them go straight to hell. The parable is all about death and resurrection.

Lazarus was a walking death. He was disgusting to look at. He was a loser that just sat around and begged all day. He didn't have a real job. Every day he was reminded what a filthy loser he was when the rich man's dogs would come and lick his sores. And then he died and went where all losers go--straight to heaven.

The rich man was a winner. He was well respected by the religious community and lived it up. He was a dead man walking but he sure didn't look that way and he didn't think so. One day he dies and the next thing he knows he is in the pits of hell. But even then he's not willing to admit that he's dead. He's still thinks he's much more important than Lazarus. He asks Abraham to send Lazarus as a servant to bring him some water. Abraham refuses and the rich man tries to talk his way out of this mess and still doesn't get it. He still thinks Lazarus is his servant and asks Abraham to send Lazarus to talk to his brothers, hoping to earn some brownie points with God by display of mercy towards his brothers. Abraham tells the rich man that his brothers have all the information that they need--they have Moses and the prophets. The rich man says that his brothers will believe if someone rises from the dead but Abraham tells the rich man that if they don't believe Moses and the prophets they won't believe if someone rises from the dead.

Lazarus is Jesus. He lived a life of humility and suffering. He is the complete fulfillment of the law and the prophets. All of the law and the prophets are about Him. And what happened when the religious types who spent their days studying the law and the prophets met Jesus, they wanted to kill the law and the prophets and eventually they did. They killed God Himself. Did they finally believe when the fulfillment of the law and the prophets rose from the dead? No. They had no interest in someone fulfilling the law and the prophets for them. They were only interested in keeping the law themselves. They wanted to be looked up to and respected just as we do today. They wanted to be able to show that they were better than poor beggar because they had a more profound theological knowledge than he did.

We are all like the rich man in this parable. We think that we can do it all on our own and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But in reality we are all beggars. We have nothing of our own and can do nothing of our own. We are disgusting sinners. We are so damaged by sin that the dogs come and lick our sores. Only when we are given the eyes of faith can we see how miserable we really are. We are poor beggars and God gives us salvation as a gift. As a gift we are carried up to Abraham's bosom. Abraham's bosom is only for losers and beggars. The fires of hell are for the winners. By faith we are united to Christ and become partakers in His resurrection. The resurrection is only for dead losers. By faith we see that God is love and can serve our neighbor in love, instead of serving our neighbor to earn our ticket to heaven.