Saturday, April 18, 2020


The crowds increased around Jesus, looking for a sign.  Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation.  It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah...The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here."  
Luke 11:29-32

Jesus often drew a crowd.  The people could see that Jesus held power, and maybe some even saw the good or could see God in what He did, but they wanted to use that power for their own definition of "good."  The crowd's interest was often less about relationship with him and more about getting what they wanted.  Those crowds wanted their own "sign," their own evidence for truth.  They often wanted a miracle that would satisfy them. 

 Jesus warned that any sign they received would not be what they expected.  How many times have you asked for something from God and didn't quite get what you wanted?  Maybe you found it lacking because it didn't fulfill your definition of "good."  

I have found that we like to dictate our requests to God to include the answer, as if he didn't know what we needed.  The truth is that we are the ones who don't always know what we need.  We go for relief, plenty or comfort, but what if "good" does not include ease?  What if God knows our requests are often limited to the present, the immediate? Imagine:  what if He knew better!    I think God is often saying to us, "Wait." "No." or "Better than this."

Jesus makes it clear that the "better" is repentance because that is what brings us the most of what we need - God himself.  Thus, He says the only "sign" would be one that compelled repentance, like what happened to the Ninevites.  Our sights are set low; we don't see the truth of what we need them most, so he adds,

"No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.  Your eye is the lamp of your body.  When you eyes are healthy, your whole body is also full of light.  But when they are unhealthy, you body is also full of darkness.

See to it then, that the light within you is not darkness.  Then, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you."

Could the crowds see it?  Could their "eyes" allow for light or would they stay darkened to the truth of what they needed most?  And us, can we be enlightened about our need for repentance, and thus to be righteous, or darkened to sin and its consequences in our lives?  When we go to request something from God, do approach with our own pretentions or do we desire God?  

Repentance is our greatest chance to finally be as we were intended:  holy and present to God.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Witness Protection

So it comes down to this:  since you have been raised with Jesus, the liberating King, set your mind on heaven above.  The Anointed Jesus is there, seated at God’s right hand.  Stay focused on what’s above, not on earthly things, because your old life is dead and gone.  You new life is now hidden, enmeshed with Jesus who is in God.  On that day when Jesus, who is our very life, is revealed, you will be revealed with Him in glory! 
Colossians 3:1-4

Anyone who is looking for the ways to follow Christ need not look any farther than Colossians 3.  Other places in the New Testament can help us see the divinity of Christ, the development of theology and evidence of the kingdom of heaven.  But here in the third chapter of Colossians is the key strategy for following Jesus in companionship with others.  Paul gives us directives and the source for living out those directives.

Paul is clear that my old life is gone and my new life is now hidden and enmeshed in Jesus.  Sounds like I am in a witness protection program, with Christ as the director, to the point that I have a new identity and new manner of living.  This make-over should make me completely separated from and unrecognizable to my previous life of sin (verses 5-10).  I no longer inhabit any previous spaces, nor engage in any former behaviors and be so far removed from that previous life that I am no longer identified by it.

The entire escapade of new life begins with an identity change:  You have sloughed away your old skin along with its evil practices for a fresh new you, which is continually renewed in knowledge according to the image of the One who created you.  (Colossians 3:9b-10 )  The make-over begins and is continual and puts my new design in direct correspondence to the image of Jesus.  I will now look like him and look like nothing of my former self.

Then, Paul makes it clear that I need to walk away from my former life.  Do I yet visit the neighborhood to keep my connections?  Do I hide somewhere in my being some part of my former life?  Or am I willing to chuck that whole past so as to be completely renewed?  Paul goes on to tell what that new person looks like:

Since you are all set apart by God, make holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life:  compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  (Col 3:12) These internal qualities, reflecting my new identity, then should translate into new set of relationship behavior:  Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, just as the Lord pardoned you.  And above all things, put on love!  Love is the perfect tie to bind these together.  It generates peace.  And be thankful. (Col 3:16)

Paul goes on to list several worship/wisdom efforts:  teach, counsel and instruct one another.  Sing songs and psalms inspired by the Spirit.  Be thankful.  And no matter what you do, it will be all for Jesus.  Belief is not enough for Paul:  it must produce right living.

I like to say it this way.  Belief is more than a good idea.  Lots of people think Jesus had some good ideas.  Belief is depending on his life and ideas as models.  Belief is valuing and trusting the Lord of the Universe, as he displayed himself in the life of Jesus, as the source for the life I should be living.  I need to get out of the ‘hood and walk in the palace, where I belong.