Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Messiah’

shepherdsHow many of us know a shepherd. Honestly? At best I may have met a 4-H person at the Farm Fair. Oh, and one of my library colleagues used to raise a few sheep for the wool which she sheared and spun and created beautiful things. But she wasn’t exactly Little Bo Peep. And although nativity story shepherds have been romanticized, the truth is they were on some of the lowest rungs of the ladder. They were a necessity for the economy, the protection of the sheep, but their jobs were B-O-R-I-N-G. In modern day, I might compare them to a rent-a-cop on the graveyard shift of a storage unit.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. . . . When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. [Luke 2:8-9, 15-16, NIV]

I’ll look into angels tomorrow but for now, let’s look at shepherds. Back in the day, the shepherd metaphor was a good one. The Greek word poimēn word means herdsman or shepherd, but even then, it was seen metaphorically, the one who watches over the flock, the one who protects the herd from outside danger, the one who seeks for lost ones, the one who heals the sick. For these reasons, many have compared shepherds to pastors in a church. And certainly, even Jesus himself, allowed this comparison [John 10:14-16].

What’s funny about shepherds to me is that despite their humble station, the critters they guarded appeared to be quite stupid and over the years, and this has stuck. Despite some contrary information in recent years about sheep being able to recognize faces of other sheep and human caretakers, build relationships, and possibly know how to eat certain plants to make themselves feel better. But mostly, we find sheep to have such a strong flocking instinct and “follower” genes that they will do themselves harm based on who they follow. That metaphor has never been complimentary to the church or people who follow leaders blindly.

But no matter how much we imagine this shepherd/flock relationship, it’s not really in our modern ken or culture. We don’t have a modern counterpart to the stinky, smelly sheep workers who were more comfortable alone with their animals than they were with other people. They were undoubtedly loners and nomadic by nature. They often endured taunts for unappealing acts with their ewes. Was it true? I really don’t know. And yet, these most lowly of men were, according to the story, visited by angels in such a large number that many shepherds (scattered over the fields) saw the spectacle and responded.

It is so often the case that the poor and “least of these” type folks get the message. They have nothing to lose, having little to begin with. The grassroots campaign for the Christ began with them. Come see–go tell. The Messiah has come.

Read Full Post »

PiercedHandOn that resurrection day and for 40 days thereafter, Jesus appeared to his disciples and to others. I call this the “Second Forty,” and will be doing another systematic walk through these days. But today, this Easter day, I share three experiences I had mirrored a day the followers had:

 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” [John 20:19-22]

The doors were locked and the followers were hiding from authorities still, and yet, Jesus revealed himself to them. He was no longer limited by time and space. He appeared. (He was the first one to really experience the Star Trek-like transporter.) And his first words were a blessing for peace. He showed him some tell-tale signs, like the nail prints, but I always wonder if there were other prints: did his back show the scars from the lashes of the whip, did his head show the gashes from the thorns?

And so, with his appearance, they believed again; their faith was reborn in that moment and their fears abated. For some, it was a confirmation (for they never gave up — particularly the women) while for others, they did an about face (they had started to doubt, like Thomas). How long could they have sustained themselves without his appearance? We’ll never know. Like Peter had to carry his public denials of Christ, they would carry their secret ones in the heart.

And then, just like that, they were given their commission: Go! And with that commission came the companion: the Holy Spirit – given through the breath of the Christ. Jesus breathed out and we are asked to breathe in.

Today, when I woke, I had such a lightness of being, and a Presence: the nearness of Christ Jesus. And with that revelation of the Jesus resurrection, came a renewal within, one I have needed for some weeks. And so, I breathed in and filled up again.

And so, I was one with the followers of the Messiah who had been locked up in that room, afraid to take the next step. And Christ came to me with peace and confirmation and hope. Alleluia.


You Won’t Relent by the Jesus Culture.

Read Full Post »

Laying down cloakAs he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  [Luke 19:36-38]

Was this a little thing? Laying down one’s cloak on the road for Jesus to be trampled underfoot, not only by Jesus on a donkey but also the disciples and who knows how many more were in the entourage. And then, if my imagination is anywhere close to accurate, usually a crowd swells in behind the leader in the parade. By the time someone might return to the road, after the crowds have dissipated, poor cloak might be in quite the disarray. In fact, it might be good for nothing, only a rag.

I wonder, did their hope feel the same way when they realized that Jesus was not going to manifest as the Messiah in the way they thought he would? Did they look at those rags and begin to feel less enthusiastic, less sure. Perhaps the cloak was a gift from a friend or purchased with hard earned money. Would there be second thoughts? So often people get caught up in the crowd’s enthusiasm, only to find the aftermath less glorious.

I’m just saying.

I can’t help but think of other more contemporary masses: remember Woodstock? In the wonder of all that freedom, people did all kinds of crazy things, like take off their clothes, roll in the mud, get blind stoned, and so forth. I wonder how that felt when the pictures came out. Or what about soccer stadiums where anger and fury drive fans onto the field and sometimes trampling people? Or New Years celebrations with fireworks and guns shooting off but unknowingly striking a child who dies? It happens all the time. The crowd.

Our laying down cannot be driven by the crowd. If I am going to give up my coat (or anything else of value), then I have to give it so freely that it won’t matter if it comes back to me. I have to let go with intent, with consciousness, with understanding. I have to lay my stuff down with trust. Only in this way, will I avoid standing outside of Pilate’s palace yelling “crucify him.”

So often, in a kind of self-possessive way, I hear people say they don’t give money to the homeless because of what that person might do with it. After all, their money is what? Precious? Or, even worse, people who don’t give to the local church because they disagree with the use of the funds (like the color of the carpet or the size of the flowers on the altar). It’s kept back in the name of “stewardship.” But I am beginning to believe that attitude is like trying to retrieve the cloak laid down on the road on Palm Sunday.

If we give, we give freely and trust God to use the gift. If I lay down my stuff, I am not to pick it up again. If I am acknowledging that Jesus is truly the Messiah, the King of Kings, the Lord of my life, then what is the cloak in comparison to that? Who is asking? Who is this Jesus?

Read Full Post »

Why do we picture God?

Why do we picture God?

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspringbe.”Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. [Genesis 15:5-6]

You have an attitude about promises? I know I do. Apparently, I’m a classic case, too many promises have been broken along the way. The only good thing that came from that is I don’t make my own promises lightly. It’s serious stuff, this promise-making.

But, I am grateful that I also learned that the promises of God are outside the norm.

God cannot be anthropomorphized, giving God human characteristics. And yet, people do it all the time, as though we need a picture to grab onto God. How many pictures have we seen of God in a long white beard sitting on a throne, much like a high-end Santa in flowing robes or a collective consciousness of what Zeus might look like if he wasn’t just a myth. Ha Ha. Why is that funny? Because people are quick to call the Greeks and Romans foolish in their many gods, and yet, our imagined “God” is OK.

It’s one of the reasons the ten commandments include a warning (number four), “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” [Exodus 20:4-6] We are not supposed to make God like us. God is not “like” anything we know. “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” [John 4:24]

God promises are birthed in Spirit and manifest in our world in a way that cannot be judged by time and space.

And yet, I keep trying to put God in my time box. I keep wanting the promises to either be fulfilled (in a way I recognize) or in a time frame that suits (maybe within my lifetime might be good). And here’s the point of Abraham. He believed without being given the specifics or the time. This wholesale faith in the promises of God makes all the difference.

So, two things I want to carry with me today: One: the image of God that we have been given, one with skin and recognizable human was Jesus, the anointed Christ, the promised Messiah. How long did that take? And two, well, I’m thinking. It’s about the promises. I need to do some extra work on that idea, a series, I guess. What is my life promise, like Abraham’s? Perhaps I have been too scattered all these years. I will be asking for that revelation, that promise revealed.

Read Full Post »

Photo of Beersheba by Leon Mauldin

Photo of Beersheba by Leon Mauldin

The making of oaths and treaties in ancient times was far more serious than it is today. When anyone swore an oath and broke it, the penalty was severe, even death. I cannot help but wonder how different our world would be if promises and vows had more significance. Not unlike Bonhoeffer’s “cheap grace,” we now have vows made with fingers crossed behind our backs.

Genesis 21:30-31
He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.” So that place was called Beersheba,because the two men swore an oath there.

Lack of trust is at pandemic proportions, the real core to our inability to make a vow or promise and keep it. We have all been betrayed so many times, we do not believe the word of others. Either we need lots of evidence or the cost for breaking trust must be so high that everyone is put in a fear position to uphold the agreement (hence, the Cold War).

Of course, those fear-based promises usually have loopholes and everyone is busy trying to find them.

Marriages have become the thing of mistrust and loopholes as well. I find it amusing, the angst over same-sex unions, while cheating, divorce, and secret lusts rage in society. How often are the ones who rail against the sins of others, forget their own?

A covenant is a binding oath, a promise that cannot be broken. An agreement with God, the acceptance of Christ as the Messiah, is on that level.

I forget this sometimes. I dishonor the agreement. I don’t hold up my end of the bargain, the treaty, the contract. In a secular world, if I broke a contract the number of times I have broken covenant with the Christ, I would be sued or forced to pay large sums of money or put in jail. But my contract, thanks be to God, is with Grace. And I get more chances to make it right.

I give “lip service” to my trust in God, but I’m afraid I don’t build my foundation on it. I am swayed and battered by the storms of life and I lose sight of trust I promised to have in God. I know intellectually that God is faithful and trustworthy, but still I stumble.

Sensitize me to Your Presence today Lord and give me courage to speak trust in the face of all circumstances. Help me build a Beersheba today, to remember my promise.

Read Full Post »

For years, I have always thought of the “Anti-Christ” as a person. I supposed it’s all that Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins stuff, pre-tribulation, pre-millenialism, and the rapture. Those folks have an entire time line for the appearance of the Anti-Christ. But John sheds a different light on the concept in his letter.

I John 4:2-3
By this you may know (perceive and recognize) the Spirit of God: every spirit which acknowledges and confesses [the fact] that Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [actually] has become man and has come in the flesh is of God [has God for its source]; And every spirit which does not acknowledge and confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [but would annul, destroy, sever, disunite Him] is not of God [does not proceed from Him]. This [nonconfession] is the [spirit] of the antichrist, [of] which you heard that it was coming, and now it is already in the world.
[Amplified]

If John is to be believed, a simple litmus test is the willingness of the spirit to confess that Christ is indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. In biblical times, maybe this was easier to do. After all, the Jewish people had been waiting for the Messiah for centuries, his coming foretold by prophet after prophet. They expected and even longed for that day, anticipating a revolution of epic size that would, once and for all, free Israel from its enemies and usurpers.

Immediately after Christ’s appearance, ministry, execution, and resurrection, the guidelines were clear-cut: a person accepted Christ as the Messiah or not. If there was no Messiah, then there was no Christ, and Jesus was a nice guy who turned their world topsy turvy for for no good cause.

So, anti-Christ is not necessarily an individual per se, but a belief, or rather, a disbelief. And I think it’s called a spirit because belief happens within. It is my spirit that chooses, that part of me that works with my mind and soul, to unify the interior life and direct my actions & choices.

In modern times, this confession or lack of confession, is less understood or accepted. We have more relativism and few people (outside the circles of denominational Christianity) like the “black and white” feel of this mandate. Plus, other requirements have been added such as a verbal confession or attendance in church or getting splashed/dunked with water, just to name a few.

But, I remember vividly, my spirit confessed the Christ, because of statements like these written as the word of Jesus, “If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” [John 8:46b-47] I could not call Jesus the lie. And I wanted to hear God. I wanted to be part of the God equation, the interaction, the indwelling of Messiah through the Holy Spirit.

And so, this is the one confession: I believe the source of Christ was and is God. And as a result, the Holy Spirit dwells within me.

My primary responsibility as a result of this confession is to love God with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love my neighbor as myself. The rest is human confusion.

Read Full Post »

If salvation is believing and loving the Christ without direct contact but still appropriating the benefits (covering of sin that separates us from God), that is Grace. And apparently, the old guys knew about it and were waiting for the manifestation of Him. We’ve lost the wonder that comes with waiting.

I Peter 1:10-11
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

Am I alone in taking for granted the marvel and mystery of God’s appearance in Christ to reunite human with Spirit, to recreate relationship, to begin a new age of life through the inner presence of the Holy Spirit, to inspire and encourage the walking out of paradoxes like loving enemies, giving to receive, and dying to live?

The prophets were all waiting in expectation of a “new earth” through the appearance of the Messiah/Christ. The prophets tried to prepare the way, but many of their prophecies were misinterpreted over the years. As a result, later generations began looking for a military leader, a benevolent dictator, a king of kings. The people lost discernment of the spiritual revolution that was foretold. Even Jesus’s disciples could not get a handle on the mission until after Christ’s resurrection, the greatest mystery of all, despite the predictions.

Supposedly, believers of today are waiting for a second return of Christ. But I think most of this is lip service: we may even “talk this talk” but few tangibly believe it. Besides, when someone does get the notion of an imminent second coming, he (or she) is considered a kook (and, by the way, rightly so — for now).

We’ve lost the ability to wait with anticipation. With true waiting for something huge like the second coming of Christ, there should be truth searching, longing, intense investigation, escalating hope, growing expectation, and discovery all along the way. It’s been too drawn out. We have become almost cavalier. Or, at the least, in our current time.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m lumping myself in this same group and mindset. The last time I felt true expectation in my heart and soul was on our trip to Europe to adopt our children; or perhaps, when I was a child myself. Children know about eager waiting.

Our kids give us a peek at that kind of excitement regularly. Just look at young people before the holidays or at teens before a prom. They know the basics of these events, but the particulars cannot be known until the actual day. And so, they wait and wonder and enjoy. Unfortunately, for adults, keen anticipation rolls into a disappointment at the event itself.

For the last two thousand years, we have been living the event. We are part of the promise. We have been given the keys to the mystery of the ages, the Grace of God in Christ. But time has eroded our wonder. Interpretations and habits and silos of belief (e.g. denominations) have worn away the impact of the reunion between God and Human. We’ve grown bland and insipid, much like the church of Laodicea [Revelation 3:14-21].

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! [Revelation 2:4-5a]

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: