Worth Dying For

There is a quote that I heard recently that got me to thinking about what is important - here it is:
"If you don't have something worth dying for then you don't have something worth living for."
It makes you think doesn't it. Purpose is a much overused word these days. Rick Warren wrote an excellent book about it ... many people that have read it still seem to wander through life without it. I guess that is why many go through life medicated on drugs, vegged out on entertainment and seeking after meaning. Jesus lived life full of meaning and purpose. He had a remarkable sense of mission ... He knew why He was here ... He announced it to everyone:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
These words prophesied by Isaiah 500 years prior seemed to give wings to Jesus' ministry. I find it interesting that His purpose was all about people ... poor people ... people in prison ... blind and sick people ... people oppressed. The mention of God seems to be absent from this mission statement ... the Holy Spirit is mentioned as the power behind His purpose and not the focus of it. How easy it is to lose sight of people when we think of purpose ... how easy to cloak purpose in religious words ... words like 'glory', 'gospel' and 'kingdom'. Jesus lived a life of purpose because He lived a life of loving people. Can't you picture Jesus roaming the hills of Judea and walking the streets of Jerusalem ... stopping to touch the poor ... moving with compassion to heal the sick ... setting demonized people free ... teaching us with words and actions how to love God by loving each other. I find it interesting that Jesus gave us a definition of the greatest purpose:
"This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." (John 5:13)
I have noticed that religious mission statements often include 'loving people as ourselves' but rarely say 'loving people as Jesus loves them'. This seems to be a misunderstanding of Jesus' mission and message to us. People are worth dying for ... Jesus proved it with His very own life. I think that there is nothing more glorious than sacrificial love ... laying down our lives ... our selfish desires ... our self-centeredness ... our schedules - for poor people ... people in prison ... blind and sick people ... people oppressed. Jesus said it best when He said:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. "He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. (John 12:24-25)
What a description of true life ... only dead people can truly live ... that is something worth dying for.

Christian Flame Throwers

From the ninth chapter of Luke’s gospel we get a peek into the heart of a few of Jesus' disciples:
When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." And they went on to another village. (Luke 9:51-56)

I wonder what it is in us that causes us to rush to judgment ... even if it involves death by fire from heaven. It is interesting to note that these folks believed they were in the right ... they believed that a village was worthy of fire just because they did not welcome their leader. Jesus seems to get to the heart of the issue when He rebukes the disciples and confronts the issue on a spiritual level. He says that they are in the dark about the kind of spirit they were operating out of. In some sense this kind of judgment gets it's power from a revengeful murderous spirit ... it is pretty scary.

A month or so ago I had lunch with some very old friends ... I had worked with both of these gentlemen for over 25 years ... they are sweet and precious men. As I sat there enjoying barbeque I became aware of something and began to tear up ... I really worked hard to hide the emotions I began to feel. As these men sat speaking of their devotion to Jesus I started to dial back about 20 years ... emotions come forth as I am thinking about this ... and remembered how I judged these men to be heathens because they did not believe the same way that I did ... I thought of them as cult members and not Christians. My heart breaks when I think about how, for a season of my life, I judged people on a wholesale basis ... denominational believers ... Roman Catholics ... others I deemed as cultic and not true believers.

Jesus comes down hard on judging others. He speaks to us today about judging others:

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."(Matthew 7:1-5)

Interesting that Jesus uses the word hypocrite ... I don't like that word ... speaks to motive ... I don't want to be called a hypocrite just because I judge someone. This is hard to hear but truly needed - we all judge each other ... every day we play the hypocrite. So, in light of this text, I'd like to confess my sins of judgment ... at least the ones that I am aware of ... I confess that I still judge people:

  • that are overweight and struggle with dietary issues;
  • in governmental positions - both political and religious;
  • with tattoos and body piercings;
  • that have been incarcerated;
  • that don't know Jesus the way that I do.

Jesus, please forgive me for judging others ... cleanse me of the need to call down fire on the people who you came to rescue ... I renounce my desire to judge ... fill me up with your love and compassion for people ... especially those who are different from me.

The State Quiz Results

I had to take this quiz several times to get it right :-)

You're Kansas!
You like big sunflowers, wide open spaces, and your little dog too. Whether in black and white or in color, you take life a little slower than the rest of the world, and that works just fine. You get up early, go to bed early, and would really prefer it if the Late Show were on at about 6:30 in the evening. Just when you think that this all makes life a little boring, houses might start falling from the sky.

Take the State Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

Your Heart is Good

I was re-reading some of Preston Gillham’s blog recently. Here are a few of his thoughts.

From Why Does it [Heart] Matter?
Here’s my question: If the heart is the executive center of us, the seat of our passions and desires, the deepest of our inner recesses, and is indeed flawed by duplicitous, deceitful, and wicked tendencies, then what is there for Satan to do that I won’t automatically do?

Seems to me the devil is out of a job. Why should Satan waste his time tempting us if we are going to follow our hearts and wind up in the ditch of sin anyway?

And here is a follow up question: What did Jesus truly accomplish with all that He suffered during His crucifixion? If all He did was make me into a heart divided, what good is that? I’m no good to God divided, except after I die, and I’m going to continue serving Satan by default of my flawed heart just as I did prior to becoming a Believer. Granted, maybe I’ll sin a bit less, but how good is “less” when God demands pure and holy?
From Your Heart is Good:
"If the heart is desperately wicked then why should I trust anything that comes out of it. It forces me to look outside myself continually for direction and help. Though that is not necessarily a bad place to start, to live that way continually does not develop any place for solitude or quite where we can meet Father on a regular basis. If my heart is evil, why would I want to meet God there? I am in need of constant rescuing, from myself and from my own heart. His gift, His presence is my new heart.

While we have many issues that create complex problems, the transformation of our hearts is not one of the issues. This one has been resolved through Christ, and His divine endeavor at Calvary makes it possible for us to connect with God and meet Him heart-to-heart, to bond with Him, and to share in His desires.
From Heart Desire:
The challenge is not to clean up your heart. Christ did that magnificently! The challenge is to live from your heart, to become aware through the Spirit’s power of what your new heart desires and follow that passionately. And I’ll tell you right now: Your heart desperately desires to know God, to walk with Him, to develop a close bond with Jesus Christ, and to live each day in confident collaboration with the Spirit indwelling you.
Living from the heart. I am embracing it more each day. Faith is of the heart and not the head.

The Knowledge of Good and Evil

In his most recent post Simon, of Adullams Cave, connects the dots between the "Knowledge of Good and Evil", the "Old Testament Law" and our desire to live by rules. He does a great job ... I encourage you to read the post. Here are a few gems that I gleaned from it:
"The law, any type of law, offers this. It offers us our own confidence and a sense of self that is of our own making because spiritual law (as the sin nature sees it) depends upon our own ability to obey it. However subtle a form it may come in, however disguised it may be, our sin nature wants to perform and will use any percieved system (moral or otherwise) to attempt to do so, but unfortunately it will always leaves us in bondage."

"The knowledge of good and evil is in its most fundamental form a system of law that varies greatly or slightly from person to person. It is our own code of right and wrong, good and evil, shoulds and should'nts, musts and must'nts, righteousness and unrighteousness, do this and don't do that."

"After the fall man began deciding what was good for himself. The first and most obvious example of this is when Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves because they knew (through the knowing of good and evil) that they were naked. Later on in Genesis we read that “every man was doing what was right in his own eyes.” A system of good and evil existed in every man and still does today."
I think hat it is helpful to understand that the roots of our desire to live by formulas and principles goes back Adam. For many years I lived my life by a complex set of biblical principles ... it gave me the appearance of godliness - but it had no power when I faced intense pain in my life ... there is no principle that covers death and grief. My journey from legalism is a picture of a man fully embracing the knowledge of good and evil ... a journey of arrogant judging. I only changed when I had no other options ... the end of legalism is a pit ... our dogma has no answers for pain ... when pain comes (hallelujah) we are forced to change ... forced to abandon our knowledge of good and evil.