Passion Week Musings: The Olivet Discourse

In terms of Passion Week, after causing great disruption at the temple and driving out moneychangers and merchants the next documented event is that of the Olivet discourse. Jesus took extended time to give last words to the crowd of disciples. The discourse was his last public teaching. He spent time speaking in prophecy and parables. His teaching included the commentary on the ten virgins and the five talents. He also provided warning to remain in truth and warned of deceivers. He prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem and the times leading up to His second coming. It is worthwhile to take time to read the varied accounts of the Olivet Discourse found in Mark 13, Matthew 24 and 25, and Luke 21. Jesus is quick clear that there is great difficulty and tribulation coming before His return both in terms of Israel and those in God’s kingdom. He makes it clear that there are signs to attend to and that love can grow cold and people can and will be deceived. Also emphasized in the discourse is the importance of our actions following what we say we believe.Through all of what Jesus talked about, there is one point that catches my attention today.

Jesus summed up his discourse with a call to stay awake. The book of Mark ends the account of the discourse in Mark 13: 34-37 (ESV): “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning– lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” So Jesus emphasizes the importance staying awake. The point is further clarified in the way Luke’s account wraps up the discourse in Luke 21:34:36 (ESV): “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” So Jesus does give clear directive that there will be pain, loss of self control, and distractions of life that can draw one away from attending to the Gospel.

There are endless varieties of pain; endless ways to lose self; and unyielding array of life concerns that can take the focus and result in failing asleep and failing to attend to the matters of a servant in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is noteworthy that in many circles within the Body of Christ are calls for revival and suggestions of revival happening in one location or another. In this discourse, Jesus warns not to go chasing from one location or another. He simply directs us to stay awake. Staying awake is actively attending to the matters of the Kingdom of God. It is found in loving others and attending to the various signs as they occur. It is taking focus away from pains, pleasures, or tasks of life and instead seeking to be about the Father’s business. No one else can supply what is needed, rather staying awake involved actively worshipping in spirit in truth. It is depending on the fuel of God and investing what He has given in order to spread God’s kingdom. His Kingdom is not of politics, it is not about relief of suffering, it is not about giving us all we want and reducing the cares of life. Rather, his Kingdom is about loving God and loving others fully and letting others know that there is only one way, one truth, one life, and one gate; JESUS! So stay awake and if caught up in the varied elements of life that lure and entrap like the Siren’s call of myths, WAKE UP! For Jesus return is always and ever SOON! He is the soon and coming King. We have all we need and all that is need for true revival is for each of us to wake up and actively use what God has given.

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Passion Week Musings: Jesus displays anger at temple

Today’s thoughts focus on the first then Jesus did upon arrival in Jerusalem. Since he went about his Father’s business, the first place he went was to the Temple. Now the temple was set up as was normal for the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover. There were booths selling animals for sacrifice and booths for exchanging money for “Temple coins.” It seems to me those coins were the equivalent of an arcade token. You could not spend other money in the temple; instead, you had to have the special coin of use nowhere else. Add to that, the merchants were making it easy for those traveling to Jerusalem. They did not have to select a lamb or dove prior to making the trip to Jerusalem. They did not have to tend to it for a week while traveling to Jerusalem. All they had to do was show up, purchase a sacrifice and go on their way. It was profitable and ingenious. It was making it easy for folks to do their duty at little cost to self. So Jesus arrives, sees this grand program all set up in the court of Gentiles (only place foreigners allowed) and comes across this scene, which in my find would be similar to a country fair. If it was today there probably would also be assorted thrill rides somewhere close. So Jesus arrives, gets angry and disrupts the whole scene driving them all away. The portrayals of this event most likely do not even come close to doing justice. Jesus was angry and likely angry for many reasons. The chief reason though is summed up in Luke 19:46B (ESV) “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

There is a contrast between what God intended for the Temple including the court of Gentiles, and what the process had became. The Temple was about communion and interaction with God with space designated for those not part of Israel to engage in communion with God. The temple was all about facilitating connection with God almighty. Now the feast day and Passover in particular was very important. Instead, it became a big commercial enterprise serving everyone of Israel and all that came to partake. The offered services really in essence made sacrificing easy for you did not really have to bring your own. If you did, most likely it was disqualified as imperfect forcing you to buy one at the temple, which most likely was an animal disqualified from someone else. The whole scene served as huge barrier to people truly seeking to connect with God and follow through with what God required. A time of solemn remembrance and celebration became about either creating an obstacle for genuine worshipers or providing short cuts for those who did not care to give the whole devotion and simply intended to follow through with the duty.

In thinking over why Jesus became angry, it is worth reflecting how we manage church today. The gifts and talents God has given to members of the body are sold just as readily as the goods offered in the court of the Gentiles. We readily depend on what God has given others to aid our growth and communion with God. More often than not we pay for it. We cycle and recycle Sermons, worship music, and teaching usually at a cost. The Gospel is even denigrated to something cheap and easy with no real cost to the individual. The Gospel has become just the frame around which many build their own Kingdoms, separating things from others that is meant for own profit. In a large sense, we have developed a self-involved approach to worship that involves passive engagement with no real true engagement of self. It would be the equivalent of waiting to get to the temple and buying a dove or goat because it is easier. The truth is, the Church as we know it had digressed far away from a fellowship of believers supporting one another to often what is a group of individuals gathered together engaging in corporate worship as individuals. There are people seeking genuine interaction with God and other believers, and there are those who are not. However, we have great barriers between self and others and people all too to sell prefabricated information that prevents true engagement and attachment, creating a barrier between God and us. Far too often there is very little genuine response to God’s reveal reality much less following and acting with dependence and gifting from the Holy Spirit even by those making claims of same. Each of us need to take a look at ourselves and see are we engaging in genuine worship that reflects community and a house of prayer, or do we simply engage in a machine moving money and filling the pockets of others with money? Now it is worth noting that there are those out there following God in spirit and truth and moving beyond the machine around us that professes to aid God’s kingdom but simply places barriers or cheapens God’s grace.

Take time, seek God, pray and ask for revelation of how robbers have been let into or engaged in your own walk with God, for we all have given money and time to thieves. Examine yourself and see are you genuinely seeking God, or after something to simply satisfy and build self? Do we walking in loving God and loving others, or do we simply engage in what is expected and put in some time. Does God daily impact your life? These and many other questions come to mind but all revolve around living surrendered to God or serving self. So two paths are clear, the path of thieves who draw the anger and wrath of God, or the path of a genuine worshiper seeking to come under God’s rule and bring Him glory.

Passion Week Musings: Palm Sunday

Today was Palm Sunday. It is the first day of what is celebrated as Passion Week, which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Grasping the events of the week really starts with this day, know as Palm Sunday. It is interesting to consider the symptoms of Jesus entry into Jerusalem. An interesting article, http://www.answers.com/topic/palm-sunday, indicates palm fronds were a symbol of victory and triumph. The book “Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible” edited by J.I. Packer and M.C. Tenney indicated that palms were also symbolic of righteousness. It also is reported that palm fronds serve as the covering during the Biblical feast of booths. This symbolism is important for us when considering the events of Palm Sunday. Jesus was recognized as coming royalty, acknowledged for righteousness, and prophetically pointing to Jesus serving as our covering as that covering was laid before his path. The aforementioned article also referenced the riding in on a donkey as being symbolic of entering in peace versus entering on a horse which would symbolize war. So take some time to think about that symbolism while taking time to read the Luke account of the Palm Sunday story. Feel free to also take time to read the account in Matthew 21: 1 – 17 and Mark 11: 1 – 11. After reading the passage will offer brief commentary on three reactions that occurred during Jesus approach to Jerusalem.

Luke 19:28-44 (ESV): Luke When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here.
If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.'” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road.
As he was drawing near–already on the way down the Mount of Olives–the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side
and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

 

Now let us take a look at three reactions to Jesus entry. First there was the reaction of great expectation. Jesus was recognized as the coming Messiah. The crowd in their response declared Jesus as Messiah, the coming Son of David, with the expectation of deliverance from oppression and living a time of victory and peace. The anticipation and expectations were high. It was seen the time had come for Messiah to act and bring freedom.

The next reaction is that of Jesus. He understood the reactions, and the expectation. He recognized that they did not grasp that for him to become the true covering, to offer true freedom from oppression, to be able to being true peace, he would need to be sacrificed and suffer much. Jesus knew what they were blind from seeing and understanding. Even though the celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread and Passover, they did not grasp the meaning. So Jesus wept for he knew the full extent of what was to come. He knew the consequences that would result. He knew that it was necessary for the bringing of true peace.

The third response was that of the religious elite, those in power in Israel. The saw the reactions, heard the proclamations and acted in fear. The conspiracy to bring about Jesus death took full shape and they were not going to rest until they solved the threat to their power and control. They were comfortable with their position and power, Jesus coming and taking over was the last they wanted. What made it worse is Jesus came not giving the honor for faithfully administrating Torah and the people, but rather challenged them at every turn, yet while remaining righteousness an honor. Jesus actions and words brought the shame; they could not have that, so the only way to remove the threat was to see to Jesus death.

The end result of the responses is what lead up to the ongoing events of Passion Week, the very elements that took place so that all may be brought to peace and free of oppression. For true peace is only found through the sacrifice of the innocent and redemption by the power of blood.


 

Shocking facts on Tares

Received this email from Andrew Strom’s email list. I have also personally had similar thoughts and meant to right it up. My brother-in-law last fall mentioned that there are actually two types of tares. Ones that mature before harvest and another cannot tell until the harvest.  The effects of drunkness and paralysis being byproducts of the fruit of tares though is thought provoking.

SHOCKING FACTS on “TARES”
-Andrew Strom.

Of course, we all know Jesus’ parable of the Wheat and the Tares.
Tares are plants that look just like wheat until Harvest time –
when it turns out that they were counterfeit. Awhile ago I learnt
some facts about Tares that truly shocked and surprised me.

When you look up the word “Tares” on Wikipedia, it comes back
with the equivalent plant named “Darnel.” This is exactly correct
according to most Biblical authorities. The Tares are almost always
considered to be the weed Darnel – also known as “false wheat”
which grows plentifully in the whole region around Israel. Here is
what Wikipedia says about it:

“It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears… It
parasitizes wheat fields. The French word for darnel is “ivraie”…
which expresses that weed’s characteristic of making one feel
poisoned with drunkenness, and can cause death. This
characteristic is also alluded to in the scientific name (Latin
temulentus = drunk)… The plant is mentioned in… the Parable
of the Tares in the Gospel of Matthew.”

So is this identification of Tares with “drunkenness” noted
elsewhere? Yes – many Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias say
exactly the same thing. In fact, the Faussett Bible Cyclopedia
states that “when mixed with wheat flour [it] causes dizziness,
intoxication, and paralysis” and says that bearded darnel is
known as “the only deleterious grain” among all the grasses.

On the giant website “Botanical.com” we read: “It is recorded to
have produced all the symptoms of drunkenness: a general
trembling, followed by inability to walk, hindered speech and
vomiting. For this reason the French call Darnel: ‘Ivraie,’ from Ivre
(drunkenness).”

Out of all the weed-type grasses, Tares are seemingly the only
ones that produce this deadly “drunken” effect. Isn’t that amazing?
In the parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matt 13, Jesus states
that his “enemy” sows tares amongst the true wheat. Then He says:

“Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will
say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in
bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (Mt 13:30).

I guess I don’t need to point out the possible parallels with today’s
“Drunkenness”/ River movement. What an alarming insight – if it
does have relevance to what we have seen in those circles!!


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Musings on Irish Theology

Today was Saint Patrick’s day. On this day of celebrating and focusing on the Irish spent some time thinking about the influence and impact of the Irish Christians.  A brief examination of church history in Ireland consists of things that challenge any Christian today and things to be careful of as believers.  I want to share three brief thoughts on each.

The three things in looking at the Irish Christians that at some levels lacks in the modern day church are creativity, community, and pilgrimage.  The Irish church was known for its creativity. There was no shying away from use of the imagination and using creativity to point to God.  The Irish church also was very relational, open, and vulnerable to other brothers and sisters.  The Irish church also focused on following God where ever He leads and treating life as a journey and pilgrimage.  Time was spent learning and remembering the significant parts of your walk with  God and looking for where God moves next.  Each of us would benefit from growing in these areas of being creative in pointing to Jesus, connecting beyond superficial with others, and treating life here as a journey looking to meet God’s purposes as He leads. These principles played a role in the Irish church impacting those around them with the Gospel, even to the point of spreading the good news across knowledge to the point of Ireland being known as the land of saints and scholars. 

There are also aspects of the Irish church that are concerning.  Three areas that find most concerning were the compromise, aesthetics, and elevation of individual mystical experience seen in some Irish theology. Examining the Irish church there is evidence of syncretism of old practices into Christianity. This was done with an attitude that anything can be transformed or redeem but some of that compromised polluted the faith and growth.  There also was a focus on being welcoming to the point where there may have been acceptance at the expense of the Gospel.  The Irish church was also known for aesthetics and engaging in self-wounding and harsh fasts in terms of pleasing God and reducing the sinful, selfish part of self.  The Irish church also emphasized experience of the individuals. The individual relationship and experience took pre-eminence and those observed to have unique and special experiences were elevated to “Saint” status, of which many were claimed. Personally, the question comes in these areas is about finding balance.  There is need to reach others in ways they understand, but needs to happen without compromise.  There is need for discipline, growth, and works of surrender to God, but it is not done by self-inflicted suffering or external means of chastising self.  Individual experience can be mystical If God show chooses, but when God does chose to give such experiences it does not make that person special or unique to God, but rather someone God chose to use and communicate with in that manner.

Sadly, the path of the church today is moving farther away from the positive aspects of Irish theology and embracing out of balance elements of Irish faith.  Acceptance is done at cost of truth, experience is used to shape biblical understanding and the adaptation and assimilation of culture is frequent.  There are people who in the name of loving others fail to include communication of truth.  It would be of great value of each of us developed a mindset of being actively engaged in relationship with God and others that it impacts our walk and choices in new and creative ways.  The Irish church was not passive, but engaged and many were brought into the Kingdom of God.   So we need to examine self. Are we active, are we compromising, are we presenting both truth and love?  Truth without love is rigid and cruel.  Love without the sound truth is empty and can lead for people remaining on paths to destruction.

Christian Creativity: Sand Art- The Passion by Joe Castillo

Just learned of some Christians using the medium of sand art.  I once saw a video of sand art before and found it interesting but empty as it wasn’t being used to point to Jesus.  I did not look around at that time to see if anyone was using the medium to point to Jesus.  Joe Castillo is one such artist. Will post other videos at another point and time but wanted to highlight this one.  It also should encourage all to use your gifts in a way that points to Jesus to build His Kingdom.

Helpful Articles: A Godly response to criticism by Ben Pierce of Steiger International

 

Recently ran across this article by Ben Pierce, a member of No Longer Music and part of the Stieger International team.  It really points to need for humility and trusting in God for defense.  These are words that are worth sharing and reading. Hope you are challenged and blessed. 

A Godly Response to Criticism

Written by Ben Pierce   
Friday, March 05 2010 02:09
Being a human being is a strange thing. If we dare to be different, stand out from the crowd, try something new, or take a risk we will inevitably face criticism. No one is immune to criticism, deserved or otherwise. In ministry the intensity and the frequency of the criticism can be even greater. The bible is full of examples of this. Noah was ridiculed for trusting God and building the ark, Moses was mocked by his own people for attempting to lead them out of captivity, and of course Jesus was constantly criticized by the religious leaders of his day. Criticism is to be expected. 

The bible is very clear about how we are to handle criticism. Our response to deserved or undeserved criticism is crucial. In Romans Paul writes  “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God” (Romans 12:19). It is clear throughout scripture that God will speak for us, defend us, and stand up for us, so we should not.Wrath is often a misunderstand term. Literally it means righteousness anger. God’s wrath is His rightful anger towards things that aren’t right. We are going to encounter all kinds of situations in life in which the world’s way of operating would entitle us to retaliation. It is in these situations we need a major paradigm shift from a human response to God’s response. What Paul posits in this part of his letter to the Romans is that we need to leave making things right to God. Ultimately, it’s an issue of faith and surrender. Do we trust that God is ultimately in control of justice or do we feel that if left to Him nothing will be made right? 

The highly influential theologian A.W. Tozer strongly urges us never to defend ourselves. He writes: 

“What do we defend? Well, we defend our service, and particularly we defend our reputation. Your reputation is what people think you are, and if a story gets out about you, the big temptation is to try to run it down. But you know, running down the source of a story is a hopeless task. Absolutely hopeless! It’s like trying to find the bird after you’ve found the feather on your lawn. You can’t do it. But if you’ll turn yourself wholly over to the Lord, He will defend you completely and see to it that no one will harm you. “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.” He says, and “every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn” (Isaish 54:17). 

So when confronted with criticism, how do we respond? First, it’s important to realize that in any situation we are rarely completely guilty or innocent. When approaching any situation in which you have been criticized it is important to be humble and realize that you most certainly have something to learn.  

It is obvious that we are not to defend our reputation or our image. So what do we do? Turn to the bible. Jesus gave us a model for dealing with criticism. When the religious leaders of his day criticized Him, He turned to scripture. 

2nd Timothy 3:16 says, “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, and for training in righteousness”. Paul encourages Timothy to see the Bible as a tool for character shaping and reproof. I believe when faced with criticism we need to take it to God and ask Him to reveal what truth, if any, can be extracted from the experience. We need to humbly search the scriptures for any “training in righteousness” that needs to occur in the process. If we choose not to defend ourselves when criticized, but rather see it as a chance to grow, I believe God will shape us into people who He can use for any noble purpose, we truly would be vessels of Gold. 

No one can avoid criticism, but we can all choose our response. Sometime criticism is warranted and other times it can come out of nowhere. In either case we need to respond as God would have us respond. Let us choose humility. Let us leave our defense up to God. The alternative will stop what God wants to do in your heart and will limit what he will be able to do through you. 

Tozer put it frankly when he said, “if you insist upon defending yourself, God will let you do it. But if you turn the defense of yourself over to God He will defend you” 

That certainly seems like an obvious choice to me. 


Ben Pierce has been a member of No Longer Music since 2007, co-leads a local Minneapolis outreach ministry, and works as the assistant development directory for Steiger. The views expressed in the following blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the complete views of Steiger. See Steiger’s Statement of Faith and Values in the ‘About Us’ section of the website.