Friday, April 30, 2010

Prayer: More Than Words?

I do not know if you recall the 1991 hit "More than words."  As I was preparing a lesson on prayer a while back the song came to mind.  The song is written to someone that the lyricist loves.  But imagine if God were singing this to us.

Now I have a point to this.  Jesus said this:

But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don't babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they'll be heard for their many words. Don't be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.
Matthew 6:6-8 (HCSB)

What if prayer is not about the words we speak, but rather the action it produces? 

What if prayer was about perseverance, alertness, and intercession, more than words?

Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:18 (HCSB)

What if prayer was guarding against temptation more than words?

When He reached the place, He told them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation."
Luke 22:40 (HCSB)

What if prayer was about the earth shaking, being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking the word of God with great boldness, more than words?

When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God's message with boldness.
Acts 4:31 (HCSB)

What if God took your words away.  What if you could not make things new just by saying forgive me, help me, or I worship You?

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.
Romans 8:26 (HCSB)

What if prayer is for thankfulness, wisdom, knowledge, and enlightenment to God's calling, God's riches, and God's power, more than words?

I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.
Ephesians 1:16-19 (HCSB)

Then someone might respond, "I am sorry this type of questioning simply will not do.  It is to grandiose a thing to consider that prayer could possibly be these things.  I will just stick to my simple prayers and if God wills then He will answer me.  If not then I trust that He knows what He is doing.  After all it is just words.  Thankfully I know that God hears me." 

And then we wonder why He does not answer our prayer. 

Try it out pray with more than words.  More to come :-)

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Prayer: From the Mouths of Babes

Prayer is the language

Image by Lel4nd via Flickr

Nothing is wrong when you say it in a song

My son made this statement this morning.  Something struck me as profound about it (He is five almost six).  There is something that is quite powerful about human experience when it is put to song.  Some of the most tragic moments of our lives can become beautiful expressions when the event is set to music and lyric.  It got me thinking about other profound truths I have heard come from the mouth of my five year old son.  Immediately I recalled the moment that I realized the profound prayer that he repeats nearly every time he prays in the morning on the way to school.

Dear Jesus,  thank you for this day.  Help us to not get sticks or tallies.  Help no one to get hurt on the playground.  In Jesus Name, AMEN

In this simple prayer we have most of the things that we adults will pray for if we are spiritually aware of what is going on around us. 

It is with profound thankfulness that we can enter each day.  We often get so caught up with the things to resent or be disappointed about that we often miss the blessed opportunity to be thankful.  If you believe that you have nothing to be thankful for then it is a sure sign that you are on the path of resentment, disappointment, and disillusionment.  Yet a simple faith which says, "thank you for this day" melts that all away in the warmth of God's goodness.

Often we do not prayerfully ask God to guard our way nor measure our steps.  It is in these times that we are most likely to fall into our own selfishness and sin.  We can get sticks (a warning that we are on the wrong path) and tallies (a consequence of continuing in wrong behavior) by not paying attention.  It seems to me that starting your day with a request for God's help in this way keeps our attention on avoiding these pitfalls that are quite easy for us to fall into. 

Life seems to be filled with misfortune, pain, and suffering.  To a kid the playground is life.  Lord please help no one to get hurt on the playground of life, whether at work, home, church, vacation, or any other place that life finds us.  If we do get hurt Lord I pray that you bring along some kind soul to pick us up brush off our knees and say lets go back and play ball.  We all need that sometimes Lord. 

Everyday God gives you a chance to learn some new spiritual truths.  Sometimes it comes from a source that you did not expect.  Today for me it was my five year old son.  I wanted to share it with you today. 

God Bless You

~BJ

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beautiful Beautiful sung by my Beautiful Daughter

Well My daughter sang this song Last Sunday.  It was beautiful.  Which is the name of the Song: Beautiful Beautiful.  Click on the play button to listen Beautiful Beautiful.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

To My Financial Peace University Friends (The Dreaded Monthly Budget)

I am putting a link for two different copies of the budget for you to download.  They are in Microsoft Excel (Running a promotion to try it free for 60 days) format so you will need to have a spread sheet software that can open that file.  If you do not have Microsoft and do not plan on buying it anytime soon, you can get Open Office which is the "free and open productivity suite" and will open these files as well (I use Open Office).

The Equity and Budget Worksheet

This work sheet helps you to put your debts and value of your assets that are securing those debts.  For example you can put the total amount of your mortgage balance and the market value of you home.   If you plug everything in it should give you a close approximation of your net worth.  The other half is the monthly budget.  You can hide column B and C when you are working on the budget. Download Here.

image

Budget Only

This worksheet is for the budget only.  I figured that the free spirits would rather have the just give it to me basic and that mixing the two would just add confusion.  Nerds you can always come back and do the combo sheet ;-)

Download Here

image

 

Happy Budgeting

~BJ

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Don't Wait, Go!

Evangelism

Image by Dave Siberia via Flickr

This sermon was given on April 25, 2010. The audio version does not match exactly with the written text.  You can listen to the sermon by clicking the play button Here

This morning I am going to be expounding on Matthew 10:11-15. There was a man that had an acquaintance that was in the hospital for bronchitis. He felt a distinct prompt from the Holy Spirit to go an talk to that man. He thought he would go see him after the man recovered from the hospital. He again felt the distinct prompting. At this point he determined that he would go. Life got busy as it often does and he forgot about this determination. The man's acquaintance was dead in the next week. He did from complication of pneumonia. He now carries the grief of not going and sharing the gospel with him.

It seems that in order to receive a message you first have to receive the messenger and then you have to listen. This may seem very obvious to some, but it bears repeating. In order to receive a message you first have to receive the messenger and listen to the message. Now in this case Jesus is not addressing those that would receive the message, but rather the messengers themselves. By extrapolation then we can say that this instruction is for us as well when if comes to the spread of the Gospel.

The first command is to Go! In Matthew 10:7 Jesus says, "As you go..." We are to go into the world, ministering to the needs of others, while sharing the all important message of "the Kingdom of Heaven."

In this section (Matthew 10:11-15) Jesus is telling his disciples what they are to do when they arrive. The first order of business was to find a worthy person to stay with. I struggle with this part because I am not sure what method or measure we are to use to determine worthiness. It seems that the disciples were to ask around to find this worthy person, but worthy for what? I think it is directing us to a person that hospitable and open. This seems to make the most sense to me. I have in the past attempted to share the Gospel with those that were inhospitable and closed to hear anything about God. The danger of this type of interaction is that it rarely leads to a change and often just reinforces what the unbeliever already stereotypes Christians as being. In that sense then a worthy person is one that is welcoming, and open to hearing something from you. I can think of Paul's trip to Athens (Acts 17:16-34). In that passage we find that Paul first went to the Synagogue (Acts 17:17), next the market place, and then Areopagus. In each of these circumstances Paul was sharing with those that were open to hearing him out. It does not appear that all agreed with him though. Some ridiculed him, some said they wanted to hear from him again, and some believed. It is also interesting to note that Paul left the presence of those that ridiculed him. Another time when Paul traveled to Corinth to start a church in that city he found a couple Aquila and his wife Priscilla (Acts 18:1-3). They took Paul into their home and gave him work to do. It would seem that Paul determined they were worthy and he stayed with them throughout his time in Corinth.

Once a person was determined to be worthy then the disciples were to offer a peace blessing on the home. It is interesting to me that often we easily fall out of the command to offer a blessing of peace to the people that are the recipients of the message of Christ. All to often we debate, deride, ridicule, dismiss those that do not believe as we do. In some sense it is a gospel according to the flesh. "I know I am right and you are wrong so don't challenge me, don't fight me, just listen it is for your own good. Jesus died for your sins after all." I must admit I have been there myself. God grant mercy to those that I have been a stumbling block to. A blessing of peace is quite a thing. If we are to bless then it seems that we selfishly keep it for ourselves. We bless those that bless us. Jesus was saying something quite different here. He was suggesting that we speak blessing and peace without regard to where the person stood at the end of our encounter.

How does one bless another's home? Prayer certainly can be a good place to start. Sharing the Gospel without prayer is a real good way to ensure that you are arguing with the mind or the flesh. Our weapons though are not soulful or fleshly. They are spirit. If the message of the Cross is a spiritual message then it would seem to me that being in communion with God's Spirit would be a requisite part of the process. Pray for the peace of God to fill another's home then. What is more we can bring a blessing of peace by being good guests so to speak. I think American's have a difficult time with the concept of being a good guest. We expect as guests to be served and waited on. Not so with Paul. Notice that Paul promptly went to work with Priscilla when he stayed with him in Corinth. Paul the missionary of missionaries there making tents to supply for his own need. I must admit I struggle with this as well. We can be a blessing by speaking peaceably. There is a time for forceful presentations to be sure, but by in large it is the peaceable person that will lead another person to the Lord. We can be a blessing of peace if we speak in such a manner that others are likely to listen to us. Being vulgar or abusive is not a blessing and it certainly is not peaceable. I would also say that keeping passions in check is important to being a blessing of peace to others. It is often our passion (fleshly ones at that) which lead us astray into paths of defensiveness, hurtfulness, strife, and destructiveness. Keeping passions in check is no easy task when it comes to sharing the Gospel. We cannot expect others to be so kind to us. In fact there will be those that we do not reach.

When we strive to be a blessing of peace though our peace returns to us when the other person is not willing to receive that peace. At this point unworthiness is defined by not reciving your nor the message. We are not to take this personally. Jesus said, "If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you." (John 15:18) We are to realize that the peace which we offered has been rejected and returns to us in that instance.

Now some time passes and it becomes clear that the town is not going to convert to Christ. I am not sure how much time passes (God knows), but it has become clear that the audience for the message is either rejecting the message outright or not willing to listen at all. I think the hardest thing in the world is to make a break with someone when it becomes clear they are not ready to receive the message. One hopes beyond hope that a person will see it my way. If we continue down this path it is likely that the only way of conversion is by manipulation or by way of force. However, true conversion is by faith and faith alone. If a person cannot come to that place then manipulation or force will not save them. So break we must.

As a symbolic gesture of that break Jesus commands his disciples to shake the dust off of their feet. In order to understand this gesture you have to understand a practice of Jews at the time of Christ. To the devout Jew Palestine was Holy. Not just the place, but the very dust of the ground was considered Holy. When a Jew returned from a foreign city they believed that unholy dust clinched to their feet. This would lead them to shake their feet to rid themselves of the unholy dust so as not to pollute the holy dust of Palestine.

Was Jesus introducing a superstitious practice here? I do not believe so. I believe that Jesus was going with a more symbolic meaning. In the other gospels that record this event it is said that the disciples were to do this as a witness against them. In that case then it is saying we have brought a message to you and you have neither welcomed us nor accepted the message. We are not responsible for your rejection of the message. They are also making a break in fellowship with them. You see these were Jews and the Disciples were fellow Jews.

It is a sad case that there will be those whose hearts will not be changed. It is their hardness of heart that keeps them from being changed by the power of the Gospel. Making that choice hardness begets more hardness and leads them further down a path of disbelief. Arguing with a person that is on this path only chases them further along the way. That is why a break is needed.

It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of Judgment than for those that reject the messengers and the message. That seems like quite a statement. God rained down his judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah for several sins. They had a complete disregard for God and the things of God that they were judged. They were in full on rebellion against God that they were judged and condemned. They Bible explains that they were sinning against God (Gen 13:13), guilty of moral corruption and rejecting God (Deut 32), engaged in full on sinfulness with no shame (Isa 3:9), guilty of adultery, falsehood, helping evil doers, and lack lack of repentance (Jer 23:14), promoted idolatry, prostitution, a lack of social justice (Ezek 16), and given themselves over to sexual perversion (Jude 1:7). That only to say that for these towns that rejected Christ's message for which these disciples were ambassadors are worthy of greater punishment. In my mind that is quite extraordinary. Yet there is is. Let me read it. Jesus said,

I assure you: It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town
Matthew 10:15

The first phrase in this first sentence is "Amen I am saying to you." Jesus is removing any doubt about where He stands on this issue. His resolve is certain. There is no grace for those that reject the Gospel. And in the day of judgment they will face certain punishment. We tend to sugar coat the Christian message. I used to think that it was because we don't want to scare people off. I have come to the realization that so few Christians are engaged in witnessing that we sugar coat things we don't have to consider the responsibility we have shirked when it comes to spreading the message. To be sure those that do not accept Christ as their Lord and Savior will face eternal judgment and separation from God and loved ones who have gone on before them.

This judgment is a terrible fire (Matthew 25:31). It is a time in which we all will have to give account for our deeds whether good or bad, every careless word will come under the scrutiny of our Lord (Matthew 12:36). As Christians we will not escape Judgment.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 says: For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one's work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one's work. If anyone's work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.

So for the Christian the terrible fire of judgment is a purification process leading to greater purity. The unbeliever on the other hand it is something much worse:

Revelation 20:13-15 says: Then the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works. Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

If your name is not written in the book of life in the day of judgment it means that you have rejected the Gospel. I believe that every person's name is written in the Book of life . As long as that person has breath they have an opportunity to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. Once they die if they never repent of the rejection of God's Grace their names are blotted out (that is erased) from the book of life (See Exodus 32:30-35; Ps 9:3-5; Ps 69:27-28, Rev 3:5). Having your named erased from the book of life means that you will face everlasting punishment (Rev 20:15).

I hope that is not true for anyone here this morning. I would be naive though to believe that everyone here has a relationship with Christ. If you have not made that step. Then I ask you, I implore you, take that first step. Enter into a loving relationship with the one that loves you enough to give his life for you. That is good news we can be free of sin and eternal death. If you are in a saving relationship with Christ then I have a question. Are you going to a lost world? If not then why not? When we go we need to find those that are open to the message. We need to be messengers of peaceful blessing. We have to acknowledge that there will be those that do not accept what you have to say. There are some that you may need to make a break with who refuse the gospel. The point is that we need to get involved in our mission to reach lost souls for Christ. We have to do it now. If we don't then we risk becoming like the man who waited too long to speak to the acquaintance in the hospital. That man caries that grief. That man was me. Don't wait. Let's Pray

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Who is Your Greatest Friend?

Mary Magdalene, after a painting by Ary Scheff...

Image via Wikipedia

I have been looking at the circles of friends that are found in Jesus' life.  There is one friendship that I have not discussed yet.  It was a relationship of absolute trust and confidence.  It is a relationship that is full of love, acceptance, and pleasure.  It is the foundation of all other relationships that Christ extended and extends to others.  It is Jesus' relationship with His Father.  The relationship that Jesus had/has with Father God is the basis of all redemptive, restorative, caring, loving, trusting relationships.  In fact I will go so far as to say apart from this relationship there is no ability on our part to ever experience true intimacy.  To Know and be known is quite a thing.

As I have said in a previous post it seems that God has created us with a longing to know and be known.  It is built into our very soul.  It is an integral part of our biology, and it streams from our spirit.   The problem is that we tend to replace the order of things in a way that leads us to unsatisfactory fulfillment of this longing.  In God's creation this longing of being known follows this order: God (Matthew 22:37-38), Spouse (Matthew 19:6), Family (more spiritual than biological see Mark 3:33-34), and Friends (John 15:12-15).  Interestingly we can have differing levels of intimacy with all of these, but without intimacy with God then the rest are susceptible to disappointment and disillusionment.  Broken fellowship with God leads us into broken fellowship and intimacy with others.  Love seems to be a central theme of all these relationships.  However, this love starts with our relationship with God.

So then how to we cultivate a relationship with God?  How does love play into this relationship?  How does this relationship allow other relationships to fall into Place?

As in any relationship a relationship with God takes investment of time and energy to grow.  One can hardly expect that a relationship to grow when the time spent relating to that person is limited.  Often people do not spend much time with God and the wonder, "Why is it that I do not experience closeness with God?"  The core of a relationship with god involves continuous prayer, meditation, and study of God's Word.  It is often the  case that we are satisfied with occasional prayer, devotional thinking, and study of books about God.   The latter list is one of the reasons frankly that so many do not have the intimacy with God that they long for. 

Luke 18:1-8, Luke 21:36, Romans 12:12, Acts 1:14, Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 4:2, and 1 Peter 4:7 all deal with the persistence of prayer in Christian life.  Payer is our devoted communication to God.  It is our opportunity to thank Him for what He has given, honor Him for who He is, intercede for others that need Him, and lift our own needs to Him.  Brother Lawrence "Practicing the Presence of God" lived a life of focused devotion to God at all moments of the day.  He shared:

Brother Lawrence felt it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times. We are as strictly obliged to adhere to God by action in the time of action, as by prayer in its time. His own prayer was simply a sense of the presence of God, his soul being at that time aware of nothing other than Divine Love. When the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with God, praising and thanking Him with all his might. Thus his life was a continual joy.  (Forth Conversation)

And

Hold yourself in prayer before God, like a dumb or paralytic beggar at a rich man's gate. Let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the Lord. If your mind sometimes wanders and withdraws itself from Him, do not become upset. Trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind than to re-collect it. The will must bring it back in tranquility. If you persevere in this manner, God will have pity on you.  (Eighth Letter)

The image of a dumb or paralytic beggar is certainly an image that I can identify with when it comes to prayer.  I am thankful that God is compassionate and kind to earnest followers.

May your prayer life enliven your soul and light your path.  Blessings to you.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

When Friends Fall

Christ in Gethsemane

Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr

Then He said to them, "My soul is swallowed up in sorrow-to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me." Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, "My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter, "So, couldn't you stay awake with Me one hour?"
Matthew 26:38-40 (HCSB)

There were three disciples that were extremely close with our savior.  Jesus had invited them along a very intimate moments in his ministry.  There was the time that Jesus raised the daughter of Jarius (Leader of the Synagogue in Capernaum).  That time Peter, James, John, and the parents were the only ones that Jesus allowed into to witness (Mark 5:22-23; 35-43).  Another time He took these same three disciples to the top of high mountain to pray.  While they were there they witness the transfiguration of Christ (Luke 9:28-36). 

On the eve of His crucifixion after the last meal with his disciples Jesus led them to the Garden of Gethsemane.  He asked his disciples to sit and wait for Him as he prayed.  However he invited these three Peter, James, and John to go a little further with Him.  He expressed his great distress "My soul is swallowed up in sorrow -to the point of death."  Then He asks them to do something, "Remain here and stay awake with me." 

These three who Jesus had shared some of the most intimate moments of His earthly life with were there with Him in the moment of greatest agony.  It seems like a simple request, "stay awake with me."

There are moments that we would like our friends to stay awake with us.  Those moments of great distress when it is all we can do to offer up a prayer.  And we might even reach out to them and say stay with me. 

What did they do?  They fell asleep.

Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter, "So, couldn't you stay awake with Me one hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you won't enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'
Matthew 26:40-41 (HCSB)

So a second time Jesus asks them again to stay awake.  He also tells them to pray so that temptation would not overtake them.  He explains that they have a weak flesh.  And of course they did what he said right?  No, they fell asleep.

And He came again and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open.
Matthew 26:43 (HCSB)

There will be times in your life when those that are closest to you are asleep in your deepest hour of need.  They may not be physically asleep, but perhaps they will be spiritually or emotionally asleep.  The point is they will not be there for you.  Those that are closest may not be there when you need them.  What is more it is even possible that our friends could deny us in our deepest need (Matthew 26:34-35 and Matthew 26:74-75). 

At this moment we have a choice.  Do respond in kind?  Do we put up walls to keep from getting hurt?  Do we push them away? WWJD?

John 21:15-19 records Jesus' restoration of Peter after His resurrection.  Jesus forgave Peter his shortcomings and restored him for the greater purpose and ultimately our greater good.  Restoring a friend that has not been there for you or even denied you is a very difficult thing.  But it is what Jesus has modeled for us.  Some might object by saying, "But Jesus is God and I am not that forgiving."  Consider these verses:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone's eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.
Romans 12:17-21 (HCSB)

or even:

Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won't be tempted.
Galatians 6:1 (HCSB)

or even:

For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don't forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.
Matthew 6:14-15 (HCSB)

It is clear to me that even when we are hurt by others that God desires for us to forgive and restore.  I know that is not easy.  But if a person repentant like Peter (and unlike Judas), then we are to restore such a person.  In doing this we honor God and we gain a friend. 

Blessings to you all.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Missing the Mark (Friendship Defined)

via Flicker by gilderic Sometimes I think we have this whole friendship thing backwards.  Is a friends someone who supports you?  Are they a person that comforts you in a time of need?  When your back is against the wall do they stand with you?  Apparently not! 

Jesus, in the last instructions before going out the the garden of Gethsemane, called the disciples friends (John 15:15).  These are the same 11 men (Judas had already left) that would in a matter of hours abandon and deny Jesus.  They did not support Him, comfort Him, nor stand with Him.  And yet Jesus called them friends.  How could that be? 

First Jesus was able to see beyond the night into their possibilities.  So often we look to people as they are or that we anticipate how the will be over the short term to define our friendship.  Jesus looked beyond this to their potential.  All too often we look to see what can be offered in this relationship or what we feel we deserve from this relationship as a measure of friend.  It is a great thing to have a friend who does not see you as you are, but as you could be.  This is powerful, but notice something.  Friendship is defined by what you do and not what the other does for you.  In essence you choose your friends by see their inner potential. 

Second Jesus was about to make the greatest sacrifice one can make for another person.   He said that laying down one's life was the greatest act of love that one can express (John 15:13).  In this respect Jesus was defining friendship again by what He was doing rather than who his disciples were.  We again often look to see what can be given rather than what can be given up.  Acts of love, service, and sacrifice are given to friends.  If you do not do these then that person is not a friend.  Notice:

You are My friends if you do what I command you.
John 15:14 (HCSB)

Jesus is plainly saying that friendship is based on our actions toward the other.  In this case obedience to His commands.  This makes me think of:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.
Matthew 22:37-40 (HCSB)

Also of:

You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don't even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48 (HCSB)

Jesus has called us to a different idea of friendship than the world has to offer.  His calling is one of service and sacrifice.  Demanding our own is not part of the equation.  Our friends may hurt us, abandon us in our time of need, but we can continue to be their friend in spite of their short comings.  Don't get me wrong, Jesus plainly sets boundaries with people who are not good for us to have fellowship with.  Often this is when they would lead us into either legalism or licentiousness (both being forms of disobedience to God by the way).  However, I do not see Jesus defining friendship in terms of what they can offer us, but rather in terms of what we can offer them. 

You see friendship is yours to define by how you serve others.  Jesus is our ultimate friend based on His sacrifice.   We become His friend when we act in the same way loving God and loving others.  Man I have some work to do!

Blessings to you.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Judas Kiss of a Friend?

Kiss of Judas * Giotto di Bondone

Image by Carla216 via Flickr

His betrayer had given them a sign: "The One I kiss, He's the One; arrest Him!" So he went right up to Jesus and said, "Greetings, Rabbi!' and kissed Him. "Friend," Jesus asked him, "why have you come?" Then they came up, took hold of Jesus, and arrested Him.
Matthew 26:48-50 (HCSB)

In looking at the friends of Christ I cam across a very peculiar verse in which Jesus calls Judas a friend.  The timing of this statement is even more peculiar as it is the moment of Judas' betrayal of Jesus into the hands of the Pharisees.

I looked up the Greek in this case and the issue seems to be resolved in that once again English is a poor description of the Greek.  There are two Greek words that are both translated to friend in English.  The first one, philos, is the most common and fits with our usual meaning of the word friend, kindness, and affection (see Luke 14:12; Luke 15:6; John 11:11; John 15:14).  The second one, hetairos, which carries a slightly different meaning.  Here (Scroll down to hetairos) is a good section from a book that helps to draw out the difference.  It seems that hetairos is a companion and the nature of the relationship is derived from the context.  In other words you can have a companion that is a dear friend (philos hetairos), a companion that is joined together with you in a group or purpose (hetairos), a companion can be someone that you come together with (invite for dinner for example),  a companion can also be a person of bad reputation, a companion can be with a person that does not have your best interests at heart.  It is this generic hetarios that Jesus calls Judas.

It seems to me that this is more a verbal barb than a term of endearment in this case.  What makes this word even more interesting is that it is only used two other times (Matthew 20:13; 22:12).  In Matthew 20:1-16 is the parable of the vineyard owner.  In Matthew 22:1-14 it is the parable of the wedding banquet. 

In this the vineyard owner hires five different groups of laborers through out the day so that the first group hired works all day and the last group hired only one hour.  The first group negotiated a contract for a days pay.  At the end of the day the vineyard owner went to settle accounts.  He started with those that worked only an hour and ended with the group that worked all day.  He paid them all a days pay.  The ones that worked all day believed they were being cheated even though they were paid the amount that they agree to work for.  The vineyard owner calls the complainers friend (hetrairos).  We see this happen in church at times (sad to say) when we see God blessing someone else and feel that some how we have been cheated.  We should praise God for his generousness whether we are the recipient of that blessing or other are ones to receive.   Needless to say the complainers were not friends in the fondness or affection sense.

In the wedding banquet the King plans a celebration for his son.  He sends out an invitation; however the people are too busy to attend.  Another group kills the messengers and the king in turn destroys their cities.  He says that they are unworthy of coming to the banquet (either by neglect or by outright hostility) and so he send the invitation to anyone willing to come to the banquet.  Now this banquet was a very special affair and required the appropriate attire.   This presents a problem for those that are in the "general public" in that they do not have the appropriate attire.  The good news is that a appropriate suit was provided.  This friend (hetrairos) refused the offer and attended the banquet in his own clothes.  The application of this is that the garment is the righteousness of Christ/God (see Zechariah 3:4).  When this man showed up in his own street clothes he was saying that his righteousness was sufficient to be a worthy guest.  God says otherwise.  It is in this vein that Jesus calls Judas friend.

What can we take away from this.  Well Jesus companioned with people, by treating them with dignity, respect, and supplying their needs.  He even served Judas (see John 13:2, 3, 4).  In other words Jesus did not distinguish in behavior from a dear companion or a companion about to betray him.  However, he did have a difference in His heart.  Judas was not a dear friend, but rather a companion.  Jesus had guarded himself by putting Judas at an emotional distance.  Now it is fair to point out the Jesus was perfect and we are not.  But I truly believe that the events leading up to the crucifixion of our Lord are some of the most revealing of his humanity.  What is more if we get a glimpse of Jesus perfect in humanity then we get a glimpse for our own humanity as God intends for us.  If Jesus handled it in this manner then far be it from me (a follower of Christ) to suggest that he or I should handle it differently. 

May I have within me the Spirit of the Living God in such fullness that if I face a similar situation that His Spirit would guard my heart in the face of betrayal even betrayal of a dear friend.  May I be clothed in the righteousness of Christ so as to act in a saintly manner and perform works of goodness without regard to others status of friend or enemy.  It is a high calling; in my own strength I cannot, but with God all things are possible. 

Blessings to you!

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