20 QUESTIONS

QUESTION 1: WHY THE AMERICAN EXPERIMENT?

Gumshoes, if you know whom Rockapella is, you are or were a fan of Carmen San Diego.  The great geography game that lasted 5 years, helped millions of kids and parents understand the both geography and history.

How does Church teach us about geography?    It begins in Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus commands the Apostles to “Go into the entire world and preach the Gospel.”  At Pentecost, Luke is careful to record that “every nation under heaven” heard the Gospel in their own language.  Egyptians, Cretans, Arabians, Judeans and the lists goes on.   When Jesus prayed the high priestly prayer in John 17, “that they may be one,” He was obviously taking the long view.  All these nations take the Gospel to their geographical area.  When history concludes with its final QUESTION, Revelation describes a kingdom from every nation, every tribe.  A kingdom that is unified.

As Americans, we think geography starts with us.  With good reason, we believe in “American Exceptionalism.”  We give billions, protect most of the world and pioneer almost everything.

Yet God is not interested only in our exceptionalism.  All of the heaven is praying for the unity of God’s family.   When Christopher Columbus came to America, it was an answer to prayer.  For Columbus was not primarily an explorer but a missionary.

What do North and South America have in common?  God sees us as one family. Theologians have often said, the Church needs to breathe from both lungs (East and West).  The same could be said the Americas–we need to breathe as one America as one family.

QUESTION:   Is your faith too much like your native soil?

QUESTION 2:  AM I A PHARISEE?

  1. John Piper thinks Christians are heretics
  2. Many think John Piper preaches a false Gospel.
  3. Charisma Magazine thinks Joel Osteen isn’t preaching all of the Gospel.
  4. John MacArthur thinks Charismatics are guilty of strange fire.
  5. Many Fundamentalists think Rick Warren is heretical.
  6. Fundamentalist Christians think Pope Francis is an imposter.

What makes a person a heretic?

Our first heresies denied Christ’s true humanity not divinity (cf. Gnosticism). Next in line were the Nestorians who regarded Christ as a human person joined to the divine person of God’s Son. The monophysites took center change at Chalcedon (451) for believing Christ’s human nature ceased to exist when He became man.

Theologians say there is a difference between heresy and apostasy. An apostate leaves his faith and joins the ranks of another faith (e.g. Islam). A heretic is someone who holds on to a “clearly defined” view that is odds with the faith. Roger Olson thinks there is a bit of a heretic in all of us: “Everyone harbors some heresy in his or her heart and mind. The only question is–how serious are the heresies one holds? Of course, nobody thinks they harbor any heresies (in the sense of theologically incorrect beliefs.”

I like this definition: “a heretic is one who picks and chooses his/her beliefs.” If that definition is correct, Olson understanding might be right.

Seminary Professor Richard Mouw writes: “I tell my students that it is a good thing to have a couple of favorite heretics. Some false perspectives are illuminating, and it can be health we can disagree with in productive ways.”

QUESTION:   Choose a person or group you dislike the most and become them for a week.   Read their books.  Pray as if they pray.  Talk as they talk.

 QUESTION 3:  AM I POSSESSED?

Pharisees believe the Devil is in everyone except himself or herself.  They are much too holy for the devil to possess them. Their mantra,    “when you become a Christian, “poof he’s gone.”

If you have visited most churches, you know it is not for the addicted, the public sinner, or the homeless.   It is for pretenders. But as Brandon Manning said, “heaven hears the cries of the excluded as they cry out, ‘they won’t let me in, Lord, because I am a sinner.’  God answers, ‘What are you complaining about?  They won’t let me in either.”
Jewish Rabbis believed demons were everywhere.   Ps 91:7 conveyed this belief, “Everyone among us has a thousand demons on his left hand and ten thousand at his right.”

Think of spirituality as a seven-room house, most of us have the devil living in at least one room.  A person who is demon possessed has Satan living in every room.   Lonnie Frisbee by all accounts, was a remarkable evangelist who helped launch two denominations.  Frisbee partied at gay bars on Saturday nights and was used as a conduit of God on Sundays.   If his heart was house, six rooms belonged to God and one to the devil.   Unfortunately, there is no room in God’s house for someone with six out of the seven rooms devoted to the Lord.

The good news is that each of us have already been transferred from his house to His House.   However, because we are engaged in hand to hand combat with evil we are always in need of spiritual remodeling.      We renounce the devil and he moves to another room with seven of his friends.   Deliverance is a lot like salvation.  Once we think we have been delivered or saved, then we find out how much we still need it.
QUESTION:    Every time you breathe, ask the Divine Breath to cleanse all the rooms in your house.

 

QUESTION 4: HOW DO YOU HEAL THE PHARISEE WITHIN?

How do you heal the Pharisee within?    Paul, the recovering Pharisee recommended his followers to mortify their flesh.  Why?  “for if we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.  Jesus understood this when He said,  “If any one wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow after Me” (Mk. 8:34).
 
As an Evangelical, I think I know how to study the Bible.  I have access to the best tools in Church history.  Unfortunately, these tools make my generation the one most likely to divorce knowledge from spirituality.

 

For example, when was the last time you heard a sermon on mortification?

 

“To mortify or not to mortify” was never a question the saintly Apostle Paul or our Lord asked themselves.  The apostles and those who followed them believed the gateway to the Spirit was the mortification of the flesh.

Check out these Scriptures:

  1. “If you live after the flesh”, says the apostle, “you shall die, but if through the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live” (Romans 8:13;  Colossians 3:5 and Galatians 5:24) .
  2. “For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus. … Let no one make any more trouble for me, because I carry the scars of Jesus on my own body” (Galatians 6:18).
  3. I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (I Cor 9:27).
  4. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” ( Col. 1:24) .
  5. “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving” (Hebrews 12:4).

Mortifying your flesh sounds strange in today’s “I want it all” society.  Yet Paul asks us to follow his path to holiness.   The Puritan John Owen, in The Mortification of Sin, wrote:  “Mortification is the soul’s vigorous opposition to self.”

Did you ever wonder how the Apostle Paul left his Pharisee roots?  It is the same way for all followers of Christ “We must mortify the Pharisee within. “

QUESTION:   Has Christ become real to you? Before Jesus appeared to Paul,
 
Saul Loved to Pray.  Before the Damascus road experience, as a Rabbi, Paul spent much time studying the Torah.  But did you know prayer was the “central occupation of the Pharisee

Saul Longed for the Coming of the Messiah. Paul and his fellow Pharisees awaited the Messiah’s advent (Acts 1:6).
Saul Loved to Share His Faith.   Missions were a major force in the life of Paul, the Pharisee.
 Christ appeared to Saul 

 

QUESTION 5: DO I WORSHIP AN ANGRY GOD?

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Like Paul, we struggle with our inner Pharisee all of our life (cf. Rom 7).  I can tell when my inner Pharisee is rearing its head with the Jesus of the Gospels becomes distasteful.

After all, what kind of Savior throws out a wedding guest because he was wearing the wrong clothing? Is it the same kind of king that murders children (Mt. 2:16) or allows himself to be used by his wife to kill the people’s prophet (Mt 14:3-11)?

The Pharisee within me does not like the Jesus of the Gospel.   He reminds me too much of YHWH.  Instead of loving His enemies, the king in Jesus’ story seems capricious and mean spirited.

The Pharisee’s God is as Marianne Bickerstaff writes, “A ruthless monarch who flies in a rage and kills his enemies and bums their city, then mercilessly throws out the unfortunate wedding guest who has worn improper clothing. Such a reading implies that God is no better than any of the violent earthly ones.”

Unlike this caricature, Isaiah describes the dinner party God throws for the whole world.   Instead of lording it over His victims, like most conquering kings, God spreads a table before His enemies and invites them to dinner:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples,  a feast of rich foods, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow,  of well-aged wines strained clear (Isa. 25:6).

As we swallow the best foods and wines, God swallows death.   Glenn Miller writes:

“The letters m-w-t (Hebrew, death) have the same Semitic root as the Canaanite name for the God of death and the underworld (Mot). In Canaanite mythology, Baal and Mot fight a battle to the end. El, the high God, must end the battle before all life is destroyed. In contrast, Mot is Yahweh’s finger food, a temple delicacy. And the images keep coming, for God swallows Death who stuffed all the sons and daughters of Adam into its waiting jaws.”
Interestingly, John the Revelator adapts the Isaiah passage including it in his concluding QUESTIONs:  “They will hunger no more, thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at  the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the waters of life, and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.”

QUESTION:   How would you feel if when you died, everyone   who had ever lived was also there?

    

QUESTION 6: DO I HAVE AN EVANGELICAL WORK ETHIC?

 

 

Martha: “Mary, thanks for doing all of the laundry and making supper for tonight’s gathering.   I’m going to finish up.”
Mary:  “Your welcome, I am going to sit down for a bit.”

(Jesus knocks on the door.  Jesus and Mary talk while Martha continues working)

Is this what really happened?    No one knows but I think we value work too much and the art of being in Jesus’ presence too little.
Pharisees believe their list of “things to do” is more important than the presence of Jesus.

Taking Jesus for granted ceases when you experience Jesus as God.  I am not saying Martha does not know Jesus; she just is not ready to be one of His ambassadors.   If I am working outside, and I see sheet lightning in the distance, I keep on working.  I can sense the presence of the storm but not directly.  If lightning strikes 5 feet away, I sense I am in the presence of something incredibly powerful.      It is never wrong to work hard.   It is only wrong when Jesus is present.

Like the Pharisees, Martha judged others.  However, Jesus’ answer is always the same when we compare ourselves to other people, “What is that to you?”   We are unique messengers with a living message. Paul needed three years for the living Christ to reshape and envision his soul.   During those years alone, Paul perhaps prayed:

O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.

Sitting side by side with Jesus was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Mary.  Why?  Being in the same room with Jesus changes you.  This change is not theoretical.  God actually changes us.  We are born with old wine skins and at our new birth; God gives us a new vessel.

Pharisees like to be a mirror instead of offering light.   I know I am struggling when I repeat what I heard, saw or read instead of sharing what Jesus said to me.

Did you ever wonder what Mary and Jesus talked about while Martha was in the kitchen?   My guess is that Jesus read Mary’s soul.   The Psalmist states:

“My soul also you knew full well; nor was my frame unknown to you
When I was made in secret, when I was fashioned in the depths.”

This is what Mary experienced that day while Martha was serving.  Sometimes we are busy because we afraid of what Jesus might say and do.   When that fear arises in your soul, think of the words, “Come unto me all ye who are heavy laden.”

QUESTION:  The feeling of a job well done; or a list completed gives the Pharisee their high.  Are you able to get a high when you play?

QUESTION 7:   IF JOB LIVED IN JESUS’ DAY

IF Job was a 1st century resident of Capernaum?
The LORD addressed Job the Pharisee out of the storm and said:

Jesus: Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning
and shown the dawn its place?
Job the Pharisee– Haven’t you heard the latest interpretation?  It’s all myth.  The world began by chance.  There is no such thing as a beginning and controls everything.
Jesus There you are wrong .For taking hold of the ends of the earth, till the wicked are shaken from its surface? The earth is changed as is clay by the seal,
and dyed as though it were a garment; But from the wicked the light is withheld,
and the arm of pride is shattered.
Job the Pharisee.   Whom do you think you are calling us proud and implying we will be judged for our pride?
We know the law and we have Abraham as our father.
Jesus.  You do know the gates of death been shown to me.  Instead of dwelling in light and think you know all, you unable to comprehend the breadth of the earth let alone the things of heaven”

God comes to Job in a whirlwind.  After Jobs confession and prayer, God resurrects Job.  The Lord gives us a picture of our own day of the Lord and our reward or punishment.

QUESTION:  What is the best preparation for our one on one with the Lord God almighty?  Remember Job’s response:   Job answered the LORD and said:  Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth. Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again; though twice, I will do so no more.

 

QUESTION 8:  HOW MUCH OF YOUR

HEART DO YOU USE?

Why did Abraham have so much faith?  Hebrews 11 describes a group of faith superstars.

Why or how did Abraham become Abraham the paragon of faith?

Even though scientists believe we use more of our brain that we think, let us assume we use only 10%.   Now, let’s apply this idea to faith.  Where does faith reside?  In our heart.  We believe, trust, obey and love with our heart.  How much of our heart to we use?

If our heart is similar to the spiritual country with territories yet to be conquered by Christ, the average Christian probably uses 10% of their heart when it comes to faith and works.

Can you increase the percentage you use?   There are some people (like Abraham (spirituality’s version of Einstein) who are the chosen few.  They are born with a larger capacity for faith.   You train your heart (like your brain) so that it enlarges.

Israel conquered only a small part of the land of Canaan in the book of Judges.  Like Joshua and Caleb, we conquer the enemies of Christ in our heart by capturing territories (e.g. pride, greed, anger) for Christ.

Saints are both born and become saints.  God calls them (like Jeremiah) in their mothers’ womb to give US a picture of what means to have a “heart for God.”

QUESTION: We love to have friends who are geniuses.  How much more important to be around geniuses of faith.

QUESTION 9:  WAS JESUS HOMELESS?

If you liked Jesus Music in the 1960, you have heard of Christian rocker Larry Norman.   The fellow who managed him and owned Street Level Agency was Phillip Mangano.   If that name sounds familiar it should, he was the homeless Czar for presidents Bush and Obama.   The Huffington Post named the 100,000 home strategy as the most effective plan to curb and even end homelessness in 10 years.

Jesus’ strategy to solve the homeless was to become homeless. Scripture states, “Foxes have holes, bird have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Jesus was not always homeless.  For 30 years, he lived at home but then He decided to leave his mother and father and follow God.   It is easy for me to love Jesus the theologian arguing details of the Law of Moses.  I can identify with Jesus as the prophet or healer but not Jesus as the homeless man.

Being homeless is about as bad as having cancer.  On average, it cuts off about 28 years from your life expectancy.  Yet Jesus urges today’s wanna be disciple to consider homelessness as a possible vocation.

Jesus urges potential disciples to think twice before signing on the dotted line.   Disciples replace family obligations with Kingdom obligations.  Interestingly, Elijah gave Elisha permission to say good-bye to his family.  Luke makes it clear that someone greater than Elijah is here.   Jesus is the one who shakes the earth with his finger.   He treads upon the crests of the sea.

Job asks, “How can a man be justified by God.”

 

QUESTION: Justification is the most excellent work of God’s love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit. It is the opinion of St. Augustine that “the justification of the wicked is a greater work than the creation of heaven and earth,” because “heaven and earth will pass away but the salvation and justification of the elect. . . will not pass away.” He holds also that the justification of sinners surpasses the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater mercy.

QUESTION 10: IS JOB MY SUPERHERO?

If I were choosing an Old Testament figure to model my ministry after, I would choose Elijah.  Elijah called down fire from heaven, raised the dead, changed weather patterns and made a cameo appearance on the Mount Horeb.  However, Jesus and Job have much more in common than Jesus and Elijah (cf. Luke 9:19-20; 33-36).   Both were:

  1. Tempted by the devil (3 times)
  2. Rejected by family members
  3. Suffered physically
  4. Innocent
  5. Rejected by friends
  6. Lost everything and gained it all back

Even though James and John ask for permission to follow Elijah’s example, Jesus is thinking big picture.   Jesus mercy while the sons of thunder think judgment.  Jesus looks beyond the cross and sees the Samaritans receiving a full dose of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 19).     Unlike James and John,   Jesus listened to the voice of God the Father accepting His role of the suffering servant.

Everyone wants to grow up and be like Elijah.  The apostles were also hoping for an Elijah moment.  If you remember, they experienced an Elijah outpouring only a few verses earlier (cf. Luke 9).

Job and Jesus experienced the fullness of God’s when they experienced pain, suffering, and rejection.

QUESTION:  Ask God for the gift of tears.

QUESTION 11: DO I EXCLUDE HEAVEN?

There is 1:05 left in the fourth quarter and the Jets just scored a field goal. The Jets lead 32-29. The Raiders have the ball on their own 23 yard.

Time for a commercial.
Unfortunately, it was also seven p.m. on the East Coast and it was time for evening programming and the next thing you heard, “We now join our regularly scheduled programming.”    The game’s finish was a modern classic but unfortunately, no one saw it.  It was the 60’s and NBC played the children’s movie Heidi instead of finishing the game.   Talk about a wrong decision.  The fall out was enormous.

When you attend a Christian worship service, most people do not realize we are joining a worship service already in progress.

Pharisees like to be in charge.  Unfortunately, God not only inspired the Bible but your Church’s worship order.  We do not choose what we are going to broadcast on any given Sunday.  If we want to have authentic worship, we must join the worship already in progress.
Who attends?     The Psalmist writes, “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise.”

The chief occupation of angels is worship.
That is what they do for a living.
They sing the Santus (Holy, holy, holy) 24×7.

Worship is so important that only certain words are acceptable.

One of the main reasons we have guardian angels is to protect heaven’s worship.   It has been said that there are two church services going on, one for man and the other with angels.  The Psalmist also suggests KINGS are worshiping.
 
All the kings of the earth shall give thanks to you, O LORD
when they hear the words of your mouth;
And they shall sing of the ways of the LORD
Great is the glory of the LORD.”

I like that last line, Great is the Glory of the Lord.

I imagine King David and King Louis IX saw their share of earthly glory.  Think of all the godly kings praising the king of Kings.   Alfred the Great of Essex, Karl I of Austria, Vladimir I of Kiev,  Wenceslaus of Behemia and even the great Roman emperor,  Constantine.

Finally, the apostles are worshiping.
Jesus predicts it when He said,

“you will see heaven opened
and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

The apostles all went to their death because of what they saw and heard.  The invitation to “come and see” is an invitation of death with the promise of eternal life.  Can you imagine the 12 apostles with the apostle Paul in worship mode?

HEALING STEP:  Pharisees have a hard time seeing the supernatural.   Meditate on Revelation 3:20-4:1.  Ask God to open the door.

 

QUESTION 12: WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?

 Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?”

Did He ask the Pharisees that question in one of their many dinners?

Probably more than once.

However, thanks to an early Pentecost gift, Peter had the right answer, Christ is God.

Jesus asks me the same question when I pay the mortgage.
Not quite with the same gravitas but I still need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to give the right answer.

When Jesus calls us, it is good and bad news.

Think of Peter’s discovery that Jesus was the Christ.  His inspiration came with the discovery that God’s love is dangerous.   God loved him so much that He calls him to take up His cross and die for Him.  That is why it is important to experience God at every turn.  If we do not see Him in the mundane will miss Him when life turns south.

It is as Matthew Quick wrote,  ”Life is not a PG feel-good movie. Real life often ends badly. Literature tries to document this reality, while showing us it is still possible for us to endure nobly.  The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday, that’s guaranteed.”

When you think of it, every day is a microcosm of Ecclesiastes 3.    It does not take a boatload of faith to recognize your next moment as a divine encounter, all it takes is belief.

QUESTION: Instead of saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it” agree with Ignatius, “When I believe it I will see it.”

QUESTION 13: DO YOU HAVE A BIG VIEW OF HISTORY?

The Psalmist encourages us to take the big view of history, 1000 years is like yesterday.  From God’s point of view, the history of the United States is like the evening news and a couple of your favorite programs.

Think of all our wonderful contributions.  We have walked on the moon but have to walk on the water.

They amount to a yawn compared to God’s power and might.

The myth of progress is just that a myth.  However, is there power in  myth.  Smart people put two and two together conclude, “Life is absurd.”

Pharisees have a hard time reading Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins.    Wisdom is wisdom.  We can learn a lot from our friendly (mostly angry) atheists.

World history is not much prettier than our own personal histories.  Both are only understandable if we follow Solomon’s advice in his epilogue, “Eat, drink and be merry and fear God and keep His commandments.”

Pharisees underline all the wrong verses.  Instead of raising a glass of wine with their Bible, they underline verses that inflate their pride and deepen their hypocrisy.      Chesterton said it best,

“Cigarettes may be bad for the health: bombs and bayonets and even barbed wire are not good for the health. I never met a doctor who recommended any of them. But the trouble with this sort of man is that he cannot adjust himself to the scale of things. ”

Living a long life is not the goal.  It is becoming a Saint.   Think about it.  What is the average age of one of God’s saints?   John the Baptist left the comfort of Jerusalem and ended up in Herod’s dungeon.  His family probably asked, “Just think how you will be remembered?”  However, Solomon was right, “There is no remembrance of the men of old; nor of those to come will there be any remembrance among those who come after.”

The only memory that counts is God’s.

God remembers only things that matter and forgets the rest.   We can learn a few things from God.

HEALING STEP       How much of your life will be remember after 3 generations?   Live for God and God alone.

QUESTION 14: WHAT KIND OF SALARY DOES AN APOSTLE GET?

If you rank the lowest paying jobs in America, there are plenty to choose from.  Fast food, cashiers, retail workers, or home health aides all pay less than 10 dollars per hour.
The lowest paying job in the Gospel was an apostle.  Why didn’t God make the apostles as rich as Abraham?

One reason might be that Pharisees loved money.  You can tell how much Pharisee is in your heart by the extant of your attraction of stuff.

Jesus’ does not want us weighed down by stuff.     Jesus’ command to take only the bare minimum reminds me of God telling Noah to build the ark.  I cannot imagine Noah was too concerned about remolding his condominium with the world about to implode.   Similarly, the apostles are building the ark of God’s new temple.

Apostles are conquering heroes.  They deserve the biggest welcome met you can afford.  Think of what they bring to your community.

Healing
Forgiveness of sins
Freedom

You can’t buy these things.   Yet the Pharisee within me wants to keep these gifts locked up in the 1st century.

Most people in our world are starving for the kingdom of God.  People like our Old Testament man, Agur (cf. Proverbs 30:5-9) who searching in all the wrong places.  Agur was from Arabia who was part skeptic-part prophetic searching for truth.

He is on a journey and about ready to give up.  Listen to his words:

  • “I am weary, O God. I am weary, O God …
  • I do not have …
  • I have not learned …
  • I do not have…
  • I do not know,”  (Proverbs 30)

Even though Agur is ready to throw in the towel, he can spot truth and possesses profound wisdom

Agur is a believer but not yet.  He is kind of like the kingdom of God.   He is but not yet a follower of God.

The goal of evangelism is for each us to become the kingdom of God or saints (holy ones).

 

QUESTION:  Picture heart as a continent with vast last yet to settle.    That is how God views our lives.  An adventure that never ceases.

 

QUESTION 15:  WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY?

Pharisees hate icons.    It is the Christian version of Baal worship.  People who kiss icons are like the Children of Israel, one foot on the hills of Samaria and one foot in Jerusalem.

Nothing could be further than the truth.

A few days ago, I rearranged the office.  This morning I put the final changes on it and placed a few family photos on the TV stand.  Behind the family pictures, I put some of my favorite ICONS.

It dawned on me that I have two families.   The icons show Jesus and Mary holding us up in prayer.  The two families are not in competition with each other but supporting us and encouraging us.

Jesus’ mother remained a virgin her entire life.  So did His step dad.  This was the first family in the history of planet earth where all three members were virgins.   Until the age of the enlightenment, John Calvin and Martin Luther and their followers believed this was true.

Pharisees are afraid of God’s family because they have not fully understood how the kingdom of God.

QUESTION:  Do you have a place in your home that is a window to heaven?

QUESTION 16:  IS THERE A SECRET KINGDOM?

If the President came to visit me tomorrow morning, his office would have contacted me about three weeks ahead a time.  I would see a motorcade of about 50 people.  Secret service, White House aids and of course the television crews.   Everyone would know that He came to town.

How does the kingdom of God differ from earthly kingdoms?   Three important differences:

When the kingdom of God comes, few notice.   Instead of seeing it on the evening news or on social media, it comes secretly not by external influence but as John Henry Newman observed “it was that He came, not as the world cometh, not by an influence from without, but by an inward power; not subduing the outward man through the senses, but touching the secret heart.”

When the kingdom of God comes, few notice us.  Why? It is not about you or me.  We are laborers but it is not like a democracy where every vote counts.   When the final gun sounds, who cares how long you labored?   As Paul pondered martyrdom, was Caesar aware of the kingdom of Christ taking shape in Paul’s jail cell?

When the kingdom of God comes, few understand.
  If Jesus’ had a political platform, no one would understand it.   God’s ways are not our ways.  Pharisees think they have God’s plan His thoughts are not our thoughts.  

QUESTION:  The only reason people go to heaven is God’s love.

 

QUESTION 17:  WILL EARTH’S BODY FARM BE RESURRECTED ?

If you are looking for somewhere to go during the 2015 vacation season, think about Tennessee’s BODY FARM.   For over 30 years, Dr. Bass and his cohorts research how bodies decay in a variety of settings.

Think of the numbers of people who have died throughout human history.   Researchers place the number at 108 billion.  The Christian belief clearly states all 108 billion in universal body farm will be rising.   Unless you are a saint, your body will decay to the point that even the fictional TV Bones will not have a clue.

When we share the Gospel, we are testifying that the almighty God will “in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection.”

All 108 billion souls.  (By the way, where do you put 108 billion resurrection souls?)

  1. Done well?  You are rewarded the resurrection of life.
  2. Done evil?  You are awarded the resurrection of judgment.

Admittedly, this is probably one of the most difficult Christian doctrines to swallow.  It is 100% faith.  The starting point is Christ’s resurrection.  Jesus said,   “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.”   All 108 billion of us will rise in our own bodies because of Jesus’.

QUESTION: What kind of deeds are you sowing?    Jesus gave us the answers to the final exam.  Why not design our lives to match what He considers important.   The measure of your life will not be known until the sowing results are published.  That happens on the ‘last day’ or the end of the world.

QUESTION 18: HOW BIG IS YOUR BODY?

An average car has about 30,000 parts.  With over 1 billion cars traveling up and down the world’s highways, the odds of one those breaking down are good.

Think of the human body.  The American Association of Anatomists lists 7500 different parts.  Thanks to my daily crossword puzzle, I probably know a few more the Apostle Paul.   When he compared the spiritual gift mix of God’s body to a human body, Paul only listed the eye, the head, hand and the foot.  Think of the number of moving parts if you take 7500 times 6 billion people?

If the human body is complex, how much more the body of Christ?  Even though the Bible only mentions a few gifts, I think the authors were showing us its diversity.  If our body has 7500 parts, the body of Christ probably has 75 million parts/gifts.

When Jesus raised the widow’s son from the grave, He demonstrated one of the reasons God gave spiritual gifts.   Spiritual gifts breathe life into the Body of Christ.  They are God’s version of CPR.

QUESTION:

The next time you offer someone a cup of cold water, you just sent 3500 joules to a believer needing a jolt of God’s grace.  Paul Little wrote, “How Big is Your God?”  Someone should write, “How Big Your Body?”

QUESTION 19:  IS THE LORD’S SUPPER: WAR IN REVERSE?

The best pastry chef in town easily was Remontel.   Originally, from Paris, he opened up a small cafe in the heart of 19th century Mexico City.  It was a huge success.  Whether it was bredele, calisson, dariole or crepe suzette–it was the best food in town. Mexican officials ignored his complaints, so Remontel petitioned the French government for compensation.  The king was already furious that Mexico had failed to repay millions in loans, and now he demanded they pay 600,000 pesos to compensate the pastry chef for his losses. When the Mexicans balked at handing over such an astronomical sum, Louis-Philippe did the unexpected: He started a war known as the pastry war.

Pastry Wars probably do not qualify as a just war.

Surprisingly, the bloodiest conflicts have been over Communion.  Think of the 30 years’ war where 30% of the German population die.  In a sense, it was a war over the Lord’s Supper.
The Corinthian believers were in the simmering stage of conflict.   It was the “Haves vs the Have Not’s”.
The setting?  The world is first Eucharist War. Humankind’s greatest sign of self-giving becomes a selfish event.  The skirmish was so serious that Paul instituted the death penalty for those eating and drinking without first examining themselves.  Unity is such a big deal that the early Church forbade anyone who had shed blood in his or her life to take communion.

Most of us do not think of Communion as SHALOM times infinity.  We also do not think of Jesus’ mom as an agent of peace. However, think of it. If I were Mary, I would have plenty of enemies.  I would hold the Roman army, Pilate,  the Pharisees personally responsible. If it was me, I would start a letter campaign or at least simmer inside until my Son came back the second time.  Instead, she committed herself to the will of God.  She remembered Jesus’ words “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Scripture attests that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

The Lord’s Supper is war in reverse.

QUESTION:  After Jesus taught on communion, the Christian religion suffered its first split.   Why is Jesus’ version on communion so difficult to believe?

QUESTION 20:  DID WE KILL GOD? –TODAY, ARE ARE WE HIS FAMILY?

“On September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States.”

God asks us to do three impossible things, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”     Jesus expects us to forgive, bless and pray for them.   People are more forgiving then we give them credit for.  Think of how the United State forgave Japan for its attack on Pearl Harbor.  Alternatively, the German people for following Hitler?

What is the secret?    Jesus advises us to “Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.”   God is so merciful that even after killing Him, He makes us a part of His family.  Paul describes God’s heart for enemies, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, Christ died for us.”

Revenge is never in God’s heart but it is deeply embedded in our heart.   Where do you start?

Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned

Malcolm Muggeridge described the curse of the modern age as the tendency of putting everything in categories.   Fill in the blanks and find out your curse:

Muslims are all ___.
Christians are all____.
Baptists are ____.
Liberals are all ____.

You get the drift.

Christians can learn a lot from Islam.  Christian apologist, Peter Kreeft wrote an excellent introduction, “Between God and Allah.”  If you do not have time to read it, a one-sentence summary might be:  Islam is a beautiful faith that needs Jesus.

QUESTION: Try this prayer:

“In the name of God, the infinitely Compassionate and Merciful.
Praise be to God, Lord of all the worlds.
The Compassionate, the Merciful. Ruler on the Day of Reckoning.
You alone do we worship, and You alone do we ask for help.
Guide us on the straight path,
the path of those who have received your grace;
not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wander astray.
Amen.”

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