Aug 19, 2012
You may or may not have known that my old band (Narrow Road) had a reunion concert this past Saturday night. It’s been 20 years since the band first formed, 10 years since it’s last performance and around 15 years since I was involved personally. However, many of my old bandmates and I got back together and played a reunion gig at the local Christian college and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback so far. We played around 20 original song and had a really great time. I had an opportunity to share the Word during the performance and I thought I would share my notes. I integrated not only the name of the band (and the intent behind it), but also a few of the song lyrics as well. The challenge I presented integrated many of the thoughts on discipleship that I’ve shared on my site over the last year. I would love to hear your thoughts…
Today Is The Day
Today is the day… The day to be born.
The day to be free. The day to be warned.
Today is the day… The day to decide,
for darkness or light… for wrong or for right.
The author of the book of Hebrews reminds us of our responsibility for “today.”
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?
The message of both John the Baptist and Jesus was “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” We have long since forgotten this message, particularly its original meaning in its original context. We should understand the message of Jesus to be calling us to lay down our own lives and agendas and surrender them to his kingship. But how do we do this and how do we spread this message of his kingship?
Typically, we think that the solution is either to focus on the fear of God (hell and damnation) or to focus on the love of God (grace and acceptance). When our focus is hell and damnation, we lose the intimacy between ourselves and our Creator. When we focus on grace and acceptance, God becomes molded into our image and his standard of righteousness is thrown out the window. When we are consumed with only the mechanics of the “do’s and don’ts” of our faith, our relationship to Christ easily becomes distant. When we say that we love Jesus wholeheartedly and this is all that matters, it becomes easy for us to justify walking in a life of sin. “After all, Jesus loves us, right? It doesn’t matter if we’re not perfect.”
But we fail to recognize the need for both love and fear of an Awesome God who both created us for companionship, and will one day judge us according to our deeds. To live life as a Kingdom citizen is to be subject to the laws of his Kingship and to enjoy his companionship.
Of Jagged Rocks and Cornerstone
Does anybody know where their soul’s gonna go?
Does anybody see the rocks below?
I see the land approaching as the storm clouds roll
We’re living for the body when the life is in the soul
What are we living for? Are we living our lives for the next adventure, the next paycheck, the next moment? Or are we living our lives for our King?
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
(Matthew 6: 19 & 20)
“Royal blood: poison to the vampires
which encircle your soul”
The reasoning behind these lyrics is that when the Royal Blood of Christ in our veins, our blood becomes poison to anything in this world that tries to suck the life from us. Through Christ, we should be “more than conquerors.” However, most Christians live a defeated life. Let me explain why…
A. W. Tozer said, “Salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred scriptures.” Dallas Willard takes this a step further by saying,
“This ‘heresy’ has created the impression that it is quite reasonable to be a ‘vampire Christian.’ One in effect says to Jesus, ‘I’d like a little of your blood, please. But I don’t care to be your student or have your character. In fact, won’t you just excuse me while I get on with my life, and I’ll see you in heaven.’”
Willard has spoken out loud the silent thoughts of all Cultural Christians. He has exposed the heart of those who would invoke the blood of Christ in order to wash away their sinful past, but continue to proudly live a life in which the Risen Lord has no place.
They say the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. The same is true in our spiritual walk. Paul tells us that if we have life in the Spirit, then our daily walk (life) should also be “in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). If we are walking on our own path, rather than following in the dust of our Master, how can we expect any different results than the ones we are already getting?
Are we a “vampire Christian”? Has our Cultural Christianity lulled us into a spiritual coma from which we cannot awaken? The gift of grace through the blood of the Risen Messiah is entirely free. Yet it cost Jesus his very life. Shouldn’t we at the very least give ours back to him, rather than merely feeding off of his blood?
Repent, because His Kingship is calling…
Too many times we want to go out and change the world and start off by trying to “fix” everyone else. But the path to permanent, lasting, sustainable change has to begin with ourselves. Yes, we should be working to change the world, but it must begin with ourselves. It’s like one empty vessel trying to fill another, because we’ve been trying to fill empty people with the emptiness inside of us.
At one point the crowds begin abandoning Jesus because of his difficult teachings. Jesus asks Peter if he would do the same. Peter responds with the beautiful truth, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). But what were those “difficult” teachings of Jesus that caused his followers to give up and turn away?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58)
Is this saying that in order to have a relationship with Jesus all we need to do is take communion? No, it is saying we must partake in his sufferings and that we must give our entire lives to and for him. In other words, we must allow his life to become our own by “feeding” on him, the incarnate Word of God, daily.
This is my challenge. I want to ignite a spark in you that will eventually become a flame. I want to set you on fire for Jesus, but not just in your emotions, but in your day-to-day living.
Sure, we know Jesus and may have even said the Sinner’s Prayer at some point of our lives. But the question is, “Does Jesus know us?” Have we spent time walking in his dust, sitting at his feet, filling ourselves with the Words of Life? If we truly believe that Jesus is the “Word made flesh” then the entire Word of God should inform our day-to-day choices, rather than sit on our shelves collecting dust. Does our daily life reflect a relationship with the One Whom we serve?
On A Whim
Should we even have to say
Should our actions show the way
Should we feel it every day
Or is it all a game we play?
The name of the band is Narrow Road. This name was chosen for a reason:
The Narrow Road
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
The wide road is believing in Jesus. The Narrow Road is living and dying for him.
Someone once said, “Repent one day before your death.” Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”
Today is the day… The day to be born.
The day to be free. The day to be warned.
Today is the day… The day to decide,
for darkness or light… for wrong or for right.
May 14, 2012
Walking In The Dust of Rabbi Jesus:
How the words of Jesus can change your life
by Lois Tverberg
As a follow-up to Sitting At The Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Walking In The Dust of Rabbi Jesus is Lois Tverberg’s newest offering in regard to understanding the life and message of Yeshua from a Hebraic perspective. The book is divided up into three sections that are all tied together by a central theme – the call to both hear and do the words of Yeshua, by example of the central creed of Judaism found within the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4ff).
Her first section is entitled “Hearing Our Rabbi’s Words with New Ears” and gives us the background behind Yeshua’s emphasis on the Shema as a teaching tool, reflecting on concepts such as turning knowledge into obedience and love into action.
Her second section is entitled, “Living Out the Words of Rabbi Jesus” and focuses on the practical applications of many of the teachings of Yeshua.
Her concluding section is entitled, “Studying the Word with Rabbi Jesus” and is sort of the springboard of encouragement for “continued education” within the realm of biblical studies.
With Walking in the Dust… Tverberg does very successfully what many people attempt, but are not able to achieve. She filters through volumes of detailed, technical information and delivers them to her readers with fluid, engrossing narrative in a language that is warm and vibrant, being able to explain difficult biblical or rabbinic concepts with ease. Her choice for this is conscious, seeing many in the Hebrew roots movement pushing people away with their exclusive vocabulary. Her desire for her writings is that she wants to be what she terms “a bridge, not an island.”
“Sometimes in their enthusiasm, they take on a whole new [Hebrew] vocabulary that creates barriers between themselves and others. My thinking is that if you’ve discovered insights that bring you closer to God, you’re obligated to share them. To do so you need to be a bridge, not an island. So I deliberately use a more widely known vocabulary” (p.83).
In regard to digging into difficult texts or what she terms as “boring background information”, she gives the following advice:
“One thing that might help is to admit that the Bible actually is a difficult, ancient text. Growing up on Sunday school cartoons and flannelgraphs, you might get the impression that the Bible is supposed to be like Chopsticks, a childhood melody that’s playable with a few minutes of practice. It’s actually more like a Rachmaninoff concerto, with crashing chords and minor themes that linger through many movements. It might take years of practice to play well, but with even a lifetime of performances, its rich strains never get old” (p.151).
By way of practical application, Tverberg shares a personal story of a time her studies led her to changing her prayer life in regard to a personal need. I won’t share her story with you, but I will use her experience to lead into a story of my own, which was a direct result from learning from this book. After sharing a personal story in her section on chutzpah (bold tenacity) in prayer, she makes the following statement:
“I’m almost embarrassed to share this story when so many desperate prayers seem to go unanswered. But it taught me that God didn’t really need me to fervently imagine a certain outcome before he’d respond. Any time God answers prayer, he does so out of sheer grace, not because our prayers ‘earned’ a response. God is good, powerful, and loving, and whatever he gave, I could still be assured of this most important fact of all” (p.126).
While many teachers and preachers tend to focus on the aspect of the chutzpah found within the parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:2-5), Tverberg takes a different approach. Though she touches on the Jewish chutzpah represented in the parable, she couples this with Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Mathew 7:9-11 in which the goodness of God, our Heavenly Father, is contrasted against the goodness of an earthly father. She deftly connects these two passages with their overlapping use of kol v’chomer (a fortiori) argumentation, with the emphasis on the goodness of God. Because, as Jesus states, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matthew 7:11) In these passages, the chutzpah is not the singular point of Jesus’ teaching. In these he reminds us to not give up because of the fact that our heavenly Father is so good and loving that He will surely hear our prayers.
When she realized this, she changed her prayers to “Lord, I know that you are good and that you have heard my prayer, and I can trust your answer to my prayer, whether or not you…” (p.126). Her example lead me to do the same, and the answer to something I had being praying about for a while came only a few hours after I had altered my heart and my thinking in relationship to the goodness of God in relationship to my prayer.
Tverberg rightly observes that, “The ultimate goal of pagan prayers was to manipulate the gods into serving one’s own personal prosperity. When you think about it, there really is not much difference between ancient pagans and teachers today who claim that you can use prayer to ‘claim your blessings’ or ‘speak prosperity into your life.’ Any time you try to coerce God into doing your bidding, so that he’ll pad your pocketbook and expand your stock assets, you’re treating God the same way that pagans treat their gods, as a tool to serve their own ends… The key seems to be that you humbly come to him as your heavenly Father, rather than ordering him around as your servant” (p.126-127).
Her insights are more than mere academic acrobatics. They are filled with practical application and ramifications. If you would like to begin understanding what it means to follow Jesus from a Hebrew perspective, Walking in the Dust is a delightful place to start this journey.
This second offering on the Jewish context of Jesus from Tverberg is sure to be a favorite in its rich, easily-accessible teachings, its deep insights and its physical beauty. Whether as part of a daily study, a small group study discussion or a gift to a friend, this book is well worth the investment and will provide much discussion on our role as disciples of Yeshua.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review from the author.
Feb 24, 2012
One day a ten year old boy came home with a note from his teacher. The note said,
“We are concerned that your child is illiterate. Can we have a parent-teacher conference?”
The next morning before school the mother stormed into the class room, slammed the note down on the teacher’s desk, looked her straight in the eye and said,
“I’ll have you know, I was married two years before little Ricky was born!”
That said, I have to call a spade a spade. The plague of biblical illiteracy is upon us. We must “take arms against a sea of troubles, and thus by opposing, end them.” But as long as we accept them, they will exist and persist.
“Americans revere the Bible – but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” – George Gallup and Jim Castelli
How bad is it? Here is a list of results from various surveys…
- Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels
- Many professing Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples
- 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments
- 82 percent of Americans believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse
- 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife
- A survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife
- A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham
I’ve personally heard the following:
- Is Galatians in the Old or New Testament?
- Wasn’t Jacob the guy who got swallowed by the whale?
- That’s a book of the Bible?
- ALL of the disciples were Jewish?
And many more, that I can’t remember at the moment (and some which are too embarrassing to share).
Let’s face the facts: “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.” (A quote by George Barna.) And people like George Barna tend to blame churches, pastors and youth pastors. But is it really their problem? Isn’t the problem the mothers and fathers of the children, who are commissioned to teach their children (read the book of Deuteronomy — Book #5 in the biblical lineup, in case you need help — it’s a constant theme) the Bible and biblical values? We have not only failed on a personal level by not engaging the biblical record ourselves, but we have failed the generations of our children, grandchildren and all future generations.
We have a breakdown in the process of discipleship. In order to be a true Disciple of Yeshua (Jesus), we must imitate him. But in order to imitate him, we must know his life and message. In order to know his life and message, we must understand his teachings. In order to understand his teachings, we must have a very good understanding of the Bible he used: the Tanak (a.k.a. the “The Old Testament.” And in order to properly understand the Tanak, we must first understand God’s initial self-disclosure to humanity found in the Torah (or the “Pentateuch” — Genesis through Deuteronomy).
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr (president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) sums it up quite well by saying:
We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs. The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.
Again, this requires effort to correct.
“A person wants to become a scholar and a leader overnight, and to sleep that night as well.”
—Rabbi Yaizel of Navorodock
If we expect to be good disciples sheerly by osmosis, we are sorely mistaken. It requires an investment.
Start your investment today, so that you will have dividends you can enjoy tomorrow.