Sunday, May 29, 2022

Hebrew Word Study: qûṣ Awaken, Waking Up to God's New Thing

What is it like to be lost? Have you ever been lost, maybe out in the woods, or lost while driving, or maybe when you were a child you lost your mom or dad at the store, and you couldn’t find them?

It’s scary right? As you realize you may be lost, you start to get a little bit nervous but you think, no big deal I’m sure I’m not really lost. But more and more you’re fighting back this worried feeling. You try to sort of put a manhole cover of it, but it keeps bursting out, and pretty soon your whole mind is panicked, and confused, and you start wondering, what am I going to do? You start to see scenarios where you are in danger. It’s terrifying, and eventually we can go to full blown panic attack.

I can only imagine that sort of feeling when a woman is walking alone and a scary van pulls up and they try to yank her off and pull her into the van, for who knows what sort of tortures, probably rape, and murder, or being pressed into sex slavery. It’s scary stuff, being lost, being taken away, being helpless.

What about when we’ve woken up from a nightmare, late at night, and we’re covered in sweat, cold, scared, and complete darkness surrounds us, we panic, and reach for the lamp, and how much colder it feels when we pull the lamp cord and the light doesn’t work! Ugh. Then we rush up in frustration and turn on the overhead light.

We go from darkness, to light. We awake from one empty dark reality to a full bright reality where we can see and are safe. And that brings us to our study for today.

Today we’re talking about a Hebrew word that is particularly powerful and deep, it’s qûṣ (pronounced: koots) and it means to “awaken.”

From Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, “koots; a primitive root (identical with the idea of abruptness in starting up from sleep (compare H3364)); to awake (literally or figuratively):—arise, (be) (a-) wake, watch.”

So the Old Testament often makes use of this word to describe waking up from being sleep, or also waking up after dying, to the next life, sometimes in a negative sense.

But in our scripture today, it’s used in the psalm, psalm 17, verse 15, “But I will see Your face in righteousness; when I awake, I will be satisfied with Your presence.”

The song writer is David, and he’s praying a prayer for protection here. And we says at the end of the psalm, this is the last verse of the psalm that though his enemies receive good things in this life, which often the wicked receive good things in this life, David writes, I will see your face in righteousness, when I awake, I will be satisfied with Your presence.

Now what we’re thinking here is that David is probably talking about after he dies, he will awake from death to be satisfied with God’s presence. This is 100% true and it’s the first meaning I want you to see in this Hebrew word.

Firstly, awakening, 
qûṣ (koots) is to indicate to us as believers today, that our reward is not in this life, our reward is in the next life. Don’t wave that off please. When preachers say that, we often think well here we go pie in the sky after I die. I want you to see that the next life, is very real, and practical and physical. It’s real. You should really be spending this life preparing for the next. That’s when life really starts. This is just a temporary journey through a broken land.

Our enemies, the rich the powerful, the elites of our society, the academics and stockbrokers and all them, they have their reward in this land, fancy cars, beautiful houses, beautiful women, men, to choose from, drugs, alcohol, parties, all that, but it’s so incredibly temporary. And in the next life, they will awake, to surprise, to a dark room, with no lamp to light. And it’s a tragedy, because they are blind to spiritual truth.

So yes, we know, gloriously, and I work my whole life to this point, when we will see God face to face and behold His glory, and we’ll receive our reward for faith in Christ and our good works on the Earth. That’s wonderful.

But I also want you to see in awaken 
qûṣ (koots) that this is something that happens in our lives today, time and again. The biggest awakening moment for me, was when I became a Christian.

And in preparing this message I was racking my brain trying to figure out, just how do I describe what it feels like to not have Christ as savior. When I think back to those times, when I wandered about the city at night, did drugs, smoked cigarettes, did everything for me, me, me, it seems like a dream, like something far away. Do you remember what it felt like before you knew Christ?

I think I do remember. It was a growing depression in my life. Also a desperation. Quiet desperation. A cloud of anxiety around me. A constant question mark about everything in life, from politics to houses, social norms, people, family, just wondering, what does this all mean? A yearning to know what was wrong with the world. And also a wonder at the beauty of the world. And that cloud of confusion and despair brought me to Christ.

It was to awaken, 
qûṣ (koots), I did not see, but I saw far off in the deep recesses of a broken universe, for a moment I saw Jesus, Jesus could help me, if I just believed that he would, so I did, I believed that Jesus would, and I verbally called out on His name, believing he would help me if he was out there, and I did believe he was really out there… and at that moment, it was like I had woken from a terrible nightmare. The nightmare had been my life. And I woke in the dark room, and someone turned on the lights. And I could see, for the first time in my life, I could see. And now I walk around every day since then, with that light glowing in my heart, and I’m able to see so many thousands of things from philosophy to politics to reason to nature to human relationships, lostness, spiritual warfare all because of that light that glows within me, the light of Holy Spirit, given by Jesus Christ my savior, who turned on the lights so I could see.

qûṣ (koots), awaken, in the context of God’s presence, is something we can experience in this life. Yes, ultimately in the next life after we die, we will see God face to face in complete glory, 24/7 we will be filled fully with the divine joyous presence of God which will make us sing and dance with pleasure and happiness.

But right now, we can “take hold” of that. In the context of Psalm 17:15 David is telling us that he will “take hold” of and cling to God. Chaim Bentorah the author of Hebrew Word Study indicates that given the context of the verse the Hebrew words in use, it might better be translated as: “As for me, while I live on this Earth, I am going to hold on to the presence of God.” And it continues, “When I awake into heaven, I will be satisfied to see His likeness.” The Hebrew word there for “satisfied” is “sava” which is also the word for “seven” or “completeness.” So it won’t be complete until we reach heaven.

When we pray, we will also begin our prayer time not sensing God, he almost feels far off, but after 5 minutes or 10 minutes or 20 minutes of praying and seeking God, something will shift in the spiritual environment around me, and suddenly I sense the presence of God in the room, and I continue praying in great joy. Maybe that’s just one picture of what it’s like to cling to the presence of God, and seek God’s presence in our lives.

So in conclusion today, I just want to read some of the psalm for you, and let it speak to you, about 
qûṣ (koots), to awaken. And as I read it, make it your prayer, that God’s presence would invade this place and take hold of our hearts, as we earnestly seek Him.

Psalm 17 A Prayer for Protection A Davidic prayer.
1 Lord, hear a just cause;
pay attention to my cry;
listen to my prayer—
from lips free of deceit.
2 Let my vindication come from You,
for You see what is right.
3 You have tested my heart;
You have examined me at night.
You have tried me and found nothing evil;
I have determined that my mouth will not sin.
4 Concerning what people do:
by the word of Your lips
I have avoided the ways of the violent.
5 My steps are on Your paths;
my feet have not slipped.
6 I call on You, God,
because You will answer me;
listen closely to me; hear what I say.
7 Display the wonders of Your faithful love,
Savior of all who seek refuge
from those who rebel against Your right hand.
8 Protect me as the pupil of Your eye;
hide me in the shadow of Your wings
9 from[d] the wicked who treat me violently,
my deadly enemies who surround me.

10 They have become hardened;
their mouths speak arrogantly.
11 They advance against me; now they surround me.
They are determined
to throw me to the ground.
12 They are like a lion eager to tear,
like a young lion lurking in ambush.

13 Rise up, Lord!
Confront him; bring him down.
With Your sword, save me from the wicked.
14 With Your hand, Lord, save me from men,
from men of the world
whose portion is in this life:
You fill their bellies with what You have in store;
their sons are satisfied,
and they leave their surplus to their children.
15 But I will see Your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with Your presence.

The Parable of the Unjust Judge & the Friend at Night: Never Give Up

“In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. According to Leon Jaroff in Time, the satellite's primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph the planet and its moons, and beam data to earth about Jupiter's magnetic field, radiation belts, and atmosphere.

Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and much more. It made it to Jupiter, but in November 1973, Jupiter's immense gravity hurled Pioneer 10 at a higher rate of speed toward the edge of the solar system. It passed Saturn. At some two billion miles, it hurtled past Uranus; then Neptune; Pluto at almost four billion miles. Today in May 2022, Pioneer 10 is still going, 19.7 billion miles from Earth.

And despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth. "Perhaps most remarkable," writes Jaroff, "those signals emanate from an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light…” Engineers designed Pioneer 10 with a useful life of just three years. But it kept going and going.

So it is when we offer ourselves to serve the Lord. God can work even through someone with 8-watt abilities. God cannot work, however, through someone who quits.” -Craig Brian Larson, Pastoral Grit: the Strength to Stand and to Stay

Today we consider two different parables that have an important uniting theme: Don’t give up. Be persistent. Keep praying. We consider the parables of the unjust judge and the friend at night. Both of these people, the friend at night, and the woman requesting justice are doggedly determined to achieve their goal.

The question I want you considering as we discuss the scriptures today is: Am I persistent and determined in my walk with God? Do I pray and never give up?

Let’s take a look at our first parable the unjust judge, also known as the parable of the persistent widow.

Luke 18:1-8 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

Well, we don’t have to wonder at the meaning of this parable, Luke gives us the meaning at the very start, that this parable is to show that we should always pray and never give up.

And we get an additional explanation in verses 6-8: “And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Jesus the Lord says, listen to what the unjust judge says, he said, I will see that she gets justice. Will God keep putting us off? No. He will see that we get justice, and quickly.

And then we get verse 8. What on Earth does Jesus mean when he asks the question in verse 8: When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

This one has puzzled theologians down through the ages. Is he questioning whether at his return there will be any Christians left at all? Perhaps that is part of it. But more, perhaps he is asking, will Jesus find that we’ve really trusted Him to deliver justice.

That is a question for each of us to ponder: Do I really trust Jesus to administer justice?

Now, the parable of the friend at night. First, let’s look at the context:

From Luke 11:1-13, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”

Jesus was praying, by himself, and his disciples saw him and asked him, ‘teach us to pray.” And Jesus gave them the famous prayer, the Our Father. A beautiful, perfect prayer. One we should pray everyday if you ask me. But don’t just repeat it like a mindless drone, think about the words as you say them, reflect on the beauty, let your heart mesh with the Holy Spirit as you declare the words. Declare them, not just say them.

Immediately after Jesus gives the parable of the friend at night, to teach them about how to pray, to continue his answer to their question, about prayer, about seeking God. And prayer is seeking God. Let’s take a look:

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.”

Not because he’s your friend, but because he’s amazed at your shameless audacity, you dared to knock on his door in the middle of the night, wake him up, and I’d probably feel the same way if someone showed up at my house, if Chelsey showed up at my house, and said this person needs, some food, give it to them, I would not be happy, but I would do it, and maybe not just because we’re friends, but because I’m amazed at her audacity.

And similarly, when we persistently knock on God’s door, we can expect this spiritual truth to come true: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

When you pause in your day, to stop, and pray the Our Father, focused on God, you are seeking god, you are doing this. Seeking, knocking, asking. If you seek, you will find God, if you knock, the door will open to you. God is the one who opens it and lets you in. He answers, and gives you the desires of your heart.

The explanation continues in verses 11-13: “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 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 the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

This scripture is one reason why I always ask the Holy Spirit to be given to me for the day, each day. And some have rebuked me and said hey we already have the holy Spirit we’re Christians. True enough, but I ask, because this parable encourages me to keep seeking, seeking knocking, and keep asking. And in particular the example is given, ask for the Holy Spirit, and the Father will give Him.

Also, take a look at the Our father, we’re to pray this prayer, over and over. And what does it say, Forgive us our sins. That’s why I make the case for a lifestyle of daily repentance, where we pray at the end of each day, examining our day and our lives, inviting the Holy Spirit to reveal any ways in which we’ve sinned, so we can turn to God, ask his forgiveness, repent, and continue on our journey to paradise. That is a wise thing to do. That’s why it’s part of the Our Father. Same with forgiving those who have sinned against us. Once again, something good to do, if we develop resentments toward someone, Lord, I forgive that person, again, maybe! We’re keeping a watch on ourselves, as we journey to heaven. Because our feet get muddy with sin in this life as we trudge the road home, but we can always turn to Christ, and he graciously washes our feet, as we journey through this life, as he washed the disciples feet. Amazing.

So then, we see, we must be persistent in our journey. We must be persistent in our prayer life. We must be persistent in believing God. We must be persistent as the widow seeking justice from an unjust judge. She knows he’s unjust. Yet she keeps after him day after day. God is challenging us to keep praying to Him everyday. And to keep believing God will answer. It’s the same with the friend at night. God is challenging us to keep calling on His name, keep believing in him, and keep Seeking him in our daily lives. Because God will certainly answer and respond and be amazed at our audacity to keep coming to Him. God desires that of us.

So in conclusion, “An elderly lady was once asked by a young man who had grown weary in the fight, whether he ought to give up the struggle. "I am beaten every time," he said dolefully. "I feel I must give up." "Did you ever notice," she replied, smiling into the troubled face before her, "that when the Lord told the discouraged fishermen to cast their nets again, it was right in the same old spot where they had been fishing all night and had caught nothing?" -Source Unknown.

Twice Jesus told Peter to cast his nets to the side, after nights of catching nothing, the first time when he first met Peter, and Peter caught more fish than the boat could carry. A second time, Peter had seen Jesus crucified, and seen him appear alive, and vanish again, and Peter had gone out fishing through the night, but caught nothing. But then Jesus came to the water’s edge and told him to cast out again on the side. And Peter caught 153 fish that day.

We often persistently seek God, and pray for our desires, and pray for the lost and hurting. And many times we see little results, even for years and years. And we start to get discouraged. We start to lose our persistence, and think well, I’ll just stop praying.

My grandma Monica in fact told me, she had prayed for me my whole life, 27 years. But one day, she was so frustrated with my constant destructive actions she thought I’m not going to pray for Him anymore. I’m just not. And as she contemplated this, she got the phone call that I was sober, and had found Jesus, and had become a Christian. And she was amazed.

When Jesus heard about his dear friend Lazarus being sick the first thing he did was stay where he was for four days. And when he came it seemed like it was too late. He had been dead for a while now. The sisters were mourning. A crowd had gathered to mourn. Jesus asked Mary if she still believed. She said she did believe that even now Lazarus could be ok. Jesus told them to roll away the stone. They said no, it’s too late, it smells bad in there, he’s rotted away. It’s too late, have you though the same thing? But they obeyed and rolled the stone away. And Lazarus came out, and he was alive, wrapped in grave clothes.

Are your hopes and dreams and prayers dead, and wrapped in grave clothes? Have you covered them over with the stone that covers the entrance to the tomb? I’ve often repeated to myself about certain things, well, it’s just too late now. But, even when we’ve given up, wrapped out dreams in grave clothes, and sealed the tomb with a giant stone, if we will believe, and respond in obedience to God, when he commands us, roll the stone away, or throw your nets on the right side, or keep seeking justice from the judge, or keep knocking on your friends door at night, then we will see a victory that we thought was impossible. If it’s God’s will, we will see the impossible become inevitable.

Isn’t that amazing? So keep praying. Be persistent. Never give up. Keep seeking, keep knocking, keep asking, and you will find, the door will open, and you will receive what you’ve asked for, in His will.

In our walks with Jesus, we must be persistent, and never give up. Keep walking with Him. Good times and bad times. I’m all in for Jesus. Easy to say, harder to do, right? I’ve seen many people who claimed to love Jesus, but after a few months, or a year, or a few years, or even ten years, they turn back, and go back to the world and the ways of the world. Don’t let that be you. Commit your life to Jesus. Be persistent, stay through to the very end. Amen.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Hebrew Word Study: Livabethini, Ravished by God's Love

We’re looking at the song of Solomon chapter 4, particularly verse 9. Our scripture today says this: “You have ravished my heart,
My sister, my spouse; You have ravished my heart
With one look of your eyes, With one link of your necklace.”

Which brings us to our Hebrew word for this Sunday, “Ravished” in the Hebrew, Livabethini.

The book of the Song of Solomon is a book of love poetry, between a man and his bride. However, when we look deeper we see God’s love for us described within the pages of this book.

This particular word, ravished is very interesting in how it’s put forward in the Hebrew. It appears in it’s double beth form. A single beth represents the heart. A double beth represents the persons heart and god’s heart joining and becoming one. It pictures two hearts opening up to one another, becoming vulnerable, and entering into relationship.

Has your heart ever been broken in a romantic relationship? This is just a picture for us of how it grieves God’s heart to be apart from us. He calls us home to himself, a single beth also means home, in the Hebrew. Home to himself. Home to his heart. Home is where our hearts find rest in His heart, vulnerable, obedient, opened to Him, and He to us. A ravishing relationship.

Livabethini really speaks of passionate love, a hunger and thirst for one another, a need for one another that meets in passion. It also speaks of being captivated, or being taken captive.

In Song of Solom 4:9 Solomon speaks to his bride saying you’ve taken my heart, stolen my heart is how the NIV renders it, despite the fact that hes the king, his heart belongs to this woman, suddenly, in a single glance.

Do you believe in love at first sight? It doesn’t seem very logical. You can’t see someone once and fall in love with them, can you? You’ve never even spoken to them. And yet… I think to myself, maybe something deeper is communicated in the eyes, something about the persons soul, not just outward beauty, but a communication of who they are, with a single look.

I’d like to read for you chapter 4 of Song of Solomon and as you hear the words I want you to think of these words being spoken to you by God, about his love for you.

Song of Songs 4:1-4, 7, 9-10: "How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
descending from the hills of Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing.
Each has its twin; not one of them is alone.
Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely.
Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate.
Your neck is like the tower of David, built with courses of stone;
on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.
You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart, with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.
How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume more than any spice!"

God’s heart is ravished for us. He made us and he loves us deeply. He pursues us, to claim us as His own. And in response our hearts should be ravished by God.

Is there a hell? There certainly is, reserved for those who have rejected God’s love. There can be no other lover for our souls aside from God. He is our creator. There is no other god but him. So if he we reject His love, we are sent to a place away from God, where only sorrow exists. Yet we can still choose to reject God. But we will have to live with the results of that choice.

Instead choose to freely love God. And if we struggle to love God, then begin to act as if you do love God. Act as if, and eventually your emotions will follow. But begin to pray, to read the bible, to seek His presence, and you will learn to love Him over time.

But we must be vulnerable to love. If we lock love away, it will die, a jewel that was a gift from God, to learn to love, will fester while locked away and turn into a monster over time. We’ve seen people like this. They hate. But instead we must learn to love by giving and giving, even when it hurts, and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, to love. Amen.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan: The Gospel Hidden in Plain Sight

Has someone ever helped you at just the right moment? I remember many years ago, I was in my early twenties, hanging out with some of my friends. And this drug dealer who had infiltrated my group of friends, found out I was hanging out with them. He didn’t like me. So he sent over a guy to beat me up. And I just kind of laughed it off. But my friends kept telling me I should leave before the guy got there. But pretty soon I realized, I shouldn’t stay because this guy is crazy enough to send someone to beat me up. So my friend Aaron and I went out to his car. But his car wouldn’t start. So we were stuck there. I didn’t know what to do. But at the last minute, an old guy with his daughter in a car pulled up and asked me if I needed a ride. Where on Earth did that come from? I have no idea to this day. But they gave me a ride home. And I asked them, are you angels? They said no.

But in any case, what about you? Have you ever had someone help you at just the right moment?

What about vice versa. Have you ever met someone in desperate need and helped them? That is a beautiful, godly thing to do. I think we can sense it when that moment comes, and hopefully we jump into action.

So today, here we come to one of most well known scriptures in the entire Bible, many non-Christians and even people of other faiths are aware of the classic parable of the good Samaritan.

But before we get into the parable, let’s take a look at the context. Jesus is spending time with his disciples, when a teacher of the law approaches him.

From Luke’s gospel, chapter 10:25-29 “25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

This is the context in which we find our parable today. This guy asks the point blank question all of us wonder in our own lives: Just what do I need to do to receive eternal life? That is really the most important question any of us could ask.

What we might expect Jesus to say is, “Believe in me, I’m the savior you need.” But instead Jesus asks him a question. What’s in the law? And the man answers, giving the two great commands, love God, and love others. Those are indeed vital. They are the two great commands of the new testament. Love God, love others.

Are you living out the two great commands? That’s our first question to ponder today: Am I loving God? Am I loving people?

So then we see the response of Jesus to the man, as he tells a powerful parable. Let’s take a look, in Luke 10, verses 30-37:

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho, uh oh, that’s a dangerous road to go down. There are certain parts of any city you wouldn’t want to be walking around at night, but two thousand years ago, many roads were very dangerous 24/7. In fact, Martin Luther King Jr. once traveled in Jerusalem along this very road in his car, and later he made this comment about it: “I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level. That's a dangerous road.”

— Martin Luther King Jr., "I've Been to the Mountaintop" (April 3, 1968)

It’s a low road, a dangerous road. But sometimes you have to take difficult roads to get where you’re going. On my journey last Monday from Owosso to Missouri, definitely had to take some tough roads to get to the retreat. Lots and lots of construction, and even a few times when the road went down to one lane, of course right outside Chicago, some big traffic jams. But we made it safely, which is a blessing.

Similarly you have this man traveling the dangerous road, and the worst case scenario happens. He’s jumped. He beaten up, maybe stabbed, during this time in history most people carried short knives as weapons of self defense. He has everything stolen and he’s left on the road half dead.

Now, in my research for this sermon, I was studying good Samaritan stories, real life ones. And one account came up, of a man in Brooklyn, who saw a woman being attacked. And he tried to help her. She did get away. But then he got stabbed. And eighteen people saw it happen, according to video footage of the incident. But no one helped the man, not even the woman he had saved. She ran away. And no one in the area did anything to help, he ended up bleeding to death before rescue personnel got there. Very sad. Just goes to show you that in our world today, we need many good Samaritans, not just one. We can’t just be bystanders who do nothing. In fact some people took pictures and video of the incident with their phones but didn’t bother to help or call police or ems. Crazy stuff.

We see in the parable a priest and a levite, religious leaders walk by and don’t help the man who has been beaten. But then a Samaritan comes along.

Fascinating, because Jews hated Samaritans. If you recall, at this time in history Israel had split between Judah in the south and the north kingdom also called Samaria. Samaritans were seen as traitors, and garbage. And Samaritans hated Jews. But in the parable, the Samaritan is the one who helps the man in need.

We see several important factors in the Samaritans response to the situation.

First of all, he pities the man. He has an emotional response to the situation that calls his heart to action. When we see someone in need, when we see a bad situation, when we see someone suffering, we should first respond in our hearts with pity, with a sense of compassion. We join in the sorrow with them.

Second, he went to him. He changed direction. Sometimes we’re going so fast we see a need and we just keep going. We’re so locked in to the course. But no, slow down, and change your course, spin the steering wheel, and head into the moment. Slow the car down and stop.

Third, he bandaged his wounds. He poured ointment on the wounds so they would heal more efficiently.

I suppose he could’ve stopped there, right? Well, I did my good deed. Bye. But he didn’t stop there. He knew if he just left him on the road bandaged, he might not be able to make it anywhere safe. So he puts him in his car, and brings him somewhere safe. He puts him on the donkey. And bring him to a safe place.

Not only that, he brought him to an inn. It even says he took care of him at the inn. He apparently stayed there with him for the night. Because then the next day, he took our two denarii, two days wages, probably about $200.00 in modern money, and gave it to the guy at the front desk, and tells him to look after the man, get him whatever he needs further. And he even says I’ll check back later, and reimburse any further costs in regard to the incident. In modern terms this is probably like bringing him to the hospital, staying with him at his bed side through the night, and then paying his medical bills. This Samaritan gets into the situation even though he has nothing to do with it. And he brings in not just a little help, but helps in an extended, full, complete way. Now that’s powerful.

So in response to the teachers question, who is my neighbor, this is how Jesus answers, the man laying half dead in the road who you don’t even know, that’s your neighbor. And Jesus commands the man to show mercy just as the Samaritan showed mercy to the person in need.

Now in our modern society we have all sorts of emergency systems, police, EMS, doctors, nurses, fire departments, emergency disaster services, charities and nonprofits set up to help in various situations that come about. But that does not excuse us from helping. There are definitely opportunities to help those in need in Owosso, in Shiawassee county. Pray to God, later during our response time, for someone who you can bless and help in their time of need. Because they are out there. Don’t pass them by.

Now, that’s the top level of the parable for today, love God, love your neighbor, here’s how. But let’s go one level deeper. Because I think Jesus has hidden something in this parable for mature Christians to take note of.

The gospel is actually hidden in this parable. Do you see it?

The man is you and me. We were going down, above sea level, to below sea level, lost in our lives, on our way down to hell, on a dangerous road, the road of this life, is a dangerous road of sin and danger. We were beaten and mauled by sin, left broken, and naked, and half dead by sin. The levite and the priest represent the law of moses which could never save us from sin.

And Samaritan represents Jesus the Messiah, rejected and hated by his own people, and yet he comes to us, to save us from the effects of sin.

Jesus has compassion on us. He cares. He comes over and he heals our wounds, the effects of sin, and he covers over our sins with oil and wine, and bandages our wounds, this is how Jesus pays our debt of sin and heals our sorrows. The Samaritan puts the man on the donkey, and brings him to an inn, the body of Christ, and makes him part of the body of Christ. Christ pays our entry to the inn, and commands his angels to look after us. He pays our way, and cares for us as a compassionate lover of our souls. Even in the parable the Samaritan leaves, but promises to return again in the future, just like Jesus will return again in the future as his second coming to pay us back for our good deeds with riches in paradise. Amen! Glory to God! Jesus is our good Samaritan. He rescues us and leads us to safety hallelujah!

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Parable of the Lost Treasure Examined

A few years ago a military vehicle collector named Nick Mead was browsing on eBay of all places, looking at rare military vehicles, and he spotted one that interested him. It was an Iraqi tank, type 69, in wide use in the 1980s but today considered obsolete.

In any case Nick Mead was able to trade some of his own military equipment for the tank, costing him about $40,000. Pretty expensive right?

After the purchase Mead and a friend were examining the tank, and opened the diesel gas tank to find gold bars hidden inside. There were five gold bars weighing twelve pounds each. When examined, the gold bars turned out to be worth about 2.4 million dollars.

It was believed that the gold bars had been pillaged from Kuwait, during Iraq’s invasion of the country in 1990.

Mead didn’t know about the hidden gold in the tank, but if he did, I bet he would’ve paid a lot more to get his hands on that tank.

Does anyone remember the story a few years ago, about a man, Richard Kirby who purchased a sofa from the Restore in Owosso here, and later discovered over $43,000 in it?

But Kirby when he found the money, he is quoted in saying, “The Holy Spirit just came over me and said, ‘No, that’s really not yours,’” Kirby said.

Godly man, he also said, “It belonged to them, and I’m glad I was able to give it back to them,” Kirby said. “As a born-again Christian, I want to do what Christ would want me to do, and I think that’s what he would want me to do.” This was back in Jan 2020.

In any case, this theme of finding hidden treasure of great value relates to our parables for today, and we’re looking at two parables, very brief, only three verses here.

It says this, from Matthew 13:44-46 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

In both our examples today, Nick Mead and Richard Kirby didn’t know there was hidden treasure in their purchases. But they were blessed to find such treasure.

But our parable is a bit different. In the parables today, we see a man, and perhaps he’s out working in a field, or maybe he’s just taking a walk. And he sits down under a tree somewhere, and something catches his eye.

He begins pulling away the dirt and brush, and realizes there is a great treasure hidden under the tree. He hides the treasure and leaves.

He checks with the city and finds out the land is for sale. So he takes his current house, sells it, takes all his possessions, sells all of it, and takes the money and buys the field, where the treasure is hidden. And he is blessed.

What’s going on here? The parable tells us, again, this is yet another aspect of what God’s kingdom is like.

Pause, I want to review here for a second. Because we’re starting to get a bigger picture from the parables so far, about what God’s kingdom is like. Let’s take a look:

The Parable of the wedding feast taught us that the invites have gone out to anyone willing to come in their wedding clothes, the righteousness of Christ.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins taught us that we have to be watchful and ready for the return of Christ the king, watchfulness and readiness is vital, or we will be shut out.

The Parable of Counting the Cost taught us to be cautious to realize we’ve set out on a lifelong journey and we’ve made sure we know the cost is high for being part of God’s kingdom. We face many trials and difficulties, even death on the journey.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep tells us that God’s mark of being at work in pursuing people is often sorrow and suffering and lostness. This often draws people to god, isolation and lostness in life.

The Parable of the Unforgiving servant taught us that a central truth of God’s kingdom is the requirement for believers to radically forgive their enemies.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son taught us that the Father’s deep desire is for us to return to Him, no matter what we have done.

And last week the parable of the sower taught us that the state of the soil of our heart will determine how we respond to the gospel.

Amazing, so many truths at work, Open to all, Watchfulness, Carrying our cross, lostness leads to God, Forgiveness is central, God ready to welcome us home, and God’s view of our hearts.

Is it starting to form together in your mind, how the machinery of the Kingdom of God works? That is the goal here. To see the truths of the parables begin to mesh together in our minds and hearts, so as we see the world, we see the world through the lenses of the teachings of Jesus, here is how God’s system works as he draws humanity to himself. What are the rules and guidelines? How should I live? Here it is in the parables, piece by piece, we are piecing it together.

Let’s continue.

How does the treasure fit into understanding God’s Kingdom system? I think this parable is pointing us to our need for a radical, total, complete, indeed outrageous response to the gospel message.

When the man discovers the treasure in the field, the entire course of his life changes. He doesn’t hold on to anything. It all goes. He sells everything, house, car, DVDs, computer, motorcycle, snowmobile, furniture, everything goes out the window so he can make this purchase and gain this treasure.

This is a completely radical response to a situation in his life. In the same way, when we discover the truth, that God is really real. That Jesus Christ is a real person, who really lived, and really gave his life for us on the cross, and is really resurrected and died to give us eternal life, it should transform our entire lives. We give up everything for it. Everything. Everything in our lives change completely.

We give up everything for this new golden treasure we’ve found. And it is a golden treasure beyond imagining, do you really understand just how important this treasure of Christ is that you’ve found?

Most of you probably don’t really understand just how valuable what you’ve found it is.

You will, one day, when you stand before God on judgment day. You’ll realize on that day just how important it was that you became a Christian. You’ll realize after a few hundred years in paradise, in the New Jerusalem, just how valuable it is and was, that you gave your life to Christ completely.

Do you know who understands this the most? Sadly, the people in hell right now understand this truth completely. They know now, just how much they’ve missed out on. And they all wish day and night that they had one more chance to give it all to Christ. But it’s too late.

And the millions of people in paradise right now, they know, and are so grateful, that they gave their lives to Christ. Because they’ve received their reward.

It’s a great reward. It’s really real to me. It’s not just a cloud off somewhere. It’s not a pipe dream. It’s real. It’s so real to me I’m already planning things I’ll do in the next life. I’m planning hobbies, and creative endeavors, and things I’m going to do there. Because it is real.

So our response to the gospel of Jesus Christ should be give up everything else. To put God first in everything. We will not regret that.

From Isaiah 45:3 “I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”

Similarly, in the second parable, we see a merchant going from place to place examining jewels and jewelry and beautiful gems and diamonds. Its been a lifelong search for him. And one day at last, he finds the perfect gem, a priceless pearl. He sells everything, his house, his cloths, his car, his stocks and bonds, and he buys that pearl.

It's the same spiritual truth. Forsake everything else and give it all to Christ, turn your life over to Christ, and let Him lead you perfectly in everything. That is the proper response to the gospel.

Why is Jesus telling us this? I think because we could respond to the gospel in the wrong way. We could respond in a lukewarm way. We could respond by, well, coming to church, because, well, it makes me feel better, and well, my parents did it, and I like it. Or just kind of show up on Sunday here and there, but we don’t really read the word of God, or pray during the week or share our faith with our friends and neighbors. We respond in a lukewarm, worldly way, almost as if well the church is just one little part of my life, one of many parts, but it’s just one thing among many things.

That is the wrong, wrong, wrong way to respond to the kingdom of God, and we will miss the Kingdom of God system entirely if we respond that way. We’ll miss it. I don’t want to miss it. So respond today, like the man who found the pearl of great price. Respond like the man who found the hidden treasure in the field, let Christ transform your entire life. Let your faith be the center of your life. Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and everything else you need will be provided to by Him afterward.

These two parables we could’ve probably studied first, at week one of this series, because it’s all about our initial response to hearing the gospel. How should we initially respond to it?

In fact, I bet if we categorized the parables of Jesus, we could probably take them and put them in order from entry all the way to end times return of Christ. That’s how detailed the parables are, when we combine them together to understand the system and rules and guidelines of the sacred Kingdom of God program. Fascinating. So as we continue in this series, remember, in your mind, I want you taking these concepts one by one, and putting them together into a system. And as we continue maybe we can put together a hand out that starts to link these ideas together into one big picture of how God’s kingdom works. That’s the goal. Amen.


Saturday, May 14, 2022

A Call to Christ-Like Controversy: Do you have the Guts to be Unpopular?

There are many challenges in serving Christ, but dare you be unpopular for Christ? This is the challenge we face from time to time. 

But, many a time, we come across a moment, when we are called to be unpopular for Christ, and we sidestep it. 

But there is no honor in such a thing, to sidestep that which we are called to. Will you take a stand, even if it means harming your future prospects? Will you take a stand even if it means others will tarnish your good name without cause?

We all by instinct attempt to avoid such scuffles and certain low spots. Yes we do. We get a nervous feeling at the thought of such a scandal. Our instinct is to bolt in the opposite direction.

However, more often than we might realize, we're called to controversy. Yes, called to controversy. 

Jesus our messiah himself constantly found himself in controversy. He rarely sidestepped it. The ultimate controversy was of course the cross. So we as his followers, like Paul, Peter, and the disciples, are also called to controversy, just as the Apostle Paul constantly found himself in controversies and popular disagreements. 

Now this is difficult for us, because the organizations and movements in which we serve very often seek to avoid controversy at all costs. Controversies can blow up in the media, controversies can cost donation dollars, controversies can harm churches. However, the right controversies, in the name of Christ, are a blessing in disguise, more often than not. So we must walk a difficult road between these dangers of the people around who may mob us, and the people above us who may excuse us from the ranks. Dangerous roads indeed. 

Controversies are like singularities in system theory. A small controversy can cause a massive effect. In the universal system, the stars and planets and space, a gravitational singularity can affect space time itself. We are called to controversies, I've seen it in my life time and again, a controversy is stirred, and I plunge into it, at Christ's call. And the singularity erupts, affecting hundreds of people around it. It is ugly, vicious at times, contentious, polemic, and yet once through to the other side, as the singularity closes, everything around it has been affected. And some have fled further away from Christ and rejected the truth of that moment, but some have drawn closer to Christ through it and received the truth with great joy. That is what happens in a true Christ-controversy. Time and again when Christ spoke to the crowds, some received his word, others rejected it and fought against him.  That is what happens in controversy.  

But with all things, there is a balance here. We are not called to contrive unnecessary controversy. How will we know the difference? Christ, in prayer, will show us how to proceed.

But make no mistake, should you avoid a controversy, for the sake of your own prospects and good name, which Christ is certainly calling you into, you are just as guilty as one who stirs an unnecessary controversy.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Hebrew Word Study: Racham, Love is complete when Returned

“During World War II, Hitler commanded all religious groups to unite so that he could control them. Among the Brethren assemblies, half complied and half refused. Those who went along with the order had a much easier time. Those who did not, faced harsh persecution. In almost every family of those who resisted, someone died in a concentration camp. When the war was over, feelings of bitterness ran deep between the groups and there was much tension. Finally they decided that the situation had to be healed. Leaders from each group met at a quiet retreat. For several days, each person spent time in prayer, examining his own heart in the light of Christ's commands. Then they came together.

Francis Schaeffer, who told of the incident, asked a friend who was there, "What did you do then?" "We were just one," he replied. As they confessed their hostility and bitterness to God and yielded to His control, the Holy Spirit created a spirit of unity among them. Love filled their hearts and dissolved their hatred.

When love prevails among believers, especially in times of strong disagreement, it presents to the world an indisputable mark of a true follower of Jesus Christ.” -Our Daily Bread, October 4, 1992.

You might say that the expression of their love for one another in community, took love from being on the page, to love being something real and complete.

Many of us know about the classic “four loves” as four different words for the word “love” from the Greek language as translated into English in the new testament. These are phileo, storgi, eros, and agape; Agape being the idea of sacrificial love, God’s perfect love for His people.

There are also several different words in the Hebrew for love, such as ‘ahav which means love, racham which means tender mercies, dodi which means beloved in regard to spousal love, and ra’ah which means brotherly love or friendship.

But it’s difficult to translate between Hebrew and Greek. It’s not like you can match these words with the Greek words and make it work somehow. It’s more complicated than that.

Most scholars believe that during the time of Jesus, the Jews did not speak Hebrew or Greek, in fact most scholars believe their spoken language was Aramaic. In fact, part of the old testament, Daniel and Ezra, was originally written in Aramaic. And it’s possible that the source texts for parts of the new testament, like the gospels was originally in Aramaic.

We’re looking at two scriptures today, which are John 3:16 and John 21:20. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16

And John 21:20 says, “Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them.” -John 21:20

In John 3:16 the word for love is translated in Greek as agape. But how would love in john 3:16 be translated into Hebrew? Well, in the LXX, the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, “agape” love is translated as ‘ahav which is the generic term for love in Hebrew.

Are you with me so far? Agape love in Greek is translated in the LXX as ‘ahav.

So in John 3:16, we see the Hebrew word best fitted to this form of love is ‘ahav.

Now, in John 21:20 the word for love is translated in Greek again as agape. However, in the Aramaic translation of the Bible, which is called the Peshitta, it’s translated as the Aramaic word “racham” which is identical to the Hebrew word “racham.”

All this to say, that the love expressed in John 3:16, is different from the love expressed in John 21:20.

Are you with me? For God so loved the world he gave is Son, is different from the love expressed in “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

Now the big question is why? Well, if you look in the original Greek and Aramaic of John 21:20, it’s actually better rendered as “the disciple whom Jesus loved, who followed Him.”

Isn’t that interesting?

So when you look at the different between ‘ahav love and ‘racham’ love, the difference is that in John 3:16, this is God’s love for the world, and it expresses a love that it not necessarily mutual. God so loved the world that he sent Jesus. And this is a one way love. A love that was not necessarily retuned to God. ‘Ahav is expressed in this context as love from one source, not returned.

But in John 21:20, the disciple whom Jesus loved, who followed Him, is a completed love, a full love, Racham love, which is love in it’s complete form, because it is love that passes from one source, to the receiver, and the receiver returns that love to the source. And apparently, that process of love given and love returned, is actually what makes love real, complete, and what it ought to be.

That is extremely fascinating to me. Love can’t really be love unless it’s given by one to another, and then given back one to another. One way love is still love, but you might say, it’s incomplete.

As the author of Hebrew Word study says so well: “Love can exist if it is not returned, but it cannot sing until it is shared.”

Chav turns into racham. Think of when you had a crush on someone. That was one way love. And it’s kind of lonely isn’t it? Now, think about someone who you had a crush on and they also liked you. It became something very special then.

And I think perfect love is expressed, in a married couple who last the test of time:

“You can see them alongside the shuffleboard courts in Florida or on the porches of the old folks' homes up north: an old man with snow-white hair, a little hard of hearing, reading the newspaper through a magnifying glass; an old woman in a shapeless dress, her knuckles gnarled by arthritis, wearing sandals to ease her aching arches. They are holding hands, and in a little while they will totter off to take a nap, and then she will cook supper, not a very good supper and they will watch television, each knowing exactly what the other is thinking, until it is time for bed. They may even have a good, soul-stirring argument, just to prove that they still really care. And through the night they will snore unabashedly, each resting content because the other is there. They are in love, they have always been in love, although sometimes they would have denied it. And because they have been in love they have survived everything that life could throw at them, even their own failures.” -Ernest Havemann, Bits & Pieces, June 24, 1993, pp. 7-9.

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. God so loved the world but the world did not love him in return. In fact when the messiah came most rejected Him. While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. One way love.

God’s love is really made complete, when we respond to God’s declaration of “I love you” by replying to God: “I love you too.”

To understand the very depths of God’s own heart is to understand this eternal truth: God is love, and His deepest desire for us is that we would choose to love Him in return.

Have you told God today that you love Him? You have the power to give joy to the heart of the God who made the universe, simply responding to His love by saying: I love you too.

My reply to God’s love is this: I love you God!