Quotes of Jesus

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly!"--Jesus

A Special Message from Andy

If you are new to this blog, I invite you to begin reading the We Are At War series with its first installment The Reality posted in January 1, 2012. All other installments are posted in sequential order.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

We Are At War: Man on a Mission Part 2

"For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost,"--Jesus from Luke 19:10 (NIV 1984).

A large majority of the Church is not accustomed to attributing words such as fierce, wild, and warrior to the name and reputation of Jesus. It is much more comfortable with meek, mild-mannered, nice, and humble. These terms tend to stand in stark contrast to the others like a ketchup stain on a white shirt. One of our fears in ministry is the assumption that we prefer one set of personality traits to Jesus over what has been long preserved in the traditions of the church. If we want to attempt to fully understand Jesus and learn to trust him, he must be taken in as a whole. He is all of the above and a whole lot more. A further look into his mission will shed more light on the man.

Simply stated, this is a search and rescue mission. "We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19). One of my all time favorite films is Saving Private Ryan. It is a story set in the Second World War of several army rangers handpicked to save a single paratrooper dropped deep into enemy territory. It is a mythic representation to what Jesus is out to accomplish. Jesus must go deep into enemy territory on a rescue mission of epic proportions. On the surface, the mission hardly seems worth the risk. However, it will prove to be his greatest accomplishment. The likes of which would require the guts of a Navy Seal.

What is Jesus really after? Notice the verse says "what was lost." We tend to use this verse to refer to lost souls without the hope of Jesus by saying "the lost". There is no problem using it in that way, however, the implication is not limited to the salvation of persons. Jesus is offering restoration of the whole person, namely the Image of God. He is not trying to scrap the project, nor is he just simply wanting to salvage what is left. His business is in restoration of what was lost. Jesus is after the whole person, transform them by restoring his glorious image and likeness, making them new.

This will not be easy. In fact, it will require even more than a warrior's heart. It is not a "lust for blood" that drives Jesus, it is his passionate love for us that compels him to stage his invasion of the world. Jesus is not looking for "subjects" to obey him (obedience has it's place, but that is not all Jesus calls us to). He is looking for lovers, or intimate allies who will join him on his mission to retake the world. This is why Jesus seems to be so shy when it comes to demonstrating his power. Love cannot be forced. It must be chosen. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NIV 1984). He fights for us, because he loves us.

Winning over our hearts will require even more than service, it means he will have to die. Philippians 2:8 says of Jesus, "being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" This is a passionate move of love on the deepest level!

The heart is tenderized and we are awakened to the beauty this man emanates. When we see Jesus as all of what he was meant to be as a warrior, as lover, everything comes into focus. He lives as both, not to confuse and distort one way over another. Rather, they complement in him a need to both love those in need and at the same time take a stand against evil. In a world at war, Jesus is the fierce warrior come down from heaven to face the stench of the enemy and give his life to save his beautiful beloved bride, the church. We live in a captivating love story set in the middle of an awful war. It is in Jesus, who inspires our love and confidence, we place our hope.
"Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5: 25-27)

I know there are men who are uncomfortable with the understanding of Jesus as intimate lover for obvious reasons. This is part of the great distortion of the evil one and a message like this can dissuade rather than invite confidence in Jesus. It must be understood, that it is the church who is the bride of Christ and not us individually, men or women for that matter. In keeping with the Scriptures, the love Christ has for the church can only be likened to that of a husband and wife. It is the deepest knowledge of love that we can understand in this world. Individually, we love Christ intimately, not in a sexual sense, but more like a Son and his Father, or better a band of brothers on a shared mission of dangerous proportions. It was Jesus who chose twelve men who followed him and loved him. There were several women, as well. They looked up to him and enjoyed his personality and companionship, none of which was sexual in nature. Take Jesus in as much as you are comfortable with. Like any relationship, it takes time. With every encounter with the words and personality of Jesus, you will learn to trust him more and more.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

We Are At War: Man on a Mission, Part 1

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword."--Jesus from Matthew 10:34 (ESV)

If what is playing out around us is an epic battle between good and evil, and God is a warrior playing out his part in this war, what then are we to make of Jesus? Who is he, really? What is he up to? Most importantly, can he be trusted?

Most of how we see Jesus is shaped by the artwork that depicts him. In those representations, he is seen as very kind, gentle, loving, and warm. He's usually surrounded by men and women of various ages hanging onto his every word while he sits and teaches them. They are soft images of a man with a groomed beard, long flowing locks of hair, and clean robes. He seems to be very nice.

I am not saying that Jesus isn't kind, loving, or gentle. I am saying that is not all he is. The scriptures depict for us a side of Jesus less talked about in the church, especially among the religious. If we are to really know who Jesus is we must shine some light on those passages to see that he is a warrior. He is dangerous. He is a man on a mission.

And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. (Mark 1:21-28, ESV)

Jesus has just launched his ministry in the region of Galilee. He proclaims the message of the kingdom of God, and gathers a humble "following". He rolls into town, enters a synagogue, and is met with a demon. He has not healed the first patient, opened the first blind eye, nor resurrected the first corpse.  The demon asks, "Have you come to destroy us?" (They know who they are dealing with.) This is warfare, and its happening in "church" of all places. It is the first of many victories. The kingdom of God has come and declared war against darkness.

Okay, I know that one was easy. Jesus was kind and compassionate and set that poor man free. We can even recall from childhood Sunday School the pictures of Jesus carrying a little lamb over his shoulders, or allowing little children to sit on his lap while he teaches them. Yes, he is kind, compassionate, and loving, yet he is fierce to those who oppose him. Another story perhaps.

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. (Luke 13:10-17, ESV)

Are these the actions and words of a nice man? Depends on which character you are. If you are the woman with the disability, his actions were extremely nice. On the other hand, what if you are the ruler of the synagogue? Do you think he came away from this exchange saying, "You know, that Jesus, he's a nice guy!" Not only this, but it says, "all his adversaries were put to shame." Jesus knows this is a hot button topic seeing how he's already faced criticism for healing on the Sabbath, a no-fly-zone for the religious. He picks a fight and he is fierce, bold, and confident even in the face of knowing opposition.

We can't leave out the cleansing of the Temple.

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:13-17, ESV)

Catch the line, "and making a whip of cords". There is a lot going on in this phrase. Jesus walks into the Temple, looks around, and takes note of what is going on. He takes the time to find the materials for a whip, weaves them together, and unleashes the holy fury he's been stewing in for the length of time it took him to fashion the whip. It was all premeditated. Jesus knew what he was doing and he had plenty of time to cool down. This was a planned, ferocious unleash of righteous anger with the scars to prove it.

One last image to brand the mind:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16, ESV)

I don't have much commentary to say about this, but is this the picture of the kind of man that gives us warm fuzzies and makes us feel good about ourselves? Does this describe the nice Jesus we like to talk about in church? Would you elect him to serve on your church's board of directors? Probably not.

Jesus, like his Father, is a warrior. In his coming, he declared war on the demonic. He shamed the religious leaders of the day. He even resorted to more aggressive means against those who would abuse the house of God, the means by which people met God for personal gain. In his second coming, he will come with such might and power that even his appearance will strike fear into the hearts of those that oppose him. Is he not, after all, described as "The Lion of Judah"?! (Revelation 5:5)

Even so, there is still more to Jesus that has yet to be said. How can we trust someone so fierce, wild, and free? To what lengths will Jesus go to gain our trust and win our hearts? Can we be expected to love him--with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? (Mark 12:30) Next time in Part 2!
--"After all, he's not a tame lion." "But he is good." (Mr. Tumnus and Lucy in Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We Are At War: A Warrior God

"The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His Name"--Exodus 15:3 (NIV)

Recalling the history of this great war leads us to an important realization, one that reveals for us an essential side to the nature of the Holy Trinity. Why was war necessary? For Satan to accomplish his goals, why did he resort to taking such drastic measures? What did he know of his opponent that would require the resolve to go to war?

Satan knew his only chance to overtake the kingdom would be to execute an assault against the throne of heaven. This tells of something of God. It says he is a force to be reckoned with, because he is a warrior God!

The early Israelites came to the same conclusion on the shores of the Red Sea. Think of all they had been through and witnessed of "The Great I Am!" In our understanding, the Hebrews suffered greatly at the hands of the Egyptians. They were forced into hard labor. They built the monuments, palaces, and pyramids for which the Egyptian civilization is most famous. It was the cruel hand of Pharaoh, believed to be a god himself, relentlessly grasping and suffocating the life from God's chosen. His malice was so intense, out of fear of overpopulation, it led to the annihilation of Hebrew infants.

God, displeased with the treatment of the descendants of Abraham and smitten with his passionate love for them, went to war. Ten plagues later and after washing out the armies of Pharaoh with the Red Sea, the Israelites declared, "The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name."

This is not the only claim found in scripture for God as warrior. There are many stories, poems, and prophecies that allude to this truth. Somehow and some way, perhaps due to the Victorian Era, we've modeled God after--a gentleman? (No, I am not saying God forces himself in us spiritually, but only to what manner of man the term "gentleman" would apply.) This was a time when men traded their weapons and wild instincts for suits and manners. The church followed right along, condemning the wild and unpredictable nature of man as sinful. We tried to tame God in a sense by comparing manners and being nice with righteousness and holiness.

What were we thinking?! God cannot be tamed! As we read the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, we see anything but a mild-mannered gentleman. Good, yes. But a warrior with a holy mission. If we take an honest look, we will soon discover that God is wild, unbound, and free. 

Why is this so important to talk about? We, as men, must know from who we have come. If God is our Father, then we must bear some resemblance to this warrior nature. We are created in his image, a warrior image, the truest witness of real masculinity laid upon the heart of every man. No one in history has been the better example of this masculine heart than the second person of the Triune God head, Jesus. The one to who we turn our attention to next.

Monday, January 9, 2012

We Are At War: The History

"And there was war in heaven."--Revelation 12:7

Once we are awakened to the reality that we are at war, we learn quickly that this didn't just happen, nor is it only about us. Neo, from The Matrix, discovers there is more to the world he had grown up in, and he is told of the long and sustained battle between man and the machines. Frodo, from The Lord of the Rings, learns why he must leave the Shire to destroy the Ring of Power, and that the Dark Lord Sauron has returned to make another attempt to destroy the free peoples of Middle Earth. When Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy come to Narnia for the first time, they are told the winter wonderland is actually the work of the evil witch, Jadis, and her rebellious lust for power.

Knowledge of the past frees us to see that life is not about us. We are living in a much larger story set within a world at war. However, this does not diminish our role in the story, nor are we deemed insignificant. It is a story that we are invited up into, to play an irreplaceable role. Samwise Gamgee, in The Lord of the Rings, asks, "I wonder what sort of tale we've fallen into?"

We must ask the same question to understand life here on earth. Deep within we all know that we were made for something more, something grand. Even epic. We are not just some random happenings developed from single-celled organisms. There is purpose and meaning to life, and it goes far beyond anything we have ever imagined or dreamed. Everything we do, good or bad, contributes to the story we are swept up in.

This story does not begin here on earth. Remember, its never been about us. John 1 draws our attention to "the time before all time," and it goes like this:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." (vv. 1-4, ESV)

What we have here is a description of the foundations from which the earth was created. We are given a glimpse of what we understand to be the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three persons who are uniquely related to each other, a fellowship of love, to make up what we know to be "God".

Sometime before God creates the earth, holy, powerful angels attended God's throne and kingdom. They moved at the command of the Trinity.

However, there was one, the captain of the heavenly host, whose loyalty to the Almighty had waned. Feeling cheated and an overwhelming sense of pride swelling within, the great Captain, Lucipher, convinced (we are told in the scriptures) a third of the angels to join him in an unholy coup against the Ancient of Days. He brought war to the heavenly courtyards. It was a betrayal like no other.

The rebellion would end in failure. Jesus himself testified, "I saw Satan (Lucipher's name after his betrayal) fall from heaven like lightning" (Luke 10:18). Milton tells the story in brilliant detail in his work Paradise Lost. While Satan was defeated, he was not destroyed. He would wait, until the opportune time to make his move and strike again.

This is the story we find ourselves in, and it is the nature of the war going on around us. Satan, the accuser, has raised the question of God's trustworthiness. Can we really trust the Heart of God? Are His intentions toward us good? The battle in heaven was won by pure might. However, strength will not be enough to fight the battle now turned to earth, specifically within the heart of humanity.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

We Are At War: The Reality

What if the world is not what most people believe it is? What if there is more going on around us than the ordinary day to day?  What if there is more to you than meets the eye?  What if it were told that we were born into a world at war, that forces of good and evil were at work in a world that you cannot see, and the way you lived impacted the final outcome? Would it change the way you live?
Probably. In fact, it is safe to say the heart really wants to believe this is all true.

Most Christians understand the major theme (and perhaps the only theme) of the Bible is love.  We are told "God is love," and we are expected to "love one another."  This is true; every single bit of it. It's just not all there is.

What about war, what most consider to be the antithesis of love? Would most Christians make the claim that a major theme of the Bible is war? Hmm...didn't think so.

What, then, does the Bible say? Well, before diving in, it's important to establish war as a real and relevant theme of the Bible. The words war, battle, and fight are mentioned in scripture just as much as the words love, loving, and beloved. What is God trying to say in this? It cannot be ignored. However, it has been.

The church has mistakingly all but erased the reality that we are at war. It's like a grandfather clock with a pendulum swinging from one end to the other. It works on balance. But when the clock is moved and placed on an incline, no matter how slight, the pendulum stops swinging, and is then off balance. The clock becomes unstable, unbalanced, and therefore, loses its place in the world.

Most of the Old Testament documents the battles and wars of the people of Israel. In fact, war is the vehicle God often (not always) chooses to deliver His people from their enemies. In reading many Old Testament passages, we come across some pretty gory stuff. What does a modern day Christian make of all this?

The New Testament continues the theme. What is the political situation Jesus is born into? Turmoil. Judea was a political hotspot, an unstable region of the Roman Empire. What do we make of His disciples? Paul and his fellow apostles faced persecution in the forms of imprisonment and death for their dedication to "a gospel of love and peace." Perhaps the world is not as safe as we have been led to believe.

How do we reconcile the coexisting themes of love and war in the Bible? Please understand they do not stand in tension with one another. Talk about confusion! Instead, they compliment each other. We fight because we love--there will be more on this later.

For now, we must live as if we are at war. Brave, yet cautious. Cunning, with a sharp wit. No longer can we go on as "just citizens". We must be more!! We must be soldiers in a long and dangerous war.

Over the next several weeks, you can anticipate more on this war we were born into. Journey with us as we explore its various aspects. Please contribute your thoughts to the conversation, regardless of whether you are buyers, skeptics, or critics. Let's answer the questions and debate the answers! May the Bible be our guide!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Same Old Thing

Just the other day, I was asked how my day was going. "Oh, same stuff, different day." As soon as the words left my mouth, the Holy Spirit checked me. Where did that come from? Are those the real thoughts about my life? Have I come to a place where everyday is just the same old thing?

We've all been guilty of thinking like this. Life, at least for most of us, goes on with very little day to day change. My goodness, we're practically repeating the ramblings of that old Teacher from Ecclesiastes, "There is nothing new under the sun, ever."(1:9 NIV, italics mine)

According to Eldredge, losing paradise was not the worst thing to happen to this world. (Desire, p. 9) The fact that we're very much used to it is. We brush our teeth. We go to our jobs. We watch the news. We go to bed fully expecting to get up the next day only to do it all over again. Why? It's the way things are supposed to be, or at least, that is what we tell ourselves.

Just take your life the way it is right now. Someone has just given you the news that from here on out, your life will never change. Your health, your finances, your relationships, all of it will not get any worse, nor will it ever get any better than what it is right now. React to that with as much honesty as you can muster. What conclusions do you come to? My guess is the heart has little patience for "the same old thing".

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shouts of Lament

Grandma's House. If you would have told me when I was a kid that one day I would lose all of that joy and adventure, I wouldn't have believed you. It just didn't seem possible that life as I knew it would change. But change it did, dramatically.

I was in my first year of college away from home when the telephone rang. The memory is so fresh. It was my father on the other end of the phone. Through choked up tears He broke the news. "Grandma is gone."

Grandma was the closest person to me to die. She had lost control of her car down an old country highway not three miles from her home, my personal paradise. The news was devastating.

Looking back now, I realize I lost more than a grandmother that day. I lost access to my boyhood proving grounds. Not long after the funeral, all of her possessions were sorted through and the home was sold. Please understand, that land was more than just a piece of real estate. It was an intricate part of my masculine journey. It was the only place in my little world where I felt most alive. Able to be my truest self there, it was my sanctuary, my holy ground.

Just like that, it was all gone, torn away. Disbelief set in, as for most people when they suffer significant losses and devastating disappointments. Divorcees, amputees, and surviving spouses know what I'm talking about. At the moment, our hearts reject the reality. Again the secret to our hearts rise to the surface. This is not the life we want.

Even more devastating than Grandma's death is the dilemma that I, like so many others, got use to my loss. We come to a point where we embrace the idea that this really is the way things are supposed to be. As a result, we struggle with the truth that we were not made for this.