Conflict Between Jesus and Religious Leaders-John 7

Last Tuesday we began our study of John 7 by looking at Jesus’ half brothers prodding him to go to Judea for the Feast of Tabernacles but their motives were true That post was Jesus Understands Family Problems

Part of Jesus’ response to his brothers is a repeated theme in John:

My time is not yet here

Jesus knew all along that he was here to die for our sins. It was the plan. He also knew his time had not yet come at that point.

Jesus did end up going without telling his half brothers. When he arrived, he began to teach in the Temple Courts. The Jews were amazed at his teaching saying:

“How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”.

Consider the irony of that question. They were wondering how Jesus could have such great understanding without having been taught. Jesus is the creator. The whole of the Old Testament points to Jesus. When the Jews would teach things such as the promise of the Messiah, they were teaching about Jesus.

Jesus tells them his teaching comes from the Father. He makes a point about motives in teaching:

Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.

Then Jesus lets them know he knows they are seeking to kill him:

Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”

They responded with their version of-Are you crazy?

You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”

Jesus responds by pointing out their hypocrisy of being upset that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath.

Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath?

It is in John 7 that we really see the conflict build between Jesus and the religious leaders. They viewed Jesus as a threat to their ‘authority and power’ and Jesus did not placate them.

We will look more at that conflict next Tuesday.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Relationship or Religious Rules? John Chapter 5

Imagine that you wrote a book and went to a class being taught about it only to find out the teacher claimed the book says something you never wrote. What would you think?

Or imagine you own a company and tell an employee to do something and they tell you it is against company rules. What would you think?

John starts in chapter 1 with this about Jesus.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 

That would include what we see in Genesis 2:3:

Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

The seventh day being what is called the Sabbath. Let’s use a bit of logic here. Yes God stopped his work of creating, but he did not stop working. All of creation depends on God for being sustained. This is a point Jesus makes.

Rather rest refers to God ceasing his creation work because it was finished. It was time to enjoy his creation.

The religious leaders at the time Jesus was on earth had a long list of rules to observe the Sabbath. Break one of their rules and you were in trouble. In John chapter 5 we see the first of many conflicts between Jesus, the creator who created the Sabbath, and the religious leaders with their long list of rules, manmade rules. to observe what Jesus the creator had given ages before.

We saw last week that Jesus healed a man who was paralyzed and told him pick up your mat and walk.

The religious leaders saw the man walking and carrying the mat. They confronted him and found out Jesus told him to do so. So we read in John 5:16

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him

They were only concerned about their rules being followed and did not care at all that the man had been healed after almost 4 decades.

Jesus told them in John 5:7

In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”

The religious leaders wanted all the more to kill him. Jesus was a threat to their strangle hold of power over the people with their long list of manmade rules about how to please God.

We will examine the wonderful promises in John 5 next Tuesday, but for now ask yourself a few questions.

Do you want to follow Jesus who out of love for us let himself be crucified to be our Savior or do you want to follow a list of manmade rules?

Do you want to follow Jesus who healed people, reached out to people the religious leaders looked down on or do you want to follow a list of manmade rules?

Do you want to follow the creator who became our Savior out of love or do you want a religion?

Do you want relationship with God or religious rules?

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Beautiful Poem and Important Info About Ethiopia- God — poeticchristian

I don’t deserve your plenteous graceYet I keep receiving grace upon graceYour gifts and calling are irrevocable,Your unchanging truth forever credible.Take my giant problems and make them look small,My void, emptiness, My God You make whole.I have seen you give hope to the heartbroken,I have seen you fulfill what you had spokenThe promises you give […]

God — poeticchristian

Thankful for Freedom of Religion

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

Something I appreciate and value so much is freedom of religion. The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives us freedom of religion.

That freedom is something some have sought to hinder or take from us, but thanks to the Constitution, when such cases come before the Supreme Court, they get struck down.

An example from only 7 years ago is the case of The Little Sisters of the Poor. Obamacare tried to force The Little Sisters of the Poor to have provisions for birth control. I am not Catholic, but from what I understand, when a woman chooses to become a nun, she makes a vow of chastity meaning no sex. Furthermore, for serious Catholics, use of contraception violates their faith. The Federal Government under Obama went after The Little Sisters of the Poor, so they went to the Supreme Court and won. You can read about it at- The Little Sisters of the Poor.

It seems absurd to me that the government under Obama would do so because after all, a woman who chooses to become a nun has made the decision to not have sex for life. It was the government under Obama trying to strong arm a group of nuns.

It did not surprise me since Obama had referred to bitter clingers clinging to their religion. Such rhetoric was concerning to me.

My city has the largest number of Yazidi refugees in all of North America. They are so grateful for freedom of religion. They were a minority group in Iraq and Syria and were severely oppressed for it because of their religion.

I am thankful my Yazidi friends and friends of other religions have freedom here. I am also thankful I can share about Jesus with them, and remain friends with them whether they receive Jesus or not.

We need to be vigilant in the U.S. about freedom. Losing freedom will happen here not all at once but small steps like the Federal Government under Obama going after The Little Sisters of the Poor. I look at California where there are severe restrictions about going to church under the guise of concern over the pandemic. What makes that claim dubious to me is the fact that looters and rioters are allowed on the streets in mass gatherings there and are called peaceful protestors.

We will lose freedom of religion here only if we passively let it happen.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

What Do I Tell Them?

Jesus led me to a wonderful ministry of teaching and helping people from diverse countries and cultures. They are an array of beautiful colors created by God in his majestic artistry. God loves all people of all races so much that he sent Jesus to die for all of us.

Photo by ATC Comm Photo on Pexels.com

I have been in their homes. I have heard their stories of what they have been through in their home countries and also in America.

For the ones who are refugees, their stories include being victimized by those in authority. The Karen People of Burma were afraid to go outside the refugee camps in Thailand out of fear the Thai police would beat them and take what little money they had. The Sudanese in my city lived in fear of government troops from the north coming to kill them. My Yazidi friends were victimized for centuries by authorities and treated as less than human. The list could go on and on about the experiences of my refugee friends.

When they share their concerns with me, I listen and try to offer comfort and also advice about building their new lives in America. My ministry is based on trying to share the love of Jesus with them while helping them with their lives in their new country the USA.

Now I am faced with knowing what to tell them if they ask me about George Floyd being murdered by police officers in Minneapolis.

What reassurances can I offer them? My city has not had overtly serious problems and the police are professional in how they conduct themselves here. But that is not a 100% guarantee.

What do I tell them? I do not know. I will have to trust what Jesus said in Mark 13:

 “Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

When Did Christianity Start?

This is a bit of of a different post from me, but something I want to share with my readers.

In my interaction with friends from various faiths, a question arises about which religion is the oldest. Some view Christianity as a young faith compared to other religions such as Buddhism or Hinduism. If a person only looks at Christianity as starting about 2,000 years ago when Jesus was on earth and with his death and resurrection, then yes Christianity is a young religion.

However, a faith centers around the person who the faith is based on. When we consider that Jesus is eternal, the eternal Son of God, who had no beginning, who created the heavens and the earth, then Christianity in that sense predates all other faiths. Because Jesus is the Word who became flesh and all things were created by him and through him according to John 1, then he existed before anything in creation including the universe.

Even if we only trace Christianity back to the roots of the earliest teachings pointing to Jesus expressed to human beings, we go back to immediately after Adam and Eve sinned, They tried to hide from God, but God came to them. God spoke of the consequences of sin to both Adam and Eve but to the serpent, Satan, he spoke a prophetic word pointing to Jesus.

God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

As soon as sin and judgement entered the world God began to reveal his plan. Throughout the Old Testament, God progressively revealed more of the plan and each revelation pointed to Jesus as the concept of “seed” is developed such as God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 22 “and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Whether we date the start of Christianity as in eternity past, in other words no beginning, because Jesus is eternal and had no beginning, or we date Christianity as starting with the earliest teachings pointing to Jesus, which was immediately after the fall, Christianity is the oldest faith in existence.

The reason this is significant to me is that some seek to discredit Christianity claiming other religions are older. We as Christians can be confident that not only is Jesus the way, the truth, and the life, but we can also be confident that the roots of our faith go much much further back than any religion. Our faith predates all other faiths

I wanted to put my thoughts in writing for my followers to help you appreciate how deep and full of truth our faith is. There is no reason for Christians to feel our faith can be discredited based on claims it is a young religion.

We can go forward with all confidence that the person we worship and follow is the eternal Son of God who created all of the universe. No other faith can make that claim.

No One is Insignificant to Jesus

The photo is of me about ten years ago with an elderly Karen refugee and yes she is standing up in the photo. I met her at the wedding of her grandson. I greeted her in the Karen language and then smiled and looked at her as I said, “Yesu Eh Nah.” which means Jesus loves you in the Karen language.

She was so happy that she kept hugging me and followed me until we found someone who could translate. Through the translator she shares her joy over an American greeting her in her language and an American telling her Jesus loves her in her language.

Every time I think of that encounter, I think about how Jesus does not overlook anyone. Every one is important to Jesus. People we might ignore or brush off, are people who are precious to Jesus.

Sadly in the western church, we think too much about who are the kind of people to reach that will help us grow a church body. Such thinking ignores an important fact. Jesus is the one who grows a church, not us. If we care about the people Jesus cares about, he will grow a church, a ministry.

Nothing in the bible is recorded simply to give us a feel good thought or message. If we want to know how important someone like the elderly widow in the picture with me is to Jesus, consider what we find in Mark 12:

“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

The Temple was a busy place. People were coming and going, Important people came and gave a lot of money to God and the Temple. Out of the hundreds of people coming and going, Jesus took note of a lowly widow and her humble offering.

If we are feeling overlooked, unimportant, or brushed aside, it is not from Jesus. He loves all people equally and he takes note of everyone especially those others ignore.

We would do well in the west to not just think of this passage as some quaint story that gives us a warm fuzzy feeling. The passage shows what is on the mind of Jesus.

Thank you for reading. God bless.

Engagement Party for Others Blessed Me

Last night I had the privilege of going to an engagement party for a young couple from Iran. They are Mandean which is a minority religion in Iran, so they face oppression which is why they come here as refugees. It was such a blessing to see my friends joyfully celebrate the engagement of the young couple.

IMG_1420

One of the many blessings last night was the opportunity to see people I had not seen for years. When the first Mandean people came to my city 10 to 11 years ago, many of them were in an English Second Language class I taught. It was great to see them again especially to hear about their lives. One of them has become a Certified Nurse Assistant. Two have completed beauty school. There were smiles and hugs as we reconnected.

What really caught my attention was the dancing. When the engaged couple entered, they first came to the dance floor and were surrounded by the bride to be’s mother, sisters, nieces dancing in a circle around them. Then there was a father daughter dance for the bride to be and her father. There were other special dances such as two women dancing toward the couple, who were seated at the time, to bring rings on trays to them. Another dance one of the sisters of the bride to be danced holding a knife to cut the cake. She danced in front of the groom to be while he danced in front of her asking for the knife to cut the cake. She would gesture for money and the groom to be would keep taking more money out to hold up while they danced. Then the sisters gave the knife to the bride to be and the couple danced for a while and then danced to the cake to cut the cake.

The dancing was so much fun. The dances were mostly friends and family celebrating together. Sisters danced together. Mothers and daughters danced together. Men danced with men and women danced with women and groups danced together. The party was one big joy filled event. I even got out on the dance floor a few times.

Would Jesus have gone to the celebration last night? All we need to answer that is to reflect on where he performed his first miracle. Whenever I go to an engagement party or wedding for my international friends, I think about the first miracle Jesus performed when he was on earth. He was at a wedding feast in Cana and they ran out of wine. He turned water into wine and it was better than the best wine at the feast. The result was people coming to faith in Jesus. Jesus joined in the celebration of the newly married couple.

Rejoicing with those who rejoice in life’s special moments is part of my life’s work and ministry that I enjoy the most. Experiencing those moments with friends from other cultures has enriched my life and given me a completely new perspective on life. God has given me the opportunity to show his love to people from all the world in many different moments whether moments of rejoicing, moments of mourning, moments of learning, or moments of helping.

Last night was a joyful fun filled evening with people who were oppressed in their home country. Seeing them celebrate and being able to join them was an evening I won’t forget. Seeing former students and hearing about their lives was something that blessed me. It was as if God was giving me many reminders that with him my life has had a purpose and the purpose isn’t over yet. The realization that God was getting my attention last night hit me when one of my Mandean friends smiled and hugged me thanking me for helping her and her children by arranging for my church to help them with deposit on an apartment. So though I went to the party hoping to bless others, I was the one who left blessed and encouraged.

The night was so wonderful that even though I originally planned to go home at 10, I stayed until midnight. I left at midnight only because I needed to be up for church and to teach a class here at church. I am a little tired, but it is an oh so good kind of tired of having had a great night.

 

 

Having An Eternal Big Brother-Jesus

I will never forget the day as a 12 year old boy when a dog attacked me while I was distributing flyers for my dad’s company with my older brother Mark. The dog was BIG and I wasn’t the biggest 12 year old- my growth spurt hit age 15- and the dog had clawed me on my side and I was bleeding. I was freaked out and started running with the dog chasing me, so I did the one thing I knew to do- SCREAM for my big brother. Mark came and chased the dog away and got me calmed down. He also taught me what to do if that ever happened again. He drove me home. I was taken to the ER but didn’t need stitches.

animal dog pet dangerous
Photo by SplitShire on Pexels.com

Growing up in my dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother there was one person I could always count on. He was the one who taught me how to play sports, helped me with stuff for cub scouts/boy scouts, and the person I always felt safe around. My older brother Mark was a wonderful big brother growing up. I don’t remember us ever having a fight even when I would have deserved his wrath at times in my teen years.

backlit blur boys brother
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Having had a good big brother growing up made it so easy for me to appreciate having Jesus as my eternal big brother.  Yes, the bible refers to Jesus as our brother for those who believe in him in Romans 8:29, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Did you notice it says among brothers and sisters? Yes, Jesus wants little sisters not only little brothers. For my women readers, remember Jesus values you as his little sisters he wants to protect.

As I think about what Jesus did and does for us; he died for us to save us from hell and to restore us to God and he defeated the ‘big dog’ chasing us-Satan, it is so easy for me to grasp the concept of Christ my eternal big brother. For that I am so thankful for my big brother I grew up with. Other concepts were a bit difficult such as viewing God as my heavenly father because, well, my father was a withdrawn alcoholic who drank his vodka and orange juice as we watched TV.

But the concept of Jesus as my eternal big brother anchored me in my faith early on and gave me the grace and time I needed to embrace other aspects of God mostly God being my heavenly father.

When I meet people, I try to meet them where they are at in life and not force an issue. If I meet someone who has had an abusive father, it seems best to me to wait a bit and be patient with them and not dive in and say something like, “Don’t worry, God is your father.” From my own experience it seems best to get to know the person before shoving something on them they may not be ready to process. But when the time is right, how joyous it is to share with them that God is their father. For some the concept of Christ as our eternal big brother might be difficult due to issues with a brother.

The church is the family of God and he is patient with us to heal us step by step. For some of us those steps come quicker than others. I try to allow people the grace they need to take things as slow or fast that is appropriate for them. The Holy Spirit is much more capable than I am to discern such things, so for me it is more of an issue of listening to the person while letting the Lord guide.

So I hope this writing helps you in your little sister or little brother relationship with our eternal big brother Jesus. As you grow in your relationship with God, please remember that he understands you, he knows if you have past things that hurt you, and he is infinitely patient to bring healing at the pace that is best for you.

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day-Remembering My Father and Those Who Served

It is Memorial Day here in America. A day originally set aside after the Civil War to honor those who died fighting for our freedom and has also become a day to remember loved ones we have lost. When I was a child, Memorial Day was always on May 31st regardless of what day of the week it was on. It seems the further away we got from World War II, Memorial Day began to lose some of its meaning here, which I think is sad. Memorial Day was changed to be on the 4th Monday in May to allow for a three day weekend and it seems that now it is more about the start of summer. However, it is important to me to remember those who served fighting for our freedom. Our freedom did not come freely. Thank you to all who served and fought for our freedom.

My father served during the Korean War. I have previously written about my dad and how he came to Christ after I expressed forgiveness to him when he was in the hospital. You can click on this link if you want to read it- Forgiveness from me led to my father receiving forgiveness from God.

One surprise for me and something I would have never thought possible until it happened was that my father’s funeral was a Christian funeral with my pastor doing the service. He was buried with military honors.

12998581_10154733117594428_4206032729946654072_n

When I visit his grave I see the graves of so many who served our country. It is a somber moment that also causes me to feel gratitude for their service and appreciate the freedom I have. Think about what the world would be like if the Allies had lost World War II to the Nazis and Japan. Think about how our former enemies in World War II are now our friends. Think about how much better life is in South Korea than in North Korea.

I appreciate our freedom in this life and the fact that in America I am free to worship God as I choose. I do not worry about government troops coming in to arrest people simply for worshiping Jesus. But the ultimate freedom is the freedom there is in Jesus, freedom from sin, freedom from eternal judgement, free to be who God created me to be. This makes me think of the praise song, I Am Free.

This Memorial Day let’s remember the reason we have the holiday and remember those who served as well as enjoy a three day weekend with picnics, barbecues etc. Let’s also remember the one who gave his life for all of us on the cross-Jesus.