Obama…Romney and Jesus Christ enter a restaurant and…

A King That Makes People Happy Is Coming

One very important point is obvious from these few words, “Lo, your king comes to you.” It’s obvious that when he comes, he will make the daughter of Jerusalem happy. Or to put it another way he is the kind of king who makes his people shout for joy.

He is not a Nero who fiddles while Rome burns. He is not a Marcos who lives in lavish luxury while his land languishes in poverty. He is not an Ayatollah that shames his citizens. He is the kind of king that will make the daughter of Jerusalem, the offspring of Zion, leap for joy. Children will sing hosanna. Old men will dream dreams. Slave girls will prophesy. The blind see. The lame walk. The deaf hear. The lepers are cleansed. The poor have good news preached to them. Zechariah commands the daughter of Zion to “shout for joy,” because the king is coming. So he must be the kind of king that makes people happy.

Now how does he do that? Why is it such good news that this king is coming? Why isn’t it frightening and fearful?

He Is Righteous

The next lines give the answer. The RSV says, “Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he.” Focus on these two words for a moment. The NASB says, “He is just and endowed with salvation.” The NIV says, “Righteous and having salvation.”

The first word is indeed “righteous” or “just.” The reason the RSV often translates this word with “triumphant” is because it is so often used in the sense of “successfully standing up for what is right.” That implies victory for the oppressed and the innocent. In other words God’s righteousness does imply victory because he is God. But I think we do best to keep the meaning “righteous” or “just” so that we don’t miss the intention that God’s victories are accomplished in his righteousness.

So the first thing Zechariah says about this coming king is that he is righteous. He will stand victoriously on the side of right—on the side of the innocent and the faithful—the ones who have waited in faith and patience like old Simeon and Anna—the ones who have stood true to God’s word. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, the righteous king coming from heaven will bless those whom the world has cursed because they stood for the righteousness of God. And so Jesus, just like Zechariah, says, “Rejoice in that day and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12).

That’s the first reason the coming of this king is good news. That’s the first way he makes people happy. He is righteous—he is not wicked. He stands up for those whom the world thought were crazy in their commitment to love and lowliness and justice. The tables will be turned, the righteous and the lowly will be vindicated. And they will rejoice!

He Is Gentle and Humble

The second way he makes the daughter of Jerusalem happy is found in this other word. The RSV translates it “victorious.” The NASB, “endowed with salvation.” And the NIV, “having salvation.” The Hebrew word is literally “saved.” This form of the word is used two other times in the Old Testament. Psalm 33:16, “A king is not saved by his great army.” And Deuteronomy 33:29, “Who is like you, O Israel, a people saved by the Lord?” But to call the coming Messiah “saved” is so strange that most translators just can’t accept it. How would it inspire joy and worship for the king if he were described as “saved”? It doesn’t sound strong and mighty.

What would your answer be? Mine is: that’s the whole point of verse 9. The king is not coming mainly as a strong warrior but as a gentle peacemaker. He is strong. But he is not strong in the sense of being bossy or hard or loud or fierce or cruel. That’s the point of the next two lines.

    Humble, and riding on an ass,     on a colt the foal of an ass.

He is humble not arrogant or pushy. The word is often used for afflicted as well as meek. And if he is afflicted and meek, it may not be so strange that he would need to be rescued or saved from some affliction or danger or attack.

He Comes as a Peacemaker

And riding on a donkey—what does that mean? Well coming right after the word “humble” it surely reinforces the idea of being lowly and meek. He isn’t mainly interested in a big show that exploits the people for his own ego.

But the ass was not as despised then as it is now. In the Old Testament kings and kings’ sons did ride now and then on asses. But they did not ride on asses when they were going into war. Then they rode on warhorses. The ass was an animal for peacetime—for work time—not for war. What the donkey stands for, then, is that this king is coming not only as a humble man, but as a peacemaker.

In Luke 19:41, right after the entry into Jerusalem on the donkey, it says, “And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace!'” That shows, I think, that his choice of a donkey to enter the city was like coming in under a white flag—not of surrender, but of desire to make peace.

And if that weren’t enough, just a few verses earlier in Luke 19:38 Luke tells us that the people were shouting, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” I think Luke wants to make plain in the way he tells the story that Jesus was coming on the donkey mainly as a peacemaker. And not just peace on earth between man and man, but also peace in heaven between God and man. “Peace in heaven!” they cried. Let God in heaven be at peace with his people!

So what Jesus meant when he chose that donkey to ride on was this: I am meek and lowly in heart; I am approachable; you can find rest for your souls here; I am not against you, I am for you; I did not come to condemn but to save; I come on behalf of God, my Father in heaven, to reconcile you to him—to make peace between you and your Maker.

Now how did Jesus make peace between sinful people and a holy God? Colossians 1:20 says that he made peace “by the blood of his cross.” Jesus died to make peace between God and sinners. Looking back from this side of Good Friday and Easter we can see all that in the words, “Lo, your king comes to you; righteous . . . humble and riding on an ass.” He is righteous, which means he can be our righteous substitute and fulfill all that we have failed to do. He is humble or afflicted, which means he is willing to be rejected and despised and beat up and killed for others. And he is riding on an ass, which means that he wants to make peace not war, and that this is why he gives himself up to death.

Does the King Need to Be “Saved”?

But now what about the word “saved” in the line that says, “Lo, your king comes to you; righteous and saved”? I said that translators reject it because the context seems to demand something more powerful, more regal. So they say, “Having salvation,” or “victorious.” But is it true that the context demands something powerful and regal? I suggest that the context points to the possibility that this humble king bearing tidings of peace on a simple donkey may indeed be treated in such a way that he needs to be saved—not from his own sin, but from ours. He will need to be saved from our scoffing and our smiting and our murder. How do you get saved after you’ve been murdered?

Peter gives the answer in a sermon preached seven weeks after the death and resurrection of Jesus. He says to a crowd in Jerusalem, “You killed Jesus by the hand of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” In other words, God saved Jesus from the grave. He loosed the pangs of death. So Jesus was saved. (See Psalm 16:10=Acts 2:27; Isaiah 53:12.)

No, it does not sound powerful and regal in Zechariah 9:9 when the coming king is described as righteous and saved. But it is not supposed to. It’s supposed to sound humble and peaceable. What the humility of Jesus means is that he was willing to be so afflicted and so abused and so defeated that he needed saving.

And because God saved him from death and raised him up alive forever, he can now save anybody. He comes to you this morning as a peacemaker. He has laid down his life so that he might make you a genuine offer of reconciliation. He doesn’t want there to be a barrier between you and him. He doesn’t want hostility or indifference to stand in the way. He has come farther toward you in his humility than you could ever go toward him. And there is still time in your life to hear Jesus say, “O that they knew the terms of peace.”

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Relationships: Mercy in the Mess- Paul David Tripp

Relationships: Mercy in the Mess

We all dream of the perfect relationship. You know, the one that is free of disagreement, conflict, communication difficulties, power battles, anger and control. We can envision what it would be like. The problem is, none of us ever get what we were once able to imagine. When we wake up from our dreams, we all are greeted by the reality that all of our relationships live in the same location – the fallen world, and all of our relationships are with the same kind of person – an imperfect human being. (I will remind you again, you’re one of those too!)

Now you just have to ask why God would choose to subject us to such difficulty and disappointment. Is there meaning in the mess? Is there mercy in the mess? Maybe right now you are facing things in one of your relationships you never imagined you would face. Maybe right now you are dealing with such deep hurt and disappointment that you simply don’t know what to do. Have you wondered what in the world God is doing? Have you been tempted to doubt his goodness and question his love?

Here are some things to remember:

1. God never gets a wrong address. Acts 17 tells us that God determines the exact place where we will live and the exact length of our lives. Your life is not out of control. What you are facing is not the result of God forgetting you. No, God hasn’t turned his back on the promises he made to you. I know it’s hard to grasp, but what you’re facing is the result of God being faithful to his promises to you.

2. God is in the middle of the mess with you. Psalm 46 tells us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” If you are God’s child, you have never been in a location all by yourself. If you are God’s child, you have never been in a relationship all by yourself. You have never endured difficulty in isolation. Why? Because God is always with you and he is there so that you would have a place to run (“refuge”) and help in your moments of greatest discouragement and weakness (“strength”).

3. God is up to something good in the mess. Here’s the mistake we make in the way we attempt to make sense out of lives. We think that the mess is a sure sign that God is not working in our lives, because if he were at work, we wouldn’t be in such a mess. The Bible tells us something completely different. It tells us that because God loves us so, he is not satisfied with us as we are. He looks down at us and sees many areas where change and growth are needed. He couldn’t love us and be willing to leave us in our immaturity and weakness. So, God takes us where we do not want to go in order to produce in us what we could not achieve on our own – character. And how does he do this? He uses the difficult experiences of life to expose and change our hearts. One of his main tools is our relationships. These messy relationships expose our hearts, bring us to the end of ourselves and cause us to reach out for the help that only Jesus can give us.

I know it is hard to face the hurt and disappointment of a relationship gone bad. But there is hope. You are never alone. The One who is with you is up to something very good and because he is, there really is mercy to be found right smack dab in the middle of the mess!

God bless

Paul David Tripp

What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him

It seems notable that I am writing this review on the occasion of my best friend sharing this book with me.  This book by Byron Yawn is intense!

I have 3 boys and one girl. My boys are more than half way to being out on their own and …… It is probable that they are already more than half way to striking out on their own, to marrying, to beginning a family. I’ve already used up half of my opportunities to teach them what a father ought to teach his son. This is the kind of thought that can very nearly move me to tears; rarely do I feel less up to the task and more dependent on grace than in fatherhood. In that regard this book was both a challenge and a comfort.

What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him is a book of essays more than it is a book that flows easily and logically from the first chapter to the last; the topics are much like the lessons a father will teach his son in that they meander a little bit, wandering from being a son to being a father and a man and a husband. They extend from biblical manhood to sincerity to pornography to having “the talk” with your son, to integrity. Each one is punctuated by wisdom that is sometimes biblical and sometimes, well, just plain practical (At least to my recollection the Bible doesn’t comment on why you don’t want to cut into a steak to see if it’s ready to eat). These are not lessons for me to teach my son; not first and foremost. These are first lessons I need to learn and apply to my own life. There is a proper order to these things.

The book offers value in its big picture and it offers value in individual sentences or paragraphs. Some of the best of what Yawn teaches (Go ahead and make fun of his last name—it’s all been said before!) comes in the form of pithy quotes and helpful little phrases.

  • What the church needs are warriors of the gospel of Jesus Christ, not boys trapped in men’s bodies. Gospel ministry on the local church level begins with men. No pastor is truly leading if he is not raising them up.
  • You never move beyond the gospel to a more sophisticated or timely wisdom. There is no more intricate or relevant wisdom than the cross. God has nothing more to offer.
  • That image of Jesus, the maker of heaven and earth, on His knees like a commonplace servant washing the disciples’ feet is the most complete image of manhood known to us.
  • This is a serious gut check. We have to ask ourselves whether or not our desire for change in our spouse is ultimately motivated by a desire for personal happiness or for God’s glory.
  • We have to love Christ more than we love our spouse to actually love our spouse as we should.
  • The cross simultaneously declares two indispensable realities. First, it proclaims the unbelievable news about the grace of God. God loves sinners and sent His Son to redeem them. It is unconditional and radical love on display. Every time we behold it we rejoice. Second, the cross communicates the most brutal assessment of man’s condition we will ever face. We’re worse than we let on. We’ll never be as honest about ourselves as the cross is.

And so on.

The book levels a challenge at me, a challenge to be a better man, which is to say a man who follows the Lord with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. It levels a particular challenge as I consider that these are the kinds of lessons I want to convey to my son. Thankfully the book also brings me comfort that the Lord is stronger than I am and that he can fill up what is lacking in me. Even the best of fathers will do an incomplete job, for such is fatherhood in a sinful, distracting, distracted world. Even the best of fathers will end their days with some regret, sorry for all they didn’t teach their sons and all they didn’t accomplish.

What this book offers is interesting, helpful, mature reflections on what it means to be a man, to be a husband, to be a father. These are the little pearls of wisdom that too few men bequeath to their sons. This is manhood at its best, not some pathetic  counterfeit, but manhood grounded in the gospel and reflecting Jesus Christ.

Who is Jesus to you?

I have been pondering on the phrase “plastic Jesus” lately and how it relates to us today.  We use the term “plastic” today sometimes in reference to people that we consider to be “fake” or not genuine and real.  The literal definition of plastic is any synthetic material that can be shaped when soft and then hardened. Plastic is a material that is capable of being molded or of receiving form.

I believe that the literal definition is a metaphorical picture of the “jesus” that many people serve.  Rather than surrendering to the real genuine Jesus of the Bible. People prefer to form and mold their own image of a “jesus” made up of their own ideas, reasonings, lifestyles, etc.   A “jesus” they have shaped and formed to fit their religion apart from the true Gospel of the true Jesus. From early on in Scripture we see that people desire to depart from the real God and serve a “plastic” god. One they have molded and formed themselves and many times even in their own likeness.  We see this with the children of Israel who turned from the Lord to serve “plastic” gods that were made, formed, and fashioned by themselves in the following passage:

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”  Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.”  So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”  (Exodus 32:1-3 NIV)

Now it is important to clarify who was guilty of serving “plastic” gods.  It was covenant people and not mere pagans.  It was those delivered from Egypt by God.  We must take this to heart and as a warning  knowing that we too can fall prey to serving a “plastic god”–that which we fashion and form ourselves and worship in place of God himself.  Notice too that while Moses was receiving divine revelation from the real God, the children of Israel were occupied with their own god.  We will either serve the real God (who imparts spiritual truth) or be content with “polished Christianity” void of spiritual truth.  Paul in his letter to the Corinthians actually made reference to this very situation and warns us to not be like them (see 1 Cor.10:6-11).  Remember also the commandment “You shall have no other God’s before me.”   God goes on to warn us of forming our own gods and/or idols after another image (see Ex.20:2-5).

Paul mentions in his letter to Timothy those who “have a form of godliness but deny its power” (2 Tim.3:5)  Hmmm…he mentions them having a “form” of godliness.  The word “form” means having the external appearance of; the shape of a thing or person.  Could it be that these are individuals that claim to be “Christian” in some regards but are merely possessing a plastic form of Christianity–that which is superficial and merely surface level?   This was the very thing that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for.   They looked the part on the outside but failed to cultivate it inwardly.  Jesus even called them “white washed tombs” (Matt.23:25-28).  This  “form of godliness” Paul mentions is a religion that they have fashioned and formed including another “Jesus” to go along with their other “Christianity”.  They may even, like the Pharisees, look good on the outside but are empty and filthy on the inside, because that the god they serve is a poor replica (molded Jesus) of the genuine Christ. Paul said:

I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.  But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.  (2 Cor. 11:2-4 NIV)

There are two things I would like to expound on in this verse.  First of all, Paul mentions being sincere.  In studying this word I have come to learn that in its origin it literally means “without wax.”  That is very interesting to me especially in light of this idea of a plastic Jesus or plastic Christianity.  Let me explain:  in biblical times there were many who sold clay pots for a living.  Due to the handling of many at the market place and just day to day hustle and bustle, some pots would become cracked, chipped, scraped, etc.   Many dishonest people who sold pots would “wax over” their cracks, chips, and scrapes with a wax coating giving it the appearance/form of wholeness and beauty,  when in reality the pots were in horrible shape and time would tell as the wax disappeared and the cracks, chips, and scrapes would begin to show up.  Because of this problem, honest potters would advertise their product as sincere (without wax).  In other words, it did not just look the part but was indeed a beautiful, and genuine pot.

Having understood the meaning of “sincere” brings a whole new meaning and understanding to me when I see the countless Scriptures that deal with us being sincere with both God and others.  To put it in today’s terms, we are literally being told in Scripture not to be “plastic”–appearing to be something we are not.  In the same way we are not to serve a custom-fabricated Jesus we have just made to fit us and our ways of life.

Secondly, Paul mentions “another Jesus” and “another gospel.”  I cannot help but think to myself and ask; how many people have received “another Jesus” and “another gospel” that has been formed and fashioned by people and not God?   I am reminded of Jesus Himself asking his disciples “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” He then brings it closer to home and asks them “What about you, who do you say that I am?” (see Matt.16:13-15).  On another account Jesus asked the Pharisees “What do you think about the Messiah?” (Matt.22:42)

I want to leave you with that very thought and question:  Who is Jesus to you? Is your idea of Jesus in line with the Scripture?  Do you serve the real Jesus or have you settled for a plastic Jesus?

 

Thank you Josh for sharing….

Creflo Dollar’s Prosperity Gospel finds followers and critics….

by Melissa Gray

 

 – The arrest of Georgia megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar brought renewed attention to his message of the Prosperity Gospel, controversial to some and faith-fulfilling to its followers.

Dollar, who was arrested last week after allegedly assaulting his teenage daughter, is the founder and pastor of World Changers Church International in suburban Atlanta.

It claims about 30,000 members and has a multimillion-dollar sanctuary that resembles a golden-domed spaceship atop a hill.

Dollar said in a statement he would never harm his children and that the facts in the case would be handled privately.

Prosperity ministers preach that God rewards the faithful with wealth and spiritual gifts. Pastors such as T.D. Jakes, Dollar, and Joel Osteen have become the Prosperity Gospel’s most well known preachers, building megachurches and business empires with a message equating piety with prosperity.

While popular in the black church, it is not a solely black phenomenon, as seen in the ministry of Osteen, a best-selling author and megapastor at Lakewood Church in Houston. The church website says it is considered to be the largest church in America, with more than 38,000 attendees.

The Prosperity Gospel is a form of evangelical Christianity that largely grew out of the booming economy of postwar America, says Jonathan Walton, a professor of Christian Morals at Harvard and author of “Watch This! Televangelism and African American Religious Culture.”

The theology’s emphasis is on God’s promised generosity in this life and the ability of believers to claim it for themselves. If God loves us, it teaches, then God will reward us with a new home, a good job, or good health, Walton says. God wants us to be prosperous.

One of the problems that conservatives tend to have with prosperity theology is its focus on material prosperity, says Ben Phillips, a theology professor at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Houston.

“The Prosperity Gospel tends to mask the greatest need that any individual has, and that’s to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ,” Phillips says.

“The point is that God is the ultimate good,” he continues. “Knowing Him, being in a relationship with Him … in which He is God and we are His creatures, that is where joy is found.”

Believers may argue, however, that material wealth is evidence of being in covenant with God, says Michael Long, a teacher of religious studies at Elizabethtown College and editor of the book, “I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters.”

Those believers might say material goods are a side effect of believing in God and Christ, he says. “The focus is on getting right with God, but you know that when you get right with God, you’re going to get something for it.”

While the theology may attract more followers in a time of economic boom, the fact that it focuses so much on the individual and controlling one’s own heart is a comfort in tough economic times as well, Long says.

Tom Brown, senior pastor of the Word of Life Church in El Paso, Texas, says wealth and prosperity are what God desires for us.

“Just as any parent enjoys watching their kids have fun, God delights in watching His children enjoy what money can buy,” Brown writes on the website for his ministry. “I believe God is love and He desires the best life we can have.”

Believers must then use their wealth to help others, Brown says – and that to have money for its own sake is pointless.

Phillips says it’s true that the Bible teaches Christians to care for the poor, sick and needy, “but the Bible also teaches that God uses and permits suffering in the lives of people for His own ends and purposes.”

He points to the Book of James, which says we must value the trials in our life because they shape our character.

“Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation – since they will pass away like a wild flower,” it says in James 1:9-10.

Critics may say prosperity followers are wrong, but believers say they are sincere, Walton says. The pastors may be pop culture celebrities, but it doesn’t mean their congregations don’t find fulfillment in the message.

The pastors’ wealth, derided by some as evidence of hypocrisy, could also simply be seen as evidence of their faith, Walton says.

“The wealth is part of their authority,” he says

Love in Hard Places!

Love in Hard Places D. A. Carson writes,

What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together because they have all been loved by Jesus himself. They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.

Can you heed the WARNING?

2 Timothy 4

English Standard Version

Preach the Word

4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,  who is to judge the living and the dead, and by  his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;  reprove, rebuke, and  exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure  sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and  will turn away from listening to the truth and  wander off into myths. 5 As for you,  always be sober-minded,  endure suffering, do the work of  an evangelist,  fulfil your ministry.

6 For  I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my  departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight,  I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is  laid up for me  the crown of righteousness, which the Lord,  the righteous judge, will award to me on  that Day, and not only to me but also to all  who have loved his appearing.