Faith in the Age of Facebook

Faith in the Age of Facebook

It will not take anyone very long if they use social media of any kind (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to find instances where it has been abused, or misused in ways that can deeply impact our relationships. Before I go too far, I would like to explain that I am not writing to convince people to stop using social media. Although from time to time a little more time away might help to calm nerves and connect with our families and friends face to face. This is an attempt to thoughtfully look at how our faith is faring in the Age of Facebook.

In more recent days the rise of social media of all forms has given the world a wider range of people, personalities, politics, causes, social and revolutionary uprisings, and a diversity of faith perspectives. I do not know a great deal about all of the subjects so I will speak more about and concerning faith. I am a Christian and so most of my thoughts will be centered in that conversation, however I think much of what I will say here is nothing new but will also be practical in nature.

I do not believe that social media is at the heart of the issue. Social media gives users unusual freedom and latitude to express themselves and their views. It has proven very helpful to get a larger picture of what is going on around the world. Social media helps to tell a more complete story during recent revolutions around the world. Places where governments have try to insulate and isolate their treatment of their own people from the world as not to draw attention, criticism, or reaction.

On the other hand this same freedom to share in a very raw way what is going on around the world has also led many others to use that same freedom in many other destructive ways. We now have new term cyber-bullying because kids are now no longer being bullied just a school be a few people but now quite literally are being bullied all the time by anyone who has access to the internet. In just a few moments an unflattering picture and hurtful words can be “liked”, “shared”, or “retweeted”. Instantly into the hands of many people in a matter of seconds, with often no filter or second thought as to the severity of the hurt caused. Perhaps worse, people are aware of the hurt they are causing and are doing so to inflict as much harm as possible.

There may be some who would read this and think “well they are kids” “didn’t we all do things like that when we were kids?” Bullying is not new and neither is the harm caused by it. What seems to be worsening is the justifying of it, and that it is not just kids who are bullying. There are grown people who bully one another, cut one another down, manipulate and hurt one another, and sometimes these “grown people” even feel like it is their right and o.k. to bully kids on social media.

Many people daily share their opinions, their lives, their politics, their faith, their emotions, their hurts, their pains, and their sorrow. People often share to feel validated, to not feel alone, to share common interests, politics, place, and friends. In the push to feel this way sometimes we allow validation to lead to vindication, loneliness to lashing out, and sharing common things to having common “enemies.” In a place of extreme freedom like the internet or social media there seems to be a lessening restraint. The “I can say what I want to” and “I’m entitled to my opinion” seems to be the justification for any manner of destructive talk or behavior.

The term “internet troll’, refers to a person or person(s) who interjects themselves in a group or cause claiming to have the same opinions or feelings but will soon sow destruction. They usually make a statement or a question trying to get emotional responses from people in the group. Sometimes trolls just to try to get the members of the group off target or talking about something else. For other trolls, they just love to argue and love the chaos that they cause. A lot of the times this is done through a fake name, email, or social media account. Often trolls are just looking for a fight or to frustrate, as the phrase has become popular, “Don’t feed the trolls.” Do not give trolls more ammunition for their arsenal of discord. Please be cautious not to go “trolling.”

When there is a perception of expanded freedom, instant support, distance from differing opinions, or in some cases remaining completely anonymous people not only feel free but often justified in their views. This type of freedom/justification often leads to expanding personal freedom at the sake of another person’s freedoms and feelings . While I do feel that one should have the “freedom” to have their opinions, I think a believer’s opinions should be accompanied by restraint, responsibility and done in a personal way.

What is the responsibility of a person in faith in the age of the internet, Facebook, and other social media? I will not claim to speak of a faith that I am not familiar so let me speak of Christianity. Faith is not just a statement of belief but is a statement made by the lives of believers. The book of James reminds us that “faith without deeds is dead.” Faith is practice, practical, and it should inform and shape our understanding of and living out of daily life.

There may be some who would say at this point “if I am a Christian, then I should speak the truth especially if we know the other person is wrong.” Scripture informs us that we are called to “speak the truth in love.” Speaking the truth can and sometimes will hurt, however the end goal of speaking the truth is not to try to cause hurt or prove someone else wrong or even because “God needs us to do so.” Speak the truth in love. Speaking truth without love makes for legalism with which also will be bound. Speaking only of love without truth leads to liberalism and robs the gospel of its power to transform lives. The point of speaking the truth in love is to seek to bring about restoration of relationships between God and the individual and that individual and others. This truth-speaking is personal and has as its goal restoration of relationships. The word confrontation means to come face to face and does not have to be explosive.

Whenever possible confrontation should be done in a personal face to face manner where tone, expression, context and allow for dialogue. Be thoughtful about whether these comments are necessary at this time or at all. Is the comment you are about to make a well thought out action or a reaction? I pray that we all strive to be people of thoughtful action. If you are one being confronted, try to not assume the worst or the other person’s intentions, but also consider if there is any merit to their comments. A friend might risk saying something that may be hurtful in the short-term but has our ultimate good at heart and the restoration of relationships.

It is far easier for us to sit behind a screen in the land of social media lobbing “holy hand-grenades” at one another in an attempt to inflict as much damage as possible. Little thought is generally given to how many times these are friendly fire incidents. I would like to suggest getting off of Facebook and perhaps putting our faces in God’s book. Pray asking God to expose my motives and if need be change my heart. After having done so, if something needs to be addressed do so in a personal, face to face manner. The goal confrontation, speaking the truth in love should be to bring about restoration where possible, and will often require something of both individuals. An example when someone has hurt you in a personal way, it may be easy to confront but hard to forgive. Prayer about our own heart should always come first, trying to have a short memory and a gracious spirit.

Social media in and of itself is not the problem, but unlike traditional media it often does not have the same regulations or restraint. What I do think social media can do is offer an opportunity to speak words of hope and encouragement into people’s lives. Social media can provide the opportunity for people of differing views, political ideologies, parenting styles, and religious believes to have healthy respectful dialogue.

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.       The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. ~James 3:5-10

Although James was speaking of gossip and destructive talk, I would suggest that social media of today gives greater opportunity for destructive thoughts and conversation to spread more quickly. We should be more careful to encourage whenever possible one another in public and confront lovingly face to face in a private personal manner.

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
            be pleasing in your sight,
            Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~Psalm 19:14

My prayer for myself and for all believers is that we would seek to speak life as much as possible. The words of our mouths would be pleasing in the sight of the Lord, because the words of our mouths come from the mediation of our hearts. Do our words reflect the Word, Jesus Christ, whether those words are spoken to a few, a small group, or done behind a screen?

May the Grace and Peace of Christ Be With You!

Humor in the Bible-Story 3-Jonah-February 11, 2015

Humor in the Bible-Story 3-Jonah

Jonah is a prophetic book with only five real words of preaching. Jonah is a story more about Jonah and God than it is the prophetic message. The humor found therein is tied a good deal to the original language.

When the story opens up with God commissioning Jonah to go preach to the Assyrian City of Nineveh and God doesn’t exactly disclose at this point what that message was supposed to be. What Jonah, the prophet decides to do is a little weird…he decides to go on the run, from God, huh? He should know better. The surprising thing is generally these messages have been bad news to the people who would receive these messages. Jonah gets the idea that he will try to run away from God. As if running away that God would let him go, or that he actually could escape. He was quite opposed to going. If it was a bad message you would think he might actually be excited to go, but to think there was some place he could go on earth to hide from its creator.

Then Jonah goes down to book a fair on a cargo ship, then goes down in the hull of the ship to go down to sleep, he gets hurled overboard to go down to the bottom of the ocean and then down into the big fish. It is interesting that to go away from God Jonah is also going down.

Jonah seems to suspect that God’s motives may not be the same as his own and has a temper tantrum to protest and then tries to run away. In Hebrew objects and animals are given personal pronouns.   The ship is personified as she. So it reads something like, “the ship thought, I am about to be broken up.” The ship itself and the crew thought they were doomed. The sailors “hurled” stuff overboard just like God had “hurled” a storm at them. Hurling the cargo overboard might save the ship but would mean that they would lose money. What does a “profit” matter if you don’t survive?

All the while Jonah is in the bottom of the boat in a deep sleep. The word for sleep here is the same word in Hebrew as the sleep Adam was under when Eve was formed. The Captain wakes the prophet and suggests prayer. That is kind of funny too. The sailors are sure the gods or a god is upset at one of them, so they draw lots and it falls on Jonah and he admits to it.

Jonah tells them he is Hebrew and fears the Lord who created all, yet his actions seem to say just the opposite. He tells them it is his fault; he can’t outrun God, now the crew was really afraid. So they ask Jonah what they should do and rather than offering to repent to save himself and them, he suggests they “hurl” him overboard. Jonah would rather die than go to Nineveh.

The sea was walking and raging, they pray to Jonah’s God because they were worried about God’s wrath for killing him. Then after trying to row ashore, they “hurl” Jonah overboard and immediately everything stopped. They worshiped God, which Jonah was unwilling to do. Then God “ordained” a big fish to sallow Jonah. The big fish then is described in female personifications temporarily like a mother “carrying” Jonah in its belly. Jonah is cast into the sea as if he thinks he can be cast out of God’s presence, but still never repents.

Now maybe things will get moving. The big fish vomits or “hurls” Jonah onto the dry land. The word of the Lord comes to Jonah a second time. Now Jonah does go to Nineveh.   Nineveh was a large Assyrian city. As soon as Jonah walks into the city he gives a super short sermon, only five words in Hebrew. Generally a sermon has much more detail like the problem, what will happen if the behavior continues, and what we can do (repent) to please God and right ourselves. He was begrudgingly obeying God. Jonah chooses the verb “to turn” like overturn or it could also mean repent. Pretty sure Jonah was thinking ill thoughts and thinking it would be the bad turning. He just says it will be forty days until they turn. Jonah did not supply many details hoping for the worst.

The reaction and response of the people of Nineveh is described in more detailed than the sermon Jonah preached. The people themselves start a grassroots revival not the leaders. The king joins in and for good measure thinks the cows should too. He does all this with the hope that God may spare them. God decides to accept the repentance of their enemies and not to destroy them. Now twice Jonah had evangelized people with the most basic effort and in spite of himself.

Temper! Temper!

Jonah gets mad at God that Nineveh didn’t get “it.” Jonah angrily describes perfectly the grace of God for which he is indeed mad about. God shows patience with the people of Nineveh and Jonah too. Now Jonah stomps his foot on the ground and tells God he wants to die! God responds, “Does it do you any good that it burns you?” The sailors repented, Nineveh repented, even the cows repented, but not the prophet of God. God shows Jonah patience and mercy. God also uses an object lesson to demonstrate how foolish Jonah is actually being. God “ordained” a bush to grow up overnight for shade for Jonah. The next day God then “ordains” a worm to attack the bush and it dies. In the full sun of the day God then “ordains” a blistering wind to blow on Jonah. In another comical way, Jonah is burned up at God and God essentially just lets Jonah get burned up emotionally and physically. This reminds me a bit of the rain cloud that always seems to follow Eeyore.

Jonah again wants to die more than live. “Is being angry about the bush doing you any good”, God asks? Essentially Jonah’s response is something like, “why yes it is and I am so angry I could die!” God response in paraphrase is something like, “really?” You are mad about the plant that you had nothing to do with, and is just a plant? However, you don’t care about the 120,000 people living in Nineveh, what gives? God’s grace for Nineveh is the same grace that Jonah has received but he doesn’t seem to get it.

God in a way is telling Jonah even the cows are better than you are, they repented. Jonah wanted God to be more like him and if we are honest we all do from time to time. Sometimes we are like Jonah trying to avoid God; and think if God is for us then God must be against our enemies (who are not like us). We, like Jonah, want God to be predictable to our expectations. God spares the cows and gives rise to “Chick-fil-a” as those cows would say “Eat More Chicken.” Just kidding.

You Know Them by Name-February 8, 2015

You Know Them by Name

Isaiah 40:21-31

One argument for not believing God and following Jesus have been statements like these:

“Well I’ve prayed to God before and it didn’t make a difference.”

“I look around and I see all of the evil in the world and if God loves us, why do all these things still happen?”

Perhaps the misunderstanding here is that we often put our conditions on God and think if God doesn’t meet my preconditions or preconceived notions then God is not real, or that if God is real God is not able to do anything about what is going on in our lives, or even worse that God doesn’t care about us.

Often we have questions for God and have assumptions if we do not think things have worked out the way we think they should in our lives. Many want to look at God as a spiritual vending machine that we can pray to and expect to receive things from God that may be outside of God’s will. This does not mean however that God does not care or is unaware of our struggles or our pains. It also does not mean that God is powerless to do anything about our condition.

When life gets tough you may have wondered if God is real. Does God know what I am going through? Does God care about me? Does God have the power to do something extraordinary in my life or am I alone here in the world doing the best I can? God reveals himself in many different ways, and so Isaiah has some basic questions for us about God. Essentially, don’t you know, have you not heard, have you not been taught from your earliest days who created the earth?

It seems ironic that we might assume that if God does not fit my model of what I think about Him that somehow means God does not know or does not care? Isaiah’s first question implies that maybe we do not know rightly about God and who God is. In verse 22, He sits enthroned above the earth and we are so small compared to God much like grasshoppers. God stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. God is the creator of the universe everything is here including us because of God’s great power, creativity, and love.

God loves us but God will not be mocked or His glory given to anyone else. So God brings the princes to naught and reduces the rules of this world to nothing. No sooner than they are planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. Isaiah is telling the people who are in exile that things are not always as they seem. There is hope, that God is able to do something about it. These rulers are temporary and this is not a permanent condition but rather a temporary one in which we need to learn to trust God more than we trust our current condition. God knows what we are going through.

God is the great creator of the universe and topples the powers and rulers of this world. Who or what can you compare to God? Who is God’s equal? It is the same rational and questions presented to Job in Job 38, God reminds Job that he created everything and asks, can you tell me how it was done since you seem to know? You are so wise surely this question is not too hard for you to answer. It is here that we are reminded not to look down and feel down, or look around at each other for answers or our circumstances as proof, but rather look up.

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He (God) brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. The proof is all around us, God brings forth the stars and knows each of them by name and because of his great power and might not a one of them is missing.

Do we think that God does not know us? God knows our names and not one of us is forgotten. Verse 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? The repeat of the initial questions don’t you know, have you not heard? Basically, have you not learned anything yet, God knows. The Lord is everlasting and created the ends of the earth and will not grow tired or weary. You are not hidden from God you are under his sight, care, and vision. His understanding no one can fathom, or his understanding is far beyond our understanding.

He brings low the powerful, he gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. You may say I am not sure I believe that. How do you make it through each day? The Lord gives you strength. Helps us to get through each day and gives us hope for today and the days ahead, and a promise that this life is not the end.

Everyone gets tired and struggles no matter who or how young or strong. We all have difficulty in life but that is not a reason to write God up but an opportunity to learn to trust God more and place our hope in him. Renewal will not happen because we work hard at it, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. Not only will they feel renewed in these days but will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. It is not just that we are renewed to survive but rather that we thrive. We soar on wings like eagles.

Dear friends, things will not always go your way it is not a reason to doubt God. Just because something is beyond our vision or our understanding does not mean that the Lord is any less real, less powerful, or less compassionate. God is the creator of all. God calls forth everything. God calls forth the millions of stars in the sky and calls them by name. God also calls all of us by name. He knows our names, our worries, our troubles, our sins, our fears, and our hearts. He knows us personally and He loves us and is able to do something about our condition in this life. He did so by sending His Son Jesus to this world in a real and personal way, and allowing Him to die for our condition and in our place. He did so once and for all.

This table is not about a distance God that doesn’t notice or care, but is actually about personally connecting and personally giving us what we really need. Even if we do not know what we need the most, this table represents setting us free from the condition of life (sin) that we are both born into and continue to practice. It is freeing because we do not need to be in fear in this life or for our lives for the Lord holds all. He knows us all by name and died for us, will we live for Him?

 

Humor in the Bible: David-A Complicated Life-February 4, 2015

Story 2: David-A Complicated Life

David, chosen by God, Saul’s harp player, he defeated the giant Goliath, he becomes a war hero, but in doing so makes his king jealous, luckily Saul’s attempts to get rid of David do not work and some have negative effects.

The story of David is one filled with irony. Perception is part of the point with irony, one gets it where another may not. Does this person in the story recognize the truth and reveal it to us, or sometimes the narrator does, occasionally we are not told but left to discern.

It is in this place where we begin. 1 Sam. 13:13-14 Saul displeases God and the spirit of God was no longer with him, and Samuel arrives and God instructs Samuel not to focus on the outward appearance of the sons of Jesse. (1 Sam. 16:6-7)Things aren’t always as they seem. God looks at the heart. We cannot always see or recognize the heart of a person. We should be careful of the difference. The contrast between appearance and reality will follow David most of his life. He is the shepherd boy, the youngest who would later be king. Each of Jesse’s sons or so we thought was presented to Samuel and also rejected by Samuel. So things aren’t going well from the start.

Jesse essential says well my youngest boy is not here to which Samuel basically responds, didn’t I say all the first time 1 Sam. 16:11 & 12. David finally gets there and the description is all about the appearance of the one who we are to be looking at his heart and his character. What does David’s looks have to do with how he would be as a king? David was anointed by Samuel but would need to be recognized and affirmed by the people.

Saul is beginning to crack mentally, God’s spirit is upon David and now an “evil spirit”, from the Lord, is upon Saul. Now on to music to sooth King Saul we have David 1 Samuel 16:23 to help with the evil spirit.

Then Saul puts David in his armor to go out and fight the giant. Upon returning there is a victory parade where the people come out to see Saul but gives more glory to David. David already had the glory due Saul and now he is concerned about his throne. Got to be careful if David is a threat, then Saul could kill him, but if David is God’s choice, he would be in opposition to God. 1 Samuel 18:6-10

David, God’s anointed, plays the harp to comfort Saul, who has an evil spirit from the Lord, and picks up a spear and tries to kill him. Although David was the one being physically threatened, it was Saul who was afraid. 1 Samuel 18:10-12

Saul then looks for more indirect ways to get rid David. David’s great military experience (killing one Philistine) Saul puts David in the army hoping he would die in battle instead it only fosters David’s reputation as a conquering hero and actually fulfills the praise offered him earlier.

The next plan was if you can’t beat them have them join you. He offers his daughter’s hand in marriage to David. As they say, these days half of all marriages may end in divorce, but the other half end in death. David at first refuses on the basis that he has no dowry to pay the king for the propose marriage to Michal. So the king says, no worries, how about 100 Philistine foreskins as the dowry, and David says sure and he and his men set off. Saul knows these men will put up a fight and therefore perhaps David will be killed trying to fulfill this obligation. 1 Samuel 18:25-28. A while later they have killed and collected (Hebrew text says 100, the Greek 200) of the Philistine foreskins, which were given in full number to the king.   Who has to count them and what will he do with them?

Saul sends men directly to kill David as he sleeps but he found out and fled. He sends groups to David and they all fall down in prophetic trances. Saul says well I will do it myself and also ends up in a trance and laying there naked for a night and a day. 1 Samuel 19:18-23

Jonathan is trying to make sure it is safe for David to come back to the king’s court devises a plan for his safety involving arrows. David then directly puts himself in harm’s way by not listening. He finds out it is truly not safe and goes on the run and begins to run with a group of men, becomes more cunning gains Abigail as a wife Nabal, eventually seeking refuge in the camp of the Philistines, Israel’s enemy. The king did not trust David and needed proof.

To satisfy Achish, David made a practice of leading his army on raids against “the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites” (1 Sam 27: 8), Israel’s historical enemies, raids in which he would ruthlessly annihilate entire populations of cities and villages. Returning to Ziklag rich in booty, he would report a successful raid on Israel! In effect and unwittingly, Achish had employed David to fight against Israel’s ancient enemies! David skillfully “ played both ends against the middle.” All the while, his reputation in Israel grew as Achish remained clueless: “Achish trusted David, thinking, ‘He has made himself utterly abhorred by his people Israel; therefore he shall be my servant always ’” (1 Sam 27: 12, NRSV). David even survived the last, very dangerous episode in his “fugitive” period that arose from his entanglement with Achish.

Biddle, Mark E. (2013-11-18). A Time to Laugh: Humor in the Bible (Kindle Locations 896-902). Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Surviving all this David consolidates power. First, David took Jerusalem and established it as the capital. Second, he made it the center of religious worship, and try to do so by bringing the Ark of the Covenant without asking or receiving instruction from God. Uzzah dies from touching it, so they hold off and ask Obed-Edom if it can stay with him for a while to see if anything bad happens. 2 Samuel 6.

Who would be the next king? Israel had only two kings Saul and David. Samuel had anointed each and now he is dead. Saul and David were not family so who would be the rightful heir to the throne? Does it have anything to do with the Ark? As they are bringing the Ark into the city, to its place David is dancing with all his might in essential very little on. It upset his wife Michal who was watching the slave girls observe her husband. 2 Samuel 6:21-23. Michal got mad at David’s actions and David has a heated exchange with her and then the next thing we hear she dies with having no children. We might presume that his anger meant he no longer had relations with her. Michal, Saul’s daughter, David’s wife if she had a son would be the natural resolution to this story of who is the heir. David made many great military decisions, but was not the best husband or father.

At the end of David’s life he was unable to stay warm. Perhaps poor circulation, so the kings men have a beauty contest to find the prettiest girl in all the land to help keep him warm. It is recorded that he had no relations with her. Here was David’s personal life which also met with the affections of a good number of women in the end was with a beautiful women but not able to be “warm.”

Irony is not limited to David it runs in and out through the bible. One example is Joseph being sold into slavery to save his family from starvation. Another example is Ruth finding Boaz. There is even irony in Jesus’ death being good in the light of his resurrection.

What do you see in David’s life? What can or does it instruct us about our own? David was complicated at times he was meek and naïve, and at others ruthless and calculated. It is perhaps important to remember that in free will people may do things that are not what God desires or perhaps works against what God desires. God, however, works behind the scenes where He is not always visible but continues to work the unseen for His will and purposes.

 

 

Recognize, Respond, and Repeat-February 1, 2015

Recognize, Respond, and Repeat

Mark 1:21-28

Jesus just asked four men to follow him. He had Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew with him. He also had with him John and James also brothers. These four were fisherman. The first place they follow Jesus was a synagogue meeting in Capernaum.

While they were in Capernaum, the Sabbath came and Jesus went to the synagogue (gathering) and began to teach. It is interesting to me that Jesus went to the synagogue first to teach. Some say well that’s not all that odd that he would go to a religious meeting and in one way I completely agree. In another way Jesus tells people that he came for the lost house of Israel. So is Jesus’ first act representative of that? If so, what does that mean for us today? He came to save religious people from religious legalism, themselves, and for his glory. He did not come to give them something to live by (laws) but someone to live for.

What a liberating way of looking at the freedom we are offered in Christ. What a condemning ways to look at faith as an institution and the religious legalism that goes along with it. If you have an institution you have rules. If you have faith you have someone to follow.

The equivalent today would be like saying “Jesus has come to save Christians before he can deal with the others.” Professing Christ without embodying Christ wrecks the gospel and does not offer true assurance. Instead it offers a convenient faith we can live with and little hope for ourselves and the world. A deep, abiding faith is one that comes from following Christ and it provides hope for each day, hope for tomorrow, hope for eternity, and has hope to offer the world.

The power of the gospel is more than just empty words, but it is the Word made flesh and living out God’s plan, God’s punishment, God’s love, God’s grace & mercy, and in doing so demonstrates true authority. God’s authority.

So Jesus’ first place to go with his four new disciples is to a religious meeting where he is teaching. Scripture records that “the people were amazed at his teaching.” I don’t recall it every being said that the people were “amazed” at the teaching of even the greatest Pharisees. What make Jesus’ teaching different? “He taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” The teachers of the law claimed a false authority as guardians of the law, but Jesus had or was the embodiment of authority. He wasn’t talking about it, he was it. He was the ultimate authority as the Son of God in the flesh.

This issue of authority is important because false authority may be honored or respected because it does have some power or control of our earthly lives. True authority on the other hand is not forced on us as it is recognized by us. Recognizing true authority can give confidence, comfort, and excitement. If you have a bad illness you would want medical advice from the leading authorities in that field. It would give you confidence that the diagnosis is accurate, comfort that the treatment will be successful, and excited that life will be better on the other side. If things go well you would be quick to tell others about this great doctor who was an authority in his or her field and would easily recommend them to others. What about the authority for our lives and our eternity?

Do you recognize his authority? When we recognize his true authority everything else pales and fades away. King Nebuchadnezzar thought he had authority over Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The king tells them to bow and worship his image of gold, and says if you don’t I will throw you into the fire of this furnace, “then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” The king had a false sense of authority and a lifeless representation of himself in the gold statue. Whereas God is the true authority and His exact representative living in flesh and blood in the life of His Son Jesus Christ. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” John 1:4

“O Nebuchadnezzer, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want to you to know, O king, that we will not serve our gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18

Essential, we recognize a higher, true authority. Our appeal and worship is above your head, your pay grade, our your power upon my life. We choose the Lord. The Word incarnation literally means embodiment, Christ is the embodiment of the Word of God, power of God, the love of God, the mercy of God, the authority of God, in short…God. This was in contrast to the teachers of the law, who had the words of the law, but had not embodied them, and had no authority of their own.

Just then there was a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “what do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God? Jesus was not a pawn he is the main player.

A few thoughts, sometimes there are evil spirits in the church. We may not want to consider this but there are spirits within the church that both recognize Jesus and his authority over all. It is a threat to their existence and they work against Christ and work to destroy him. Today these spirits can be more subversive but are still embodied by people and their names are such as pride, jealousy, envy, covetous, and self-serving. These things are in opposition to what the embodiment of Christ looks like. Jesus did come to destroy those things that we might be set free from their bondage.

With the authority in him Jesus silences the spirit, and commands the spirit to leave the man. Who has this kind of authority? God certainly has the power and so does Satan. This would be the way others would attempt to discredit Jesus by saying that he was also an evil spirit, demon, or Satan himself. Interestingly, scripture tells us that it is Satan masquerade as an angel of light. Why, because he has no real authority Jesus never masquerades as anything. He is the Son of God Jesus later reminds them if I cast our demons by the power of Satan then he would be a house divided against itself and would be self-destructive and fail. Equally disturbing is how the spirits I mentioned above seem to align themselves against Christ and His work, which puts them in the same business as Satan himself.

The people where so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching-and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. Mark 1:27-28

First, the people recognized Jesus was different when in contrast to the teachers of the law. Not just by what he taught but by the authority with which he embodied those very teachings. They came from who he was.

Second, the people responded with amazement and wonder as they saw Jesus demonstrate that power in the silencing and sending out of the evil spirit. It is that same authority that Jesus calls people to “come, follow me” and later sends out his people into the world.

Lastly, the response was that people were talking about him. News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. Who was spreading the news? Presumably, the people who were there were sharing, but was everyone there pleased with Jesus? What seems to travel faster good news or bad news? The news of Jesus spread through the whole region.

What about you? What is your highest authority? Your government? Your family? Yourself? Your demanding schedule? Or does Jesus have full authority and power in your life? His teachings are radical, powerful, and full of authority. Do you recognize that authority?

Will you respond to the authority of Christ with amazement, wonder, and faithfulness? Will you embody the life and teachings of Christ?

If yes is the answer to these questions the word concerning Christ should spread throughout the region. We should be repeating and replicating the teaching and power of Christ in the world today. That is what it is to be a Christian, a “Christ-bearer.” We bear and embody Christ to the world today.

If you struggle to respond to these questions I invite you, not to sing but rather to pray about it. The altar is open if you need to come down having recognizing his authority. If you have a decision you need to share with me as your pastor or this church I will be here to receive you.

May you recognize his authority, in recognizing respond, and repeat with our words that find authority as we embody his spirit in our daily walk. Amen.

 

Love Lifted Me

Love Lifted Me

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm a place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth; a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:2-3

In life we can often feel the weight of the world, work responsibilities, family obligations, and personal expectations. When these are combined with ever-changing world in which we live there seems to be no foundation with which to ground ourselves too. During high times of stress we can feel alone, trapped, and stuck in life. Do not be discouraged the Lord is waiting to do His work in, to, and through us.

The Psalmist reminds us that the Lord can lift us out of the pit, the muck and mire of life and give us a sure place to plant our feet on a solid foundation on which we can live. The Lord comes to take us out our chaos and struggles and give us safe footing on His word, His promise, and His Son. We can stand through the most difficult of times and circumstances if our foundation is sure.

The Psalmist says, “He puts a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God .” We are given a sure foundation in a world that is slipping away. He puts a new song in our mouths, a hymn of praise to our God. Where we are powerless to save ourselves, through His great mercy, power, and love He saved us.

Let me share a few words with you of one such “new song”. “Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else could help, love lifted me.” Thank you Lord that your love lifted us and may we always offer praise to you for your unfailing love. It is when we testify to His great work in our lives that others too will come to put their trust in the Lord. The Lord, in His love, He can lift you up and give you a sure foundation, a song to sing, and a message to share. Thank you Lord, for your great love!