Reality Check

An important topic came up in this weekend’s Sunday morning conversation.  “Your generation needs a reality check.  Kids believe in playing games all day.” The topic was idols and the generation’s dependency on them.

Let me quote Isaiah 44:9-10, 15-17, and 19, an explanation of what God thinks of idols: “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless.  Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit him nothing?…It is man’s fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill.  He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down and says, ‘Save me; you are my god.’ …No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” (NIV)

Isaiah tells us that the items themselves are worthless.  We needn’t defend them against harsh words.  They aren’t sin. But at the same time, they can lead to sin.   Anything that you love unconditionally which gets in the way of your service for God is considered an idol.  If you love something too much to set aside when God calls, you should check your priorities.  That’s an idol: not the object itself, but your level of respect for it.

Anything can be idolized.  Do you love something that’s important to you? Ask God in humble prayer if its ok to feel your heart’s involvement.  Promise your loyalty to Him.  Check your life.  What’s important to you?  Do you love video/computer games, politically pushed values, or hyped movies? Youtube? Is personal nit-picks, team loyalty, or lucrative money-spending of high caliber in your life? Do you consider PhDs, pledges from trendy celebrities and TV publicity, or searches on the internet as a reliable source of information?  Listen for God’s answer: does any of this get in the way of God’s purpose for you?

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2018 Begins with the Flu

It’s the beginning of a new year!  My wishes and prayers are that all of you have a blessed 2018.

The first Sunday of the year should be encouraging and bright with hope, but this year many people are suffering from the flu; some cases are even severe and life threatening.  Hospitals are having to turn people away, or set up tents because there are so many people who have caught the flu.

Let’s pray for all the people who are at home or in the hospital suffering from symptoms, and pray for the serious cases to be healed.

Also pray for Lacy, our father, and our little brother Jake, who’s come down with the flu; and for my health and Mom’s, so that we may stay free from the illness, and also that we stay strong enough to tend to the others as they get better.

I pray that God grant you with wisdom, peace, and love in the new year, and that He shows you His amazing mercy and power as you live each new day.

New Year’s Resolution: To Be Heaven Here On Earth

You are given the option for immortality. Do you take it or do you decline?

Mom eagerly shared with me this thought from the writer’s app called 1000+ Writing Prompts.  “This is the question we face every day.  God has given us the option for immortality, and it’s up to us to take it.”

It’s a good thought to begin the new year with.  You are given the option for immortality.  To choose Jesus Christ is to choose eternal life.  To deny Him is to decline the option for immortality.  Or more accurately, to accept a harsh damnation as your eternal fate.

“But because of your callous stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are [deliberately] storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will pay back to each person according to his deeds [justly, as his deeds deserve]: to those who by persistence in doing good seek [unseen but certain heavenly] glory, honor, and immortality, [He will give the gift of] eternal life. But for those who are selfishly ambitious and self-seeking and disobedient to the truth but responsive to wickedness, [there will be] wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and anguish [torturing confinement] for every human soul who does [or permits] evil, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, but glory and honor and inner peace [will be given] to everyone who habitually does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For God shows no partiality [no arbitrary favoritism; with Him one person is not more important than another]… on that day when, as my gospel proclaims, God will judge the secrets [all the hidden thoughts and concealed sins] of men through Christ Jesus.” Romans 2:5-11, 16 (AMP)

Eternal life is a mystery to a mortal’s mind.  Humans are born, they live, and they die.  It’s common knowledge that people can only dream of defying.  It is impossible to accurately imagine what eternity will be like.

“Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?” If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.

“You will notice that the variety of bodies is stunning. Just as there are different kinds of seeds, there are different kinds of bodies—humans, animals, birds, fish—each unprecedented in its form. You get a hint at the diversity of resurrection glory by looking at the diversity of bodies not only on earth but in the skies—sun, moon, stars—all these varieties of beauty and brightness. And we’re only looking at pre-resurrection “seeds”—who can imagine what the resurrection “plants” will be like!

“This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body—but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever! The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural—same seed, same body, but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!

“…I need to emphasize, friends, that our natural, earthy lives don’t in themselves lead us by their very nature into the kingdom of God. Their very “nature” is to die, so how could they “naturally” end up in the Life kingdom?” 1 Corinthians 15:35-44, 50 (MSG)

Like a seed planted into the ground, the seed dies and is shed away as the plant begins to grow; that is how Paul describes our mortal bodies.  After we die, our spirit will be given a new heavenly body.  Our new selves will shine with splendor possibly even greater than the sun, moon, and stars.    And definitely much greater than our own weak and sinful earthly bodies.

“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” 2 Corinthians 1-10 (NLT)

In a common belief among many Christians, heaven is explained in the last chapters of the book of Revelation (chapters 21 & 22), but allow me to correct that belief with an awesome thought.  Or maybe I’m not correcting; more just expounding on the idea.  Try to imagine it like this…

WE are the description of heaven. Christ’s church is the Holy City, New Jerusalem.

Let me try to explain it for you:

When the book of Revelation (chapter 21) explains the new heaven and earth, it says “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”  (vs. 2-4, NIV)  The description of the new heaven and new earth that John saw sounds exactly like something that Paul wrote to the letter to the church in Corinth, when he wrote “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.” (2 Corinthians 11:2, NIV)  As Christians we-the church-are the bride of Christ, brought to Him in godly splendor because of the blood that He has shed for us.  And now, because we have the Holy Spirit, God can dwell in us and give us peace and comfort.  We no longer have to fear the destructive nature of death, because Jesus has redeemed us and reconciled us to God.

The explanation of New Jerusalem, found in Revelation 21, also points to our salvation through Jesus Christ.  The city is described with the language of the prophets: 12 gates, which the number 12 symbolizes God’s people, like the 12 tribes of Israel; the walls of the city has 12 foundations, each with the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb, broadening God’s holy people to not only the Israelites, but also the children of the new covenant, which is everyone who accepts Christ as Savior. Each of the four walls of the Holy City has 3 gates on it- 3 is the number of God, the Trinity, and explains that there is no obstacle stopping anyone from entering into God’s presence. An angel measures the city and finds it to be 12,000 stadia in length, width and height- 12,000 is a multiplier of both 12 and 10.  The number 10 is, like the number of fingers and toes you have, the number of completion.   So by putting 12 and 10 together, it means that the city is made up of all of God’s people, not just some of them.  No one is left out.  The wall of the city was also measured and found to be 144 cubits thick, which is another use of the number of God’s people, since 144 squared is 12.  The measurements, the gates, and the brilliantly shining stones of the Holy City explains to us how precious Christ’s church is.  The church is literally heaven on Earth.  All people are welcomed into it, and once a citizen of God’s Holy City, New Jerusalem, we will inherit God’s promise.

In chapter 22 John tells “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down to the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse…” (v.1-3, NIV)  The city’s street leads to the tree of life, which brings healing for the nations and bears fruit all year round.  That’s what we as Christ’s church, the Lamb’s  bride, the Holy City needs to be doing. We need to be healing the nations.  We need to be bearing the fruits of the Spirit.  We need to be examples of God to the people around us so that they can see His glory: wiping the tears of the mournful and ministering to those suffering from pain.  That’s what God does.  It’s also what we should be doing.

We are also told that in the Holy City, “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”  (v.5, NIV) Talk about being the city on a hill!  That’s exactly what Jesus called us when He spoke in the sermon on the mount: “You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (AMP)

The explanation of the new heaven and new earth, the New Jerusalem, and the new Eden that’s explained in the final pages of the Bible is not describing how heaven will look like.  There’s no way we can fathom the greatness of God’s dwelling.  Much like the royal Priesthood spoken of in Hebrews,  we are meant to think of the description as a shadow of what heaven will be like.  In fact, we as Christians are called to be the foreshadow of Heaven.

 “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’  He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.  Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.  But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death.” Revelations 21:5-8

Returning to the writing prompt, we are offered a choice of immortality. Will you accept or decline the offer? If  you choose to accept, then you must, in turn, share the offer to others as well.  For 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 says:

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (NLT)

As we begin 2018, let’s consider our role here in the physical life.  Why not make a new year’s resolution to be heaven on earth to all the people around you?  You may even snatch a life from the fiery fate of Hell.

"But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true: Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now? It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!" 1 Corinthians 15: 51-57 (MSG)

Erna Lee’s Wisdom

It is close to the day the world is full of yuletide and cheer, when all the stockings get stuffed and Santa’s sleigh bells are near, but instead of breaking into full-length poem, I want to give everyone a message of peace that I read from Hebrews. First, let me tell you about an experience I had with a church whose members were mostly anti-Christmas:

There was a church I went to years ago, 12 years to be exact, named Nolanville. The majority of members there were 70 or over, sometimes into their 80’s, and some visitors left thinking the church too strict or too rule-based, but to the open-hearted it felt like a love gathering; you really can find love in unexpected places.

At Nolanville, every Sunday, I would be greeted with a “Good morning!” smile and hugs from various members, friendly eye contact from the one peer of mine (besides Kat), and compliments about a job well done with the church bulletin, which we wrote for about a year. Then there was the goodbye after service: everyone gathered at the door and lined up for hugs and warm fellowship, and you literally could see the entire church there at the door talking to each other, no more than 40 Christians. The laughter and conversation would carry on for 15-20 minutes before we’d, one by one, separate to our cars.

The warmth of the handshakes, the happy faces, and the love: I often miss. I think back to the people frequently, understanding that many of those members may not even be on this earth today.

Most of the members who went to Nolanville didn’t celebrate Christmas, despite their love. They held the opinion, “You got to love Jesus all year around and never allow His spirit to be felt only in December. If you do, everyone will think it is the holiday that makes them feel joy and peace, and that is idolatry…” The woman who told me passionately this viewpoint, Erna Lee, was the oldest member there. She always asked me to come up real close to her, so she could whisper her words with labored breath, but her words were always full of meaning and gentle wisdom.

The idea of not celebrating Christmas may be a bit depressing if you enjoy the season, like me, and for those who find solace in the good tidings, the cards, the gifts, the tree – Nolanville could be labeled as a group of Puritans who still hold onto the 17th century belief that Christmas should be illegal, because of its pagan roots, like worshipping the tree, and having a winter festival.

Personally, I believe Christmas can be celebrated by individuals and can also not be celebrated, too, depending on their attitude. But I agree with Erna Lee that a sense of discernment is never bad and that serving Christ only at Christmas is not God’s will for our lives.

Whether you do or don’t, the message from Hebrews 4:1-13 is a reminder to us that we can and will experience God’s rest if we hold true to our faith. That place God experienced rest, on the 7th day of Creation, is the same place we and our faithful loved ones will go upon leaving this earth. It is the peace we feel when we sing Silent Night; the peace of fireside cocoa; the peace of snow as it falls to earth, making it white. Except so much more, and not reserved for December!

Read the passage (Hebrews 4:1-13) first in American Standard Version, and again in The Message:

Let us fear therefore, lest haply, a promise being left of entering into his rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good tidings preached unto us, even as also they: but the word of hearing did not profit them, because it was not united by faith with them that heard. For we who have believed do enter into that rest; even as he hath said,

As I sware in my wrath,
They shall not enter into my rest:

although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he hath said somewhere of the seventh day on this wise, And God rested on the seventh day from all his works; and in this place again,

They shall not enter into my rest.

Seeing therefore it remaineth that some should enter thereinto, and they to whom the good tidings were before preached failed to enter in because of disobedience, he again defineth a certain day, To-day, saying in David so long a time afterward (even as hath been said before),

To-day if ye shall hear his voice,
Harden not your hearts.

For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken afterward of another day. There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from his. Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience.  For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

Again in The Message:

For as long, then, as that promise of resting in him pulls us on to God’s goal for us, we need to be careful that we’re not disqualified. We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn’t do them a bit of good because they didn’t receive the promises with faith. If we believe, though, we’ll experience that state of resting. But not if we don’t have faith. Remember that God said,

Exasperated, I vowed,
“They’ll never get where they’re going,
never be able to sit down and rest.”

God made that vow, even though he’d finished his part before the foundation of the world. Somewhere it’s written, “God rested the seventh day, having completed his work,” but in this other text he says, “They’ll never be able to sit down and rest.” So this promise has not yet been fulfilled. Those earlier ones never did get to the place of rest because they were disobedient. God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David’s psalm, centuries later than the original invitation:

Today, please listen,
don’t turn a deaf ear . . .

And so this is still a live promise. It wasn’t canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn’t keep renewing the appointment for “today.” The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God. So let’s keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience.

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.

 

 

Thoughts about the Prodigal Son

I have heard the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31) a lot, but when I thought about the story a few days ago, it came differently to me now that the Bible in its fullness is “stirring in the soul” as my mom says.

For all this year, I’ve been reading the Bible everyday so I would finish it, finish the whole book, to be better equipped in teaching. Like James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly”; I used to be afraid to speak or write, because I never wanted to be judged for the wayward direction a man or woman takes, away from God’s light. My hands would shake and my heart pound if I ever had to teach others about what God’s word said. My thoughts: got to take it seriously…

So, a few days ago, I thought about the prodigal son story and unlike every other time, I thought about the two sons and father from the light of Scripture (Jesus’s era), rather than from the light of my culture, fear of judgment, or just a young person’s way of making a story relate to myself rather than the other way around – this time I put myself in the shoes of that time, in historical context. There’s probably nothing wrong with applying the Bible to modern times, but you must first understand the text as it was intended, for the people that heard it. Only then can we accurately make a modern interpretation.

If you don’t know: the prodigal son in quick review is about two sons and their father. One went to his father and said, “Give me my inheritance now, Dad. I want the money in hard cash while I’m young!” The father said ok, and the son took it and ran. He spoiled it on who knows what (materialism, wine, women), and he found himself in the worst situation. With nothing left, he became homesick and returned to his father, who took him back lovingly. …Imagine you haven’t taken a bath or had a good meal in ages and then you walk into the horizon, hometown coming in view, when suddenly your dad is running towards you with open arms. “Son, welcome home!” He throws a huge party to celebrate you back… The prodigal son’s brother, which is the antagonist, grumbled and complained. “How can HE get a party? Who was it that worked for your approval all these years and never failed once? Me! I deserve the thanks.”

The father’s response to the angry brother has been remembered for all time, and has been retold in every format, but let’s see it again:

“Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!” Luke 15:31-32 (MSG)

The message of The Prodigal Son is exactly the same take-away as the two parables also in Luke 15:

The Parable of the Lost Sheep:

“...There is more joy for that one sinner than for 99 good people who don’t need to change.” Luke 15:7 (ERV)

The Parable of the Lost Coin’s message:

“It’s a happy time for the angels of God when one sinner decides to change.” Luke 15:10 (ERV)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son’s message:

A celebration happens when God’s child returns to Him after living a wicked life.

 

Every other time I heard this story, I thought, I can relate to this story if I’m not careful. I can be that complaining brother, as a Christian, because I could become unaccepting to new converts. I actually worried, at times, that someday I would become the guy who complains, and that is how I communicated the message to those around me.

But a few days ago, I interpreted it differently. “I’ve never heard it told that way before,” Kat said when I finished telling her what I now tell you:

If you carefully read the beginning of Luke 15, you will see the Pharisees –these were members in the Jewish religion who were strict about keeping the law (legalistic to the point of judgmental) and kept many harsh regulations – are disgruntled because Jesus chose to hang around people not like them. Notice the bold words: not like them. 

The context of the Scripture reveals that the Pharisees were the original ones Jesus spoke to, when telling the parable. The Jewish leaders were known to ban outsiders, criticize sinners, and place themselves above everyone else. The Gentiles, for example, were “uncircumcised heathen”, which you can understand by reading Paul’s letter to Ephesus, who were not a church of former Jews, but rather they were Gentiles. (Gentile was the word for anyone who was not a Jew.) Specifically chapter 2, verse 11 through 13:

Never forget that once you were heathen and that you were called godless and “unclean” by the Jews. (But their hearts, too, were still unclean, even though they were going through the ceremonies and rituals of the godly, for they circumcised themselves as a sign of godliness.) Remember that in those days you were living utterly apart from Christ; you were enemies of God’s children, and he had promised you no help. You were lost, without God, without hope.

But now you belong to Christ Jesus, and though you once were far away from God, now you have been brought very near to him because of what Jesus Christ has done for you with his blood.”

 

Paul says about the Jews that their hearts were unclean because of what? Later in Ephesians 2:15 he says:

“By [Jesus’s] death he ended the angry resentment between us, caused by the Jewish laws that favored the Jews and excluded the Gentiles…”

The Jews resented outsiders (Gentiles) because they were not like them. This, in fact, was what made their hearts unclean. Their attitude and unwillingness to forgive displeased God.

Although we are capable of falling into the same trap today as Christians, there are no Gentiles and Jews: we are all one in Christ Jesus. Sure, there are Jews, atheists, and others too, but we are all equal, and that makes it different than Jesus’s timing when the Jewish nation was the light on the hill, the lighthouse for all to see God’s glory revealed; that glory was Jesus Christ, and he is all around the world now.

So when you think about the prodigal son story, remember not to replay it too far from its original context, but I don’t see anything wrong in noting the quality of the father’s open arms, and the mistake of the son’s complaints, because God’s word can speak to us today as much as it did in Jesus’s time.

Lastly, I was inspired to include Malachi 1 in our study:

Malachi 1 (TLB)

Here is the Lord’s message to Israel, given through the prophet Malachi:

“I have loved you very deeply,” says the Lord.

But you retort, “Really? When was this?”

And the Lord replies, “I showed my love for you by loving your father, Jacob. I didn’t need to. I even rejected his very own brother, Esau, and destroyed Esau’s mountains and inheritance, to give it to the jackals of the desert. And if his descendants should say, ‘We will rebuild the ruins,’ then the Lord Almighty will say, ‘Try to if you like, but I will destroy it again,’ for their country is named ‘The Land of Wickedness,’ and their people are called ‘Those Whom God Does Not Forgive.’”

O Israel, lift your eyes to see what God is doing all around the world; then you will say, “Truly, the Lord’s great power goes far beyond our borders!”

“A son honors his father, a servant honors his master. I am your Father and Master, yet you don’t honor me, O priests, but you despise my name.”

“Who? Us?” you say. “When did we ever despise your name?”

“When you offer polluted sacrifices on my altar.”

“Polluted sacrifices? When have we ever done a thing like that?”

“Every time you say, ‘Don’t bother bringing anything very valuable to offer to God!’ You tell the people, ‘Lame animals are all right to offer on the altar of the Lord—yes, even the sick and the blind ones.’ And you claim this isn’t evil? Try it on your governor sometime—give him gifts like that—and see how pleased he is!

“‘God have mercy on us,’ you recite; ‘God be gracious to us!’ But when you bring that kind of gift, why should he show you any favor at all?

“Oh, to find one priest among you who would shut the doors and refuse this kind of sacrifice! I have no pleasure in you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will not accept your offerings.

“But my name will be honored by the Gentiles from morning till night. All around the world they will offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name shall be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you dishonor it, saying that my altar is not important and encouraging people to bring cheap, sick animals to offer to me on it.

 “You say, ‘Oh, it’s too difficult to serve the Lord and do what he asks.’ And you turn up your noses at the rules he has given you to obey. Think of it! Stolen animals, lame and sick—as offerings to God! Should I accept such offerings as these?” asks the Lord. “Cursed is that man who promises a fine ram from his flock and substitutes a sick one to sacrifice to God. For I am a Great King,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be mightily revered among the Gentiles.”

To Infinity and Beyond! (From Abstract to Absolute)

You must have felt, the air is chilly, when that craving for hot, steamy satisfying tea appears, where you crave that comfortable heat to fill your body, your hands, your head, your heart; you don’t want to freeze, so you want hot tea. Your favorite flavor may be zesty lemon, fresh mint, or spicy cinnamon. “Ahhh” would be a natural reaction your lungs have when steam fills yours nostrils, cheeks begin to rosy up, and your nose gets runny.

That’s how I feel when I get tea. You?

At least with the leading brands like Yogi, tearing back the paper and pulling out the stringed teabag lately brings the reading of a wise proverb. One tea stated,

“Love without trust is like a river without water”.

I like that one. Another tea stated,

“The gate to happiness is self-compassion”.

(What is happiness? …self-compassion?)

Wise sayings like these are usually harmless. Mostly they hold some truth, take them as they are. However, the second message (about self-compassion) can be interpreted both to harm and not to harm, due to its abstractness. For example:

A mother’s interpretation might be: “I should care about me this weekend. I’ll soak in a long bath while the hubby’s home.” Mostly harmless.

A painter’s interpretation: “Heed not the family business. Instead, do what makes me happy and go to art school.” Maybe harmful, maybe not.

But then a troubling interpretation from an angry teen: “To protect myself, I should get rid of the bullies. Tomorrow the gun goes in my backpack.” Mostly harmful!

Do you see where I’m going?

There’s no need to blame the teabags for sinister influence. These sayings are far too short and vague for the granting of ill intentions, and it’s entirely the responsibility of each person how he thinks, how he plots, or how he reacts. Right?

With that said, what concerns my writing today is the manner in which we consume abstract thoughts like these – even if each person is responsible for their own living and own behavior, it is the responsibility of a society, or a community, to provide the ambience needed for people to produce good thoughts each on their own.

It is a matter of how we habitually think and live. If we make a habit of consuming messages that are vague and abstract, our lives will be lived in the same abstractness. Our lives will be lived for the general purposes of “happiness”, “wellness”, or “productivity”; that is, the persons that we are will become bounded to the finite. The predictable. The limited. The temporary. Without the eventual consumption of that which is deep, unlimited, and endless, we will never find the absolute truth that sets us free.

As I have taught from week to week for more than a year now on my blog, I teach again: we can find that absolute truth by reading the entire Bible. It allows us to live a life boundless and free, unpredictable, unimaginable, and everlasting. Partly the purpose of my blog has always been to discuss again and again the Scriptures so you will come to know the Bible without having to read it alone and in cold, hard truth. I pray you come to see the burdens-lifting message of the gospel.

The inspiration of my writing today came from a teabag message I have not yet shared with you. I believe it is my favorite, because it brings to my mind the entirety of Christ. Quote:

“Love is an experience of infinity.”

What Yogi meant by putting it on its product I don’t know. Maybe,

God is love.

Love at its fullest mends all hurts.

Love shared by two people has an out of this world feeling.

Lovers are metaphorically stargazers who will never see every star no matter how long they gaze.

Love literally does not stop when completely unconditional.

Love has no ending of explanations.

Christ, however, reveals the quote much less abstractly, in fact, as Paul states it, there was a mystery and that mystery is now seen in Christ. All that was abstract is now absolute in our Lord and King who reigns on heaven and in earth. Read this passage in Ephesians 3:14-21 to get a true taste of infinity!

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

 

 

The Great Eucatastrophe: The Christian Joy

“Jesus draws a circle around all the human family.”
-Jim McGuiggin in Drawing Circles, Part 3

 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  Isaiah 7:14

In an essay JRR Tolkien wrote called “On Fairy Stories” (written for the collaborated book Essays Presented to Charles Williams), he called the birth of Christ the “eucatastrophe” of human history. It’s a great eruption of goodness!  God’s own Son, the one who created the entire earth in just 7 days, the one who is “the Word” talked about in John 1:1, came to Earth as a lowly man, the son of a carpenter!  He gave up the riches and glory of heaven to live among men, to befriend them and to relate to them; to be judged by them, loved by them, reviled  by them, killed by them, and ultimately to save them.  To quote Tolkien, “This story begins and ends in joy.”  The famed author was comparing the Gospel to a beautiful fairytale, the perfect story, even more perfect than any other fantasy stories ever told because unlike all others, which have been created by the “corrupt making-creatures” which Tolkien has named mankind as, Christ’s story is truth, and has “entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation”.

“For to us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV)

As Tolkien wrote in his essay, “To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.  It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be ‘primarily’ true…”

The truth is, the Righteous Judge was lowered to our position as human, so he could give us what we don’t deserve: forgiveness and salvation.  He chose a manger for his throne.  The precious hands that uniquely crafted every creature and plant on earth has entered this world as tiny hands of a baby.  The Son of God was made into the Son of man.

 

“And then the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and his kingdom there shall be no end.”  Luke 1:30-33

Jesus came to earth so that we can go to Heaven.  Heaven: the land of eternity that transcends time and space.  Heaven is our promise, the triumph over death.  It’s the end of all things dark and sinister- the end of evil looming to bring fear to man.  It’s the end of all things alienating: it’s the end of sin.  With Jesus, we no longer have to fear God’s judgment.

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.  For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, an idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.  I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.”   Revelation 22:12-21

Jesus Christ was born as a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth and placed in a manger.  He was exalted by the angels and visited by shepherds and kings alike.  But when he comes again, He will be Lord and God.  King of all Kings.  I love the way that Tolkien expressed it in his essay: “God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves.  Legend and History have met and fused.  But in God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man.”

“Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” James 2:5

“Then Jesus said, “I am the bread that gives life.  He who comes to me will never be hungry. He who believes in me will never be thirsty…The Father gives me the people who are mine. Every one of them will come to me, and I will always accept them.  I came down from heaven to do what God wants me to do. I did not come to do what I want to do.  I must not lose even one of those that God has given me, but I must raise them up on the last day. This is what the One who sent me wants me to do. Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him has eternal life. I will raise him up on the last day. This is what my Father wants…The Father is the One who sent me. No one can come to me unless the Father draws him to me. And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the prophets, ‘God will teach all the people.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the One who is from God. Only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth. He who believes has eternal life. I am the bread that gives life…I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh.  I will give my flesh so that the people in the world may have life.”  John 6: 35, 37-40, 44-48, 51

 

Jesus in Televison

It is the latest trend in the television world for diversity to be on our screens. It seems to Hollywood, globalism is the path, equality the door, and acceptance the key.

In 2017’s TV industry, an unprecedented rule of thumb looms overhead, expecting all cultures be represented (not only Caucasian, English, etc.), and the culture must be accurately shown; if not, at least make sure the cast is diverse, to offset any potential whitewash.

For example, Kat noticed the new rule of thumb in the movie “The Star” out at theaters, with the cast being greatly diverse, including Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Clarkson, Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Keegan-Michael Kelly, and Aidy Bryan, among other big names.

The Star’s trailer:

Personally, I have no qualms with the above subject. I love the newfound diversity, and find it appealing. That being said, I can imagine the rule of thumb will make us look back on old films and cringe, where we shake our heads at the “era before equality”. Look at the popular news spots for the teenage and younger millennial audience, and you will see this as our reality, at least in the United States.

Here’s an 80’s music video of Michael W. Smith’s Secret Ambition:

What does this mean for the future of Jesus films? It may be, we find viewers being critics of all the former movies portraying Jesus, because Jesus is always, always (…almost always) cast as a Western-looking man. Maybe the exception is Selva Rasalingam, as he played in “The Gospel of John”. According to Wikipedia, Rasalingam is maternally British, paternally Tamil (Sri Lankan).

Here’s my quick sketch gallery of actors who have portrayed Jesus:

 

 

Let’s be honest. Every portrayal of Jesus is going to be inaccurate, except an early 30’s male actor who comes directly from the seed of King David. I doubt a person with that credentials would be possible to find, since the family tree would have to go back so ancient as 1000 BC. (Then again, the Bible itself is a family tree, so that’s a start.)

Really, anyone from Israel may look like Jesus. Who knows? We know little to nothing about Jesus’s appearance except that he was ordinary and did not stand out like royalty does. King Saul, Samson, and Esther for example all stood out; they would have won contests with their charm and skills, which is different than how Jesus is described in Isaiah 53:2, where it says,

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”

There’s also the interesting fact that Jesus was related to a lot of beautiful men and women: Joseph, David, Rahab, Rebekah, Rachel, and Sarah were all mentioned as appealing to the eyes, which means Jesus has really great genes, to give him a few shapely features, here and there. So there is no reason to portray Jesus as unsightly or funny-looking, neither should he be seen as un-Hebrew.

To strengthen the point that Jesus didn’t have to be unsightly even looking at the words of Isaiah, remember in the story of David as a boy, he was the last to be picked as King simply because he was a young shepherd kid and he was too busy for formalities. It’s not like Samuel said, “Ew, I’m not anointing him, he’s ugly”  – the Scripture says he was “ruddy and handsome” and had “beautiful eyes” – but because David was unimportant and ordinary, he wasn’t first choice. For Jesus, he, too, was an ordinary man. A carpenter, who hung around fishermen, got his needs provided for from widows and lowly women, and played with children off the street, Jesus was also “without majesty” because he wasn’t anybody different.

Conclusively, my opinion is that all actors who play Jesus Christ should be enjoyed for how they play the role, despite race or appearance. Jesus came and died for all, so that all might live eternally with him in heaven; I believe it is ok for modern trends to be considered, along with production needs and availability of actors, but it is also ok for all people and all cultures to enjoy the chance to play as their Savior, and most certainly one’s character should be considered as importantly as finding the right look or the right attraction.

Won't it be a great day when Jesus returns? Check out Hachi's video - listen to the trumpet sound!

Give Me the Bible

My father was stationed overseas when I was born.  Yakota Air Base was our home for the first 3 years of my life, so my family has had a kindred heart for Christians in Japan.  When I would brag to my friends in school that I was born in Japan, they would always come back with a reasonable question: “Can you speak Japanese?”  The question bothered me at the time, because I was a quiet child and didn’t even speak much English until I was 3 years old.

When I was 13, we moved to Germany.  We lived 2 years on the German-Dutch border, in the small German town of Gangelt.  We had a German neighbor and received advertisements in the mail in a language we didn’t know.  We made some special friends in our small church group which met at a chapel at the Nato base my father was stationed at.  If it weren’t for the gracious people of Germany who would gladly speak English for us, we would probably have been clueless about a lot of things there.

So I have always had a pretty good concept of foreign languages and different cultures.

If I were to pick up the little red Dutch Bible that I have in my library, I wouldn’t be able to read the words because I don’t know the language.  Even if I browse the pages of the Japanese Bible that I have, I may recognize a symbol or two from where Lacy and I are working on learning, but I still wouldn’t be able to read it and understand what it says. I can bet that if I were to know Japanese or German, when I read the Bible I would still have to focus on the words and grammar, because it’s not my first language.  It’s not the language that I hear when I think thoughts in my own head.

 “Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.”  Luke 24:45-48 (WEB)

Aside from Japanese, which I’ve always kinda wanted to learn ever since my friends asked me if I could speak it, another language that I’ve always found attractive is ASL.  My mother has always had a desire to learn sign language (and she passed the desire on to Lacy and me), so when she saw a piece of mail with a man on the envelope signing the words “Please open”, it was no surprise that it stole her attention and made her open and read the enclosed letter.  It was from the Pioneer Bible Translators, an organization that translates Bibles into foreign languages.  Their goal is to translate the Bible into every known language, so no man will be hindered from knowing God due to not having His Word in their own language.

This particular letter from Greg Pruett, the president of Pioneer Bible Translators, was talking about a personal experience when he was trying to decide whether to pursue a version of the Bible for the Deaf.  In it, he says “Brothers and sisters, it’s time for us to repent of how we have ignored the Deaf of the world as if they were not included with us in the message of God’s love. It’s time to take action…”

“Now, why would the Deaf need their own Bible?  They just speak English, or Dutch, or Korean, or Italian, or whatever the language of their environment.”  I’m sure that thought would go through the mind of many people.  But in knowing the differences that can be found in languages, it makes perfect sense to me.  Sign Language, as well as other languages like Japanese, isn’t as complicated as English.  Where we speak what we want to say in complete sentences, “I would like to give you this gift.”  They don’t clutter their thought with the needless extra words.  “Give.”

“It is true some Deaf learn to read by memorizing what each sequence of letters represents.  But this is tedious and unnatural, and those words will never be their heart language.  Most Deaf think in sign. For God’s Word to resonate deeply within their hearts, they need it in sign language.” –Greg Pruett

Also, according to Greg Pruett, people who were born deaf have a disadvantage.  When they read a Bible verse in the language of the country they live in, they only recognize the words as symbols on a page.  They have never heard the sounds that they must read.  While people who speak English see the word “Pizza” and think of how it sounds (like PEETsa), the person who uses ASL as their native language might read that word as a “Z” drawn with the index and middle finger.  Like this…

The truth is, Sign Language is an entire network of languages that haven’t even been considered for a Bible version of its own until recently.  And each region of the world has it’s own version of sign language.  ASL is “American Sign Language”, and is used by Americans.  But Pioneer Bible Translators are working to expand their reach to include the Deaf community all over the world.  They want to make many versions of a sign language bible, made into phone apps, a website, DVD, or memory card for the phone or computer; they want God’s promise to be carried even into the most silent of communities, so that all will have the chance to find God’s truth.

They are trying to raise $100,000 by the start of next year.  Would you be willing to help them out?  You can donate on-line or by check, by visiting http://www.PioneerBible.org/YearEnd2017

 

PioneerBibleTranslators

Below are some amazing videos of songs which have been translated into Sign Language.

“Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven! –were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed.  I said it once; I’ll say it again: If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials, preaches something other than what you received originally, let him be cursed.”   Galatians 1:8-9 (MSG)

Invited to Come

“And Jesus answering spoke to them again in parables, saying, The kingdom of the heavens has become like a king who made a wedding feast for his son,”  Matthew 22:1-2 

Imagine for a minute that you work for a very important company.  You’re a hard worker, and you’re looking for a raise, so you’ve been working hard to be seen by the CEO (your boss!) and have your work noticed.

Now imagine that your boss’s son is becoming the new CEO of the business that you work at.  It’s a happy day for the boss and it’s put him in a good mood.  Such a good mood that he decides to throw a party.  He’s very proud of his son, so he invites all the workers of the business to celebrate his son’s achievements with him.   That includes you!

“and sent his bondmen to call the persons invited to the wedding feast, and they would not come.” (v.3)

The day comes, and you get a message on your phone.  Not just a reminder, but a personal message from the boss:  “I’m celebrating my son today.  I hope you’ll come and help me celebrate him and all that we’ve done together with the business.  Remember, the doors are open in an hour.  Don’t be late for the toast!”

Keeping in mind that you’re looking for that raise, would you miss this chance to celebrate with the boss and his son, and maybe show off your charm and friendly personality and maybe even get a word in about all that you’ve done for the business?  Of course not!  You’d most likely shine your medals, wear your best outfit in the closet, and take a glass of champagne as you proudly join the ranks of all the leaders of the company.   You would want to be noticed by the boss!

But in this parable that Jesus tells the crowds, the people who were invited were not coming to the wedding feast that the king had thrown for his son.  It was a proud day for the king: his son had found a beautiful princess to love and cherish and be wed to, but none of the people that he invited…. “they would not come.”  They didn’t bother to show up at the feast that he was throwing.

Now imagine you decided that you had other things to do, instead of celebrate your boss’s son’s promotion.  He’s not the one who deserves it; you work hard.  You need to be the one up there being praised and honored, not the boss’s son.  So you decide not to come.  And no one else shows up either.

How do you think the boss would respond to no one showing up when his doors are opened.

“Maybe there was a mistake.  No one received the message.  Maybe it didn’t send.”  Cell phones aren’t the most dependable form of sending messages, after all.

“Again he sent other bondmen, saying, Say to the persons invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatted beasts are killed, and all things ready; come to the wedding feast.  But they made light of it, and went, one to his own land, and another to his commerce. And the rest, laying hold of his bondmen, ill-treated and slew [them].” (v.4-6)

The boss decides to send an email to his employees.  “The doors are open!  The food is ready. Come, celebrate my son with me!”

You read the short and simple email, and laugh it off.  Why would you celebrate that egotist?  After all, he’s entitled and privileged.  You notice others on Facebook and Twitter expressing the same thing.  One person even copies the boss’s letter to their Facebook status and speaks negative and disrespectable things about the boss’s son.

“And [when] the king [heard of it he] was wroth, and having sent his forces, destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (v.7)

Of course, when the boss sees what his employees are saying on social media and when he sees that no one cares to come and celebrate his son with him, he becomes very angry with the people who work under him.  How can he hand his business to his son and expect people to respect the new CEO, if they don’t even respect the current CEO (him!) enough to come to a celebration that he throws?

You and all of your co-workers might find yourself with a new message on your phone.  “Don’t come into work tomorrow; you are relieved of all the duties that you are responsible for in my company.”

Wait, that wouldn’t be very smart, since firing everyone would mean that the boss would no longer have any workers at the company, right?  It would surely be a company suicide.

“Then he says to his bondmen, The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy; go therefore into the thoroughfares of the highways, and as many as ye shall find invite to the wedding feast.” (v.8-9)

Instead of canceling the party and closing the business, the boss creates immediate buzz to put on TV.  “Breaking News!  There’s a celebration going on, and everyone is invited!”

“And those bondmen went out into the highways, and brought together all as many as they found both evil and good; and the wedding feast was furnished with guests.” (v.10)

Now imagine you’re a local shop clerk who’s dreamed of working for a large company, but you have never had the chance to be discovered.  You can’t even afford to own the proper evening-ware for a party of this stature.  But now everyone is invited to come celebrate the passing of the baton in this highly esteemed company.

So you decide to drop everything, change into your best clothes and attend the party.  The boss is pleased at the outcome, because many people  have come.

“And the king, having gone in to see the guests,” (v.11)

The boss mingles with the new guests.  He hires people on the spot, eager to replace the disrespectful people who had been working for him before.  He has a vision for his company.  There is no room for hateful people who don’t show respect for anyone but themselves.

“beheld there a man not clothed with a wedding garment.” (v.11)

Imagine, instead of dressing in your very best clothes to impress the boss, you drop everything and come as you are: in casual tank top and shorts.  You’re not here for a job; you just want to gaze on the beauty of the fine silverware and the exquisite foods that will be served there.  You know nothing about the company, the CEO or his son.  Maybe you could even take home a bag of leftover food and save it for later.  Would anyone miss just one crystal champagne glass if it was lost? With so many, surely not! Even if they did, they would have the money to replace it.  Right?

Even if you don’t think about taking away a souvenir, your main purpose is to enjoy viewing the lifestyle of luxury and enjoy the rich (free!) food that you could never afford on your own.  Maybe you’ll wish that you could live in a grand mansion or eat from golden dishes, but you don’t have any plan to shake up your own life with change.  It’s too much work.

“And he says to him, [My] friend, how camest thou in here not having on a wedding garment?  But he was speechless.” (v.12)

What does it mean to be speechless?  Merriam-Webster.com expresses it as this

  1. Unable to speak: Dumb
  2. Not speaking: Silent
  3. Not capable of being expressed in words

So, for just a moment, imagine yourself as the boss.  You’re celebrating you’re son: a bright young man who you have seen from infancy, grow into a mature and responsible leader.  You’re brimming with pride. You want to show him off and honor him for everyone to see what you have had the pleasure of seeing all along. You’re promoting him to the position that you would only give to a person you trust as much as you trust yourself: the head executive of the business that you dreamed, started, and fought for most of your adult life.

With that in mind, when you see a man dressed in slacks coming to your honorary celebration, you don’t want to judge a person based on the clothes that is worn.  He could be living on the streets, and needing help.  Who is he?  Where did he come from?

“Friend,” You say.  “Don’t you know that this is a celebration of the utmost importance to me? My son is taking over the company that I started 40 years ago with my own hands. Why haven’t you come in more formal clothes?”

He is speechless.  Maybe he’s ignoring you?  Or perhaps he doesn’t have anything to say.  You try to reason out in your mind why he doesn’t speak.  You can think of 3 reasons (based on the definitions above) why he could be speechless.

  1. Maybe he is mute. If he were, then surely it wouldn’t stop him from having words to say.  He would still try to express his reasons to you, even without the ability to speak.  He could use gestures and facial expressions to give you an answer.
  2. He does not wish to speak to you, because he has intentions that he wants to keep hidden. Perhaps he is a thief, here to steal your silverware when you’re preoccupied with hosting the party.  Or worse, he’s here to pick pocket your unsuspecting guests and take advantage of the people who have gathered.
  3. He will not speak simply because he has come to gawk at your wealth and gaze at the beauty of your living. You cannot have him disrupting the celebration and intimidating your guests; after all, you didn’t invite people to come and stare at your accomplishments and marvel at your golden platters, they are here to honor your son, who you are very proud of.

“Then said the king to the servants, Bind him feet and hands, and take him away, and cast him out into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. (v.13)

That’s harsh!  But looking at the possibilities, why wouldn’t you want to throw the man out? You have the power to send away anyone you wish to send away, because you are the host of the celebration.  He didn’t respond to you when you spoke to him.  He’s either ignoring you, wanting to steal from you or your guests, or he’s turning all of your guests into spectacles to gawk at and watch as if they were animals in a zoo.  He won’t even talk to you, so if he’s troubled or needing help, you surely don’t know.  You’ll send him out, and if he doesn’t leave, you’ll probably call security.  The harder he fights, the worse it will be for him.

“For many are called ones, but few are chosen ones.” (v.14)

Truth be told, you most likely wouldn’t go to a millionaire CEO’s party in shorts and a tank top.  It would leave you feeling awkward and out of place.  But the issue here isn’t what clothing is or isn’t appropriate.  The issue is the fact that the speechless man didn’t treat the host of the party with the deserved respect.  Don’t you think that a man kind enough to invite everyone to the party would be equally kind enough to help the speechless man out, if he had just asked?

Let’s imagine, instead, that you are a guest that came to honor the host of the party and his son, but you came only as you are because you are poor and cannot afford anything fancier than the second hand clothes that you’re wearing to the party.  What might happen if the CEO comes to you and asks you about your clothes and you choose to give him a respectful answer instead of staying silent.

CEO: “Friend, don’t you know that this is a celebration of the utmost importance to me?  My son is taking over the company that I started 40 years ago with my own hands.  Why haven’t you come in more formal clothes?”

You: “I’m sorry, sir.  I came because I was invited.  I’m simply a sales clerk.  Though hard-working, I have just enough money to pay rent and buy food for my family. I don’t have anything impressive to wear.”

With this response, the boss is impressed with you, and for reasons unknown to you he takes you to his office and helps you clean up your appearance.  You are transformed; when you look in the mirror you see a confident and strong entrepreneur that you’ve never seen before.

The boss brings you to his son, who is the new CEO of the company, and introduces you.  “Look son, I have brought to you our new COO (which is the chief operating officer- the second in command) in the business.  I expect you to teach your new employee everything that I have taught you.”

 Jesus's words to His Father: “I have told these men all about you.  They were in the world, but then you gave them to me. Actually, they were always yours, and you gave them to me; and they have obeyed you.” John 17:6 (TLB)

 

 “Let us rejoice and exult, and give Him glory; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready. And it was given to her that she should be clothed in fine linen, bright [and] pure; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints.  

And the angel says to me, Write, Blessed [are] they who are called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb. And he says to me, These are the true words of God.”  Revelation 19:7-9