I’m 103 and other musings plus another gold nugget from Oswald Chambers


Mr. Chambers does it again. This. I NEEDED to read this. It is just another huge confirmation that the decision Nick and I recently made for our family was the right thing for us. 

It would be hard for me to explain why this meant so much to me without telling you a lot of our personal history and I don’t think I want to do that… But it is still an amazing read for any Christian. 

If you don’t own a copy of My Utmost for His Highest, I highly recommend getting one or downloading the phone app or having both the book and the phone app, like me. Be forewarned, however, there is more than one version. The original version written in the early 1900’s (1911-1917) and an updated version that puts Mr. Chambers old timey speech into more modern language. I personally prefer the original old timey one because I think the way Mr. Chambers phrases things is poetic and makes me think. Also, I’m secretly 103 and kindly request that you get off my lawn, you dang kids. 

Anyway… go read it. HashtagGoodStuff

Give Us Barabbas

John 18:38-40

Pilate… …told them, “I find no case against him.  But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”  They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

I’ve been thinking about these verses a lot for the last few days.  Wednesdays I teach a small group of 5th through 7th graders at our church.  They’re a motley crew and I love them.  Lately, we’ve been reading through the last chapters in John.  We began in chapter 13 and last Wednesday we covered chapter 18.

These poor kids.  They range in age from 11 to 14 and every Wednesday for an hour they sit in a small, poorly ventilated room listening to me prattle on over my thoughts on the Bible.  I pity them.

But it’s pretty fun for me.  I enjoy discovering new perspectives I haven’t seen before while I’m studying the Word in order to prepare the lesson for the week.  I’ve probably read these chapters in John more than I’ve read any other part of the Bible simply because I’ve taught on it so many times now.  And it seems like each time I read them and teach on them I learn something new, see things in a new light.

This week it’s these last few verses in John 18.  “Give us Barabbas!”  I’ve stumbled onto something I hadn’t thought of before and I can’t seem to get my mind off of it.  If you decide to continue reading, you might find that my “revelation” is something you’ve always known and it’s no news to you.  You might become bored by my ramblings and need to yawn, causing you to stretch and uncontrollably smack your Great-Aunt Gertie in the kisser, dislodging her dentures and sending them flying across the room into the enormous cake your mother just so happens to be carrying at that precise moment, ruining Great-Uncle Bertie’s 92nd birthday.  Please know that if this happens, I apologize profusely and will reimburse your mom the cost of the cake.

Fingers crossed for no denture-cake disasters because I am about to proceed on my ramble and reveal to you my thoughts on John 18:38-40.

Ok.  Here goes:

Barabbas.  Verse 40 calls Barabbas a bandit in the New Revised Standard Version.  Others versions and verses call him a thief, a robber, a murderer.  In other words, scum.scum and villainy

Did the crowd outside Pilate’s headquarters really want Barabbas released to them?

I’m not gonna answer that question.  I’m gonna let you think about it while I ramble on some more and ask even more questions.

John 11:47-50

The chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”  But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all!  You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.”

These verses from John 11 are now inextricably linked to John 18:38-40 in my mind.  I see the Pharisees in an entirely new light.  I’m gonna try to connect all the dots for you now, in a way that makes some sense, bear with me.bear with me

The hierarchy of the time was complex.  The Roman government had conquered Israel and though they ruled over them, they had not wiped out their culture.  In fact, the Jewish people were allowed to continue to carryout their customs and to worship in the temple.

Understanding this helps us get into the minds of the Pharisees and priests a little.

Going way back to the OT, we find that when God freed Israel from the rule of Pharaoh, he set up a form of government called a theocracy. God was Israel’s ruler. He chose a series of judges to be his voice to the people, judges like Moses, Joshua, Deborah and Samuel. Underneath them were the priests.

This system didn’t last though. All the neighboring nations had human kings as their ruler. And like any snot-nosed kid, Israel wanted what the other kids had, a human king. “But all the other kids have one!”

God warned the Israelites (1 Samuel 8) that they would regret having a king to rule over them, but what child listens to their father the first time? Samuel, God’s chosen judge, anointed Saul the first king of Israel.  And things went as expected.

Now, God was still sovereign but the people were led by the king.  If the king loved God, he followed his precepts and listened to his prophets and the nation prospered.  But many of the kings did not follow God.  They became envious of their neighbors and adopted their ways and followed their gods.  They lost God’s favor and protection.

Israel, once undefeated and mighty, was now brutally conquered and overthrown.  Carried off by their conquerors and living in foreign lands, they once again turned to God.  Eventually, they returned to the lands of Israel but nothing was ever the same again.

Now, in the time of Jesus they live under Roman rule.  Herod is the puppet “king”, born from the royal line but working for the Roman government.  Caesar is, of course, king of all Roman lands and has governors appointed to different parts of the land of Israel.  Pilate governs Jerusalem.

Underneath all that are the priests of the temple, the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  Herod may be “king” but he is little more than another Roman governor and lives a life of indulgence.  The priests are now the voice of God to the people of Israel.  Gone are the judges and prophets of old.  Now the people must rely on the Pharisees and Sadducees to interpret scripture and instruct.

And the Roman government relies on the priests to keep the people docile.  The priests are the mediators between the Roman government and the people.  They keep the peace.

And that leads us back to John 11…

John 11:47-50

The chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”  But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all!  You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.”

The fear.  Who is this Jesus?

Rich Mullins said it best in a song (lyrics) he wrote just before his death:

Who is this guy?  He is disturbing the peace.

That’s the key, right there, you guys.  The fear.

They were afraid of what might happen.  They didn’t want to kill Jesus because they believed he was a fraud.  I’m not even sure some of them cared about that.  They wanted him dead because of what might happen.

In John chapter 3, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, comes to Jesus to have a talk.  He tells Jesus that the Pharisees know he is a teacher come from God.  Read that again.  They KNEW he was sent by God.  But what was he sent to do?  They didn’t know.  But they believed he was going to lead a revolt against the Romans and they could not allow that to happen.

Why???

I’ve read that the Pharisees made a handsome living keeping the peace between Rome and Israel.  So maybe they did not want to see the loss of income.  And that probably did play some part in it.

But I can’t escape something else.  This one thing: the fear.

What happened to their faith in Almighty God?  Israel had once been the mightiest nation on earth.  That certainly wasn’t due to Israel’s own strength or prowess.  God protected them in battle and made them victorious.  It was their own wanton ways that led to their defeat and capture in later years.  If they were really serving God as they claimed to be, wouldn’t God make them victorious in battle once again?  Where was their faith?

What if God had been calling Jesus to lead a revolt against the Romans?  If their faith was really in God, they would have been by Jesus’ side, ready to fight.  Isn’t that what they had been waiting for all of those centuries?  A messiah to save them from their captivity?  A new Moses to lead them out of a metaphorical Egypt?

“Surely this man Jesus is the prophesied messiah,” many would say.  But not the Pharisees.  They could not say it because of their fear.  They had lost faith in God to save them.

Which leads us to Barabbas and why I can’t stop thinking about him.

They chose Barabbas, a bandit, thief, robber, murderer, over Jesus because of fear.  And it is still happening today.

If you’re given the choice between Barabbas and Jesus and you choose Jesus, it changes everything.

Everything.

I don’t feel like I can stress enough that it changes everything.

Pilate, the Roman governor, will forever be asking everyone for all of time until the Lord Jesus returns to choose Jesus or Barabbas.

John 18:38-40

Pilate… …told them, “I find no case against him.  But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”  They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

He says, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”  If we say yes, we are acknowledging that Jesus is, in fact, King of the Jews.  We are acknowledging more than that.  We acknowledging that Jesus was innocent the charges laid against him.  We are acknowledging that we believe the words Jesus spoke of himself.  We are putting our faith in Jesus.

Because that is what the Pharisees could not do.  Their fear overrode their faith.  They were too afraid to put their faith in Jesus and they were so afraid his teachings and miracles would lead to revolt that they needed him to die so they could alleviate their fears.

“Give us Barabbas!”  We would rather celebrate a murderer than put our faith in Jesus.  Faith in Jesus means real life change.  I meant a real life change for the Pharisees and it means a real life change today.  Faith in Jesus is dangerous because there is no way to know where it will lead.  Once we put our faith in him, we lose control.  And control is precious to us.

The Pharisees didn’t want to lose control and we don’t want to lose control.  We would rather crucify Jesus, or invalidate him, mythologize him, and destroy his reputation, than lose our control, our power over our own lives.

We live in absolute fear.

No one calls it fear.  No one will ever admit they are afraid.  But we are.  We are afraid of Jesus and his power.  And we must destroy that which we fear.

“Give us Barabbas!” is the cry of our modern society.  I see it everywhere.  But it is a cry that has rung out through the centuries, echoing in every culture since it was first uttered at the feet of Pilate.  And the Pilates of our modern society continue to acquiesce.  “I will give you Barabbas, a murderer and thief, because that is what you want and I will crucify Jesus because that is what you want.”

Society continues to this day to cry out, “Do not give us Jesus!  We do not want to submit to him.  We do not want to put our faith in God.  We want to be in control!  We want to be our own gods.  We want Barabbas because in him we see beauty.  In Barabbas we see a man who does what he wants and makes a name for himself and that is praiseworthy to us.  Fame, power, control, narcissism – these are the traits we respect, give us these!  But do not give us Jesus because he requires too much.  Kill him, slander him, make him of no repute.  If he is a liar, we don’t have to give account for ourselves.  So make him a liar.  And give us Barabbas.”

barabbas-lestai

Broken by the love of God

Today I am utterly broken by the love of God. I’m in grief over the ones who scorn him.  I’m aching to love him and aching for those I love to love him as well. 

God, I pray you open the eyes of our heart as Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:17. I long to see you and I long for those whom I love to see you. Thank you for your grace and mercy. I thank you that you love us as we are and not as we should be. 

I leave you, beloved, with this: A song and 5 quotes by Rich Mullins. Enjoy. 

Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.

Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won’t also cost you yours.

I grew up hearing everyone tell me ‘God loves you’. I would say big deal, God loves everybody. That don’t make me special! That just proves that God ain’t got no taste. And, I don’t think He does. Thank God! Because He takes the junk of our lives and makes the most beautiful art.

I take comfort in knowing that it was the shepherds to whom the angels appeared when they announced Christ’s birth. Invariably throughout the course of history, God has appeared to people on the fringes. It’s nice to find theological justification for your quirks.

I look back over the events of my life and see the hands that carried Moses to his grave lifting me out of mine. In remembering I go back to these places where God met me and I meet him again and I lay my head on his breast, and he shows me the land beyond the Jordan and I suck into my lungs the fragrance of his breath, the power of his presence.

Yeastie Beasties and Love Babies! Skadoosh!

Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
– Matthew 16:6

I think there are probably a lot of unhealthy teachings out there that would pass for the yeast of the P’s and S’s. Not too long before Jesus gave this warning to the disciples he said this to the Pharisees and scribes:

You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.'”
– Matthew 15:7-9

queen-elizabeth-horrified-2Are we teaching our human precepts as doctrine?!?!? I’m horrified *whisper voice* because I think we are.

I’m not gonna really go into what I think these “human-precepts-come-doctrines” are because that would just be me turning my ideas into doctrine and the vicious cycle would continue.

But Jesus said something else to the P’s and S’s, said it more than once even, that I feel is a pretty good gauge for measuring our “awesome” doctrines against.

Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
– Matthew 9:13

But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
– Matthew 12:7

Everyone knows what Matthew 22:36-40 says… (but just in case you don’t or you forgot, here it is)

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
– Matthew 22:36-40

So it’s pretty obvious that love is really important to God. It’s kind of the point, I guess. So, maybe, remembering that God desires for us to show one another mercy even more than he desires a sacrifice, is important too.

Love and mercy should be our yardstick. We’re supposed to love one another.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
– John 13:34-35

And if we need a refresher course on what love is (in case we start thinking that our horrid behavior is actually just ‘tough love’), it’s right here in 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Here’s a little ditty I wrote that I like to call “The Love Chapter“.

 

You can find it here too: Kachow!

20140806-131456-47696018.jpgMy daughters and I memorized those verses together and we say them every night as a prayer at bedtime.  And when they are fighting I totally hold those verses over them.  (Cause that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Lol.)  Really, I just remind them what the verses say and ask them if they were being very loving towards their sister or their friends.  Guess what?  It works every time.

I think we all need a DAILY reminder of what love is and that God desires mercy from us.  So let’s be merciful.  Let’s measure our awesome doctrines against love and mercy and see if they measure up.  If they don’t, they might just be yeastie beasties and not love babies.

 

Wild and Freeeeeee!!!!!

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Jesus remains a wonderful mystery to me so much of the time.  Amazingly kind and full of love but wild and dangerous at the same time.  He is not tame at all.  After all, all good things are wild and free.

 

akains-jesus

Painting by Akiane Kramarik

This is a painting by a girl named Akiane Kramarik.