Monday, April 21, 2014

Bundy on the Dole, Too

Below is a good article on the Clive Bundy ranch business. My sentiments are with the author. The real problem is not simply government overreach in authority, it is also government protectionism. There is no easy solution to this. Well, maybe there is, just get the government out of subsidies, welfare programs, food stamps, farm bills, BLM subsidies, etc., tomorrow. But we are growing more and more accustomed to these things, even as our money is shriveling through extended debt and money printing. It would be easy but it is highly unlikely for the government to make this change, especially the federal government.

And it is not only individual ranchers, farmers and Walmart shoppers that are on the dole. The individual states themselves, do not want to be free from the Federal largesse. Until we return to the expectation that individuals take care of themselves, that the immediate and then the extended family is the safety net and the final safety net is The Church, then we will not be bold enough to make the change. With these principles in place, we would not need the government to take care of our every perceived need. That is why the solution is simple. Cut off the tap. If that were the case, we would see an immediate positive correction in who works, who cares and who catches.

And the money will run out.

Be a Martyr

John 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:  31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
Luke 24:45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,  46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things. 49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

Which martyr are you?
         Mary Magdalene- One who is forgiven much and therefore loves much?
         Peter- One who is self-confident but unable to perform? One who wonders at the empty tomb but that wonder does not transfer to belief? One who is so distraught at your own failures, that you fail to remember what the Lord has said about His forgiveness 70 x 7? Or, Peter who preaches in power at Pentecost?
         John- One who is convinced in himself but is without power to persuade others? John, who did not come to the aid of Mary Magdalene and the women when the witnessed of the Lord’s resurrection. Perhaps John was afraid of the other disciples’ reaction? He did not want to be seen as siding with the women? Or Post Pentecost John, who testified that Jesus has come and dwelt among us and we have seen Him.
         Thomas- One who fails to believe anyone. He fancies himself a real skeptic. He thinks this is a virtue but the Lord calls him up short. His skepticism is no virtue. It is a moral failing. He must repent of his virtue. The Lord blesses those who believe the witnesses.

We have the power. The Holy Spirit has come. Our failings are forgiven. Let our words be true and sure. You are those who should believe. You are those who should witness. You are the martyrs. Go, ye, therefore, into all the world. Proclaim Jesus risen and disciple the nations.

Four Martyrs

Four Witnesses- Four Martyrs

Mary Magdalene
         From whom seven devils were cast.
Mark 16:9   Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
         Waited by cross with other women, even after the men folk had scattered as it is written
         Matt. 26:31   Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
She loved much because she was forgiven much. Mary had seven demons cast from her. Her hope was lost and therefore she could not see. And yet she still remained. She waited on the Lord, even in death, even in hopelessness. Mary Magdalene was a faithful witness and the Lord repaid her, visiting her first among all the disciples.

Matthew 27: 56 Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.
Matthew 27: 61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre.
         There seem to be THREE Marys and two that have sons named James and Joses. Jesus had brothers by that name but this other Mary with sons of that name is clearly another Mary.
Mary Magdalene
         Mary, the mother of Jesus
         Mary, the wife of Cleopas and mother of James and Joses.
         Salome, mother of James and John, the sons of Thunder.

John 20:1   The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.  2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. 
Mary Magdalene is the first of the disciples to see the empty tomb. From her reaction we realize that she had not come to the tomb in anticipation but rather in the despair and hopelessness. She wanted to see the dead body of Jesus not the living Jesus. She assumes that someone has taken away the body. Because she could only imagine the dead Jesus, she could not see the live Jesus.
But she was a devoted and faithful disciple. She loved Jesus and was devoted to Him in life and death, as were the other women, the three Marys and Salome.
John 20:11   But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,  12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.  13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.  14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.  17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.
         This happened after Peter and John had arrived at the tomb and then went back home. They did not look for the Lord but neither did they wait. Mary waited, weeping and the Lord rewarded her. She did not immediately recognize the Lord. He was different and yet the same. But when she expected a dead Jesus she was not prepared to see a live Jesus. Your expectations have a great deal to do with what you see.
When she returns with this good report the disciples do not believe her. John could have supported her, since he was presumably now a believer but his Thunder had failed him and he was unconvincing.

Consider Peter now fallen in failure, having denied the Lord three times. Consider Peter, the bold and brave fisherman. He was a close confidant of the Lord, among whom was James and John. Peter, the one who left all for Jesus. Peter, the one who walked on the water. Peter, the one who rebuked the Lord out of misplaced love. Peter, the one who swore to die with Jesus, no matter what. Peter, the one who fell asleep in the garden at Jesus’s passion. Peter, the one who followed Jesus at a distance but denied that he knew him even to a lowly maid. Peter, bold. Peter weak. He is a tale of two men, strong passions and strong words, a strong man who is cowed by fear and failure.
On the day of Resurrection, Peter was a broken man. Not only was he depressed that Jesus had been executed. He had also failed Jesus miserably at the very last hour. When Peter heard the report from Mary that the tomb was empty, he and John rise up and rush to the tomb. I think we have developed a picture of them running to the tomb in eager anticipation of finding Jesus alive. But that is not what is going on. Given their responses when they arrive, they are not running in hope. They are more likely running in anger or in more overt grief that the body has been stolen. They are more in tune with Christ’s enemies than with Christ at this point.
Remember that the leaders concocted a story to tell everyone that the body had been stolen. Even after Peter enters the tomb and looks around, he is not moved to belief. He is still wondering what has happened. He is completely discombobulated.
Can you imagine what meeting Jesus means for Peter at this point? When Jesus was going to the cross, He looked over at Peter and made eye contact.
Luke 22:60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.  61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.  62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
I can imagine those eyes of Jesus, wondering at Peter’s denials. The pain they must have caused Peter, his own betrayal rising up before him. But Jesus’s eyes also had compassion in them. He knew Peter. He knew this would happen. He knew that Peter would be broken, weeping, repentant. So, His eyes also held promise of forgiveness and reconciliation, if only He were to live. But He did not live. He died and Peter had no way to reconcile. And so he was lost.
It was to Peter that the Lord said, “Peter could you not watch with me for one hour?”
It was Peter who asked the Lord, “How oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?” I am sure that Peter was enormously thankful for the Lord’s answer as these days unfolded.
         It is this Peter that comes to the tomb. He looks in and he wonders but he does not believe. Luke 24:12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass. He is too lost in his failure for hope. He is too broken to see what the empty tomb means. He is too confused to remember what the Lord had said about dying and coming back to life. He is too lost inside himself to see outside himself. He wonders but he does not believe.
         3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.  4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.  5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.  6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,  7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. 

A son of Thunder, along with his brother James. These men were fishers, like Peter. Strong men, working men, men not afraid of the sea, men who had faced death on many occasions. John, the Son of Thunder, presumably able to speak with volume with a commanding presence.  John, the one whom the Lord loved, who reclined with the Lord at table and had the ear of the Lord. John, the one whom the other disciples got to speak to Jesus to get special information from him. No doubt, he not only had the ear of Jesus but also the ear of the other apostles. He was respected and trusted.
And yet, on the day of Resurrection, he sees and believes but is unpersuasive. John 20:8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.  9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.  10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.
The other apostles and disciples do not believe the testimony of John. Why not? Was he silent. Was his belief so fragile that it might be broken? Where was that Thunder now? It was barely audible, it seems. Boanerges had become mouse squeaker.
John was a witness and a faithful one, but his own Thunder had been muted. He needed power but had none. He believed but needed the Lord to help his unbelief. He was a witness but his witness was without power. Thank God for Pentecost!

The doubter, a skeptic. Jesus convinces him but pronounces a blessing on those who will believe without seeing. What more does Jesus have to do to convince you to believe?
John 11:16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
Thomas made this cryptic statement when Jesus was going to Lazarus’s tomb. Perhaps he had some inclination about the things that Jesus had said that they were going to be martyrs. This is not uncommon for leaders of a movement, a rebellion. They take a stand hoping their martyrdom will begin a series of events that take down the powers. But at Jerusalem, when Jesus is killed, they all lose their nerve and skulk away in defeat.
John 13:3 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. John 14:4   And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. 5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?  6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. 7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
Literal Thomas. He wanted proofs. He wanted a roadmap. His virtue kept him from hearing the Lord.
John 20:26   And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.  29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
Thomas refused to believe until he had touched the Lord. He considered this a virtue. He was a skeptic. Hard to convince. Sort of a scientist at heart. But the Lord upbraids him for his slowness of belief. Jesus was kind to him and showed up again for Thomas to see and touch him and believe. But you can no longer be saved if you are such a doubting Thomas. Jesus is not going to show up and let you touch his hands and side. Such a Thomas will be damned. All men are required to believe the testimony of the Scriptures and the witnesses to the faith, those who have believed without seeing the Lord. In order to see this way, you have to repent of your virtues.

John 20:19   Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.  21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
Jesus did intend to reveal himself bodily to the twelve as first hand witnesses to the Resurrection. We should assume that Matthias is there also, who was the replacement for Judas. So, Thomas was not wrong to see the Lord bodily. He was wrong to not believe the report of the others.

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

Thomas thinks his obstinacy of unbelief is good. He is wrong.

Knowing by Witness

         Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. We rejoice in this day above all others for in it, the Lord gained the victory over sin and death. We rise with Him on this day, having had our sins nailed to the cross and being raised and justified in the Resurrection of our Lord.
         We know these things to be true for we have read them in the Word of God and have received in ourselves the testimony of the Holy Spirit.
         But it is not simply a subjective knowledge that we possess. We have made a connection to God and we are sure of this but our certainty is not from ourselves. We have put our faith in the authority and the experience of others.
         Granted, we could not even do that if the Lord had not freely given us His Spirit whereby we see and hear the things of God. It is true that these things are spiritually discerned. But we sometimes make our knowledge too difficult to obtain. If we cannot fully realize the truth in our own minds by the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then we simply will not be convinced.
         But there is a simpler and more reliable way than trying to figure out the subtle movements of the Spirit in our own hearts. The way that God has given us to know is through witnesses, what the Bible calls martyrs. Martyrs are simply those who witness for the faith. That word has come to mean those who die in their belief and testimony to the truth of Christ. This is fine but originally the word simply meant those who witness the truth.
         In the passage from John 20 about Easter morning, there are several immediate witnesses to the Resurrection. They have different responses to what has happened. I want to take a look at those responses and then consider how we respond to the Resurrection of our Lord.
         I’ve entitled this sermon four martyrs. Martyrs are not simply those who die for their faith in Christ, but also those who witness to the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection. In this sense, we are all martyrs. We may not have the opportunity to witness unto death but we will all have the opportunity to die to self in witnessing for Christ. Will we stake our lives and faith on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ or will we make peace with Christ’s enemies, refusing to upset them, afraid of their persecution, cowed by their seeming authority, even refusing to save them by proclamation of the truth?

         We must choose to be bold witnesses of the truth of Jesus. We do this foremost in recognizing that He is indeed Lord, that He died because men are sinners, that He was innocent of any crimes and thus the Father vindicated Him in His death and raised Him from the dead. Furthermore, we embrace the truth that He did this not only for us but for all His people everywhere, whoever will hear and submit themselves to the Lord Jesus. This is good news. This is life.

Jesus is Alive

It is Easter. The Lord Jesus is not dead but He is alive. This is a good time for us to remember that all those who have died in the Lord are not dead. They are alive. You may miss seeing them but they are doing just fine. They are with the Lord. They are filled with joy. They are at peace. They are living. 

We should try to remember this as we talk about them. We sometimes say that our departed Christian brothers are dead but that is just not accurate. Their bodies might still be unresurrected but they are not dead. They are alive. We sometimes say that they are with the Lord or that they are in Heaven. That is closer to the truth. But we really should cultivate the view that they are alive.

This helps us to get perspective on living and dying in this life. We can face the future, suffering, old age, sickness, even death because we know that death could not hold Jesus. Because death could not hold Jesus, death cannot hold us, either. 

We will die but only for a moment. Then an angel will come and get us and take us to Jesus and we will be amazed at His level of life; real, vibrant, Resurrected, undying, eternal. We will be alive then but also longing for our own Resurrection so we can be as alive as Jesus, body and soul, with no contradiction of sin and death. That will be Heaven, indeed. But until then, because Jesus is alive, all those who are in Christ, though they die, will yet live. 

He is risen, indeed!