Sapphire Sky

June 26, 2015

Welcome to the New

Filed under: Uncategorized — Travis Biller @ 10:11 pm

I remember exactly where I was on September 11th 2001. I was leaving my biblical Hebrew class in seminary when another student approached the prof and told him what had taken place. As news of the events unfolded I remember this sinking feeling in my stomach. I felt sick. When I heard the news that the Supreme Court ruled to make gay-marriage legal, I had that same feeling. On September 11th the twin towers fell. Today, two great towers of American culture have fallen.

Where America once had great respect for moral truth, today that tower is lying in a heap of rubble. And where America once had respect for the things of God, and even had a semblance of the “Fear of the Lord” that tower also is lying in a heap of rubble. Admittedly, one has to go back at least an entire generation to find those towers standing strong. But, for the majority of American history those two towers had a profound effect on the fiber of the American Republic. America is America only with those towers standing strong.

The founders of our republic understood the necessity of religion for a functional democracy. They believed that America would only be as strong as the people had a healthy love for the virtues and principles of religious truth. Sure, they were not all evangelical Christians, as we understood the term today. But, even those who were Deists believed in a God that created laws which govern civilization. In fact, it was those very laws that framed the bases for our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. They expected each person in the republic to self-govern themselves according to those “self-evident” truths of nature and nature’s God.

America has a history that is unparalleled in the history of the world. No other nation has enjoyed the peace and prosperity that America has experienced. One of the reasons 9/11 was so shocking was that it was the first time America suffered loss on her own soil. With the Supreme Court’s ruling today, America has suffered another loss – but this one is a self-inflicted wound.

The two great towers of moral truth and fear of God have fallen. Upon those twin towers America’s peace and prosperity were built. But, the tragedy is not just that those towers have fallen. The greater tragedy are the new towers that replace the old.

The reality is that those towers were in decay and disrepair for at least a generation. Where they were once the proud monuments of the American conscious, over the past generation, as they became neglected, they began to be seen as an unseemly eyesore in the new moral landscape that our generation was building.

Over the last three decades as the new morality was being built, people began to grumble about the old buildings that were ruining the new skyline. At first there was an uneasy toleration for the old towers. Some wanted to keep them as a monument to the past. Many were more than happy to turn them into museum.  But, they learned that those twin towers were functional; and as long as they stood they kept people from embracing the new towers. Since those towers refused to become a relic of the past, they were targeted for demolition. Today that demolition is complete.

With the dust settling from the towers collapse, the new landscape is clear to see. In the place of the old, the new twin towers dominate the landscape. The two towers that now define the American landscape are the towers of Defiance against God, and Depravity in the name of God. The word America will remain, but her heart has been given to another. In time the moral and spiritual fabric of the new America will look nothing like the Republic of old.

The first tower, Defiance, receives her name from the statue that decorates the rooftop. The statue is of a woman who represents justice. However, instead of the old statue where the woman wears a blindfold and has a pair of scales, the new one has a woman, holding the hand of another woman, and with her free hand she is shaking her fist at God. And instead of a blindfold, she has a pair of binoculars hung around her neck, so when needed, she is able to clearly see all around her who dare to stand against her. She is called “justice” because she will, at once, bring all non-conformists to the bar of gay-wrath where their sentence will be swift and without mercy.

The second tower, Depravity, derives its name from the many plaques that decorate the great halls of this tower. Whereas the old towers had many verses from the Bible reminding its visitors of those great truths that guided the nation to greatness, this new tower has many aphorisms and platitudes intimidating the citizenry to rejoice over iniquity and sin.

What was once seen as wrong is now celebrated as good; and what was once embraced as good is now vilified as evil. Further, where, in the past, divine love was celebrate as truth which reveals reality, the new “divine” love demands that all be given acceptance and affirmation as it seeks to create a new reality. The old love revealed sin so those entrapped by its devices may repent and turn back to God. The new love demands that all declarations of sin become sin itself. To declare a protected act sinful is to engage in the worst sin possible. And where the God of the old age allowed differences of opinion and was willing to allow dissenters their own place, the gods of new age will in no way tolerate opposing points of view, and instead will work diligently to uproot all opposition. Justice is ready to serve.

Today begins a new age for this country. We have crossed a line that will forever define the new from the old.

June 14, 2015

The King has Come!

Filed under: theology — Tags: , — Steve Knaus @ 12:59 am

GoldenGate

The East Gate of Jerusalem today

The first man and the first woman had a perfect life. They were free from any problems and would never die. They had a perfect relationship with God, and would personally walk with him in the garden.

Yet they destroyed all of that in their rebellion against God (Genesis 3). Now they faced hard labor, sickness, and death. Their relationship with God was permanently damaged, and they would be forever separated from God.

Their disobedience — their rebellion against God — was their sin. This sin would infect the entire human race through Adam’s descendants, leaving every person separated from God. Humans were no longer capable of having any relationship with God.

But God made a promise to this man and this woman. They would have a descendant who would save the human race from their sin. He would restore their relationship with God.

Over time, God gave more information about the one would save mankind. He was given a title, “The Anointed One”, or in Hebrew, “Messiah”, or in Greek, “Christ”. He would be the sacrifice for sin for the entire world. He would lead his people to freedom and victory. He would rule in peace.  See a more complete list here.

God also gave a specific time for the Messiah. The Messiah would come to Jerusalem on March 29, 33 A.D. [2].

God had given this message about the Messiah to the Jewish people. But as time went on, they were no longer concerned about being saved from their sin. They had devised an elaborate set of rules and laws which gave them confidence that they were were able to personally earn God’s favor. They no longer needed a Messiah to save them from sin.

However, the Jewish nation was often oppressed by other nations. Although they no longer needed (as they believed) a Messiah to save them from sin, they longed for the Messiah to come and free them from their oppressors. They looked forward to the conquering King who would set up a kingdom that would never end.

Then the Messiah came. He came to his own people and his own did not receive him (John 1:11-12). He did not follow the religious laws like he was supposed to, and the religious leaders were jealous of his fame.

Jesus Christ was wildly popular when he was on the earth. He taught like no one else did and he worked spectacular miracles, baffling his enemies and validating his claims to be the Messiah. As his final public act, he caused an explosion in the Jewish religious world by raising Lazarus from the dead (see here).

The hatred of the Jewish leaders was complete. They wanted to cover up the miracle of Lazarus so they determined to kill Jesus. They gave orders everywhere that anyone should report Jesus if they knew where he was (John 11:45-57). Jesus Christ was now a wanted criminal.

Yet as the Passover drew near, it was time for Jesus Christ to enter Jerusalem. It was also time for the city to welcome the Messiah as their king, in fulfillment of the prophecies about him (Daniel 9:24-27). Instead of coming in secret, Jesus came at the head of a massive crowd, cheering him as king.

Why did the crowd welcome Jesus as their King on that day? The miracle of Lazarus had already drawn the interest and the excitement of the people. Jesus had traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem with a large crowd of Passover pilgrims, so they all knew that he was coming. He had spent the Passover (Saturday) in the nearby town of Bethany, so the next opportunity for him to come would be Sunday morning.

Jesus left Bethany with a large crowd of followers on Sunday morning. As He approached the mountain separating him from Jerusalem (the Mount of Olives), he sent two disciples ahead to bring a donkey colt with its mother. The donkey showed his claim as king and fulfilled the prophecy (Zechariah 9:9) that the Messiah would enter on a donkey, the symbol of royalty.

The crowd that accompanied Jesus was met by a larger crowd coming out of Jerusalem. Together, they chanted the Psalm of the Messiah (Psalm 118:24-26), “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of The Lord!”

The religious leaders objected to this praise and personally asked Jesus to tell them to stop. But this was the day of Messiah’s coming. If the people did not shout out, the rocks would proclaim him as King!

Through all of this excitement, Luke tells the shocking response by Jesus as he approaches the city. Jesus starts sobbing as the city comes into view. Neither his disciples nor his enemies were able to see through the crowd’s excitement, yet only Jesus saw that these excited people would not receive him. He is given a vision of what will happen to Jerusalem and it brings him to tears. He see the Roman legions surrounding the city, cutting off the supplies and eventually killing the inhabitants. This all happened because they rejected the Messiah.

The people were excited to receive a Messiah of their own design. They wanted a leader to save them from Roman oppression, but they did not want to be saved from their sin. Yet that was His purpose, and that was why He had come. He would be the sacrifice to bring the people back to God.

In less than a week, the same people who were welcoming him as king would be shouting for his death.

 

Remember!

  • How much do we value a relationship with God? Are we willing to value the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ in order to bring us back to him?
  • As the Messiah, Jesus Christ’s main objective is to free us from sin and bring us back to God. It is as true now as it was in the first century — don’t look for a substitute!
  • The disciples did not understand what was going on until afterward. Don’t miss the important things in life because we are caught up in the moment.

 

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June 6, 2015

Dare to Waste!

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 1:44 pm

waves-close-up-view-circle-drop-of-water

Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11), causing many to believe in him. But this also provoked the anger and jealousy of the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were all united in their plans to kill him (John 11:53).

Jesus had retreated to the town of Ephraim (John 11:54) and stayed there until it was time to come for the Passover. Within a couple weeks of the Passover, He had traveled north from Ephraim through the middle of Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:11), and joined the bands of Galilean pilgrims as they traveled to Jerusalem [2].

As the crowds neared Jerusalem on Friday, Jesus had split from the group and spent the Sabbath in the nearby town of Bethany. It was there in Bethany that Simon, a healed leper, had hosted a feast for Jesus and his disciples on Saturday night.

During the dinner, Mary shocked the entire crowd. She approached Jesus as he reclined at the table with the dinner guests. She then broke a priceless bottle of perfume and proceeded to pour it on his head. She moved to his feet with the perfume and unbound her hair, using her hair to wipe up the excess from his feet.

The fragrance of this strong perfume permeated the entire house.

Mary’s actions shocked the crowd as she proceeded to anoint his head and wash his feet. But the disciples were deeply scandalized when someone started to add up the cost of the perfume that was wasted on Jesus. Judas lead the disciples in scolding her, saying that this cost over a year’s wage. Why not use that to help the poor?

Jesus’ response to Judas was sharp and abrupt, “Leave her alone!” Her worship of him was more important than even helping the poor.

Mary alone understood that Jesus was coming to die and she was preparing him for his burial. Her story will now forever be joined with the story of the Gospel itself. “She has done a beautiful thing.”

This scene would burn in Judas’ memory. He was still stinging from Jesus’ rebuke three days later when he goes to the chief priests and offers to betray the Lord Jesus Christ.

The other 11 disciples should have known better. They had been following Jesus for the last three and a half years, yet they were so caught up in themselves that they missed what Jesus was trying to teach them.

Mary was the only one who understood what was going on.

This short account opens the final week of Jesus’ ministry on earth. This final week will mark the highest and lowest points of Jesus’ entire days on earth. He will teach his disciples and confront his enemies but there is one primary purpose throughout this week.

He has come to die.

 

Remember!

  • From the example of Judas, we need to beware lest we become hardened through unbelief. As it says in Hebrews 3:12-13, we need to encourage each other daily!
  • From the example of the 11 disciples, don’t be so caught up in ourselves that we miss what Jesus is saying to us!
  • Finally, from the example of Mary, would we all be so caught up with love for the Lord Jesus Christ that we are ready to lavish our most valuable possessions on him!

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