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National Siblings Day

In honor of national siblings day, I would like to focus on a famous pair of siblings.

James was the half-brother of Jesus. I don’t know what his problem was with his older brother. But, for some reason, James was quite critical of Jesus prior to the crucifixion. Maybe James was the baby and was forgotten? Maybe James was the next child after Jesus and could never live up to his brother’s perfect example.

Regardless, in Mark 3:21, 31-35 and John 7:1-9 … James was a skeptic. He thought Jesus was crazy and wanted to kidnap him and take him home! James wouldn’t even go inside to give legitimacy to Jesus’ ministry and – instead – called for Jesus to come outside. In fact, they even had a bit of a public argument when James taunted Jesus to go to Judea to perform his “miracles” – knowing the Jewish leaders were plotting to kill him there! Jesus said it wasn’t time to go there yet … but maybe James should go!

Talk about sibling rivalry!

But, that changed. In Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1 Cor 15:7; Gal 1:19; 2:9 James was a different man. He became an important leader of the Jerusalem church. He wrote one of (if not the) first books of the New Testament. He is even associated with the Apostles in authority. In fact, he spent so much time on his knees in prayer, many people said his calloused knees looked like those of a camel.

What could make someone change that much? Typically, it’s when someone comes face to face with the truth. In the case of James – it was the realization that Jesus – his brother – was God. Can you imagine arguing with God or calling him crazy?

So, what happened to James? The Jews hated Jesus. And they hated his brother. About 30 years after Jesus ascended into Heaven, the Scribes and Pharisees placed James upon the pinnacle of the temple, and threw him off. Wounded – but not dead – he just laid there. Then, the Jewish leaders began to stone him. Finally, James still barely alive, one of them took a club and bashed James on the head with it until he died.

I love James. I love his story. I love his faith. I can’t wait to meet him in Heaven. I’m sure he has all kinds of stories to share. Won’t it be cool to hear about God – when God was a little boy. Won’t it be wonderful to hear of their family reunion when James entered Heaven?

But you know what? That’s not all. Everyone who is led by the Spirit of God is a child of God. If that is you, then you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own child. We can actually call God – Dad. How? Because God’s Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs to the kingdom. In fact, together with King Jesus, we are heirs of God’s glory. But, there is a price. Much like James … if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

Palm Sunday – The King and His Kingdom

This is the week. About 2000 years ago Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Multitudes of people ushered him into the city with shouts of praise and adoration.

Why? Because Jesus was the Messiah. He was the answer to their prayers. He was the fulfillment of their scriptures. He was the king who would not only crush Rome – he would establish a worldwide kingdom that was rooted in peace.

Peace. They thought the peace of Jesus would be like the Pax-Romana or the “Peace of Rome” that was established through violent punishment on anyone not bowing to Rome. But, they were wrong.

The kingdom of Jesus is upside down. The victors – die. The greatest – wash feet. The wealthiest – have nothing. The response to hate – is mercy. Her enemies – receive gifts of prayer. Instead of defensive walls and gates to keep people out – the invitation is extended to invite people in. And the peace in this kingdom is enforced – through love.

But, the Jews were expecting someone different. They were expecting a military hero – a warrior – a conquering king. A ruler who would dominate through force and repay the vengeance that God said belonged to Him!

But, the kingdom of Jesus – the kingdom of God – the kingdom of Heaven – isn’t like that. They thought the exiles would return to the borders of the walled city of Jerusalem. Instead, the city of Jerusalem (the bride of the king) has extended the borders of Jerusalem all over the world. They thought the king would free their political prisoners … but he freed us from sin. They thought the king would bring the scattered nation back to Israel … but he brought them back from them grips of Satan. They thought they would be rewarded for their hardships by living a life of luxury … but in the kingdom of Jesus … we are expected to live lives of service, sacrifice, and denial … and our reward comes after we die.

Are you a part of the kingdom? I hope so.

“Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt. I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations. His realm will stretch from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth. Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope! I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles.” Zechariah 9:9-12

Everyone Has A Testimony

If someone knows Jesus saved them – and they remember how they were before being saved – they know enough.

Some people think they don’t “have a testimony” because they were practically raised in church and decided to follow Jesus at a young age. Those people have a testimony too … the influence believers have on the lives of their children to start.

From Creation to Child

One of the saddest verses in the Bible is:

“… the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” John‬ ‭1:10-11‬

When it says “He came to His own” the Greek refers to something Jesus personally has ownership or possession of (like something you create) – not something that you are a simply a part of (like a culture or people group).

So, here is God in the flesh, coming to Earth to save its inhabitants (His very creation) – and they didn’t receive Him. In fact, they didn’t even recognize Him. That breaks my heart.

But verse 12 turns it all around. It is the point of the chiasm in this passage and it says:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,” John‬ ‭1:12.

Wow. If you do happen to be one of those who receive Jesus, you move from being a creation of God – to a child of God! Did you hear that? A child of God!

That’s awesome stuff right there.

Pleasing Faith

What type of faith is God pleased with?

My answer hinges on these two points: 1) There are several parts of a person: mind, emotions, spirit, conscience, body, soul and others. 2) Our faith is demonstrated when we do things that bring glory and honor to God.

A person who has submitted their mind to the Lord may be considered legalistic by many. They may carefully consider the things being presented and question things they are not familiar with. They might use apologetics to convince others that God can be their only true benefactor for eternal life. They probably ensure everything they do is authorized by the text because that is the logical thing to do. And the reason they do so … is because they want to bring honor and glory to God. I think God is pleased with that.

A person who has submitted their emotions to our Savior may be considered dramatic by some. They may raise their hands in worship and cry. They might frequently explain to others how awesome Jesus is because He came to us out of love. They probably concentrate on ensuring everything they do is motivated by the joy that comes from God living in them. And the reason they do so … is because they want to bring honor and glory to God. I think God is pleased with that.

A person who has submitted their spirit to the Father may be considered evangelistic by others. They may share the gospel with everyone they know because they realize how unworthy they are of salvation. They might share the knowledge of our inability to earn Heaven and our worthiness of Hell. They probably present the grace of God to everyone they meet in an effort extend an invitation to the freedom found in Jesus. And the reason they do so … is because they want to bring honor and glory to God. I think God is pleased with that.

I could go on with other examples, but I think that will be enough to bring me to my next point. Each of those aspects can be compartmentalized. The legalist may look down on the others because they are the only ones doing it right. The emotional person may look down on the others because they are the only ones feeling it right. The evangelical may look down on others because they are the only ones sharing it right.

I believe the type of faith God is most pleased with is when a person submits EVERY part of themselves to the Lord – not just one or two. I think those moments we give another part of “us” to our Savior is when we grow in our faith. And each time we grow in our faith – God is pleased with us more and more.

The Simple Key To The Gospel

The key point of the gospel is that the Christ – the Messiah – the KING appeared in the form of Jesus. And that this king died for his subjects – a death which continually cleanses us of our sins – and that he now reigns.

So, I think that “obeying” that good news would look like a sinner pledging allegiance to Jesus as their king … and then conducting the rest of their lives like a citizen of that holy kingdom.

Son of Man

The title “son of man” is used 100 times or more in the Old Testament … 93 of those are in Ezekiel. God is basically telling Ezekiel that “I am God … and you are human.”

But in Daniel, someone is described who is “LIKE a son of man.” He looks like he is human … but he was taken to the Ancient of Days (God) and given Authority, honor, and sovereignty over all. The Ancient One is described as having white clothes and and hair like pure wool.

Jesus is described as “Son of Man” more than 50 times in the New Testament … almost every time time it is Him describing Himself.

In Daniel, someone like a son of man leaves earth and goes to Heaven to be with God.

In the New Testament, someone leaves Heaven and goes to earth to be like a son of man.

In Revelation 1:13-14 … the person like a Son of Man … is God.

I love that.