Off The Cuff(s)

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Off The Cuff(s)

 

 

“Lord!” …. I start all of my lyrics now

Cryin out to Him who hears the humble and oppose’ the proud

 

I’m nothing special, I deserve a cell beside my boy

But the Gospel taught me of the love of God who paid it all

 

So now my knees bow down in salute of the Father

My Abba got me so my sentence got revoked and barred up

 

I now exalt the King of glory for His blessed mercy

Drinkin from deep wells and finding I’m no longer thirsty

 

I am an artistic depiction of the sea of grace

A Rembrandt of salvation for a dying race

 

Even the public without their bars of incarceration

Are dying daily to religious bars that have them cased in

 

I’m tryna reach past ya fig leaf sentiments of love

If we could do it then why should we praise the man above?

 

Who bowed low and descended to this lower glory

Only to rise and change this horror to a love story

 

I’m shouting “Hail Jesus;” Mary will you join me?

Your son’s the Saviour’s and He’s moving with me blood deep

 

We visit prisoners and tell em now’s the time for freedom

And watch them break free; moving to another season

 

The paradigm is shifting watch how the slaves are rejoicing

Once known for killing now they killing sin with joyful noises

 

I’m screaming “Hallelujah” giving all praise to the Father

As the Spirit makes us willing to now answer the Caller

 

And through our worship of the Christ we find identity

That was originally lost when Satan tempted Eve

 

But we’re a new creation; though we’re a dying breed

Certain to raise to life and live with Him eternally

 

So now the hope that should empower you empowers me

I’m here to tell you – you no longer need the former things

 

His grace’ amazing the only challenge is come see and taste

This blessed love that makes us leave all of our lesser ways…

 

 

Trust Jesus!

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When Justice Prevails

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At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
John 14:1-14

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Have you ever been in a season where you’ve questioned if God really hears our pleas and cries in the midst of great oppression and injustice; Whether they are national, political, congressional, familial, or relational?

And if He hears, does He even care?

Well I think that today’s reading demonstrates something about how Jesus navigates these trying circumstances in our lives that will help us to begin to see His present care and concern for us if we realign our vision and focus in on where His efforts are actually being displayed.

To set the scene, John the Baptist had been wrongfully imprisoned. His only crime is telling the truth. But rather than receiving correction and changing his ways, Herod instead tries to snuff out the light as all evil men must do in order to continue on with their evil deeds.

John the Baptist is thrown into a dingy dark cell in an attempt to silence his testimony.

Through the course of his incarceration, John is then executed through the design of Herodias, at her daughter’s request of Herod – a mere puppet in this evil plot – to whom he promises upto half his kingdom in a moment of drunken folly which he would soon regret.

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Sidenote: This teaches us that evil can be forwarded in one of two ways:

1. When people act to maliciously forward their evil desires.

2. When we unquestioningly serve the evil desires of others without considering the nature/motives of their request.

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Either way, the deed is done, and the news of this execution-styled death of God’s forerunner  is reported to the Messiah, Jesus Himself, shortly after it happens.

And Jesus’ great heart of unfailing love is broken, and we know this for a few reasons.

If you’ve ever been asked ‘who was the greatest person in all of the Old Testament,’ there may be many people that would quickly come to mind:

– Moses, the Lawgiver and one through whom God parted the Reed Sea

– David, the beloved former greatest king of Israel who was commended as one whose heart was wholly after God

– Elijah, with his spectacular miracles and chariot of fire entourage into heaven,

or the many others who could easily be named.

But for Jesus, there was one who stood so far apart from the others that he was given the title ‘greatest‘ by Jesus himself!

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I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John.
Luke 7:28

Or as another writer puts it:

Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;
Matthew 11:11

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So you can imagine how deeply broken the heart of Jesus had to be at hearing the news of John’s death at the hands of unjust systems and the plots of wicked men and women.

In fact, it affected Jesus so deeply that the writer is sure to tell us:

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When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.
Matthew 14:13

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Even Jesus knew that it was healthy to mourn the death of those we love when they passed away.

Death is such a foreign topic to eternal life, that even though He knew that He would one day see John again because of his faith in Messiah, even a temporary separation was enough to pain Jesus’ holy heart.

But what is even greater than Jesus’ love for John who He regarded as the ‘greatest’ was Jesus’ love and concern for all those who were still with him here on earth.

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Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, (believers who will resurrect unto life eternal) so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:13

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We know this because in the very next verse, even though Jesus’ mourning is cut short, when He sees how desperate the people are to follow him amidst this national outcry of injustice, he turns and does something miraculous:

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When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.

Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matthew 14:13-14

————–

You see, Jesus did not rectify the world’s injustices by starting a protest towards Herod outside of his palace for killing his friend, or by inciting a group of Zealots to retaliate on John’s behalf.

Instead, He forwarded the Kingdom of God in the only way that the Kingdom of God has ever been forwarded: by love expressed through sacrificial charity.

In fact, not only did Jesus heal their sick, but the following paragraph jumps right into a story about when Jesus then feeds all of them… At least five thousand of them!

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As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat…. ”

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he (Jesus) gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children
Matthew 14:15-16, 19-21

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Imagine that! John, the one that Jesus regarded as the ‘greatest born of a woman,’ is killed, and Jesus’ recourse was to heal the sick and feed thousands.

That’s like hearing that your friend is killed by murderers for fun and enjoyment one morning, and then your response is choosing to comfort others in their grief and volunteering your time at a local food bank that evening.

In response to this paradoxical wisdom of the Kingdom of God, G.K Chesterton writes:

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

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I write this today because sometimes I wonder what our personal recourse for injustice is? And do our ideas for justice resonate with those we see detailed in the Bible regarding the Kingdom of God?

How many times have worldly concepts of countering injustices been used by professing Christians to justify a different course of action than we see exemplified in Jesus’ life and teachings that instead brings reproach upon the Gospel through this misrepresentation of the true ways of righteousness?

Clearly Jesus is not the one leading things like the atrocities and violence of the 12th century Catholic crusades. Yet most of the unbelieving world would falsely believe this is true if you look at the lives of some who have professed to know Him.

No, Jesus is more likely to be the who sits with you to mourn a departed friend and reminds you of our common hope through the Gospel.

And He’s more likely to be working through that friend who was thoughtful enough to remember that you probably haven’t eaten in a few days, and drops off a meal for you and your family that is so abundant that you have leftovers for days to follow!

I pray that as we round this second half of 2018, we’ll continue to grow up in our knowledge to comprehend that deeper place in us that God wants to restore so we can better display our trust in God and the ways of His Kingdom that recognizes how present He is indeed always with us – even amidst the temporary trials and tribulations through the reign of unjust people and world systems – that matures us in our reactions to these things knowing that God is still in control, and will one day make all things right.

To this end I implore you:

Trust ♔ Jesus!

The Artwork of God

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When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
Psalm 8:3-6

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In his book ‘Generous Justice,’ author Tim Keller points out:

The Jewish Scripture were virtually unique in their view of how the world began. Most accounts depict creation as the result of a battle or of a struggle between warring cosmic forces.

A Chinese account describes how the primordial giant Pangu emerged from the ancient cosmic egg, and when he died, the parts of his body became the world – his eyes the sun and moon, his body the mountains, his blood the waters, his muscles the lands, his beard the forests…

One African story tells of a giant who got sick and vomited out the world; first the sun, moon, and stars, and then vegetation and human beings…

The Gnostics taught that the high God was unknowable, and in contradiction to God’s will, some lower deity, a “demiurge,” created the profoundly flawed material world…

In Norse mythology, the god Odin killed the giant Ymir and used his body to create the universe and its inhabitants…

The Babylonian account, the Enuma Elisha tells a similar story of the god Marduk who defeats the ocean goddess Tiamat and produces the world out of her members.

In most ancient myths, therefore, the visible universe resulted from conflict; powers in tension with one another.

The Biblical creation account, however, stands in stark contrast.

Biblical scholar Gerhard von Rad has argued that, unlike any of its neighbours, Israel could conceive of no divine powers on par with those of the Lord.

Creation was therefore the work of a God without rival, who made the world not as a warrior digs a trench, but as an artist paints a picture or shapes a sculpture.

God is a craftsman, an artisan.

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He made you and I in His image which is why we, likewise, desire and craft His creation towards the beautiful – through music, design, architecture, food, hairstyles, dance – sometimes soft and gentle – sometimes aggressive and bold; speech, fashion, art – with sometimes with rich dark colours and sometimes with bright vibrant ones, and a multitude of various cultural expressions of each!

The trillion upon trillions of diverse personalities that have ever existed in all of human history are merely the unimaginably wide array of eternal combinations that God continues to breathe out.

Now, that’s not to imply that the ‘bad’ expressions of God’s creations doings were on account of His design. This is the nature of sin’s entry into the world on due to demonic deception and our own free will as we ‘missed the mark’ of God’s original intention  – and each of us are guilty of it in our own unique ways.

But through Jesus Christ, God has made a way to justified those who live by faith; He’s blotted out our sins, cancelled all our debt, and even though the fullness of His glory and of what that now means for us has future implications, it has already begun the moment we first believed. He has prepared for us an eternal dwelling where sin shall no longer hinder, death shall have no place, but righteousness, peace and love – along with eternal life – and all the beauty that exists in those precious moments when we get right, will do so… forevermore.

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Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 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.”

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.

Revelation 21:1-7

Therefore, I implore you:

Trust ♔ Jesus!

Justice For the Poor

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Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure *justice* for those being crushed.

Proverbs 31:8

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In his book entitled ‘Generous Justice,’ author Tim Keller notes:

In Leviticus 5, there are prescriptions for making confessions and offering sacrifices to God at the tabernacle in order to seek forgiveness for sins. There is an eye-glazing number of diverse rules and regulations for how to make atonement for various sins – what the penitents must do, what kind of animal sacrifices they had to bring, what the priests had to do, and so on.

Then suddenly the text adds that if the worshipper ‘cannot afford’ the standard offerings, “he is to bring as an offering a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering…. in this way the priest will make atonement for him for any of these sins he has committed, and he will be forgiven” (Leviticus 5:1-13)

One Bible commentary responds to this:

A person who knew he could come to God with nothing more than a cupful of flour and a confession of his sin and still receive forgiveness was learning something fundamental about the grace of God…. even the most powerful in the land knew that God was not impressed by the most lavish sacrifices…

In the religions of the surrounding cultures, the gods identified particularly with the kings and others at the top of society. It made sense – the rich could build the gods magnificent temples and give sumptuous offerings. Why wouldn’t they be considered the favourites of the gods?

But the Biblical God is not like that at all. He does not call everyone to bring sacrifices of the same kind and value, for that would have automatically made it easier for the rich to please God.

Instead, God directs that each person should bring what they can, and if their heart is right, that will give them access to his grace.

For indeed, grace is the key to it all. It is not our lavish good deeds that procure salvation, but God’s lavish love and mercy. That is why the poor are as acceptable before God as the rich. It is the generosity of God, the freeness of His salvation, that lays the foundation for the society of justice for all.

Even in the seemingly boring rules and regulations of tabernacle rituals, we see that God cares about the poor, that his laws make provision for the disadvantaged. God’s concern for justice permeated every part of Israel’s life.

It should also permeate our lives.

Trust ♔ Jesus!