Almond Joy

9D494A70-DAF4-4DAC-B0AE-5395FD5D2AAB.pngI have a routine and it really goes in month long cycles.

September is Football and Franks.  I love to tailgate and grill.  I also love brats and hotdogs.  So I are mostly hot dogs and brats throughout the month.

November is turkey/poultry and Thanksgiving.  I will alter my crock pot taco soup recipe by substituting shredded chicken for beef, load up on the tobasco, Fritos, and shredded cheddar cheese and eat a crock pot full every week.

December is all about the three C’s: Christmas, cinnamon rolls, and chilie.  Chilie is served seven nights a week, cleaning out the crock pot only to repeat the process.  Fun fact: apparently this is a Kansas thing because if you mention it anywhere else people look at you like you are crazy.

But that leaves out October.  Taco Soup (with beef) will get me through the month, but it really is all about candy.  Walmart keeps dentists employed in November.  I  saw a sign the other day where a store is offering to buy back Halloween Candy to keep kids healthy.  Meanwhile, I spoke with a Dad who refused to buy candy this years so he is taking his kids Trick-or-Treating an hour early so they can circle back by their house to refill their own candy bowl.  That is #NextLevelParenting.

I have recently been studying the life of Jesus.  I have also been trying to organize some thoughts on leadership and methodology.  Here I bring the two together.  One of my favorite get-to-know-you/team building games is what I call “synthesis”.  Each group gets one note card.  They have to write down 5 topics or thoughts on the left hand side.  Then the team trades with another team.  The new team has one minute to write down a word that corresponds with the first teams thoughts.  The catch is that there is a theme.  It might have to be an animal, or a celebrity, or a song, or anything else.  They have one minute.  Then each group has to explain to the whole group why they chose that thing to describe the first teams topic.

Since October really is all about the candy, how would Jesus ministry be communicated through candy bars?

One of the first things that draws me to Jesus ministry is how contagious it was.  People were drawn to him.  They brought the sick, they brought friends, they traveled miles, and they fought through crowds.  They climbed trees, dug through roofs, watched from gates, crawled between legs, and snuck into dinners, just to be near him.  But what drw them?  Certainly it was his ability, some of it was probably his teaching, but I want to focus on something that not many other’s have touched: his Joy!  Mostly because I struggle with it.

Joy is really a Paul word.  First, I want to introduce you to three greek words.  This will be painless.

  • Chara is the greek word for “joy”
  • Charidzomai is the greek word for “forgiveness”
  • Charis is the greek word for “grace”

Notice that all three of theses words have the same root.  From that the connection is easily made.  When we understand that we are forgiven and have been shown grace, the only appropriate response is joy.  Paul was joyful because he understood the great lengths to which he was shown grace and the the great depths that he had been forgiven.  The reason I say this is a Paul word is quite simple.  Half the uses of these words in Scripture come from Paul’s pen.  He loved to talk about “joy” and “grace” and “forgiveness”.

Fir James and Peter, the source of joy is found elsewhere.  James begins his book like this:

”Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1.2)

James knew that the growth received through the testing of faith would bring about joy. Peter echos this sentiment in his letter:

“These [trials] have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1.7-9)

Peter and James found their source of joy in the trials they suffered.  These two knew about suffering.  Both would die a martyrs death.  Both would face beatings and persecutions.  Both would counsel people through the same things.  They knew that if you wanted the prize you were going to bear the scars.  This was joy.  Dostoyevsky once said: “One thing I fear is not to be worthy of my sufferings.”  Their joy came in the suffering in the same manner as Jesus.

But what about Jesus?  He didn’t need the grace that Paul was given and his sufferings were unlike any other.  It was his pattern that the other’s followed.  So where was Jesus’ joy found?  The Gospels don’t reveal it.  None of the epistles of Paul reveal it.  The only verse that touches upon it is found in Hebrews 12:2, in context it reads:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12.1-3)

The author of Hebrews encourages the Church to continue its run, not only because of those that have gone on before us and are cheering us on, but because that’s what Jesus did.  Still the question remains, what gave Jesus his joy?  Verse 2 tells us it was his death, resurrection, and ascension.  The process is called redemption.  Paul was joyful for the grace showed him, James for the sharing of suffering patterned for him, but Jesus was brought joy in the redemption he brought others.  Despite the coconut!

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Isaiah 53: Peter’s Example

CjUByQaVAAA0ODQ“Flyover state” is the term that people who consider their land and lifestyle more valued on the coast to the right or the left of us call the ag-land that they fly over on their coast to coast red-eye flight.  In most of these states, cows outnumber people.  I for one never plan on living in a state where there are more people than cows.  Fly over states are places most people don’t want to go.  Suffering and the Christian life is a topic that most people don’t want to touch.  OT prophecy and the NT is a place most people don’t want to go.  Peter had no intention of flying over these topics.  Instead of avoiding the topic, Peter uses it as an example.

Peter uses Isaiah 53.9 as an example of how to encounter persecution and suffering.

“How do you live?” is a key component of the letter that Peter writes to those scattered all over the Empire.  Things are starting to change and the Church is drawing the ire of Rome.  Peter is writing from Rome, the hub of the entire world and the forefront of the hate.  He calls it Babylon (1 Peter 5.13) and Babylon wasn’t a real friendly place for the servants of Yahweh in the Old Testament.  The change is happening before Peter’s eyes and soon, unbeknownst to him, probably within the next few years, he would be the central figure of that persecution, being hung upside down on a cross at the hands of Nero.

“How do you live when the world is falling apart?”, asks Peter.

  • “Do you rejoice?” (1 Peter 1.6)
  • “Do you live holy?” (1 Peter 1.15)
  • “Do you live in submission?” (1 Peter 2.13)
  • “Do you live lovingly?” (1 Peter 3.8)
  • “Do you live with the same attitude of Christ?” (1 Peter 4.1)

Woven in and out of these questions is the theme of suffering.  The readers are keen to what is happening in the Empire.  They know about the suffering going on all over the world (5.9).  Peter is bringing them word about how to live in a volatile world.

This world is a hard place to live sometimes.  In America, it is easier than other places.  I would never compare my life here to those worshiping in underground churches in China, those being beheaded in the Middle East, or those in North Africa hiding scraps of the Bible so as to not have their hands chopped off for possessing the wrong scriptures.  However, I do have conversations and cancer, divorce, hunger, addiction, abuse, neglect, poverty, and violence, cross every language, cultural, or physical  boundary that man can imagine.  Though Peter is talking specifically about persecution, I don’t feel it outside the circle of application, to speak to any and every form of suffering that we encounter; be it from the hands of men, the works of the enemy (5.8), or simply the groaning of a fallen world (Genesis 3; Romans 8.22).

What happens when the worst happens?  How do you respond? How do you think? Ministry Handout–A Brief Theology of Suffering

Peter drew back to a time when the world was not a good place: the time of the prophets.  Isaiah writes at a time when Egypt and Babylon were the two greatest powers in the world.  Stuck between them was Judah.  A small country that each one had to go through to get to the other one.  They were their own ancient version of a fly over state for Babylon and Egypt.  Still, the greatest problem that faced Judah was their own sin.  They had wanted a King to lead them, so God answered wanting them to follow His will.  Saul, David, Solomon, all failed at leading Israel to religious reform.  So God raised up the prophets, to lead His people back to a covenant life…still no good.  Isaiah peers into the past, watches the present, and gazes into the future.

Idolatry would be their downfall and exile the punishment.  This was the low point for God’s people.  Taken at the hands of the Babylonians; seventy years away from home; no more Temple, or sacrifices, or…life.

But God wasn’t done working, however, and gives Isaiah some messages about a Servant who would come someday to bring His people back from another land, from exile.

Peter channels this example from Isaiah; a flickering of light in the darkest of times.  The Church is struggling and will continue to struggle with pain and suffering.  It’s part of their existence.  So Peter, having already used the lamb comparison with Jesus sacrifice on the cross (1 Peter 1.19), would draw on the image again, found in Isaiah 53, in order to show how Jesus responded to unjust suffering.

“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

It is a direct quote from the LXX except for the word “sin”.  Peter uses the common greek word for “sin” (amartia) in 1 Peter.  The translators of the Septuagint (LXX) chose to translate the hebrew word hamas, meaning “violence” or “injury”, as the greek word anomia which means “weakness” or “illness”.  The LXX translators were probably closer to Isaiah’s idea in their translation; but Peter had other, grander, implications in mind.

Jesus was without transgression and completely innocent.  Yet he suffered.  Back up a few words before the quote.  It was done as an example (21).  Peter’s real point was not the innocent/perfect lamb.  He has already noted the unblemished and without defect sacrifice that was offered on the cross (1.19).  This quote is all about how he suffered.  He didn’t respond in violence and returned no volley of insults.  He “did not repay evil for evil (3.7).  The word for “example”, hupogrammos, literally means “written upon”.  This is the only place in scripture where this word occurs, called a hapex legomena.  They were to write upon themselves, their hearts, how Jesus suffered.  It fitting that in chapter 4, Peter commands them to: “have the same attitude as Christ.” (4.1)

The recipients of this letter know suffering.  Peter uses the greek word for suffering, pascho, 12 times in this book.  He uses the word more than any other NT writer.  But Jesus set for us an example to follow in the midst of his unjust suffering.  It is fitting that pascho, “suffering”, is a cognate of pascha meaning Passover or Passover lamb.  Where sin is Passover is needed; where Passover is needed, death and suffering is there.  Remember Passover from the Old Testament.  The blood on the door frames had to come from somewhere.  Christ was our Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5.7) but in doing so not only provided the blood to save us, but Peter’s example in suffering.