Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Be Human First!

Be Human First!
A Study by Pastor John � April 1999 (revised 3-14-2010)

Mark 2:23 - 27:

    "And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.
    And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?
    And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?
    How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the showbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?
    And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath."

May I repeat?

    The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath!

This was one of Y'shua's main and most controversial themes. Traditionally devout Jews have placed strict Torah observance above everything else. Strictly obeying the 613 commandments (as delineated by Rabbi Maimonides) has been the key concept in Jewish righteousness and Y'shua of Nazareth often challenged this legalistic aspect of the Jewish religion. According to the Rabbis (and/or Pharisees) to save a life, one could violate Shabbat, but short of that one must obey the Written and Oral Torah as completely as possible to be a good Jew. Torah observance was considered everything.

Have you ever met people who were so "holy" you just wanted to shake them and wake them up? I sure have! Such people are seemingly so "holy," so otherworldly, that they are of no earthly good to God or anyone else!

Such people just love to quote the Scriptures AT you, to tell you exactly how, where, why, and when you are, in their pious estimation, missing the mark of God's standard! Such white washed sepulchers (Matthew 23:27) love to condemn people to Hell for minor (and often questionable) infractions while they fail to do even the basics! They condemn others for not dressing up for services when they do not even observe the biblically mandated day for worship! Master Y'shua was quite critical of such religious hypocrisy. Where is their love for their fellows? Where is their biblically mandated compassion?

But you know, there is good news today! If you're hungry, you can eat the show bread! If you're hungry, you can gather corn on the Sabbath! Because you see, Shabbat was made for you, and not you for Shabbat! This does not mitigate the Sabbath in any way, God forbid, rather it returns us to its original intention of giving glory to HaShem our Creator and our Sustainer.

Likewise the Bible was made for people, not people for the Bible. So, if you're hungry for God the Word of HaShem is your food! Study it, consume it, bask in its light and receive of its freeing power. Y'shua of Nazareth invites you to reach out and take the fruit of his love for as John 1:1 says, Y'shua is the Word of HaShem made flesh! The Bible is meant for the children of God, not for scholars and pundits alone!

Its a balance. Don't misunderstand me here, I love the Bible! I read it, I study it, I honor it, but the fact is, the Bible didn't save anyone! HaShem did through Y'shua our Cohen Hagadol or High Priest! Our relationship is with the personal Living God of Israel and His Only Begotten Son, not with a book and not with sets of rules and regulations. AND that Book draws us ever closer to Master and to HaShem! Both are true. Both are essential.

Despite this, some well meaning Christians just love to take the Bible and try to control and legislate the lives of others based upon their limited understandings of its teachings. They try to make people live for the Sabbath instead of allowing the Sabbath to be the blessing it is intended to be! Such people condemn others and teach that they must not be who they are. They demand that others must change and deny even their basic natures and personalities when the Y'shua said he came not to condemn the world but to set it free! HaShem and Y'shua of Nazareth love diversity! Just look around you!

Were such judgmental Laodiceans (compare Revelation 3:14-19) correct that would be Bad News, not Good! But the Gospel means "Good News"!

I'm not meaning to pick on anybody here, but in 1856 the Reverend Thorton Stringfellow spoke for the Southern Baptist Convention when he proclaimed:

...Jesus Christ recognized the institution of slavery as one that was lawful, and he regulated its relative duties...I affirm then ... that Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery...

Reverend Stringfellow was a widely respected Baptist minister in Culpeper County Virginia and author of the widely distributed A Scriptural View circa 1856. His views were fairly standard for the period.

Believe it or not, it was not until 1995 that the Southern Baptist Convention issued a formal retraction and apology for their denominational support of slavery! Again, not picking on the Baptists here, but we need to understand how commonly even sincere Believers twist the Scriptures to condone their own prejudices still today! But Y'shua stands with his arms open wide and invites "Whosoever will" to come!

More recently in 1991 the Reverend Pat Robertson, founder of the 700 Club and the Christian Coalition said the following concerning Jewish people:

The New Testament reveals that Jews both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men. History records the terrible sufferings the Jewish people have experienced as a result.

This example of continuing antisemitism is from an editorial he posted in the Christian Coalition's official newsletter dated July/August 1991. Yes, "in the name of Jesus" many people continue to not only hold anti-biblical views but even to boast about them! Such people have a form of godliness but they deny its power (II Timothy 3:5)! Such deceived Nicean Christians conclude that the Shoah (Holocaust) and other atrocities were the Jew's fault, that they deserved it! While claiming to serve the God of Israel such people condemn His Chosen People and believe they are thereby serving Him!

Another example. In 1992 the Reverend Jay Grimstead, director of the Ecumenical Coalition on Revival wrote:

Homosexuality makes God vomit."

This comment was quoted in the LGBT publication the Advocate, Oct. 20, 1992. The Reverend Grimstead thereby notified the magazine's readers that the god he worships wants nothing to do with them. I'm sure that exclusionary comment brought lots of unsaved gays and lesbians into the Kingdom of God!

Such hateful intolerance and Biblical abuses remind us of those immortal words of the Bard (William Shakespeare):

Even the devil can cite scripture for bias purpose."

Yes indeed and he often does! "God hates you Black people!" "God hates you Jewish people!" "God hates you homosexual people!" These Christians scream; "Now accept His love for you!"

Yeah... like that's gonna win souls! People always look for mercy from people who hate them!

For far too long countless Nicene Christians have missed the central theme of Y'shua's message! LOVE.

John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

What did the Master stress time and time again? What was his central message? Was it to blindly obey human traditions without regard to the potential harm they cause? Was his focus Law over Grace, Justice over Mercy? God forbid! Was it hate and condemn your neighbor? No!

Recall the woman caught in the act of adultery? The religious people wanted to stone her to death. And this was the biblical teaching under the Law of Moses! They could correctly cite the Bible as their authority to kill this poor woman! But recall Y'shua's words to her over-pious accusers:

Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.

Master Y'shua's teachings are that we must love those who stumble, even if they are our enemies. That we are to turn the other cheek to those who would strike us. That we must not judge others because as we unfairly judge them we may be judged by the same narrow measure! Imagine if HaShem judged us with the same harshness we judge one another! May heaven help us!

No! Y'shua's message is not like that:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

I don't want to be judged harshly or prematurely nor condemned! Do you? Then judge not!

As we read the Master's words recorded in the Bible we find -- at places like Matthew 7:28 and 29 -- that those who heard his teachings were astonished by them because he spoke from his heart with power and wisdom rather than according to the letter of the Law.

When the Pharisees had heard that Jesus had put the Seduces to silence, they were gathered together.
Then one of them, who was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and said:
Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it, You must love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets
-- Matthew 22:34-40

Its so simple and yet so utterly profound! It is impossible to realize this level of love in our own power and strength. How then can we boast (Ephesians 2:9)?

How can we love our neighbors, let alone our enemies, as we love ourselves? And yet this is what we are all called to do. Only when we consistently do this are we free to judge... and then we would not do it!

Yesterday [as I originally gave this talk] at Cabrillo College hundreds of us gathered together and proclaimed that hate is not acceptable at Cabrillo, in Santa Cruz or any where else in our lives. We came together as young people, old people, Black, White, Asian, as Christians and Jews, as Buddhist, Hindus, Sikhs and Native peoples, we came as Progressives and Conservatives... (it was a wonderfully diverse turn out). We all came there united in just cause and with a single voice we stood against the Ku Klux Klan whose members had desecrated a local Jewish Synagogue and graveyard and assaulted two lesbians in the campus parking lot. It was a wonderful show of solidarity in love!

Love requires action.

One way we can love our neighbors as ourselves is to stand with them when them face persecution and bigotry; realizing that together we stand but divided we will most certainly fall because the only thing needed for the tyranny of evil people to succeed is for good folks to do nothing.

We love our neighbor when we commit ourselves to their defense and well being. We understand that if their freedoms are not enforced one day ours will doubtless be denied as well! we understand that if they are forced to go to bed hungry then our own needs may likewise fall by the way.

We love our neighbor as ourselves when we commit ourselves to honoring their diversity, not merely tolerating it.

The heart of Y'shua's message I believe is that we are to truly love our neighbors as ourselves. The answer to the question "Am I my brother's keeper?" is yes! We are in this together! Only when we allow ourselves to be truly human is this possible. We must lay aside the walls and labels that define and divide us: I am Christian, I am Hindu, I am Jewish, I am Pagan, I am gay, I am lesbian, I am straight, I am American, I am Russian, I am Asian, etc.

We are all human! We are all children of one Parent. As we discuss and debate the many important issues in life our common humanity must never be forgotten.

First and foremost I am a human being! First and foremost I am a child of the One God. When I understand this, then I can understand that first and foremost you also are a human being! You are unique and wondrously made! As a follower of Y'shua of Nazareth when I look at the person who is you I should be able see and appreciate the diversity you manifest, your beauty and uniqueness. In each other we should behold first and foremost God's diversity, God's beauty and the inestimable price He paid to liberate the world (John 3:16,17)! If Y'shua loves you that much how could I ever hate you!

Understanding that we have all received of HaShem's love how can we remain divided? How can we hate one another when we realize that we are all imperfect sisters and brothers, created from the dust of the same earth?

In you I see the hand of HaShem at work -- and when I fail to behold this I need to repent and ask Y'shua to restore my spiritual vision so that I see things as they truly are through his eyes. The color of your skin, your sexual orientation, the language you speak, and the paths you have walked... In your diversity, I see my own unique Path, my own fears and loves, my own dreams and failings. In you, I see GOD at work. It is only as I see through the eyes of faith that I can truly reach out and love you as you are, or at the least, that I come to develop a true desire to do attain to this vision!

As Y'shua of Nazareth promised:

If I be lifted up, I will draw everyone unto myself.

What did the Master mean by this?

Did Y'shua mean he would draw all the "right sorts of people" and leave the rest behind? No. He taught that when we care the poor among us we're really caring for him. When we minister to the hurting, we're actually ministering unto him, when we welcome the rejected, we're really welcoming him because:

John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Keith Green - The Sheep And The Goats (live)

This is the heart of Master Y'shua teaching.

Wherewith shall I come before HaShem, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
Will HaShem be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth HaShem require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
-- Micah 6:6-8

Yes, there will always be those who seek to divide people into groups and subgroups, who abuse the Scriptures to their own ends. But when all is said and done:

We are to: Love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind. And to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Everything else, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, our buildings, our doctrines and rules, our riches... everything else is given to help us accomplish this task.

Thank you very much. May God bless you as you continue Reaching for the One!

Shalom and Maranatha

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