The Sacrifice of God: How God Himself Was Torn Apart

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The Sacrifice of God: How God Himself Was Torn Apart

Covenant was the highest of all agreements in the Bible and remains so today. The act of making a covenant consisted not only of ceremony, but of blessings, curses, and blood. One of the most instrumental passages for explanatory power of God’s covenant is found in Jeremiah 34:17-20:

“Therefore, thus says the Lord: You have not obeyed me by proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and to his neighbor; behold, I proclaim to you liberty to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine, declares the Lord. I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. And the men who transgressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant that they made before me, I will make them like the calf that they cut in two and passed between its parts— the officials of Judah, the officials of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf. And I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives. Their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth.

In this passage, the curse of the covenant is highlighted. When the halves of the calf were divided, the people making the covenant would walk between the parts as a promise that if they broke the covenant, then they themselves should be torn in half as a curse for breaking it. They effectively walked a straight and narrow path in order to uphold the promise. This is seen in an elevated way in Genesis 15 when God Himself makes His eternal covenant with Abraham as a promise that ALL people would be blessed through him.

In verses 9-10, Abraham obeys God’s instructions to bring a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. He then cuts each of these in half, but instead of passing between these himself, something else amazing and unheard of happens in vss 17-21.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

God Himself passes between the parts! He makes a promise that if He does not fulfill this covenant, then God, the God of all creation, would be torn in two.

And that is exactly what happened.

In Matthew 26:26-27, see what Jesus says about this same covenant promise made in Genesis 15:

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

When Jesus tore the bread in half and said, “This is my body.” He was saying, I am about to be torn in two for you. But, He wasn’t being torn in half for us because of anything He had done. We know this from 2 Cor 5: 21 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God Himself was about to take the curse for us all. In Mark 15:33-34, we see God Himself being torn in two:

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In that three hour period for the first and only time in human history and for eternity, God Himself was torn apart. The Father turned away from His Son because of the sin of all mankind, for our sin! God Himself tore Himself apart like the calf in Jeremiah and the animals in Genesis 15. He tore Himself and between Heaven and Earth, a straight and narrow path of the New Covenant Jesus instituted in His blood (Matt26:27) was made for you and me and His Spirit walked the path between (Gal 4:6) as the Spirit of God in the form of the fire pot did in Gen 15. And now Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me!” Matt 16:24.

We tear ourselves from this world and die to ourselves to follow this path and in doing so, we are joined to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forever!

Jesus Works Chapter One Jesus – A Man of Many Talents: Upper Echelon Jesus

Jesus Works Chapter One Jesus – A Man of Many Talents: Upper Echelon Jesus

Jesus the Son

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I understand how being a son might seem to be outside the bounds of work. But, it’s important to realize that not only was the position of son in the first century an occupation, it was an elevated position in society. Inheritance and the transfer of power and wealth in first century Jewish society was very similar to what we see throughout the Old Testament. The firstborn son basically inherited the greatest share of the father’s wealth and then carried on the family name. In Jesus’ time, He as a Son was doing this very same thing. He had all the inheritance, he was the firstborn, and He was expected to rule in His Father’s house and learn how to be just like Him. Not only was this a huge responsibility, it was very hard work and carried with it dominion over hundreds (or in Jesus’ case all of humanity for all time). This brings us to the upper levels of work in society. In a wealthy and powerful family of that day, the place Jesus occupied would have carried with it great wealth and influence. Not only did Jesus understand this extremely important position, He excelled at it! We’ll look at Jesus’ as the Son later, but keep in mind that as The Son, His work was and still is pivotal to our understanding Him and His Kingdom as well as our place in His Kingdom as heirs and sons.

Jesus the Prophet

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While the position of Prophet in the Old Testament was definitely one of power and exaltation, it was also one fraught with danger and rejection. However, in the manner of highly favored prophets like Samuel and Nathan, Jesus was able to bring information from the Father to the world and make a difference that was immediate and eternal. In the God-centered governments of David and Solomon, prophets were seen as not only respected, but absolutely vital to doing God’s will. As God’s special Prophet, Jesus was placed in the highest position of being a prophet that any prophet ever had been placed.  We don’t have a modern day equivalent to that of the Old or New Testament prophet, but we do have those who are in today who advise those in positions of power. In His infinite wisdom, Jesus perfected the work of the Prophet to such a degree that no other prophet before or after Him could even touch His insight and power.

Jesus the Priest

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Priests also were included in the higher levels of society in the first century as well as the Old Testament. They were very powerful, usually to their own spiritual detriment. But, those who humbly carried out God’s will were counted as those who were closest to God, not only in proximity, but in heart, soul, mind, and strength. Jesus’ position as our High Priest is absolutely singular in all of history. His place of importance as intercessor cannot be overstated. But, how does this position of priesthood apply to us and to our own work? When we look at Jesus the Priest, we see someone who doesn’t hide that power or keep it from those who follow Him. There’s a place of work and importance in the priesthood for us all and we need to know what that is.

Jesus the King

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The highest level of work anyone could think of if asked would have to be King. Even during this epoch of history when the office considered as the “most powerful in the world” is occupied by one man, it’s really not a position of power anything like what a king wields. Kings don’t answer to anyone. They rule completely and without need for advice or instruction. At least, that’s how a true Kingship should be. This is the kind of King we have in Jesus. He is perfectly loving, just, kind, and powerful. There is no comparison anywhere else or at any other time in human experience. But, do you know what is the most amazing part of Jesus’ Kingship? He shares it with everyone in His Kingdom! We are princes and princesses in an eternal Kingdom.

Work Application

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All of us do different jobs and have to make various decisions about how we are going to work for God. Working for God isn’t just about the work we do for Him in His Kingdom, but the way we accomplish our daily jobs. Working with love, kindness, and deferential treatment toward our coworkers, supervisors, and subordinates must be a part of how we conduct our Christian walk. We think of Colossians 3:17 many times when we consider how we work. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” But, what does Paul say immediately preceding this verse? “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (vss. 12-14).  Working in Jesus name is more than just saying it; it’s a change of heart and mind where we live it! This is where Paul ties up the loose ends with verses 22-24: “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Wow! Isn’t that freeing? Isn’t it great to know that we are serving the Lord of Heaven and Earth, Jesus Himself? I can think of no better motivation to do a good job.

Questions for Thought

  • If a supervisor, coworker, or subordinate approached you in anger about something you did or did not do at work, how would you react? What if it was not your fault?
  • How do you accomplish your work as “working for Jesus”?
  • What kinds of conflicts might we come across when working for the Lord in our secular occupations?

Jesus Works Chapter One Jesus – A Man of Many Talents: White Collar Jesus

Jesus Works Chapter One Jesus – A Man of Many Talents: White Collar Jesus

Jesus the Public Relations Rep

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We now shift into the realm that most people today would identify as “white collar” work. Jesus knew how to bridge the gap between those who were considered the working class and those who were in the upper echelons of society at the time. Today, He still knows how to do this. Interestingly, there wasn’t really a middle-class during the early first-century. Basically, there were those who lived on most of the wealth and then those who were the poor, scraping along through life. Of course, there were exceptions like tax collectors (Matthew), but even these exceptions would have been considered so far above the poor in social and monetary status as to be considered wealthy. However, Jesus was in the mix with all of these segments of society and was able to understand and communicate with all of them, effectively demolishing the boundaries that separated them. This comes to fruition in the early church and later as Paul writes about the equality of humanity (no slave or free, male or female, etc.) Jesus was and is the penultimate PR guy. We’ll look at just how great he is at understanding and dealing with humanity on all these levels in a later chapter.

Jesus the Teller, Teacher, and Trainer

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There are three main ways to get information across to other people. You can tell them something. Telling is basically just giving someone information. I tell you that Jesus is God’s Son. Now you have the information. The end. Teaching goes farther. When you teach someone, you give them the information and then tell them what it means. I tell you Jesus is God’s Son and that He died to save you from your sins and that means that if you become a Christian, you can be with Him forever. But, the ultimate way to get information to someone is through training. When you train someone, you’re making a disciple. I can tell you that Jesus is God’s Son and that you can have eternal life in Him, thereby teaching you about what it means, but you won’t really get it if I don’t live it. Jesus was what you would call today a Full Professor of teaching about how to live in Him. He combined telling, teaching, and training into a perfect synchrony of how to have life and have it more abundantly. In our study on Jesus the Professor of life, we’ll get a clearer view of how He Professed life and how those who tell, teach, and train today can produce life and power in their own work.

The Fatherless: Our Duty

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Last Thanksgiving, I was allowed to present a lesson before the Dalraida church of Christ concerning orphaned and fatherless children. The lesson was written and presented specifically for the Thanksgiving Appeal for the work at Childhaven. The third area I covered in the lesson was our duty to orphans/fatherless.

 

Yes, we have a duty, based on command, the same as we have a duty based on the command to love, teach, spread the Gospel, and worship.Look at how the nation of Israel included the lonely in their culture: Deut 16:14-15 “You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.” God’s people should accept the fatherless as Family…do not deny them love, affection, and physical needs. Love them with God’s great love! We will “be altogether joyful” if we do this. This is because we are truly family when we show the love and compassion God shows to the fatherless, widow, and those who have been marginalized by society.

In 2 Samuel chapter 9, David shows us a perfect example of what it means to love and care for the orphan. After he became king over Israel, David asked if there was a surviving member of Jonathan’s family to whom he could show his love. Most of the people probably already knew there was only one person left; Mephibosheth. He was a crippled man, most likely shunned by his fellow Israelites since he was not only considered worthless as a man, but reviled as a member of Saul’s house. But, when David heard about Mephibosheth, he took him in with no thought of how Mephibosheth could benefit him. In fact, Mephibosheth was crippled and probably required more care than most would. It’s the kindness and love we should exhibit to children who need families.

Zechariah 7:9-11goes further toward the call for love, justice, and mercy toward the fatherless. “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” We have a duty to render true judgments – don’t misjudge or prejudge a situation. Don’t presume to know about someone’s situation before knowing the facts. Have mercy on the lonely. Be kind and let them know they are loved and cared for by God’s people. Only then can we say we are truly fulfilling this command.

The next passage will probably penetrate your breastbone deeply as it does mine. Deut 24:21 “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.” This may be an indictment on most Americans – How often do we look at our paycheck and say, “I’m going to buy this and this and this” When we should not go over our vineyards again and again, but leave some of it for those who truly need it? God always reminds us that we were once slaves to sin and therefore we should share what He has given us with those who are still “aliens” lost in the wilderness.

Finally, James gives us the core statement we must seek to understand and abide by in 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Do you want true religion? If you do, this is it, folks. This is where you need to focus your hearts. Worship, baptism, prayer, and every other item we focus on as Christians are absolutely necessary and important, but taking care of orphans and widows is DEFINED as True Religion. If you want your religion to be true, take care of widows and orphans. Of course, keep yourself unstained from the world. And I believe that this goes right along with caring for those who are weaker, because what does the world say? “Step on whoever to get to where you want to be! Don’t give that extra money to help the less fortunate, use it for what you want! Don’t trust God to provide for your needs, He will leave you high and dry!” Don’t listen to those lies, God’s people. Have courage and love and practice true religion!

What’s Next?

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I think it all began with idol makers back in the Old Testament. They made something that was so new and shocking, it got people’s attention and they actually set it up as something worth bowing down to. Over the millennia, it has trickled down in various forms, sometimes manifesting itself through religion, sometimes through music, art, or dance. But, no matter how you look at it, shock value continues to prove its worthlessness as a true, creative currency.

It’s nothing new. People have been getting naked and making offensive statements and paintings and songs for thousands of years. So, what makes people continue to pay attention to all of the stuff we see a la Gaga and Cyrus? Could it be that people get bored with their “normal” lives and need extra stimulation? Maybe it’s because there’s a realization that some things have been done before and the shocking seems novel. No matter what it is, when people become desensitized to the “shock” of today, how insane will the next thing have to be to get consumers of crass to point their antennae toward it?

Around a decade ago when my wife was a student at the University of Georgia at the Lamar Dodd School, we saw a student exhibit that included a drawing of crucified male genitalia. At the time, we both were appalled by the image; offended. As Christians, it made no sense to us why someone would go out of their way to make such an image. But, as time went on, it became clear that other people were going to try to outdo even that image. But, instead of it becoming more and more shocking, the material became less and less artistic and meaningful. Instead of making informed and important statements, the students were obviously only looking for attention. How artistically disappointing. The art became all about the artist. And as any good artist should know, the artist is the LAST thing you should think about when considering the art form.

So, what’s next? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe we’ll see something akin to live porn acts. Extreme violence could be the next wave with something akin to the Roman Colosseum. But, no matter what it is that seeks to shock us next, it will never be so powerful as the thing that engenders love, peace, and joy in the human soul. I hope we look there first and leave the shock in its proper place; Hinnom…

Where’d My Joy Go?

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For a while now, I have been struggling with myself and my inability to embrace joy. I’m generally a happy person, but happiness and joy are two completely different things and I am in the middle of trying to figure out how to get past some things that seem to be in the way of being a better friend, husband, father, and servant of God. Here are a few obstacles in my path and might be in yours as well:

1. Trying too hard. I’ve noticed that ambition almost always gets in the way of joy. Joy and contentment are very close to each other. So, when you are in the throes of ambition, it’s understandable that it would be difficult to be joyous and not always reaching for the next goal. How can I get around this issue? I believe that ambition is important and even integral to joy, but it must be balanced or seasoned with an understanding that I can’t be “on” all the time. It seems that every moment I think about what I want to acheive next; what I “need” to accomplish. While it’s important to set and attain goals, it’s also important to take time to just “be”. Joy is in contentment and “being” is part of being content. Just “be”.

2. My expectations are too high. This goes for myself and for others. When you expect too much of yourself, you will often fail those expectations and end up feeling terrible about yourself. However, my main problem is that I expect too much of others and find myself almost continually disappointed by other people. For instance, I think about suffering in the world a great deal of the time; mostly the suffering of children. I lead a ministry over care and provision for orphans and fatherless, which allows me to see this suffering first-hand. So, much of my life and thoughts are consumed with thinking about these kids. This makes it easy for me to judge others and wonder why they’re “throwing money away” or “wasting their time” when I see them post pictures of their families that were just taken in a professional photo shoot. Or I wonder why they couldn’t come to and give at a benefit dinner, then I see that they went to a sporting event or concert and spent who knows how much money to “treat themselves”. I know, this is judgemental and it’s hard for me to deal with, especially when my family and I forego these types of luxuries so that we can give to help children or the poor. Which leads to the last issue I’ve noticed in myself…

3. I think I’m something special. The plain fact is that since I believe I’m doing good things, it makes me feel like I’m somehow better than others. The other fact here is that I AM NOT. I’m an imperfect, weak, and sin-laden soul who needs help and peace and forgiveness just like anyone else.

I know this post is awfully ranty, but I needed to get some things out and also find a way forward through this weird and messy me-ness. We all struggle in life. I just want to be able to not think too much and not abdicate my joy.

I hope you will, too.

The Ten-year-old in You

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My oldest son is ten today and I have to say he’s a great kid. He’s smart and funny and really sweet, but most of all, he’s creative. My wife is an artist. She does amazing and beautiful things with fiber, paint, and paper that have been passed on to Luke. Ever since he was old enough to hold a brush in his hand, he has been creating art. I love to watch it unfold as he thinks right onto the page.

Today, it occurred to me that maybe I’m not so different and neither are you. We all have this creative, excited person inside us, jumping around and yelling, “I want to make something pretty!” I think that maybe, if we just let that person out more, the world would be a funner and prettier place.

Love you and love your art.