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Reaching For The Lock

 


In time, a disciple would come to understand mysteries about
God, the Scriptures, and the right way to live. A good rabbi would set up
continuous learning opportunities. He would not merely explain everything in
one sitting, but would invigorate their learning ability with questions,
observations and joint problem-solving. The rabbi wanted his disciples to know
everything there was to know about himself and paid careful attention to each
student.

 

What was a disciple reaching for? What mysteries could they
unlock by following their teacher?

 

 

Matthew 16:

13 Jesus
went to the area of Caesarea Philippi. There he asked his disciples, “Who do
people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They
replied, “Some say John the Baptist. Others say Elijah. Still others say
Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

15 “But
what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah. You are the Son of the living God.”

 

 

Jesus would lead his disciples to specific places and
specific people to teach the ways of God. On this day when Simon Peter would
show an exceptional understanding of who Jesus was, the place had special
significance. This was Caesarea Philippi.

 

 

The pagans of Jesus’ day commonly believed that their
fertility gods lived in the underworld during the winter and returned to earth
each spring. They saw water as a symbol of the underworld and thought that
their gods traveled to and from that world through caves.

To the pagan mind, then, the cave and spring water at
Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld. They believed that their
city was literally at the gates of the underworld, the gates of hell. In order
to entice the return of their god, Pan, each year, the people of Caesarea
Philippi engaged in horrible deeds, including prostitution and sexual
interaction between humans and goats
.
[1]

 

 

Why would Jesus bring his disciples to such an ungodly
place? And why was it an important backdrop for understanding the true identity
of Jesus?

 

 

Matthew 16:

17 Jesus
replied, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! No mere human showed this to
you. My Father in heaven showed it to you. 18 Here is what I
tell you. You are Peter. On this rock I will build my church. The gates of hell
will not be strong enough to destroy it.

19 I
will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. What you lock on earth will be
locked in heaven. What you unlock on earth will be unlocked in heaven.” 20 Then
Jesus ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

 

 

They were standing on the rock by the cave known as the
gates of the underworld. It was in places like this that the world would see
the power of God revealed.

 

 

When Jesus brought his disciples to the area, they must
have been shocked. Caesarea Philippi was like a red-light district in their
world and devout Jews would have avoided any contact with the despicable acts
committed there. It was a city of people eagerly knocking on the doors of hell.
[2]

 

 

Jesus tells Peter and all of us– I will give you the keys
to the kingdom of God. You will have authority to lock and unlock things on
earth. The authority of Heaven is given to disciples of the Messiah.

 

It is the Kingdom of God that can empty out the den of
iniquity. It is the Kingdom of God that will set captives free and bring about
a new way of living. The demonic forces will be overcome, and disciples are
being handed the keys.

 

So, who are you with? I want to be Jesus’ disciple. I want
to abandon all else to enter the Kingdom of God.

 

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Disciples Say Goodbye To Everything

 


Think about what it means to be disciple– are you a
disciple?

 

 

Matthew 4:

18 One
day Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee. There he saw two brothers,
Simon Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were throwing a net into the lake
because they were fishermen. 19 “Come and follow me,” Jesus
said. “I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they
left their nets and followed him.

21 Going
on from there, he saw two other brothers. They were James, son of Zebedee, and
his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee. As they were
preparing their nets, Jesus called out to them. 22 Right away
they left the boat and their father and followed Jesus.

 

 

In the time of Jesus, it was a major thing to quit your job
working for your father. Many sons would take up their father’s business, just
as these teenage boys had done by becoming fishermen, and Jesus had done
becoming a carpenter with Joseph. It would be an insult to leave your dad
without warning, but the opportunity to become a rabbi’s disciple was something
that parents hoped for in their Jewish sons.

 

Not everyone had the grades or pedigree to be a disciple, so
when Jesus called them, it was a rare privilege that demanded a quick response.

 

 

Jesus was considered a wise teacher and thus could be
properly categorized as a rabbi, as the term was used in Jesus’ time. It wasn’t
until after the destruction of the temple in AD 70 that the title of “Rabbi”
took on a more formal meaning for those who were ordained in the rabbinic
movement. As time went on, the definition of rabbi continued to evolve. So,
yes, Jesus was a rabbi, as defined in the first century, but today He would not
hold the same title, as defined in modern-day Judaism
.
[1]

 

 

In our context today, Jesus is the rabbi (teacher) who comes
and asks us to follow him. To say yes, is to be willing to leave your family,
your livelihood, and the things you were counting on to bring you a secure
life.

 

A disciple chose to be fully committed to the path that the
rabbi chose. Full attention must be given to the concerns of the teacher.

 

 

The Hebrew term for what it means to be a disciple is
shimush chachamim. In context of the time, this means a “deacon/servant of
the rabbis.” Serving is essentially the first stage of discipleship. You
serve your rabbi as you learn how to follow the Word of God like he does. The
object of discipleship is to follow, emulate, copy, duplicate, and replicate
your rabbi, all while serving him.

According to the Babylonian Talmud, a disciple would
carry the rabbi’s baggage, prepare his food to his liking, and provide him with
money for his needs. A disciple could not contradict his rabbi in public or
rule against his rabbi in matters of the Torah. A disciple was obligated to
protect his rabbi
.
[2]

 

 

If you were going to make such a radical life change and
commitment to a man, you understood that he was investing in your life to teach
you the ways of God.

 

 

In turn, the duties of the rabbi are first of all to
teach Torah. He would train his disciples to emulate him and even surpass
himself in knowledge and practice of the Torah. The rabbi was obligated to
protect his disciples from heresy and from sin. For this reason, the rabbi has
the privilege to reprimand his disciples and judge their action.

These instructions are taken very seriously by the Jewish
community from the first century A.D. and in some circles even until this day
.
[3]

 

 

None of Jesus’ disciples really knew about His divinity until
his resurrection. They knew he was sent by God, but to them he was still just a
man. No doubt, a holy man that would open their understanding, but nonetheless
they knew him first as a man.

 

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Authority Of A Servant

 

Should we trust someone who says they answer to no-one but
God? It may sound like a good intention, but how exactly are they jointly fit
to the body of Christ? How are they learning to follow Jesus without discerning
His body in the Church? How can you truly be in unity with Christ and the Church
if you make it your mission to prove that everyone is wrong except you?

 

Every disciple of Jesus is given authority to do Jesus’
work. It is God’s plan that the Church become the agency of like-minded
followers that work cooperatively in the message and works of the Gospel.

 

So how do you find your authority and how do you live in
unity with Christ and His Church? Authority implies that there is a hierarchy
of responsibility, and that power is released through learning submission, just
as Jesus submitted to the Father and earthly authorities.

 

Over the next few weeks are going to look at what the
Scriptures have to say about legitimacy in being called a servant of God. What
do we know about authority, submission, and spiritual covering?

 

In this series, we will look at how authority was given and
released in the New Testament Church.

 

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Who Are You With?

 

Last week, I was at home when there was a knock at my door.
I’m usually suspicious of people that want to sell something or have a
clipboard in their hand. Expecting that it could be a scam, I usually skip the
small talk and say, “Who are you with?”

 

As it turned out, the young man with a badge was with Cogeco
and he was seeing if I wanted a better deal on internet. Once I could see that
he was legit, I opened up to his pitch. I ended up with faster internet for $12
less per month. He was happy for a sale, and I was happy for a legitimate deal.

 

Believe it or not, the badge and the paperwork gave him
authority to act on the company’s behalf and something good came of it. Still,
there are imposters that are looking to take advantage and will give you the
appearance of legitimacy, but they end up being crooked.

 

Authorized representation matters and you want to check
references before dealing with a new company. The same is true with joining a
church or following a ministry. Don’t assume that because someone presents well, you shouldn’t have some reference points to evaluate with.

 

When someone claiming to have a ministry comes to my door, I
want to know right away, “Who are you with?”

 

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Remembering The Elephant

 Ten years ago I was involved in a video entitled ‘The Elephant In The Room’. Norm Bishop was the men’s ministry director for Western Ontario District of PAOC. He produced this video that helped men begin to reckon with the common struggle of pornography and its’ trampling effect on a man’s spirit.

 

Ten years later, I am grateful for ministries like Covenant Eyes, The Freedom Session, The Conquer Series, Celebrate Recovery and so on. Hope you find this disruptive and helpful. I watched it again and want every man to know that there is hope and redemption in Jesus.

 

Get well soon.

 


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Marriage Is God’s Art

 


There
will always be a short-sighted, hard-of-hearing message that says sex is your right
and that you can set the terms for whom, when, where and how you experience it.
But that is inconsistent with the God who created it in high definition with
high fidelity.

 

 

Hebrews 13:

Honour marriage and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between
wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.

 

 

Sexual intimacy is a sacred communion between a wife and her
husband. The Song of Solomon is a beautiful piece of love poetry that describes
intense, strong desires and the sexual freedom that the two would discover in
the marriage bed. There is a great appreciation for the virtue and the
physicality of their spouse. There is a cry for faithfulness that promises a
great reward for exclusivity.

 

To say that marriage is a picture of the intimate love
between Christ and His Bride, is to see the high-resolution version of what
true love looks like. It is based in high trust, relinquishing rights and
control, and becoming one.

 

Marriage is God’s art – he makes something beautiful in a
marriage. We need to hold the state of holy matrimony in the highest regard.
Through a holy marriage goodness is multiplied into the world.

 

All of us who will follow Jesus are called to be faithful.
If you have infidelity, you have a God that wants to make you clean and put a
new heart in you. Do not settle any longer for a lesser god that promises the
world and delivers nothing.

 

You were made to be very good.

 

 

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What’s A Single Person To Do?

 


The world is filled with low resolution and low fidelity
ideas about sex. The more we see and listen to the world, the less we have a
clear picture of the true image. Whether you are married or single, you need
the High God of Heaven who is faithful to you. You must abandon and turn away
from the lesser idols of a world that cannot see clearly or hear God’s voice
accurately.

 

The etymology of the word ‘lust’ often has the meaning of
intense, strong desires. Desire and strong desire in and of itself is not a bad
thing. There are examples of Jesus and Paul saying how they strongly desired to
be with people or with the Father. Strong desires can be a good thing, but what
do you do with strong sexual desires?

 

Where desires get corrupted, distorted and given godlike
attribution, they become sin. Stop telling yourself that are not supposed to
have any strong desires. You have a sexual drive and a drive for intimacy that
highly motivates you. Beware of the fake lesser gods that want you to worship
and serve them instead of being faithful to God.

 

The sexual life of a single disciple may be filled with
intense longing, struggles with temptation and feelings of incompleteness. But
guess what? Those same feelings are often experienced by married people, too.

 

When I was a young man and looking to marry, I was under the
illusion that getting married would sort out my own struggles over sex. What
many of us discovered was that marriage is not a cure for dysfunctional
thinking. Marriage increased the demand for fidelity and became a place for
growing in new ways.

 

I am so happy that I did get married, and that God is always
uniting us as one. But we sell singleness short if we think that it is an
inferior state to tolerated until your spouse appears.

 

1 Corinthians 7:

Now as
a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were
as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of
another.To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good
for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot
exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to
burn with passion.

 

Some
people are single, and they need to see that as a way that God gives special
grace to them and interacts with them in a way that might not be found in
marriage. Are you pressing in to discover the joy of the Lord? Or are in the
waiting room and not really doing anything until God gives you a partner? 

 

No,
this is your time to embrace all that God has for you as a single person
connected to the body of Christ. Be in fellowship with others and serve God
together. Just because you burn with passion, do not rush to marriage as the
answer. Take advantage of your single years to grow in the fruit of the Spirit
including self-control. Become able to manage your life and be a servant of God
with your singleness. Then if the opportunity comes, you will be prepared to be
a good husband or wife and illustrate the love of God in a special way.

 

 

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A Note On Sexless Marriages

 

I want to speak to Christians that are married about their
sex life. It’s possible to be given to extremes and distortions that erode your
fidelity.

 

One extreme is to view sexual acts in marriage as dirty, a
necessary evil or unspiritual. The opposite extreme is to view sexual activity
as the primary purpose of marriage and elevate sex to a godlike status.

 

I know of couples that have not had sexual activity for
years. We understand that sex drives can increase and diminish and that two
people can have very different states of readiness. While there may be physical
and health reasons that a couple cannot have intercourse, there should be an
openness and willingness to please each other in intimate ways.

 

All of us grew up in the age of birth control, so sexual
intercourse has been increasingly separated from making babies. We need to
understand how revolutionary this is in light of history. Sexual pleasure has
been seen as being separable from impregnation.

 

For most of history, pregnancy was high risk to the child
and to the mother. Infant mortality rates and mothers dying in childbirth were
grave concerns that have dramatically diminished with birth control. In spite
of the risk to mother and child, the majority of history has shown that couples
believed it was a worthwhile risk.

 

With a high-resolution reading of our Scripture, we see some
detail on what sex in a Christian marriage is like. Couples are supposed to
have sexual intimacy in a way that expresses mutual respect and concern for the
other.

 

 

1 Corinthians 7:

Now concerning the matters about which
you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But
because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own
wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give
to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For
the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.
Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife
does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement
for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come
together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of
self-control.

 

 

The high-resolution place for sex is found in the disciple’s
bedroom. It is here that each relinquishes their conjugal rights to the other.
It is here where a man gives up the authority over his own body in order to
learn consideration for her.

 

The woman also gives up her conjugal rights to her husband.
She relinquishes the authority over her own body to him. There is a mutuality
in the Christian bedroom that makes allowances, learns patience, and honours
the other.

 

There is no place for angry demands or using sex as a weapon
against your spouse. There is always an environment of kindness and
understanding for each other.

 

There may be times when you need to abstain from each other
and focus instead on prayer and fasting. That is a resetting of your highest
love with God and the need to sometimes press in on some matter before God. But
this should not be a permanent replacement for the needs in your marriage.

 

There is not to be sexual deprivation. If you think that
your spouse should be deprived of your affections, you leave them unprotected
against Satan’s strategy to turn them into an infidel. Yes, there are times of
physical limitation, sickness, and low desire. But two people that respect each
other and can talk it through can identify what each need and find healthy ways
to unite.

 

Do not put your spouse at risk of losing their self-control
because you think they don’t deserve your attention and your surrender. That’s
true for men and women.

 

 

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The Idol As Functional Saviour

 

To read the Scriptures with high resolution and high
fidelity, you cannot miss the abundance of text where God speaks against
idolatry and witchcraft or sorcery. A close examination of what these are
reveals that the worshipper is abandoning the true God for something or someone
lesser. The lower power is elevated to be like God and ultimately to replace.

 

A definition of idolatry is “anything we serve, love, desire,
trust, fear, and worship…apart from God to give us love, joy, peace, freedom,
status, identity, control, happiness, security, fulfillment, health, pleasure,
significance, acceptance, and respect” (Gospel Transformation, pg. 59). 

Notice in
this definition the “give” and “get” transactional nature of idolatry. In
idolatry a person serves a god to gain what only the one true God can
ultimately give. To say it another way, idols are functional saviors that
people turn to for what only God can provide.
[1]

 

Whoa… functional saviors that people turn to for what only
God can provide. An example is found in Jeremiah’s message to God’s wayward
people. Listen to this message about their idolatry.

 

The infidel mistakenly believes that their fulfillment and
power is to be found in a lesser god. Repeatedly God calls His people to return
and be faithful. He will restore and he will cleanse from the stains that
lesser gods leave on our spirit, soul, and body.

 

 

Jeremiah 2: (ESV)

20 “For
long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I
will not serve.’
Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down
like a whore.
21 Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed.
How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine?
22 Though you wash yourself with lye and use much
soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God.

23 How
can you say, ‘I am not unclean, I have not gone after the Baals’?
Look at your way in the valley; know what you have done— a restless young
camel running here and there,
24     a wild donkey used to the
wilderness, in her heat sniffing the wind!
    Who can restrain her lust? None who seek her need weary
themselves; in her month they will find her.

25 Keep
your feet from going unshod and your throat from thirst.
But you said, ‘It is hopeless, for I have loved foreigners, and after
them I will go.’

 

 

God is saying that he had broken their bondage to slavery
and set them free. But the idolatrous heart says it will not serve the One who
has freed them. The chasing after other gods has a sexual overtone of
prostitution.

 

Instead of high fidelity toward God, the rebel practices
infidelity. There is no fidelity and no faithfulness to God. In the intense
longing for sexual fulfillment, the wayward one says that they are hopeless.
They can’t help but follow other gods.

 

Isn’t that a stunning picture of the learned helplessness
that comes from unfaithfulness? There is a fatalistic giving in to a hopeless
pursuit. There is no satisfaction to be found.

 

 

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High Resolution, High Fidelity

 

Just as a digital camera can film in 8K resolution, you can
also take grainy pictures on a cheap camera with low pixel resolution. The
low-resolution picture can give you an idea of what you’re looking at, but it
won’t give you the fullest colour and intimate details of what you are looking
at. High resolution means you are able to see much more of what is actually there.

 

The same is true in audio. If you listen to a song on an old
transistor pocket radio, you will not get the clarity of listening on a
high-fidelity system. Hifi lets you hear more of what’s actually there in the
sound mix.

 

There may be quaint uses for low resolution and low
fidelity, but life in the real world is preferable when you have twenty-twenty
vision and can hear well without a hearing aid. It is better to see and hear
things clearly. It is better to not be blind or deaf.

 

In order for God to help us understand, to see and hear most
clearly about His nature, God sends His Son Jesus as the highest resolution,
highest fidelity representation. Jesus said that if we see him, we see the
Father. You cannot get a clearer picture of who God is than by examining Jesus.

 

Fidelity is:

 

1.    
The quality or state of being faithful.

2.    
Accuracy in details: exactness
[1]

 

As we think about the sexual life of a disciple, there is a
call to fidelity. If you are single and celibate or married and faithful, we have
the same call to faithfulness. Be faithful and accurate in understanding and
applying yourself to what God is showing and telling us.

 

 

Romans 12:

Do
not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and
acceptable and perfect.

 

 

The world may get a rough representation of what is good,
acceptable, and perfect but it will always be low resolution and low fidelity.
Or the world will present an image or sound of virtue that is so blurred and
distorted as to be indecipherable from the original.

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