God’s Messenger? God Himself!

As two ships pass in the night, one observes a display of light dancing on the horizon above the other, oblivious to the horror and terror unfolding for its passengers.  Only later did RMS Carpathia learn that the fireworks they saw that night were the flares of a distress signal, a message if you will, as the HMS Titanic foundered to the depths of the North Atlantic.  While that was an important message, there have been many others throughout history just as significant.

Let me tell you about another message with special attention to the messenger…  His name is Jesus!  It is my assertion that He was the greatest messenger of all time and that He brought the greatest message mankind needed.  Early in His ministry (Mk 1:38) Jesus tells His disciples that one of the reasons for His coming is to preach or proclaim to those who would listen.  As you can see, Jesus has a message for us.  The scope of this Reflection isn’t intended to address His message, but rather to focus on the messenger.  Who is this special man?  This question has been of interest to man for almost 2000 years; in fact even among His disciples this query was presented.  At one point, Jesus Himself asked His disciples who people said He was, and after they answered Him, He went on to ask them an even more pertinent question… “Who do you say that I am?”  It was Peter who responded with, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”  Is this an adequate answer?  Do we truly get a full sense of just who Jesus is?  The clearest explanation has to be found in the first chapter of the Gospel of John.  “In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”  Verses 1 & 14 tell us that Jesus, who came and dwelt among us, was none other than God.  The messenger to mankind was God in the flesh!  This is difficult to comprehend, but true!

 Now, returning back to my introductory remarks I remind you of the missed message between Titanic and Carpathia.  A second message indicating the iceberg’s location intended for Titanic’s captain never reached him, thus setting the stage for the loss of hundreds of lives, marking one of Maritime’s greatest tragedies.  How much more tragic would be the failure of the world to hear and heeding the message of God the Messenger.  A key statement by Jesus was that He “had come to seek and to save the lost”.  Without His message, we are lost.  Have you heeded His message in your life?

Copyright © 2012, Nolan P. Rutter

Jesus Came to Call Sinners

Everyone loves a party!  Many opportunities for these activities ‘intrude’ on our lives regularly!  While I jest about intrusion, it is no secret that we party for birthday’s, wedding’s, anniversaries, retirements, not to mention dinner parties, office parties, block parties and the annual New Year’s Eve or Super Bowl party.  We’ve been known to even observe this practice within our congregation.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for even Jesus attended a party or two during His ministry, giving some clergy a sense of approval for their own decisions to “party”, but I digress… 

Let’s direct our focus on one of Jesus’ occasion to gather with others for a social event.  He had just called Matthew to follow Him, and in return Matthew called together some friends to meet Jesus.  Keep in mind that Matthew was a tax collector and not well thought of by the Jewish people.  When the Scribes and Pharisees saw who Jesus had chosen to ‘rub elbows with’ they were aghast!  Jesus’ response to them was to tell them that healthy people don’t need a doctor and that he hadn’t come to call the righteous, but rather sinners unto repentance (Lk 5:32).  Please understand that those who are righteous are in the relationship with God that He wants, while self-righteous individuals see no need to respond to God and sinners have yet to respond to Christ’s call.

The question that begs to be asked is why Jesus felt the need to call the unrighteous to repentance… The answer is multi-faceted.  God is seeking those who are contrite and lowly in spirit with whom He can “dwell and revive…” (Is 57:15) In a parable Jesus taught, He spoke of the prayer of a self-righteous Pharisee and the humble prayer of a tax collector.  In closing, Jesus clearly states the tax collector was justified rather than the Pharisee confirming which type of person is receptive to God (Lk 18:9-14).  Paul tells young Timothy (2Ti 2:24-26) that Christian efforts are to “gently correct those in opposition” with hopes that they “come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil.”  In another letter, Paul informs the brethren at Corinth (1Cor 6:9, 11) that the unrighteous will not inherit Kingdom of God… listing a number of practices that are deemed “unrighteous”, and then immediately reminding them that they had repented of those activities and had been washed and sanctified.  Jesus came to call all sinners… as a sinner, have you heard and responded to Jesus’ call?

Copyright © 2012, Nolan P. Rutter

Thankful For the Word of Christ

We are approaching yet another observation of Thanksgiving along with an opportunity to reflect and share with one another what it is we are thankful for.  I submit to you that the Thanksgiving of 2012 is a far cry from any of those in our history, from the grateful pilgrims who initiated this observance or even those of the time of President Lincoln who made the first proclamation to make this a national holiday… and yet we’ve always had things to be thankful for in this, the greatest nation in the world, even during the most difficult of times.  Permit me to inquire, “What are you thankful for this year?” 

Scripture teaches us in a number of places to be thankful.  On one occasion a thankful leper prostrated himself before Jesus after he and nine others had been cleansed of their debilitating condition.  This man returned to the one who was responsible for his healing because he was thankful to Jesus and in doing so he set for us an appropriate example.  Jesus is one we can be thankful for in many ways, including being thankful for His words…  Let’s review just a few ways beginning with the way He spoke those words… as one with authority.  All others teaching God’s precepts do so by referring to His authority, but Jesus’ “I say to you” statements make it clear that He was the one declaring the edicts…  This is consistent with His statement to the disciples after His resurrection that ‘all authority has been given to me, both on earth and in heaven’ (Mt 28:18).  He also clearly credits His words as those of His Father and not His own, making them heaven-sent (Jn 12:50).

I am thankful His Words will endure forever… (Mk 13:31)  There is no danger that His message will disappear or ever change…

I am thankful His are the words of eternal life… (Jn 6:68)  Everyone desires life eternal, now we know who to turn to for it…

I am thankful His word will be what judges us… (Jn 12:48)  No more do I have to ‘wonder’ by what measure I am to live by, both here in this world and so too in the world to come…

Are you looking for something special to be thankful for this year?  Perhaps it’s time to be more thankful for the words of Jesus and for the many blessings we can experience through them!

Copyright © 2012, Nolan P. Rutter

The Most Important Question

“Enquiring minds want to know.”  Most of you reading this will recognize that phrase as the tag-line of the National Enquirer magazine for a number of years.  They were right.  We are inquisitive creatures.  We want to know “Where’s the beef?”  We want to know “Who shot J.R.?”  We ask ourselves, “Where’s Waldo?”  We even wax philosophical and ask “What is the meaning of life?” or “What is my purpose in life?”  These questions range from light-hearted to life-altering and yet none warrants being considered the most important question ever asked.

It has been said there are no ‘dumb’ questions however I do believe that questions have differing levels of importance.  How do we assess level of importance?  This can only be determined by the value of the information being sought.  Throughout scripture we see questions asked by many including God, prophets, kings, faithful and unfaithful, Jew and Gentile.  Which was the most important?  God asked Adam and Eve “Where are you?”  Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?”  Jesus asked from the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?”  The apostle Paul asked Jesus on the road to Damascus, “Who are you, Lord?”  Each of these questions has its own importance and specific purpose, but an honest review does not merit giving it the title of “Most Important Question Ever Asked.”  I believe a question of that magnitude must be one that has eternal consequences.

Allow me to present to you three questions from the New Testament that I find strikingly similar yet asked by three distinctly different types of individuals.  First, a rich, young, law-abiding Jewish man approaches Jesus with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mt 19:16)  A group of Jews, upon hearing the convicting words of Peter’s first Gospel sermon asked, “Brethren what must we do?” (Acts 2:37)  The last question to consider was posed by a Gentile man responsible for the prisoners in a jail in Philippi.  When Paul prevented the jailer from taking his own life, the jailer inquired of Paul “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)  This, after his physical life had been saved, giving us the impression he was speaking of another type of salvation.  You do see what I feel to be the most important question ever asked, don’t you?  Have you asked that all-important question?  Have you embraced the answers to these questions?  Hmmm, important questions indeed! 

Copyright © 2012, Nolan P. Rutter

Judge Me, Please!

A retort offered by many today is, “Judge, not!” and in all honesty those words carry an element of truth.  What is left out of that declaration is found in the context of Matthew 7:1-5 giving us the ‘bigger picture’ Jesus reveals.  Immediately following those words is the admonition that those who judge will be judged.  With that being said, if you have examined your life, and have no issues to be concerned with over being judged, is there any reason to fear being judged?  This is borne out by further examination of Jesus’ next words in which He speaks of a speck in a brother’s eye that is to be removed.  Who does the removal?  It is none other than another brother, but only after he removes the log from his own eye so that he can see clearly to make the correction.  So, we see that the words “judge not” aren’t necessarily absolute, but rather a call to self-evaluation and correction with regard to sin within our own lives.

Are there other scriptural passages that can help us to better understand?  Consider what the apostle Paul told the churches in Galatia (Gal 6:1).  If a brother is caught in a trespass, one who is spiritual should seek to restore him.  This requires an assessment, a judgment if you will, for we cannot know another is ‘caught in a trespass’ without examination.  James 5:19-20 is another scripture we can see a similarity.  In this passage we see that anyone who ‘strays from the truth’ and is turned back from the error of his way shall have his soul saved.  Again this cannot happen without some type of assessment as to behavior?  If we hold to a “judge not” attitude, how many would be lost for all eternity?

Now let us consider the words of the apostle Paul in his first letter to the church at Corinth.  In chapter five, Paul makes it clear that God is the One Who judges.  But even a simple review of the text reveals that God judges those ‘outside the church’… and we have no business with them other than teaching them the Gospel.  However, in that same passage of scripture, specifically verse 12, we see that members of the church judge other members of the church.  Why?  One of missions of the church has been said to ‘keep the saved, saved’ and this can only be done if we are on watch for our brothers and sisters and their possible sin, error, or trespass and then reach out to them, restoring them to the body.  I would hope that someone would do that for me, as much as I would do so for them.  Perhaps our plea should be, “Judge me, please!  But, remember to be gentle about it, as well.”

Copyright © 2012, Nolan P. Rutter