Hey Jude: Uncivil Unions

Jude 14-21

Thoughts craft our identity while words craft our perception. What does that mean? Without trying to sound too philosophical, it means what we think about, what we meditate on, what we calculate in our soul when it comes to the decisions we make, determines who we choose to be.

If we don’t spend time thinking about our decisions, we will likely lack a sense of depth and craft an identity based on our impulses. The second portion regarding our words will shape how others perceive us. While our own words do have power to inspire our inner being, our words, our communication or lack thereof express our identity to others.

This is why the book of Proverbs in Scripture warns us so much about hasty words, idle words, talking too much or talking too little. It is why James in the New Testament describes the challenge of taming the tongue. An individual can have a healthy sense of who they are and still give off terrible impressions or remain completely unaware of how others perceive them.

And then, there are some among us who just don’t care what others think at all. As dangerous as that can be, a greatest danger as individuals is disregarding what God thinks about us. This is why outright rejection or outright denial of God’s existence is so unattractive. It is also why those who are adamant about the claim of the non-existence of God have to be loud so as to let us know where they stand. The atheist is always trying to convince himself/herself . They could alternatively live in quiet uncertainty which is where most people tread a portion of their life.

Jude 16 describes a type of person that by their own words is discontented and confused in their identity. This person is characterized by dissatisfaction, by blaming others for their lot, by complaining about lots of things, by boasting loudly, by flattering others to gain an advantage. This person is victim to a mindset more familiar with their desires and pleasures than with their own heart. They have lost their identity to desire. And that state of life is deadly and draining for others to endure.

Even as I wrote the previous paragraph, I introspect and find myself wondering how much of the above describes me. How much of me is ungodly? How much of me has an unhealthy sexual identity as opposed to a Christ-centered identity? Are my thoughts or my words shaping life or death?

As I reflect, I also can’t help but have this assurance from God, that “I am the beloved.” God’s word lets us know that we live in a world where light and darkness collide. Individuals will choose passions that are wicked,destructive and instinctively cause division. They lack the Spirit of God so they can’t help but fight against the ways of God.

But those that have the Spirit of God have power in prayer and faith. We can build one another up, be kept in love while receiving mercy and the promise of eternal life. Furthermore, Jude states that in light of our collective identity as the beloved, we have a mission. This is the topic of the final portion of Jude

Hey Jude: Rhetoric in Rainbows and Rape

Jude 8-14

Verbal conflicts in ideology, theology, philosophy, and preference rarely lead to someone changing their stance on an issue. Most who engage in verbal disagreements over belief systems only come to new conclusions through a positive experience that runs contrary to their previous way of thinking.

Why would I change my mind unless I am convinced that this new outlook is actually beneficial?

In verse 8 of Jude, the writer explains that people desiring to stir up controversy introduce toxic perspectives rejecting rationality, authority, and healthy creativity. Their imaginings are rooted in a place of darkness rather than wide-eyed child-like wonder.

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For those that are adamant about a perspective that is contentious with God, Jude points to the words of an archangel. Michael addresses the devil himself. Rather than pronouncing judgment or issuing out punishment, Michael says, “The Lord rebuke you.” He hears the devils dispute and rather than defending, he calmly states that God Himself will do the correcting.

Here an angel uses his authority to say very little, but the angel is not silent. Contrast the angel with the attention the Church gains when someone in it or someone claiming to represent it usually says the wrong thing regarding sexual ethics. The tone and choice of words we use is important because words intending to sting or insult do not constitute Jesus’ rhetoric of love. Jesus was careful with his words which is why the Church should be quick to listen so we would be blameless if we are accused of doing more harm than good.

The Church should also remain unshaken in the Scriptures by advocating for a holy and healthy sexual ethic with a clear sexual identity defined by God himself. The Church needs to be vocal about the injustice of non-consent and abuse in all cultures while affirming that God has not turned his gaze from victims assuring that healing is available.

If we throw off reason and choose what we might desire over the way of God, we destroy ourselves. We act in a way that sells short the greatest gifts God has for us by abandoning our identity to our present feelings. We begin to believe either the lie that, “we are what we feel,” or “we are what we want to do.”

When we live life out of an identity rooted in either of those lies, we work up a lot of energy to justify our way of living while becoming apathetic to others. We start to see people in light of what we might gain from those relationships. We only do what appears to be selfless so long as we are unchallenged or not convicted by our own way of life. It’s a way that has thrown off accountability and has a sense of solidarity only around sensuality rather than the good of humanity.

This mentality wants to have the cake, eat it, and if the cake celebrates a certain occasion, also wants to change what is in fact being celebrated. That is what our sexual indiscretion does. It tries to replace my lack of self-control and places the onus on society or blames the unreasonableness of the law of God or blames the person we victimize.

There really is a warfare over our eyes, minds, and hearts, and rather than empathizing amidst struggle, it has been simpler to suggest that there is not really a struggle at all. We live in a time where the temptation seems to persistently suggest, “all of it’s okay, as long as its consensual, and some of its okay even if it’s not consensual.” In reality: none of its okay, unless it’s in covenant. Because in the confides of faithfulness is where real joy and love in sex and romance is found.

The evidence in Jude regarding those who advocate for a sexual identity outside the will of God are described through a series of analogies:

hidden reefs at love feasts, feasting with you without fear: more literally meaning: “those who walk along a ledge of a cliff over rocks,” as in these individuals are dangerously leading others close to a fall without any fear of that fall.

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shepherds feeding themselves: a shepherd only concerned with their own appetite fails to fulfill their calling in feeding the sheep, in other words a shepherd who doesn’t shepherd is a victim of lost identity.

waterless clouds, swept along by winds: a cloudy day blocks out the brightness of the sun and the benefit clouds bring is usually rain for nourishing. a cloud that doesn’t bring water just darkens things, advocating lifestyle decisions that are not nourishing just confuse people.

fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted: autumn is the season in which trees were expected to produce fruit, they failed to live up to the expectation, advocating for unfruitful ways that have failed to produce life. These trees are dead in that they are unfruitful and secondly uprooted, or in other words not firmly planted in accountability or solidarity in Christ.

The consolation is that God himself stands above any influence that runs contrary to His plans and designs. He both corrects and draws a distinction between the ways of God and the ways of the world. There is a line of separation, one way is damaging, while one way leads to fullness of life. One way needs to fight for justification  failing to be satisfied, while another rests in the joy of covenant and assurance in a community of the faithful.

Hey Jude: To Break the Silence of the Lambs

Jude 1-7

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Almost 50 years ago, in August of 1968 The Beatles released a song that was written by Paul McCartney to comfort John Lennon’s son after an affair that Lennon had with Yoko Ono. It’s a complicated endeavor to try to box a song in with a specific meaning, but the song was admittedly a product of someone’s affair. Whether “Hey Jude” seeks to affirm a specific affair can be debated. But it is an admission to the pain that results from unfaithfulness. For a song written 50 years, it has a lot in common with a 1 chapter book of the Bible by the same name from 1,950 years ago.

Jude, the second to last letter/book in the Bible is a letter for the here and now. It is addressed primarily to those who acknowledge they are beloved in God the Father and preserved and kept for Jesus Christ. But what is so strange about this particular letter is the 3rd verse suggests that he intended to write a letter about salvation but changed his mind. Instead, he writes about contending for their faith because he feared something was happening in the Church.

Jude 1:4 “Certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

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Sensuality is an interesting word because it describes conduct that lacks restraint, unhindered lust, improper handling of the human body. And Jude feared that 1,950 years ago people would influence the Church to pervert or misappropriate grace as a means to excuse any type of sexual conduct.

He describes a situation in which individuals (a reference to Israel) saved from the land of Egypt by Jesus or (God the Father) but later ceased to believe. He references fallen angels that gave up their identity and authority to succumb to eternal punishment. He also mentions Sodom and Gomorrah and surrounding cities that indulged in sexual immorality and pursue unnatural desires.

Why does he do all this? To let the Church know that rhetoric and loud-speaking has the power to influence as propaganda. This influence has the potential to make one forget their identity in being a follower of Jesus.

The world is getting louder and busier and everyone is listening. The problem is the Church has largely fallen behind with an answer to the sexual identity question. And when it does stumble through an answer it is divided and disjointed. The Church needs legitimate prophetic voices void of any agenda pocketed by politics.

It needs a voice of truth and gentleness, unwavering in its truth, comforting in its gentleness. It’s a stern voice for those of us that are harming ourselves with our sexual indiscretion. Fortunately, the remaining verses in the book give some words for the Church. Jude’s first reminder and comfort appeals to our identity as ones owned by Christ. His second word is urging the Church to learn to walk in the authority of that reality.

Be Your Own Building – Current Temple

Ezekiel 40:3-42

When I moved into my new apartment, I was concerned about space. I share the apartment with one other person, Jun-Yi, my much smarter and more faith-filled roommate. He seems to get life, and we agree on how we would like to maximize our space.

We believe our living room should have lots of room for people to sit. We like people and we don’t seem to value television or video games so our living room will have an extra chair where a TV would be. We also want the living room to house our guitars and be a place where we can worship and read. This is also idealistic because we both are not home very often.

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In Ezekiel 40 a Measuring Man lays out the plan for the New Temple. Verses 5-16 contain measurements for the Eastern Gate, 17-19 measures the Outer Court, 20-27 measures the North and South Gate, 28-43 measures the Inner Court, 44-47 measures the Chambers for the priests, 48-49 measures the Vestibule, chapter 41 measures the Inner Temple, and chapter 42 measures the Temple’s Chambers. I spared you 2 1/2 chapters of measurements; you’re welcome.

God felt that a detailed plan for the Temple was important enough to convey to Ezekiel in a vision. Ezekiel gets a visionary virtual tour of the future temple and writes it down for someone else to build. This building was a holy place and inside of the Temple was a most Holy place, where a strong manifestation of the glory of God would reside. Yet, at the end of the day it was still a Temple made by human hands and brought down by human hands.

I work in construction, I don’t build things. Actually my first job was with an antique dealer, dealing with the furnishings of a house. It is why I like old furniture and am pretty good at moving things. We had to load a lot of pieces of furniture securely on trucks while fitting as much stuff on the truck as possible.

I did some landscaping for a summer; I worked with floor tiles for a month; I worked putting up siding for month; I painted some things before, but I am definitely not the guy you want to hand tools to, especially left alone. If God were to give me a vision of a building and the blue print, I’d write it down and remember the measurements.

If you needed an explanation of why something should be done a certain way, I might be able to use convincing rhetoric, but I couldn’t build it for you. I have very soft hands and a normal handshake for a guy who has spent slightly more of his adult life working in farming and construction than in ministry, writing and teaching.

It’s just another part of what makes me hard to pin down. The line between writer and wrestler, pastor and performer, master of none, creates complications for me in understanding my own identity just as much as anyone else. Combine that with my moving patterns one sees either instability or adventure.

This is why I relate to Ezekiel in his journey. He’s a man without a home, who lost his wife, who does a lot of weird prophetic things, and gets creative pictures, inspiring visions and is content to not be the one to execute things that can tangibly point to the restoration of Israel.

When God gives me a prophetic word for someone I usually see a picture, then given the words to articulate what the picture might mean. I couldn’t draw the picture or give you 5-step plan to accomplish the task, it’s not how I am wired.

It’s hard for me to follow 3 or 5-step plans because I’m conditioned to seeing them turn into 10-step plans or seeing the plan crumble before me. This isn’t an excuse; I’m also pretty undisciplined and I get sidetracked by relationships. 9 times out of 10 I will usually choose spending time with people to getting a task accomplished. Why do laundry when you can sit around and do nothing with a friend for 3 hours?

By now, I know what you might be thinking: “This blog post has turned into a weird insight into you rather than an explanation of the temple in the 3 chapters of Ezekiel. You seem to be ignoring the text.” To a degree I am but I’m not ignoring the concept of the Temple.

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In the New Testament a veil was torn and the concept of the temple turned from a majestic structure in which one meets with God to the wonderfully made me and you who can meet with God any time anywhere. You and I became the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Our hearts and mind become the new blue print in which God is building and reconstructing. He’s working in and through our personalities to create a most Holy Place for His Spirit to dwell. There isn’t just one Temple where God’s glory dwells. God now dwells by His Spirit in each of us.

There are certain implications that come from this reality. The places we enter as carriers of the Spirit become holy places by living as Christ in every and any situation.

God, may I allow you to work out the intricately detailed measurements and plans you have for my life and trust you in the process.