Jesus and the Bars
"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners," Matt. 9: 12 & 13.
Why did Jesus go to bars? I mean, effectively, that is what he did. He was known to associate with tax collectors and prostitutes; and he was called a drunkard and a glutton. I don't think he gained that reputation because he was always going to Wednesday night prayer meetings; rather, he seemed to frequent other spots. He seemed to always be showing up in unlikely places for a "religious" person, like parties and banquets. And it made the "church going" people of his day furious. So why do you think he kept going to bars?
Well, why does anyone go to a bar? And why do people join the Elks club? I think I know why. A bar or a club is one place you can go where you don't have to pretend you are better than you are. You can have five failed marriages, and the man next to you at the bar won't judge you. He'll just hold out his hand to you and welcome you as a friend. You can also use language that comes naturally to you, and no one will look at you twice. And if you aren't wearing nice clothes no one will even notice. A bar is a place where you can be honest with all your failures and still be accepted. Funny, that's what I thought church was supposed to be.
So, why did Jesus go to bars? Because it was the one place he was welcomed and received. He didn't judge the people, and they didn't judge him. He was able to have fellowship there. But you notice just about every time he went to church, he got thrown out! Or worse, somebody tried to stone him or throw him over a cliff! He was not welcome in synagogues. And Jesus went where he was welcome.
The religious people, for the most part, didn't want anything to do with him. They didn't want him in their churches. And above all, they didn't want him to bring those bums, criminals, and loose women with him into the church, because the "church going" folk were afraid these outcasts might stain the carpet or dirty the pews. So, because Jesus' friends weren't welcome in the churches, Jesus didn't feel at home there either.
It is not that Jesus wanted people to be failures. He was in the business of rebuilding broken lives. But in order to rebuild, people have to know they are broken. And they've got to have someplace to go where they can admit their need. We all need that. We need a place to go where people will not ridicule us for our failures and our weakness, but will love us and accept us instead; someplace where people will say, "it's okay." And it seems, even today, that you can be more honest with your failures in a bar than in a church. That's sad, and I know that is not what God intended. But I guess that is why Jesus felt at home in a bar and avoided places like church, where everyone has to pretend to be better than he is.
I can only wonder, where would Jesus go today?
The Myth of Neutrality
"He is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters," - Matthew 12:30.
In this country we have brought up on a lie. The lie is that the State can be neutral in matters of religion; that somehow there can be a separation of church and State. But this is not true. There is no neutral, dispassionate ground from which the government can view the free exercise of religion, and I'll show you why:
The State must either choose a standard of morals which supports the Christian world view, or it will end up choosing a standard which is opposed to Christianity. By proclaiming itself neutral in matters of religion, the State refuses to make a choice between competing views of the world. But Jesus himself said that there is no neutral ground. If a person is not for him, then by nature he is against him. No one can be neutral. This would apply to governments as well.
Take for example, the Christian standard of morals concerning human sexuality. The teaching of the scriptures is quite clear: God gave us sexual intercourse to celebrate within the intimate confines of marriage. The Bible insists on marital fidelity and identifies all other forms of sexual promiscuity as defilement and sin; whether it be fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or prostitution. But in the world, homosexuals say that their lifestyle is normal. There is nothing wrong with it. It is not immoral. Who is to say they are wrong? Unless you can appeal to the scriptures as the source of truth in this matter, you cannot say anyone is right or wrong.
But the State cannot appeal to the scriptures, because it claims to be neutral in matters of religion. Therefore, the State cannot make a determination between the Christian world view and the homosexual one. And so, by not choosing a Christian standard as the basis of its laws, the State ends up endorsing a plurality of moral values. But moral pluralism is not neutral, it stands opposed to the Christian view of life.
For example, through our taxes, the government supports organizations which undermine the family and which promote values which are radically opposed to Christian beliefs. Planned Parenthood, which receives U. S. Government subsidies, promotes and encourages promiscuity and encourages children not to consult their parents in matters of sexual morals. In their advertising they state: "If your parents are stupid enough to deny you access to birth control and you are under 18, you can get it on your own without parental consent. Call Planned Parenthood right now." (emphasis added) And in pamphlets distributed to teens without parental consent, PP offers the following advice: "For those who plan on marriage (to someone) eventually, early intercourse can also be a training ground." These beliefs are in direct conflict with Christian beliefs, yet the State funds these teachings, while it has refused to fund a Christian alternative.
What I am saying is that the State cannot be neutral when it comes to matters of religion and morality. By not choosing, the State chooses to endorse and fund a moral view of the world which is radically opposed to the Christian one. Because Christianity teaches that there is only one right way of living; only one standard of moral behavior; by its very nature, Christianity is opposed to moral pluralism. But the State, by not being in agreement with Christian teaching, ends up promoting moral pluralism, with its concomitant immorality. And in this sense, instead of supporting the Church or simply being neutral, the State ends up endorsing moral pluralism as the correct value system upon which the American system of law is based. And this value system is diametrically opposed to the Christian point of view. Christianity defines moral pluralism as deception not neutrality: "there is a way which seems right for everyone (that they can each choose their own way), but the end of that way of living is death, " Proverbs 14:12.
The State then is not really neutral in matters of morality or religion: by not choosing a Christian standard, it chooses the ungodly standards of this world as its foundation for its laws. So, rather than gather with Him, the government then scatters as it teaches this moral pluralism to its people. That hoped for place of neutrality then, really is but a myth. The government, by claiming neutrality, adopts the standards of this age.
by Jefferis Kent Peterson, I
If you are like me, you may have read where Jesus says, "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it," (John 14: 14). And then, there came a time when you prayed very hard for something your really wanted to come to pass. And when it did not, you got depressed and began to doubt the worth of the Bible and the truth of God's Word. It is a hard thing to be disappointed when you are trying to trust God's Word. When we are promised we can have anything we want, if we have faith (Mark 11: 23-24), we often get desperate to have faith. This is especially true when someone we care about is ill and may die; we want to have faith and we want it now! And while faith is sometimes immediately available to us in these last minute circumstances, more often than not, faith is firmly established in us by spending a lot of time in Father's presence over the course of many years. I want to encourage you to seek this true faith, because it is worth every sacrifice. And when you get your prayers answered, you really begin to know the love and the truth and the power of God in his faithfulness to his Word.
So that we do not get distracted or easily discouraged when we set faith as our goal, we need to have a proper understanding of what true faith really is. Faith is not a power we possess which we exercise independently from relationship to God. If we try and exercise a faith principle simply because we know it is the Word of God, what happens is that we may get caught in a bear trap of faith. Unknowingly, Satan will cause us to rely upon ourselves and our "faith" to cause things to happen in the world. This trap is very subtle, but it leads us away from a relationship to God into self-trust, spiritual legalism, and works righteousness.
We see the evidence of people caught in this trap when they reduce the faith process to a "name it and claim it" approach to releasing faith. We also see them begin to accuse others of not having faith. These are all signs of self-trust. And when this name it and claim it approach fails to deliver the desire of prayer, we see people fall into condemnation, defeat, and depression. This approach doesn't work, not because we don't have enough faith, but because it isn't true faith. This false faith cannot work, and God doesn't want it to work, because if it did, it would encourage us in a form of ritualistic legalism about his word and about our relationship to God that would be akin to magic. God is not a logical formula which we can manipulate at will. He wants the best for us. He wants to provide for us and give us our desires, but he wants to do it out of a relationship with us, his children; in a relationship built on love and trust.
Can you imagine a child, who came in to his father and screamed "give me this and give me that," but who never gave love to or received love from his father? What a terrible relationship that would be! The child would trust nothing but the power of his own voice because he would not know the love of his father. He would become greedy and selfish. Our heavenly Father has more concern for our welfare than that! He is interested in our character as well!
So, for good reason, faith is not a power which we exercise independently from Jesus, rather it is a trust that Jesus will do for us what we ask. Faith is being in such close relationship with Jesus that we know of Father's willingness and desire to do for us what we ask. This kind of faith only comes by abiding in his presence. It comes from knowing how much we are loved by our Father, by knowing his nature; that he loves to shower upon us good gifts that bring us pleasure. And if we know that he is willing to do for us whatever we ask, and if we know this not just mentally, but down in our deepest depths because we know his love within, then we will have all kinds of faith, and greater faith and ever increasing faith; all because we know of the Father; that he actually delights to give us the desires of our hearts. When we know he is really on our side in our prayers, that will make our faith rise up! And we will have the faith to see our prayers and our desires accomplished! This faith will not come to us simply by intellectually knowing his word, nor will it come in the abstract, nor can we force it to happen by treating God's word like a logical equation. It is borne out of a loving relationship with God our Father, His Son Jesus, and the Lord the Spirit. That is why Jesus told us to remain in him; so that we would know the character and willingness of God to act and so that true faith could be established within us. He said, "apart from me you can do nothing," which means that we will not be able to exercise any real faith under our own power, simply by manipulating the truth of his Word. But if we remain in the presence of God, then he says we shall, "ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you," (John 15: 7). And if we remain in him, that faith will rise up within. And by knowing his goodness, we shall pray and receive the desires of our hearts.
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