Monthly Archives: September 2011

Cultivating a Culture of Honor (Part 9)

As Jesus strode across Palestine, the swath He cut through the false piety and the empty works of religious elitism left a wake that only a real faith could walk on. Jesus came to be an example of what a doer of the word looked like. The spiritual scenery of the stage from which he entered and would later exit, was filled to overflow with hearers only.

Simplicity is often overlooked by those who think they have it all together. When you think you need nothing you usually have nothing to give and the religious community of Jesus’ day was essentially bankrupt when it came to the issue of honor. For them honor was demanded as their acts of self-righteousness were paraded on a daily basis in the Temple or the community synagogue. Their demands for honor destroyed their willingness to offer it first. Jesus threw this out-of-control vehicle in reverse and did the simple things that true honor always demands.

Jesus touched the untouchable and invited them to touch him—giving them relationship. It was a simple touch—but a touch that had the potential to change someone’s world. Dignity was restored and honor was given in a touch.

As Jesus walked the highways, the city streets, the narrow pathways, and the sea shore, He was constantly scanning the scenery. He saw people—not just the prestigious, the powerful, or the ones with flamboyant personalities. He saw all their personalities—the rich Pharisee, as well as the poor farmer. He looked at their situations, their circumstances, and the desires or lack of in their hearts. He visually witnessed the despair of the crowds, the indifference of the religious, and the depravity of their rulers. He saw it all—nothing escaped His vigilant stare.

And in that gaze that missed nothing, Jesus gave honor back to those who hungered to be seen. To be seen was to be acknowledged as valuable. Jesus looked and saw the invisible, giving them back their worth. Their culture considered them unimportant and therefore interpreted them as worthless—effectively rendering them invisible. Their status, needs, wants, or requirements were considered non-important, and thus they existed but were not acknowledged except for their ability to pay higher taxes, which only added to their culture of dishonor.

Jesus looked people in the eyes—not past them. He saw them for who they were and treasured their value with eyes of compassion rather than judgment. A great example of this is found in the story of the immoral woman who anointed His feet at a feast given by Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). She entered the room to the haughty glances of disdain and the stone-cold glares of judgment. To be so invisible, everyone eyes were fixed on her, but their stares peered through the spectacles of her dark past. The crowd saw only what she had done, but Jesus saw her for who she was. They saw her past; He saw her potential.

 But in the midst of this feast, Jesus took center stage and pointedly asked Simon a question: “Simon, do you see this woman?” Jesus was looking into her eyes, through the windows of her soul, but Simon refused to do that. To acknowledge her value was to admit his own flagrant sin.

Jesus honored people by seeing them. He restored their dignity by acknowledging their worth. To see someone through the eyes of compassion is to grant honor. Focus on the invisible and your sight will become like Jesus.

Cultivating a Culture of Honor (Part 8)

Jesus bestowed honor through His personal interaction with people. He ministered and moved among the people, meeting the emotional and spiritual needs, as well as their physical needs. For Jesus, it was never “either or,” but always “both and.” His modus operandi was comprehensive—holistic—complete. He saw the beauty hidden within every person—the diamond in the rough—and responded appropriately.

The simple techniques of honor Jesus used are often overlooked, lost in the miracles themselves. Indeed the miracles are supernatural, filling us with wonder and excitement. They excite us, but by themselves they compose only a part of the whole story. We must not become so enamored with the miraculous that we make mundane or even unimportant the simple acts of honor that the Lord sowed into souls as He cultivated a culture of honor among the common people of His day.

Honor will not allow us to avoid any person—no matter how atrocious their situation, horrendous their condition, or incomprehensible their actions. Honor is given not necessarily because it is deserved but because it always elevates its recipient. That elevation is just another word for an unassuming act of dignity. Jesus was a master at the restoration of lost, stolen, or damaged dignity, and He achieved it through effortless acts that we can all imitate. There are many, but let me share three examples over the next couple of blogs.

The unbalanced religious practices of the first century rendered those who suffered from disease, despair, demonization, or death untouchable. The spiritually elite, whose faith was worn like an expensive Armani suit for all to see, refused to recognize, much less minister to those who were hurting all around them. Their pious orthodoxy resulted in nothing more than a blind narcissistic love of self which became the breeding ground for the egocentric brand of false faith we see masquerading as “Christian” today.

In Jesus day, leprosy stripped away every shred of a person’s dignity and honor as its rot pared the flesh away from its victim. These men and women were the unclean—the untouchables of society—forced to live apart both socially and religiously. Theirs was a helpless situation without hope.

When confronted by a man whose body was consumed by this awful disease Jesus reached out and touched him (Matt. 8:2). When the Lord’s finger tips rested on the ravaged flesh of that man’s body, honor was given and a lost dignity was restored. Deep in his soul hope sprang up. Yes, Jesus completed the act by healing his body, but the initial healing began with this simple yet revolutionary conduct. Jesus touched the untouchable and invited them (not just the leper, but the prostitute, the terminally ill, the demonized, and the much hated tax collectors) to touch Him. He honored them with something that was absent in their lives and withheld by their society—relationship.

Physical touch is a powerful sign of honor and a necessity for real relationship. There are countless individuals along your path today that hunger for a reassuring handshake, a gentle hug, or a pat on the back. They are starving for human contact rather than the hateful contempt they have become accustomed to. Study the miracles of Jesus—look at how often He touched the untouchable restoring what sin, or sickness, or the self-righteous had stolen. He gave honor through His touch.

Physical touch appropriately done at the right moment can give a desperate person hope, courage, strength, or whatever it is they need. Yes…we can do miracles, but not from long distance. To cultivate a culture of honor, we must be willing to touch our culture.

Cultivating a Culture of Honor (Part 7)

Honor is not an intellectual concept that should be debated by erudite philosophers or academic prodigies. Honor is meant to be demonstrated. It can only be given. When it is taken, it is always an act of dishonor. Honor was meant to be given away not collected. Offer honor to everyone you meet and God will pay huge dividends on your investment.

There is no greater demonstration of honor than the example seen in the life and ministry of Jesus. If you’re looking for an instruction manual on “how to” honor—look no farther than the gospel accounts of His life. They are filled and running over with illustration after illustration. Jesus honored—recognized their value—every person He encountered.

 How did He do it? That’s a very good question. The word “how” denotes Jesus’ capability (what gave him the ability to honor “every” person) and His mode (the techniques or manner He used) by which that honor was granted. Let’s be real here a moment. It’s hard to give honor to someone who has hurt you, lied to you, abandoned you, or used you. If you don’t like someone it’s tough to honor them, and yet Jesus did. There is never a hint of dishonor in His vocabulary, actions, or attitudes. What was His secret? Let me deal with the “how” of His ability—that is what made Him capable of doing this?

The answer is simple—Jesus was filled with the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit—totally submissive to the Spirit’s gentle voice and careful guidance. This is also the reason Jesus was able to do the miracles He did. I was taught Jesus did them because He was God. A pretty biblical answer I thought until I read John 14:12 in which Jesus declares his followers will do the same works He had done and even greater ones. Yes, you heard me. We’re supposed to be doing the things Jesus did—healing the sick, casting out demons, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom. If Jesus did even one of those things as God we have a problem because this verse then ceases to be true.

I believe Jesus is 100% God and 100% man at the same time. But, I also believe Jesus chose not to use (I do not believe He gave them up at anytime—a big difference) His power as God between His birth and His dead. One of the purposes He came for was to fulfill what Adam failed to do—in a real sense Jesus was the second Adam. To do that, He had to live life and do ministry as a fully obedient man—with our limitations. I believe Jesus exercised the power of the Spirit through the gifts of the Spirit under the leadership of the Spirit. That is, everything Jesus did while here on earth He did as a man filled with the Holy Spirit. He willingly limited His God attributes and chose to submit Himself to the same restrictions we all encounter, all the while fully submitted to the Spirit. Therefore, because Jesus did it—we can do it. Ouch!!! We really have no excuse.

Thus one of the “how’s” of honor comes by our flowing in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We have a supernatural capability and no excuse for not giving honor to every person we encounter. If Jesus did it—we must do it!

Cultivating a Culture of Honor (Part 6)

The single most important event in all history is the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Without it we have no hope—there is no answer for our sin. It was here that God became man. He became the God/man giving up none of His deity as He put on humanity. Jesus has always been God, but in the Incarnation He made an irrevocable decision to personally identify with humanity forever. Jesus has always been God and from that moment on will always be man. That is the deep, mysterious beauty of the Incarnation.

As human beings, we were created in His image, and at the Incarnation, He took on ours—choosing to endure our limitations—our weaknesses—our humanity so that He might give us limitless life, eternal life, and power. In the Incarnation, Jesus Christ—God of very God—honored humanity by becoming a man. Think about that for a moment—Jesus became flesh and pitched His tent with us (John 1:14). He took on the form of a bondservant (Phil.2:7) being made like a man.

When the power of the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and Divinity joined humanity in that single conceptional cell in her womb—God honored humanity with an overwhelming honor. God united with us not based on what we could do for Him, but rather on what He would do for us. He took worthless flesh and bone soiled by sin’s dark stain and made is priceless.

The value of any object in the marketplace is based on what someone will pay for it. Price is affixed by supply and demand. Sinless perfection was the demand none of us could pay. Therefore the supply to fill the demand was practically slim and none—that is until the God/man Jesus Christ stepped onto the world’s stage through the womb of a young virgin at a stable in Bethlehem.

Throughout His life, Jesus showed us honor by fully identifying with our frailties and limitations. He truly became one of us. He knew hunger and thirst, physical weakness, and emotional rejection. He knew love and endured envy and hate. His existence fully spanned the human experience—except that He committed no sin.

And in His death, Jesus imprinted humanity with an infinite price tag of honor. How much are you worth right now? Not much you might be thinking. I beg to differ. On the cross a spiritual transaction was made that redeemed you from the slave market of sin, whose eternal destination was damnation in hell. In that cosmic transaction, God exchanged His Son for you—His value for yours.

How much are you worth? If you can calculate the value of the Son to the Father, you will begin to understand the price God was willing to pay for you. Now…I’m not sure about you, but to me that value is best described by the word honor. If God was willing to honor you and me that much, surely we can learn to recognize the value we have to each other. Truly, my friend, this is where genuine honor begins.

Cultivating a Culture of Honor (Part 5)

What I am about to say may offend the great guardians of outward religious piety and horrify the cloistered purists who practice an endless list of denominational do’s and don’ts. For most of my life in the faith, I was taught to never, never—n-e-v-e-r—glorify in any form or fashion the frail shells we call humanity. Whatever you do….never lift or build up man. So the tendency then for most believers is to de-value, denigrate, and deny their own value and the value of everyone else around them. Thus, a ghastly seed of dishonor has sprung up and the harvest it has reaped is far reaching and deeply entrenched in all of us, for buried within is this aberrant belief that we are worthless. We are not! There I’ve gone and said it and even put it in print.

            I happen to believe in the biblical principle of depravity. Apart from Christ, we would all exist in that state due to our sinful condition and be eternally separated from God’s presence. I realize, as well, that I can do nothing apart from God and that in reality He needs nothing I can do. You may be thinking…Hum…isn’t that the definition of worthless? No, worthless is “without value.” Again—we are not worthless!

            We have grown to believe that and built a religious system that supports and perpetrates this lie. To achieve worth or value in this pseudo system demands that we (not God) do something to change that. Therefore, our religion demands our labor. Thus, the only value we have is based in what we can do, how well we do it, and how often we do whatever it is we’re supposed to be doing. And that my friend is what most people are wondering around trying to find out—what is it that I am supposed to be doing that will make God happy when in reality I can do nothing that He needs. Seems a little hopeless huh?

            That’s where this issue of honor re-surfaces. Another biblical word for honor is value. God values human beings and has given us worth. All that stuff about us being worthless is just a bunch of bull. Earlier I shared how God honored us in creation by creating us in His image and likeness. He stamped us with Himself and we are the workmanship of His hands—we have value.

Not only do we see it in through our creation, but we also see it through God’s care of us. God does not waste time, effort, or energy. The Psalmist asks in Psalm 8:4: “What is the son of man that You care for him?” God cares…that means He is concerned enough to visit or attend to whatever that need is. Ultimately, the greatest need we have is spiritual and God met it through Jesus Christ.

Value in the marketplace is determined by the price of an object. Supply and demand and the uniqueness of that object all play a part in affixing a price. In God’s economy our value—the market price—is based on His choice to love and He has chosen to love us apart from our inadequacies—our inabilities—our failures—our depravities. God has honored us by loving us unconditionally.

So…honor really is important. If you never realize how God has honored you, you will never adequately honor another person. We’ve only scratched the surface here, and we will look at more in the next few blog entries.

As you contemplate what I’ve said consider for a moment your ultimate value.What are you worth? That answer rests in the price God was willing to pay for you…

Cultivating a Culture of Honor (Part 4)

The last time we talked, I shared the concept of honor through creation. My point was God honored us in, through, and by the act of His creative power. Every person—no matter their prestige, power, position, or lack of—is valuable and deserving of honor. I believe this to be a divine principle on which we as a culture will rise or fall—and we are fast tumbling into the bottomless abyss of relativism and an aberrant brand of social re-engineering at the moment.

This divine concept of honor stands in direct opposition to the voice of a so-called empirical science, or modern entertainment, or hip social morays, or a decadent culture clamoring for the right to rule supremely with the sole intent of smothering the voice of right and reason. Let me show you what I mean with some simple illustrations of a few “isms” whose time has come to be “was-em’s.”

The religion of evolution devalues human beings by placing them on the same level as any other plant or animal. It insidiously destroys the honor we are to have for one another. At its root it teaches what has popularly become known as the “law of the jungle”—the belief that only the strongest survive, and thus, the weak are necessarily expendable on Darwin’s altar of species.

The problem (there are more than I can deal with) is when this “ism” is translated into our cultural experience we tend to forget about our brothers and sisters who are struggling—who don’t have it all together—who are drowning in the black water of despair, or poverty, or sickness, or a hundred other things that destroy the fabric of humanity. We turn away and ignore them—leaving them on their own. Instead we celebrate the strong, the successful, the beautiful, and the powerful. These are the esteemed and the most often imitated. What we honor in culture is what our culture becomes. Evolution tells us to honor the strongest and bid adieu to the weak. In doing so, we bid goodbye to our own selves should we become injured, sick, lose a job, endure the death of a spouse…you name it. Everything can change in a moment and if only the strong survive—humanity without God will surely become extinct.

Racism is a religion as well whose worshippers deify their own selves. In essence they have become their own gods.  Racism is narcissistic dishonor run wild. This deadly “ism” declares its particular brand of participant to be superior and all others inferior. Racism is a cancer in any culture—no matter the flavor of those who imbibe its deadly smoke—religious or social. Every person is valuable—no matter the color of their skin or the beliefs they hold in their heart.

I could go on and on but I think you catch my drift. There are innumerable beliefs, systems, and doctrines at work with only one desire—to destroy the belief that there is a God who has revealed Himself through the very creation we are all a part of, and nowhere plainer than in every man, woman, boy, and girl.

Jesus declared that the greatest commandment was to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Loving ourselves is not the problem—loving God and proving we do by loving our neighbor is the crux of the issue. Everything is at war with this commandment.

Honor fleshes out the Great Commandment of love—all the other “isms” have scarred the landscape of creation with a trail of death carved out in what we call human history. Read a page or two and see what conclusion you come to.

Cultivating a Culture of Honor (Part 3)

The first two chapters of the book of Genesis are invaluable tools for establishing God’s original and perfect intent for creation. It is here we find His perfect pattern—His signature blueprint—His magnum opus if you will. If you want to understand how things are supposed to be—what the perfect will of God was—just look at the beginning, which is what the word “genesis” means.

On the sixth day God created man (the original word means male and female—i.e. humanity). Genesis 1:26-31 tells us God created man in His image and likeness. God bestowed glory on the man and woman in their creation. He honored them by doing this. They and their descendant were to be the visible representatives of the invisible God.

Psalm 8:4-6 reveals the depth of what God intended in creation: “What is man, that You take thought of him? And the son of man, that You care for him. Yet You have made him a little lower than God (the word is Elohim—the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 1 and 2 for God), and do crown him with glory (honor) and majesty (another word meaning ornament, splendor, and honor)! You made him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.”

Humanity was clothed in God’s glory. We are not gods and never will be, but we are dressed in God’s glory. He gave it to us along with majesty. In creation, humanity was honored by being created in God’s image and likeness—dressed by God with glory—with honor. At the culmination of that day, God spoke something different than on the previous days. He said, “This is very good!” That superlative makes all the difference.

On that day God gave humanity an intrinsic value through how and when they were made. They were the last things created—the apex of His creative masterpiece. Creation follows a pattern that gets progressively more complex the farther it goes. He stamped them with value and affixed a price tag within them that read “Precious.” Along with this honor, God gave them dominion—the right to rule all creation. Clothed in His glory they were to express the weight of that glory through their attitudes and actions to the rest of creation.

You know the story—they blew it. But in blowing it, they did not lose the gift of honor or glory given them through their creation. That image and likeness is still there—though marred a bit. That’s why Jesus came—to restore everything that had been lost.

Now back to this idea of cultivating a culture of honor—this honor given at creation is still inherent in the human package. It is a part of our essence. We don’t earn honor, grow into honor, or even achieve honor. Every person is given honor as a part of who they are. It doesn’t matter whether you’re born in middle class America or a poverty-riddled slum in some third world country—male or female—educated or illiterate—red, yellow, brown, black, or white skinned. You have value—not for what you can do, but because of who you are. You are created in the image and likeness of God. You are the image bearer—an Imago Deo—of God. A faint one…maybe—a messed up one…perhaps—a marred one…certainly, but when all is said and done—you are one—created in the image and likeness of God.

This may be a bit more than you can swallow—something you might have to chew on for a while, so I’ll stop. Check it out—don’t take my word for it, but certainly don’t believe all the gobble-d-gook you’ve been fed by shrinks and charlatans, would be erudite college professors, and self-proclaimed Bible experts. We did not—never happened—crawl up out of the muck and soup of creation to where we are today, but we have certainly crawled back into it through disobedience and dishonor. We have not evolved, but we are devolving because what we’ve cultivated is a far different crop than the original one God planted.