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Can you define Christian? (Bond Servant)

From the instant Jesus left earth and returned to His gated community by ascending back to the right-hand side of the Father in heaven, there has been controversy about how to follow Jesus. The book of Acts in the Bible has multiple accounts where, even the apostles, argue amongst themselves about what to specifically do when it comes to following Jesus. We are a passionate people, and when it comes to our faith, things get very personal. Add to this natural phenomenon all the denominations and different religions throughout the world, and what we have is a mixed bag of ideas about what it means to get to heaven and what it means to follow Jesus. In fact, a majority of the New Testament is simply letters from the apostles, written to answer questions from local churches that were having problems. The Bible is a grouping of solution letters written under the guidance of the Creator, Jesus Christ Himself. This blog post is long but I hope worthwhile in painting a perfect picture of what it means to be a Christian.

I think the most important issue that we must deal with, in this blog post pertains to something that Jesus said Himself. It is recorded in John 14:6 (NLT). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

That is a very intense, bold, and what could be called, arrogant, statement. Could you imagine your child’s teacher sending home a letter with all his students that read like that statement. The letter sent home would be a short statement that reads like this: “To all parents of the students in my class: I wanted to simply inform you that there is a heaven and a hell, and I wanted to inform you that if you or your student wants to go to heaven, then please know that I am the way, the truth, and the life, and you or your student will not be able to enter heaven or meet the Father in heaven unless you go through me.”

Can you imagine the uproar? Can you imagine the controversy, the headlines? Yet, this is exactly what Jesus did. This statement from Jesus has caused an uproar since He said it. This statement has created controversy and anger ever since He said it. So, before we can become a follower of Jesus, we must sort it out in our own head and heart as to whether or not Jesus is who He says He is. I love the thought process that C.S. Lewis created a long time ago, in which he says that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord. It’s a fair proposal from Lewis. Someone can’t just show up on the scene, calling themselves the Way, the Truth, the Life, and not be considered one of those three. So as you read this blog post, I ask you to decide what you believe. Do you believe that Jesus is a liar? Do you believe that Jesus is a lunatic? Do you believe that Jesus is who He says He is, and thus, is Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and the only way to get to heaven?

If you chose either of the first two options about who Jesus is—a liar or a lunatic—then you can live the rest of your life however you want. I do not want to be cynical with you, if you have chosen either of these two options or both, but if you did choose liar and/or lunatic, then please eat, drink, and be merry…do whatever you want, for this life is as close to heaven as you will ever get. Enjoy it immensely. Indulge and grab life by the horns and live to the max. I would, if I were you.

However, if you chose Jesus to be who He says He is—Lord—then I want to welcome you to the path less traveled. You have chosen a narrow and challenging path that will rock your world. I am excited for you, and I hope the rest of what you are about to read will give you clarity on what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus.

The best example I use to help others fully understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus is actually an Old Testament example. The example is what is called a bond servant. I do not think someone can have a true and full understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus or a christian, outside an understanding of what a bond servant is.

A bond servant is an Old Testament term for what we might call a voluntary slave. I want to directly challenge the reader to remove all presuppositions from your mind as to what the American mentality of a slave is. Please understand that in the Old Testament Hebrew culture, to be a slave could be a very wonderful and voluntary form of making a living. It could be a lifestyle that someone would choose.

Now, when someone would become a slave in a Jewish culture, there were rules that God required to be followed, and they can be found in the book of Exodus in the Bible. Some of these rules may or may not make sense to us in our cultures today, and that is okay. They were still rules that God wrote, and thus, the people of that time must follow. Just for the sake of what I hope is your own curiosity, I want to include these rules below. Exodus 21:1-5 (NLT).

“These are the regulations you must present to Israel. If you buy a Hebrew slave, he may serve for no more than six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave, he shall leave single. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife must be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave and they had sons or daughters, then only the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master.”

So, this gives us a perspective on some rules of slavery of the Hebrew culture in the Old Testament times. But something amazing is about to happen as you read the next verse of this same Bible passage I have quoted above. The next sentence is where we get the term bond servant. Just for clarity, it is Exodus 21:5-6 (NLT):

“But the slave may declare, “I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.” If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.”

That passage is astonishing to me. Let me put this in my own words. Remember, if someone becomes a slave, they can only serve as a slave for six years. In the Hebrew culture, every seven years, they forgave each other’s debts. Can you imagine how wonderful this system would be? I’m sure there are people who took advantage of this system, but it is still the system that God ordained. I have always wondered what this system would do to an American economy. I personally believe it would create an environment of honor and gratitude that would not allow the few bad apples to ruin it for everybody else. Call me an eternal optimist and idealist. I say all that to simply say this. I can’t wait for heaven!

So, back to point about this slave stuff. Once someone worked as a slave for six years, the Hebrew law required this slave to be set free. Now, a lot can happen in six years in the life of anyone, including the life of a slave, and even back in the day, where change came more slowly than today. So a man who became a slave, for whatever reason, in the Old Testament times, and six years later was set free, now was faced with a free choice and multiple choices at that. He could accept his freedom and move on with his life however he chose. One of those choices was to go back to his master and voluntarily become a bond servant. This was where we can begin to understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

This slave could go back to his master and stand at his master’s front door and commit himself to his master. He would do this by stating to his master that he enjoyed being a slave under him. He would acknowledge that his life with his master, and as a slave, was the kind of life he wanted to live for the rest of his life. Now remember, when this man went to the door to say that he wanted to remain a slave to the master for the rest of his life, he was doing it as a completely free man and in a voluntary free manner. So when this free man, previously the master’s slave, came back to the front door of the master’s home and declared that he wanted to voluntarily remain the master’s slave, there were some critical and permanent things that voluntarily happened. The master accepted this free man’s lifetime offer, if he wanted to. This lifetime offer from the requesting person was one that acknowledges that everything he owned or had in his life, now fully belonged to the master, including his own life and his own family and material things, for the rest of his life, voluntarily. This act of commitment was a lifelong, irrevocable, and voluntary commitment.

It seems to me that for this kind of thing to actually happen, the master must have been a very special person for this kind of commitment to take place. In fact, to demonstrate how permanent this is, the man making the commitment would stand in the threshold of his master’s home, and the master would take a hammer and awl and drive it through the earlobe of man, making the voluntary promise. It would be through the right ear of the man that this piercing would happen. The man who made this lifelong commitment would stand, for a brief time, nailed to the doorframe of his master’s home, to allow for people to witness, and be witnesses, to this irrevocable life long commitment.

When the awl that is piercing the man’s ear and permanently fastening him to his master’s doorframe, is removed, the master would give this man a gold hoop earring to wear, and a title would be given to this man; bond servant. How remarkable. What a commitment. The quality of person that this master must have been to result in such a lifelong permanent, life-changing commitment is remarkable. I hope you see the similarities of the story with being a follower of Jesus Christ. However, our situation with Jesus Christ is even better.

In the bond servant’s case, the man had to work off six years of his life to be free. In a Christian’s situation, we don’t have to work off anything to be free. Jesus is the one who paid the time for us. His death on the cross is the time that was paid for our crime. Jesus’s death on the cross is what removed God’s anger from us and made us free men and women. Jesus’s death took all of God’s anger away from mankind. Heaven and Hell are full of people who were free to choose and God honored their choice. Hell is full of people who were given freedom to choose how they wanted to live their lives; they simply chose to live in the qualities of hell and evil, and God simply honored their free choice and extended it into eternity. I think it breaks God’s heart that hell is full of people whom He loves. I think it’s for these people that God wishes He were a control freak, and I’d bet He wishes He would have forced them to love Him. But God is love. Love does not control or force. Love allows freedom of choice and then simply gives consequences to those choices. It is a choice to become a bond servant or not, and each choice has one consequence. Choose to be a bond servant of Jesus’s, and when we die, we will be reunited with the Father in heaven for eternity. Choose not to be a bond servant of Jesus’s, and when we die, we will be separated from the Father and go to a place called hell that, by the way, was not created for people. Jesus says in Matthew 25, that hell is a place that was created for the devil and his demons. God never intended for people to spend eternity in hell. He only honors our choice to live with Him or without Him. How hard it must be to honor the wrong choice of people who He loves. But, this is how God created the whole thing to work and then placed it all in the hands of His only Son, because of the price that His only Son paid.

Because Jesus paid such a huge price for our freedom, God the Father gave Jesus all authority in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. This fact is found in Matthew 28:18. So, after being given all authority and after paying such a high price, Jesus has earned the right to lay down some new laws and rules. If someone doesn’t like that, then they will have to take it up with Jesus when they meet Him someday. We call these new laws and new rules the New Testament. Jesus is now given the authority by the Father to declare that He is the way, the truth, and life, and no one gets to the Father except through Him. The Bible, especially the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are where we have recorded what Jesus means when He says we have to go through Him to enter heaven. To go through Him means we have to go through His approval and His requirements to join the Father in heaven for eternity. These requirements, if we do them, are what cause us to earn the free, voluntary, lifelong title called a bond servant. Please don’t forget that it’s your free choice to become a bond servant or not. Please understand that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, where we get to the Father in heaven, we must be a bond servant. Please understand that you can’t earn this salvation. You can only earn a title. Salvation is the free gift, just waiting for you to open. The way you open this free gift is to approach Jesus Christ and commit to be His bond servant. Jesus is the one who did all the work, so that all we have to do is commit to the title. But what happens when you do admit that you want to be Jesus’s bond servant? This is where the work begins. The title is a free gift. The question is then, what does it require of me to have the title of bond servant? It requires everything from you. If a man became a bond servant in the Bible times, but then didn’t fully do what a bond servant was supposed to do, the title would be removed. The bond servant could actually be put to death, if the master chose it that way. Being a bond servant is more than a title; it is living as a bond servant everyday. Remove the title or the lifestyle, and one was no longer a bond servant.

Remember, a bond servant owns nothing. He voluntarily and freely relinquished all of his assets and his life to the master. As I think about the physical process that took place to become a bond servant, it causes me to be thankful that when I became a Christian, there was no awl being driven through my ear that day, even though body piercing is pretty popular. I see the awl being driven through the ear of a bond servant as to what baptism is to the one who is making the commitment to be a follower of Jesus.

So, are you a bond servant to Jesus Christ? It is a lifelong, free commitment to become a slave of Jesus Christ. Have you ever wondered, as you read through the New Testament, what Paul meant in some of His letters when He titled himself a slave of Jesus Christ? I think it would have done all of Christianity well if the translators would have, more correctly, translated the word bond servant of Jesus Christ instead of slave. I won’t go into detailed Greek right now, but the word is doulos, which our translators translated as slave. There are some current Bible translations today that actually kept the word bond servant. I know that one is the Holman Christian Standard Bible. There are a few others as well. I think bond servant is the better translation. Keeping the word bond servant in our Bibles would cause us to look it up and study it and define it sooner and fully understand what the term means. James, Peter, Jude, and John titled themselves the same thing in their letters in the New Testament; bond servants!

So now what? I think it is important to understand 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT):

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

I do not belong to myself. You do not belong to yourself. We were bought through the death of God’s only Son. That is a huge price. Whether we have chosen to be bond servants or not, we are still owned by God. Whether you believe in God or not, you are still owned by God. I pray you will choose to become a bond servant if you have not. How does one become a bond servant today? As a reminder, a true Christian and a bond servant are the same thing. In the New Testament, there are recorded only nine situations in which an individual or a group of people chose to become bond servants of Jesus Christ. They are all accounted for in the book of Acts. Every time somebody became a bond servant of Jesus’s in the book of Acts, five things actually happened. First, they heard the news of Jesus Christ, then they believed that Jesus was Lord. They then repented from living their lives outside the will of Jesus and confessed Jesus as their Master. It is at this point that each of them was immersed in water, which is what is called baptism.

As I read through the book of Acts and see that these things always happen when someone becomes what we now know as a bond servant to Jesus, I have no authority to change any one of those five things. Hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. If you have done those things by faith in Jesus Christ, you now are titled a bond servant to Jesus. A bond servant lives his/her life in a very specific way of obedience. The way of a bond servant is the way of obedience to the master. The next big question that I hope we would ask is, “Obey what?”

The answer, before I end this incredibly long blog, is simply, obey the teachings and commands of Jesus Christ. And when I say simply, I do not mean they are easy. The life of a follower of Jesus Christ is a not a path of ease, but a path of simplicity, of trust, and of focus. It is a good life that will someday become a great, eternal life. There are more than 300 specific teachings and commands of Jesus that we should obey, and they are all found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of the Holy Bible. Read the and obey them. Of course there is a forgiveness clause added to this when we are not perfect in obeying all 300 plus of these; and none of us are perfect.

I hope that this study has been a motivating one for you. I hope that you will continue to grow as a fully developing follower of Jesus Christ. It is a life long process that only ends when your heart beats its last and you stand before Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lord and King of Kings and are told, well done good and faithful Bond Servant!


HYDRATE –Winning from the inside 28 (Matthew 6:16-18) Motives

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV)

Motives are a tough thing to judge. Motives originate inside the heart and mind and tend to become evident through actions. I think it is easy to get caught up in being quick to judge people’s motives. We all can have moments of confidence where we think we know why a person is wearing a certain outfit, or why a person is hanging out with that other person, or why they drive that kind of car. The reality is, that confidence that makes us think we know why somebody is doing a certain thing, is actually judging. This whole subject gets complicated in the sheer fact that Judging is preceded by motive. You cannot judge someone without first having a motive. Everything that you and I do is founded on motives. Some examples? A friend recently told me a story about a lady on an airline flight that he was also on. My friend, who is a great and dramatic story teller told the story like this. “The plane was about to pull back from the gate, when it was announced that there was a last minute passenger who needed to board the plane, and that there would be a few more minutes of delay. The passengers already on the plane, almost as if on cue, all moaned in unison. About 5 minutes later the late passenger boarded the plane.” My friend, telling the story, described the scene. “The lady came blasting down the isle, and her size made it difficult for her to fit down the isle, so as she passed by, everybody had to make a little extra room for her to get down the isle and to her seat. When she sat down she demanded rather loudly to the already seated flight attendants to get a seatbelt expander. It was obvious that she had been running, she was very sweaty and her hair was disheveled and it was clear that she was frustrated. When she finally sat down and the plane was able to taxi and take off, it only took about 2 minutes before this lady began to push her flight attendant button and ask for some water. The flight attendant got up from her seat and walked back to determine how she might be of assistance. When the lady requested some water, she was told no by the flight attendant because beverage service wouldn’t begin for another 20 minutes for all the passengers who would like to have a refreshment. The lady, who made the whole flight wait, got very upset and began to raise her voice about how she had to run to catch the plane and that if she didn’t get some water now, she might faint. The flight attendant turned around and walked to the back and with a voice that carried far enough for the back half of the plane to hear, said, ‘that overweight, demanding lady who made our whole flight take off late, just for her, is now demanding that she get something to drink before everybody else on the plane.’ The other flight attendant snickered, just loud enough, and said, some people have such nerve. The lady who requested the water heard the remarks and began to cry out loud. The flight attendant approached the lady with a glass of water and said, I hope you are satisfied. Maybe now we can take care of the others on the plane and not just serve your desires, I’m not sure what your problem is, but I think you are very demanding and rude. Why are you being so dramatic and selfish? The lady, who the whole plane was delayed for, replied I’m really sorry for my poor behavior, I just found out that my mother was in a very bad car accident and is in critical condition at the ICU and that I needed to hurry if I wanted to see her, because she might not make it through the day. I am so afraid I will not see her before she passes away.”

Motives Matter. I think this teaching of Jesus about fasting, is not so much about fasting as it is about motives.

If you reread Jesus teaching above, you will notice that He doesn’t say, ‘if you fast.” He says, “when you fast.” Jesus doesn’t really teach about fasting, how to fast, or what to fast from. He simply teaches about motives for fasting. As Jesus didn’t take the time in this passage to teach about fasting, I won’t either. I will simply say that fasting is sacrificially denying yourself anything for the purpose of showing God that whatever you are fasting from is not more important than He is. Fasting is also a way of showing the Lord how serious you are about whatever it is you are praying and fasting about.

It seems to me that Jesus is teaching about why we fast. He is teaching about fasting with false motives. He says in this passage that if we do anything on earth with the motive of seeking an earthly reward, that it would be the only reward we get. He doesn’t say that we will not be rewarded. I think He is saying that if we seek an earthly reward it will be a good one, but at the cost of a greater reward.

My motive determines my reward.

If I live for this world, then I will receive earthly rewards. This is a good thing.
If I live in this world, with motives that seek an eternal reward at the cost of an earthly reward, then I held out for the greater reward.

Which reward do you desire more.
If you want your reward RIGHT NOW…then you can get it.
If you want your reward to come from God and be eternally focused…you can get that too.

I think that those who are only living for this world…well…this world is as close as close to Heaven as they will get.

I think that those who are bringing the elements of Heaven to earth, and living with Heaven in mind…this world is as close to hell as they will ever get.

Is it just me, or is Jesus saying that if we do anything on earth with a motive of getting the reward now, then that is the only reward we will get pertaining to that action? I think so. Again…this is not a bad thing. Its a good thing at the cost of a greater thing.

Delayed gratification is a hard thing. It takes patience and endurance. Jesus says in other teachings of His that we should store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven. What does that mean? It seems to mean that there is a reward system in eternity. How we live now determines what kind of rewards we get in Heaven. Heaven’s focus is the only time where we actually hear Jesus say to store up for yourself.

Why you live, why you work, and why you play, matters. Test your motives. It has eternal ramifications.

Why do you wear what your wearing right now?
Why did you get that body augmentation?
Why did you sign up to serve as a volunteer?
Why did you give money to that homeless person?
Why did you purchase the specific vehicle you drive?
Why do own the home you have and decorate it the way you do?
Why do you do what you do spiritually?
Are you doing any action today that if you tested your motives you would have to admit that you are doing it to get attention?

Its not wrong to do things for attention(earthly reward), it will just be done at the cost of receiving an eternal, God given reward for it.

I want to challenge you to do good in a stealth way! Do your acts of kindness secretly. When you do this…you will find great joy and you will receive rewards from the Lord!

I want to challenge you to take Jesus up on his teaching. When you fast, don’t let anybody know. Then your reward will be all the greater.

There is no greater reward than being blessed by the Creator of the sun, moon and stars! His rewards are eternal. His rewards are things that can never be taken away.

Motives matter.
What’s your motive?


Trajectory – Shift Happens

One decision, one person, one integrity problem, one accident, one encounter…and your entire life trajectory can be altered for eternity. We are all just one decision from having our entire life trajectory being altered for eternity. I have never in my life imagined living in Orlando Florida. I planted a church in Phoenix Arizona and dreamed to be the Lead Pastor of that Church for 40 years and then retire and pass the baton to one of my sons and ask to have the Church broom so I could be the Church Janitor and best cheerleader the new pastor could dream of. To be perfectly honest I hate the phrase, ‘If you want to make God laugh just tell Him your plans.” I hate it, but I get it.

I am completely dumbfounded, flabbergasted, blown away, that I now live in Orlando Florida. My family’s trajectory change has moments of thrill and moments of chill…yah…the bad kind of chill. One decision… has me living 2,180 miles from anything I have ever known and facing giants and obstacles that make my skin crawl, my heart ache, my blood pressure to rise, and my heart to beat faster for the thrill of the challenge. One decision led to this. One decision that I know I was supposed to make. How do I know that I was supposed to make it? Because God told me to. It was so clear that, if I had to make the decision again, knowing what I know now, I would have to make the same decision because God was that clear. Steve Jobs said that we can never connect the dots looking forward, only looking back. Others say we all have 20/20 hindsight.

So the average comfy Christian would reply to my paragraph above, “Its okay, Trent…God must have wanted you to live in Orlando Florida and have you doing what you are doing now…or… what happened wouldn’t have happened, its all God’s plan…so let go and let God.” Isn’t that convenient. I’m not a Calvanist and I think that answer is a copout. Its wrong to place all the blame or responsibility on God. Its easy to blame God for the disasters/trajectory changes going on in your life. When you blame God nobody else has to accept responsibility. The phrase, “God’s Got This” is true but that is different than saying God caused this. Want an example?

Adam and Eve. Did God plan and intend for them to break His rules of not eating of the specific trees in the Garden of Eden? Did God tell Himself before He created Adam and Eve….”Hey I’m going to create this thing called people and I am going to love them because I made them in my image to be like me…but in my plan I’ve got this little fun twist I want to play around with…I’m going to cause them to screw it all up. I am going to watch them become ashamed of each other and then I plan on watching them kill each other and then I’m going to kill my own Son to pay the price for their screw ups and how fun it will be…because I”m gonna blow them all away by raising my son from the dead after I kill Him! God leans to His right and asks His Son…”Sound Cool, Jesus?” “You up for this great plan, Son?” Jesus says, “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, Dad.” God replies, “Oh, Jesus…don’t be a bad sport. You can do it! Think of the adventure!” So God proceeds with his “will” and for thousands of years orchestrates rapes, gangster murder, divorce and hate, suicide bombers, as He leans back into His memory foam love-sac and from His game room in His gated community called Heaven, xbox 360 controller in hand, intensely playing through His favorite game called Life. Press X for Jump, Y to knife, UP arrow to receive prayer, DOWN arrow for eternal punishment…

Too cynical for you? Yah…me too…I’m in a sassy mood. Its been a rough week. It all makes we want to scream from my roof top that Life was never intended to be this way. If you can read through my cynicism there’s actually a good lesson here.

Trajectory Shift. Your’s might shift tomorrow. Everything you’ve been doing for the past 13/20/60 years could be completely annihilated before your very eyes…tomorrow. If it happens you’ll be put in a trajectory change that will make you question everything you thought you knew about life, the people around you and leave you screaming, Why?!” Ask yourself… Do you trust that person you are about to make the deal with? Do you trust your spouse? Do you trust your dad? Do you trust that taxi driver as you jump in the back seat. Do you trust the engineer who just built the bridge. Do you trust the man who put the bolt in the truss hanging over your head in that giant football stadium? Do you trust the driver on the other side of the dotted yellow line? Do you trust the councelor who is meeting behind closed doors with your child? Do you trust the guy working under you as he sees the rungs of the ladder above you? Do you trust the spiritual mentor you’ve had in your life for the past 20 plus years? Do you trust your preacher and how he handles the church finances? Do you trust the man dressed up in a SWAT uniform carrying a gun across the parking lot of the movie theater? Trust and Trajectory shifts…they go hand in hand.

Its tough to walk the fine line of trusting someone, something, and at the same time making sure everybody signs the dotted line of security.

In God We Trust…everybody else pays cash and signs the agreement.
I’ve learned in the past year about trust and security and trajectory shift. God is the only one we can fully trust without thinking much about it, without worry, without stress. He always has our best interest in mind, even if it doesn’t feel good. Everybody else…you will have to choose to trust, it will require some security backup like contracts and waivers. Even then its a finicky trust. Its a trust that if all parties aren’t seeking the best interest of each other it will end up in a trajectory shift in your life that will take your breath away and you will be bothered by it the rest of your life. Shift Happens!

I chose to trust. 20/20 hindsight proves that it was a blind and naive trust. I didn’t have anybody sign the agreement that I wrote up. I didn’t get perfect clarity before I committed. I feel like a dummy. I trusted. I quietly pulled back the paperwork, folded it in half and slid it in my back pocket. Oh…I’d like that 20 seconds of time back. I believed in the idealistic dream that everybody has everybody else’s benefit in mind. You see…it takes two to make a plan work right. It takes all parties listening to God and behaving like God to make God’s plan work. Even one entity thinking only for themselves and the deal is bust. Trajectory Shift starting in 10…9…8…

I do not blame anyone, but myself. I don’t blame the other party. I most definitely do not blame God. I’m just heart broken over all the shift! Its a load of shift. I’m sick to my stomach…frequently…about it all. What does a man do now? I know the answer to that question!

You get up, shake the dust off your clothes and put your feet on the ground and start over. What else can you do? It doesn’t work to keep laying in the dirt bloodied and pathetic. It doesn’t work to listen to the voice of the critic. It doesn’t work to listen to the voice of one who is celebrating as you suffer the shift. You get up! Tomorrow arrives consistently everyday. Time keeps ticking whether I want it to stop or not. I must choose to fully grasp the shift and make the most of it. Shifts make for new beginnings, new places, new plans. Pain and trajectory shifts are twins. Pain doesn’t mean its bad, its just reality. Trajectory shifts means somebody didn’t get what they hoped for. That causes agony, but new beginnings too. My trajectory shift has landed me in another part of the country and feels like another part of the world. My trajectory shift has me realizing that everybody is the same whether you live in Arizona or in Florida…Uganda or Peru…Jerusalem or Paris.

I am truly understanding for the first time in my life what the Bible means by all Creation groans for the return of the King, Jesus Christ. I used to think only weak people groaned for the return of Jesus. I’ve realized its just the opposite. People who really haven’t faced a crushing trajectory shift in their life, who sit under the umbrella of false security and false contentment are the soft ones who don’t understand why people groan for the return of Jesus. If you aren’t groaning for the return of Jesus you have the “blessed” position of comfort and a life truly unaltered. You’ve gotten your way for too long. To this type of person, it is alarming to think of Jesus returning, for life is too good to have it all end now. Death terrifies this type of person because life is too good. What a crazy, wild, out of control world we live in…its quite thrilling if you think about it. I guess its all how you view life.

I am astonished at the patience and love that Jesus carried with Him every minute of the short time He lived here as one of us. He encountered such selfish people. On rare occasions we can see when He encountered a person that “inspired” Him. It was usually a person who had faced incredible hardship and trajectory shifts in their life. It takes my breath away when I think about how much restraint, that God the Father must have, to NOT send His Son back down here to settle the score once and for all and end the nonsense, the selfishness, the clamoring for power and privilege and position. Fighting for who answers to who. Scheming to get what they want when they want it. I want to scream…Jesus…please stop the madness! God’s patience is maddening to me and at the same time a beautiful gift to me. And you!

Its enough to make a pastor throw in the towel of ministry to go work at Home Depot. But…

No chance.
I’ll never quit.
Yes…I said it…Never.

I have been crushed. The crushing has made me smarter, harder, more aware. I’m not sure if all of those things are good or not? I assume it depends on how I use those knew weapons from this day forward.

Time tells all things. Trajectory shift changes all things.
For now…the trajectory has shifted. Shift happens. I can handle it. It just makes me weary. I must rest…for tomorrow is guaranteed to begin. The sun will rise. The Son will return. In the mean time….
I’ll try not to screw it up. If I do…that’ll change the trajectory again. Trajectory change wouldn’t be so bad if it was just me that it affected. The trajectory shift I experienced a year ago…because of one decision,…affected more than 20,000 people. Their trajectory was altered, even though multitudes of them will never know. I wish it would have just affected me. I faced an incredibly scary decision just a few nights ago that I had to make. I made it and my trajectory has shifted again. This trajectory shift has affected nearly 1000 people. In the next few days and weeks all involved with experience more trajectory shift because of the choices of a few.

I wonder if there is a viewing room in Heaven where we can someday go to see what should have been or what could have been if all parties would have just acted like Jesus. I don’t think an actual room exists, though, because the Bible says there will be no tears. Sitting in the viewing room of what should have been, would make any viewer watching their “should have been life” flash before their eyes, cry. If there was such a room, it would have a no vacancy sign on because it would be full of those who insisted that their life stay the same. It will be full of people who clawed and fought for only what they want. The video playing in that room will terrify those who refused to change, stretch, grow, give and risk. If you haven’t faced tremendous trajectory shift in your life, it will only be a matter of time. I think there are two kinds of people in the world. Those coming out of a crushing trajectory shift and those who are getting ready to enter a crushing trajectory shift.

As hard as the trajectory shift is…the shift is actually a gift from God. This wasn’t all in God’s plan. I will never know what God had planned in the plan before this trajectory shift. I will be thought provoked for the rest of my life wondering what could have been if everybody would have stayed in God’s will.
The things that happened has caused God to have to change His plan. It has caused God to pick up the ashes
What does a man do in this situation?

It makes him simply say…What now Lord? Here I am use me.

Trust God that He didn’t cause this trajectory change. Man did.
Trust God at His word that He’ll make beauty from ashes. He will.

The Shift is a Gift!

May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground.
Carry on.

Trent


Where O where did my little blog go…

I have been poked, prodded and emailed, face-booked, tweeted and phoned as to where my blogging has gone. I can see that May 9th was my last Hydrate post. I used to post nearly everyday, so I am seeing now that nearly 2 months has gone by without a single tap of a keyboard, I deserve all the prodding. What has happened?

Well I moved 2,188 miles across the USA from Surprise AZ (Phoenix) to Oviedo FL (Orlando). So over the last 50 or so days, my family has packed the house, said goodbye to some amazing AZ friends, moved the miles mentioned above, unpacked the house (about 50 people helped unpack to the two PODS and it took only 45 minutes), we have sold our AZ home to a cash buyer, invaded our new church in Orlando, Metro Church www.metrocc.org, met the new staff team and new church people (wonderful people), unpacked boxes (not done yet) and have gone to the beach twice (going again today!) I am amazed at how many times one can go to Home Depot when moving into a new house. We are currently renting and look forward to purchasing our own home as soon as we can.

So all in all, I have been overwhelmed and I appreciate your patience with me. I appreciate your desire to even read this blog and I hope that my recent lack of it does not cause you to lose interest.

Some of you have asked about my book “Retweeting Jesus” and when it will be released. All I know for now is that it is currently going through what is called the “copy editing” process. It takes a solid month and its about 10 days into it. I’m not sure what the next step is. One thing I’m sure of, is that I will keep you updated about it. I will be asking for your help in getting word out about this devotional book. I think it will help so many Christians understand the passion of Jesus and help even more unchurched friends possibly to give their lives to Him. I pray you will help me when the book comes out.

Be patient with me a little longer. I will blog again very soon. In my next blog post I am not going to jump right back into the “Hydrate” series I am doing. I want to take a couple blog posts and talk about TRAJECTORY. Its what happened to my family that caused us to land in Florida. One person, one church, one decision can change your entire life’s trajectory. I want to blog about my experience and I hope it encourages you, warns you and keeps you on your toes.

It may sound weird for me to say this, but if you are reading this material, I love you and care for you deeply. I look forward to a life long connection with you as we keep our eyes on the most important things of life. Jesus and each other.

New blog post coming soon.
Trent


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INIDE 19 (Mt. 5:38-39) “Turn the other cheek.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Matthew 5:38-39
(NIV)

DRINK IT IN:
Are you one of millions who are confused by this passage? Doesn’t this passage seem to say, just be a punching bag? This Scripture verse and the next two, in my opinion, have been misunderstood for way too long. I hope after you read this, you will have total clarity on what Jesus meant and your new understanding of it will help you advance the strengths of the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth.” What an easy passage. What an easy law to understand. Call me sick, but I often wish this Old Testament Law were still in affect. If you are a person of peace and innocence, you would never have to worry about this law. If something bad happened to you, it would have been very clear what to do about it. This passage would have caused anyone to strive to avoid/resist an evil person. For if evil were done to you, you could return evil back to the person and it be perfectly acceptable. I don’t know about you, but personally, I have no desire to injure someone’s eye or remove someone’s tooth…even if it happened to me first. This fact would cause me to resist an evil person. To resist an evil person is to run from them, to avoid them and completely stay away from them. To do this I would have to always be alert and in avoidance mode. It would cause me to fear evil people. I don’t necessarily fear having my tooth knocked out or eye injured, although it would be horrible, but what I don’t like about this law is that if it happens to me, I’m supposed to do the same back to the person. I would resist an evil person for fear of having to pluck out his eye or knock out his tooth. To resist an evil person is the same as resisting chocolate. To resist is to completely say no. To keep it out of my life. To resist is to not take a bite, or eat the whole chocolate bar. Resist, means to stay away from. Agree?

Enter Jesus and the New Testament times.

Jesus walks onto the scene and says, “Do NOT resist an evil person.” Don’t avoid them, don’t run from them, and do not fear them. Do not resist an evil person, is best understood when compared to this phrase; do not resist a chocolate bar.

So what is Jesus saying when He says, “Do not resist an evil person?” I think to fully understand what Jesus is saying here we have to read some other things that He said, or the Bible says.

I think I have to mention Deuteronomy 32:35(NLT) immediately. I want to preface everything I am about to write with this passage. “I will take revenge; I will pay them back.” The “I” is God, not us. Revenge is God’s business, not mankind’s. Verse 36 goes on to say, “Indeed the Lord will give justice to His people.” Another passage that is good to preface what I’m about to write is Proverbs 19:11 (NLT) “Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.” Alright, a couple more verses like this to reinforce the powerful message of kindness and love and respect from the Bible. Romans 12:14 (NLT) “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Over and over in the Bible, we can read passages that reiterate to not return evil for evil. We will be known by our love. So, in what I’m about to write, please understand that we are to be a daily demonstration of Jesus Christ. Jesus bore the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control on a daily basis, everyday of His life. We are to do the same. Revenge belongs to God.

However…
Nowhere in Scripture are we taught that Christians are to be a walking mat. We are not told to take another beating. I think Matthew 5:38-39 has been taught incorrectly way too much and thus has been misunderstood for a long time. Read the passage again from Jesus, “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

At its simplest reading, it seems to read as if Jesus is telling us to stay around evil people and if they beat us, turn the other cheek, ignore it, and take another beating from the other side. If you are a Christian wife, just stick around your evil husband as he beats you and take another one for the Gipper, because you might save the soul of your husband someday….just cover the bruises with make up! (I wish there were a font for cynicism and sarcasm.)

Many people think that we are supposed to act just like Jesus as He was being crucified. I agree that we should, if we are being crucified. When was the last time you witnessed a Christian being crucified? Are you in danger of being crucified today? If you are, then please behave just like Jesus. He didn’t resist the evil that was happening to Him. He forgave while He was on the cross. He took the beating…over…and over…and over….and over. Please understand something here. This is what Jesus was born for. He was born to be the sacrificial lamb that was slaughtered so that all of mankind’s sins could be forgiven. This is not something you can duplicate or replicate. We can replicate Jesus’ forgiveness. We can replicate His love for others. We can replicate His holy behavior. However, what happened to Jesus on the cross and the fact that He allowed it to happen to Him, is not a standard of how we should live our lives as we live amongst evil in a dark world. Jesus is not asking you to lay down your cross and be crucified for the sins of the evil person you are not resisting. Only Jesus was required to lay down His cross and lay down on it for the Father. Jesus is asking you TAKE UP your cross and carry it. He laid down His Cross and was mutilated and annihilated on it. You are to TAKE UP your cross and carry it. Let me explain how this is different and how Matthew 5:38-39 should empower you to hold your head high and walk right into the mix of darkness and evil and continue to shine like a bright light.

What does Jesus really mean when He says things like, “Don’t resist an evil person”…and…”if you get struck, turn the other cheek?”

Please be patient with, me as I preface what I’m about to write, with two more very important teachings of Scripture, especially for this specific passage, and thus be able to fully understand what Jesus means by this turn the other cheek stuff.

The first passage is one Jesus spoke and is recorded in Matthew 10:16.(NLT) I wrote about this specific passage in HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 14 (Mt.5:25-26) “Before Court.” I will write more about it when I get to this exact teaching of Jesus as I follow the order of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The passage Jesus spoke says this, “Be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” Jesus told us to behave this way when we are around evil.

The second passage is one that Paul wrote in Romans 12:21. (NLT) “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

Can you see how it could be seen as a contradiction when you compare Romans 12:21 with Jesus’ total submission and passivity on the cross? He just let them kill Him. He was conquered by evil. (Some could argue that He knew He would be raised from the dead in 3 days and nights. I think that is a fair argument, but, the reality is that Jesus’ purpose was to be killed so as to pay for all the sins we’ve committed. Nothing we do or should do can be compared to that, ever.) Jesus came to earth to be conquered and killed. Thank God that He rose from the grave, but when His heart beat its last and we see the water and blood come out of his chest when the Roman guard pierces him with a spear….Jesus was officially conquered. Dead.

So, how do we measure and compare these two passages; “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good,’ and “be as shrewd as a snake and harmless as a dove,” with “Don’t resist an evil person, if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek?” It seems that some actions of Christians that are backed up with this passage seem to tell us to be conquered by evil. But Jesus is really saying…do not let evil conquer you. In fact, conquer evil! I love that. Conquer evil by doing good.

These three passages seem to cause contradiction. We know that the Bible does not have any contradictions. If the Bible doesn’t have any contradictions, but we understand this as a contradiction, then the Bible is not wrong, our understanding of the passage is wrong.

Let’s correct our misunderstanding.

I wish I could stand before you right now and demonstrate this passage to you instead of try to explain it through writing. But here is my best effort.

If you look really carefully at Matthew 5:38-39, you will notice that Jesus is very specific about which cheek you get struck on. It is specifically written, “If someone strikes you on the RIGHT cheek.” If Jesus wanted us to just keep getting struck and to be a walking mat for an evil person, then He would have very simply stated, If someone strikes you, turn the other cheek. He didn’t say this. He said, “If someone strikes you on the RIGHT cheek, turn to them the other (left) cheek.”

This paints a very clear picture for us, especially when we understand some basic Hebrew/Jewish culture practices that coincide with this passage.

I have had the privilege of traveling to the Holy Lands many times and my plan is to go back every 2 years, taking a group of 50 or less each time. If you are ever interested, please contact me and I’ll get your name on the list for the next trip. When I travel to this incredible place I always make it a point to find an elderly person who is has always been Jewish and I speak with them about ideas I have about the Bible. I am convinced, that having a strong understanding of ancient Hebrew culture, is the best way to understand what Jesus taught in the Scriptures. I am shocked at how Christians think of Jesus and try to understand what Jesus taught by using their own cultures to understand it. Many Christians are guilty of thinking that Jesus’ teachings are based off of the the culture they live in today. For instance, I think many Christians that live in America think that Jesus is white skinned and thinks with western culture presuppositions. However, Jesus was raised in a Jewish home, where He would have learned the Jewish Culture and followed it very seriously. Jesus’ skin would have been a dark olive tone and He would have been what the average Jewish man looked like in that day. Did you know that the average Jewish man in Jesus’ time was 5’4″ tall? The Old Testament says that there was nothing about Jesus’ physical appearance that made Him stand out from the average person. That’s all beside the point I want to teach here. My point, in all of what I just wrote, is that having an understanding of the Jewish Culture is the best way to understand what Jesus meant when He taught. I can, pretty confidently say, that if there is a passage in Scripture that is causing you confusion, then the confusion would probably end if you understood what is confusing you through a Jewish Culture and a Jewish understanding. The rest of this post is teaching Matthew 5:38-39 through the understanding of the Jewish culture and understanding of this passage.

Here are the details.

In the Jewish Culture your Right Hand is the hand of power, control and protection. Think with me about some things that Scripture records. The Bible references the Right hand of God. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. The right hand of fellowship. The strong right hand of God. Right hand of God’s protection. I would guess that the creation of the word RIGHTeous is a derivative of the word Right. You get the idea? Should I say sorry to all the South-paws” out there!? LOL

Now, understanding the powerful right hand of God and how important this is to the Jewish people, here is something I learned from an elderly person in Jerusalem during one of my trips.

The people in the Bible times had a very different life than the ones we live. For a fun example, think with me about sewer systems and using the toilet. There are ancient toilets that still remain to this day and it is fun to see how they would have used the toilet back in those days. (I love weird stuff like that) What I’m about to write is not written to be weird or gross, but to help us all understand this teaching about turning the other cheek. In Jesus’ day, toilet paper was nonexistent, unlike in America today. Even today, my trips to South America and Africa have shown that toilet paper is still not readily available to a majority of the population around the world. So, in Jesus time, how did the people clean themselves after going to the bathroom? The farm boy in me wants to ask it like it is. How did they wipe their butts in Jesus’ day? In the Jewish culture, as long as someone wasn’t very poor, they would carry with them a stick with a natural sponge attached to it. This cleaning instrument would be kept under their robe at all times unless it was being used in the toilet room. After going to the bathroom, the person would use his LEFT hand to grip the cleaning instrument, dip it in the clean water in front of them and then clean themselves. I say all this to say that the left hand, in the Hebrew culture, was considered an unclean hand…for reasons you should now understand. It was considered very inappropriate and gross to use your left hand for anything that entailed public interaction. The left hand was for personal use only. Whether or not you think that is right or wrong is not the point. The point is…a Jewish person in Jesus’ time didn’t touch other people with his left hand in any way…ever.

Back to Jesus’ teaching about someone striking you on the right cheek. Question. If you know you do not use your left hand for public use at anytime, and at the same time you are going to strike somebody on the right cheek, what hand do you use, and how would that hand have to be angled to strike that right cheek accordingly? I have added a picture of me below to help you visualize and imitate this striking the right cheek stuff! Go for it. Strike away…just remember its really not me, don’t break your computer!

In the picture above, my right cheek is more readily available to be slapped. So, go ahead and slap my right cheek with your right hand. If you are like me, then when you imitated a slapping or striking pattern to strike my RIGHT cheek, it was awkward. UNLESS…you used the back side of your right hand. Try it again, but this time “back-hand” my right cheek? It works! Note this…when you struck “me” with the back side of your right hand, you actually gave me what is called a “smite.”

Now, back to Matthew 5:38-39. The actual word should not be translated strike, but SMITE. The word smite has many definitions linked to it. You can look it up yourself and see that there are many ways to smite somebody. To smite someone is another way of saying you are going to kill them, punch them, ridicule them, etc. Smite is not a word we use in our culture so much today, so most of the translations we have in our Bibles today use the word, strike, slap or other terms that are more culturally relevant. The use of these words may be more relevant to our current cultures, but they also make it very easy to misunderstand what Jesus is actually trying to say in this passage.

In one of my conversations with an elderly woman in Jerusalem, when I asked her about this passage, she explained to me that to be struck with the back of the right hand (smite) is the ultimate form of ridicule and discrimination. In the Jewish culture, when someone took the back of their right hand and gave you a smite across your right cheek, it was their way of saying they are above you and better than you. To receive a smite across the face was very demeaning and embarrassing. (I imagine a snobby person with their black leather gloves in their right hand, looking down over their designer glasses and smiting me with the gloves across my right cheek and face…very demeaning.) Do you get the idea?

So, go back to my picture above. Imagine, after you have given me a “smite” across my right cheek with the back of your right hand…and I did not “resist” you, but instead simply stood my ground with you and turned my left cheek to you, as if to say, “go ahead and smite my left cheek.”

Now, try something. Go ahead, and do the motion of giving me a smite, with the back of your right hand delivered to my OTHER (Left) cheek? You can’t do it without looking like an idiot. This fact, in your indignant anger, would force you, at this point, to do one of two things. One, you would walk away and yourself be humbled as I stood my ground against you. Or two, it would cause you to use your open right hand or with a closed fist to slap or punch me and therefore admit you are my equal.(More on this in a moment.) The whole point of a smite, is to show the person you are giving the smite to, that you are better than they are. So, if you struck me with your open right hand or closed fist, how would that make you admit that we are equals? Where do you think the sport of boxing comes from? In our boxing world when two men or women enter the competitive ring, you never see a lightweight going toe to toe with a heavy weight. No, always light weight vs. lightweight, or middleweight vs. middleweight. From the beginning of competitive boxing, two equals always got in the ring to determine who could outbox who. Boxing is with a closed fist for punching or in some cases open handed slaps between two equals. The elderly lady, I visited with in Jerusalem, told me that in the Hebrew culture, to slap or punch somebody is to admit that you are an equal with the person you are fighting. Smiting/back handing is a way to demonstrate dominance over the one being struck.

So, back to my picture above. If after your gave me a smite on the right cheek, I then turn the other cheek (left cheek) as if to say, “go ahead, try it again!” By doing this, I actually put you in a predicament of several factors. First, I am NOT resisting you, like Jesus commands in the passage. I am actually standing up to you. I am also obeying what Jesus said about being sly as a snake and innocent as a dove. If I turn my left cheek to you after you gave me a smite on my right cheek, I am strategically setting you up to admit that you are my equal, when your whole point of the smite was to demean me and demonstrate to the witnesses watching, that you think you are better than me. And third, I also obey the scripture of Romans 12:21 that says, conquer evil by doing good.

Do you get this?
After you smite me on the right cheek, I then turn to you my left cheek…in this moment, now answer the following questions…
In my position in front of you and with my left facial cheek exposed towards you…
Am I seen as a person of timidity?
Am I seen as a person of revenge?
Am I seen as a person who is weak?
Am I seen as a person who is just asking for another beating?
Am I seen as a person of patient endurance?
Am I seen as a person of strategy?
Am I seen as a person of strength?
Am I inspiring to those who are watching?

You see, when I turn that other cheek, the person who wants to strike me again is forced to make a decision. Slap me or punch me and demonstrate that you are my equal. I would be okay with that! Or walk away and demonstrate to the witnesses that they just got outsmarted, outwitted and outplayed.

You CONQUERED evil, by DOING good!

And, the whole time, they remained holy, pure, and an inspiration of what it means to be a follower of Jesus!

There’s more. The next verse following this turn the other cheek passage…does the same thing but in a court setting and while facing a lawsuit. If you like what you just read about turning the other cheek, the next two posts are of the same nature but about being taken to court, or being forced to carry something for someone.

As you go out and about in the world and undoubtedly will be confronted by different kind of evil remember to
Conquer evil by doing good!
Turn the other cheek and watch them squirm!

You will be known as a follower of Jesus Christ, and as having incredible patient strength, and self control!
That’s living like Jesus.