May 20, 2013 16:34 PM
Jesus was not one to be intimidated. Even when the religious sect took exception to His healing the man at the Pool of Bethesda and they began plotting to kill Him, Jesus knowingly added fuel to the fire by boldly asserting things like: He only did what He saw the Father do (John 5:19 Amplified), and that “the Father dearly loves the Son” and just as the Father gives life, the “Son also gives life to whomever He wills” . . . and that “all judgment has been given into the hands of the Son.” Jesus went on to speak of the resurrection and judgment of sinners, and ended John 5 by telling these religious people that they didn’t know God at all; that they were blind to both God’s voice and the vision of God. And then the kicker. He told them that God’s love was not in their hearts and that they were only interested in receiving praise and accolades from each other rather than God.
The thing we have to understand is that Jesus left no wiggle room. There could be no fence-sitters in His camp. He made very definite claims about Himself and we have to come to a place where either we believe them or not. And we can’t pick and choose, either. We can’t say, “yes I believe Jesus gives life” but I don’t believe He’s ever going to judge sinners. And here’s the tougher reality, if only one of the things Jesus said about Himself is not true then all the rest, like a house of cards, must, of necessity, come tumbling down, for then He would be a liar, and can a liar be trusted or believed?
I believe Jesus is exactly who He said He is. I climbed off that fence long ago to align myself with His camp. So when I hear Christians, and especially ministers, picking and choosing what they want to believe, I find it disturbing. As Christians we are to proclaim God’s Word, His entire Word. And yes, some of that Word can make us uncomfortable. It can be inconvenient and even downright painful. But to do less would make us like the “religious” crowd in John 5, blind to God’s voice and vision, lacking God’s love in our hearts, and only interested in receiving the praise of man rather than God’s.
Oh God, may we not be fence-sitters. “Create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit in us.”
Until next time,
May 13, 2013 15:11 PM
After Jesus healed the man who had the “lingering disorder for thirty-eight years” (last week’s blog) the Jews wasted no time in finding fault. “It’s the Sabbath and you have no right to pick up your bed” they told the newly healed man in John 5:10 (Amplified). Then they demanded to know who it was that healed him. When the Jews found out it was Jesus, they began persecuting Him and even “sought to slay Him because he had done these things on the Sabbath day” (verse 16).
Every time I come across one of these incidents in the Bible where the Pharisees or other “religious” types want to kill Jesus for healing or doing something else on the Sabbath I want to scratch my head in wonderment because instead of trying to garner the bigger picture they were constantly, as Jesus put it in Matthew 23:24, “filtering out a gnat and gulping down a camel.”
If I had been there would I have done the same? Would I have failed to appreciate what Jesus was doing? Jesus had already told them He was the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8) yet they just couldn’t break old habits, their old traditions. Would I have overlooked the move of God’s Spirit for the sake of my theology? My religious traditions? When I actually sat down and thought about it I realized that at certain times I had done this very thing. It’s easy to get hung up on our church’s way of doing things. We are comfortable in the service that usually runs the same amount of time each week and has the same format. After all, it’s the way our church has always done things. Why change now? But what if the Holy Sprit wants to move in a special way and take a few hours longer? Or change the format? Or add a different type of music? Or maybe come with such power He brings everyone to their knees for the entire service? What then? Do we yield or do we, like those “religious” Jews, miss the moment and a chance to really interact with God?
The comfortable, the familiar can be the enemy of God. It can make us miss Him completely. We need to keep ourselves open to the Holy Spirit. We can trust Him. He will never violate Scripture but He may violate our sensibilities, our preconceived ideas. And if we cling too hard to the familiar we can end up with religion and not relationship. Relationship with the most High God who loves us more than we will ever be able to comprehend and who is always looking to do something new in our lives and take us out of our comfort zone. The question is, will we let Him?
Until next time,
May 6, 2013 14:46 PM
Imagine being desperately ill for thirty-eight years and the only chance you thought you had of ever getting better was to dip into the Pool of Bethesda. Only problem was, a lot of other people wanted to get healed in that pool, too, and only the first to reach the water, whenever an angel stirred it up, ever seemed to get well (John 5:1-5). Even so, this poor man didn’t give up. Year after year he went to the pool hoping he’d be the lucky one this time. But after trying for thirty-eight years, I’m sure he was at the point where he wondered if he’d ever make it first into the pool, especially since he had no one to carry him down. Then along comes Jesus.
John 5:6 tells us that Jesus “noticed him (the sick man) lying there helpless” and knew at once that he had been in this poor state for a very long time. His first question to the man seems a bit odd. “Do you want to become well?” Even to a casual observer the answer seems obvious. Or is it? Sometimes after being so long in a certain condition we can become resigned, lose our hope, even become comfortable in our misery and let it define us. Some people even use their misfortunes to manipulate and control others. There are numerous stories of parents/husbands/wives/friends/neighbors who have used an illness or misfortune to control those around them through guilt.
So at second glance Jesus’ question doesn’t seem that odd after all. And Jesus asks this same question of us. Do we really want to be free of that illness, that situation, that addiction, that heartache? Or do we want to hold onto it and let it define us? It’s no accident that Bethesda means “house of kindness” in Greek. Jesus is kindness itself and where He is allowed to enter, where He is invited to go, automatically is infused with kindness and mercy. We are much more fortunate than the man who suffered for thirty-eight years. We don’t have to wait for an angel to “trouble the waters” then race to its edge trying to be first. Jesus is our Pool of Bethesda. He is our “living water.” He is our “House of Kindness.” We need nothing more. And if we are serious and want His intervention in our lives He will not disappoint. And His grace will carry us through as He works things out in His way and according to His timing.
Until next week,
April 29, 2013 14:15 PM
While Jesus is dinning at the house of Simon the Pharisee a woman suddenly bursts in carrying an “alabaster box of ointment” (Luke 7:36-50). That word “ointment” is muron in the Greek and means myrrh, a costly resin used in not only perfumes but in medicine to deaden pain, for the purification of women, in incense, in priestly anointing oil, and for anointing the dead. It also means bitter. Perhaps it symbolized this woman’s own bitter circumstances, and her desire to pour out her pain upon Jesus. To pour out her sins and be purified, to be made a sweet fragrance to the Lord, as well as the acknowledgement that Jesus was not only teacher but a priest before God and that He could do all these things. I believe it also speaks of the price Jesus was willing to pay in order to accomplish this for her, His very death, thus making it as much an anointing oil for His death as it was her oil of purification.
But it obviously cost her much. Perhaps up to a year’s wages. She is weeping. And then she does something shocking. She bends over Jesus’ feet and begins washing them with her tears, then drying them with her hair. Finally she smothers His feet with kisses before applying the costly perfume.
You can imagine Simon’s reaction! It was so typical of the proud “religious” sect. At once his mind is filled with unkind thoughts: If this man Jesus was really a prophet he would know what a gross sinner this woman was and would never let such an unclean person touch him! The Pharisee had no idea that Jesus could discern the thoughts and intents of his heart.
At once Jesus tells him about a “certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.” Then Jesus asks Simon, “who would love the creditor most after he forgives both their debts?” Simon’s answer: the one who was forgiven most. “That’s correct,” Jesus says, before exposing Simon as a hypocrite by contrasting him to the woman.
This woman, Jesus goes on to tell him, had not stopped washing and kissing His feet since she came while he, Simon, didn’t even offer Jesus water to wash his feet before dinner, a basic courtesy offered to guests by every good host. On top of that Simon had not greeted Jesus with a kiss, nor anointed him with oil, all of which the women did. It seems this gross sinful woman had outdone Simon the Pharisee at every turn.
At the end Jesus tells the woman her “sins are forgiven” and to “go in peace,” while I’m sure the Pharisee sat red faced not knowing what to say.
There are many lessons here, one being we are incapable of judging others properly, that’s why the Bible instructs us not to do it. One may seem like a paragon of virtue while another a gross sinner but the secret inward condition of their heart might tell a different story. It also shows us that we, too, can bring our own bitter circumstances, our pain, our sins, our wish to be purified, to be a sweet fragrance to the Lord—we can bring it all to our Savior and High Priest. And of course it reveals Jesus’ own heart, always so tender toward sinners and so ready to forgive. And it gives depth to other passages of scripture such as “We love Him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19) and that it’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Nothing should keeps us from our wonderful Savior, not our gross sins, not our unworthy state, not even our own selfish inflated estimates of ourselves, for while our hearts may be “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9) Jesus does knows it and loves us anyway.
Wow! It’s simply mindboggling!
Until next week,
April 22, 2013 12:20 PM
When Jesus returns to His hometown of Nazareth and begins teaching and expounding on the Scriptures His neighbors become offended. Mark 6:1-4 lays out the story and tells us why. Seems these people who had lived right alongside Jesus for years just couldn’t get over the fact that He was a carpenter, a respectable trade but hardly one that would qualify Him to speak on such lofty matters as holy writ. And didn’t His brothers and sisters live in town too? And weren’t they just ordinary folks like the rest of them? This mindset hindered them from receiving anything from Jesus to which Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.”
The same thing can be said of us. Though we may not be prophets it is often hard for our unsaved family and friends to accept our words when we try to witness to them. They know us and have put us in a box: sister, brother, mother, father, cousin, sidekick, etc. and it’s hard for them to see us any other way, and certainly not as a minister of the gospel. When that happens, the best witness will be how we live our lives rather than what we say.
If we live what we believe, in time those closest to us will see the change and will want to know what happened. How is it that we can be so calm during a problem when once we were the first to panic? Or how is it that we can answer a curt word with a sweet reply? Or not lose our temper or be so patient? In a world where hype in advertisement is everywhere, where exaggerated claims are made every day, it will be noteworthy to those around us to see something genuine as we, empowered by the Holy Spirit, quietly walk out our faith in meekness, love and patience, all the while praying for, rather than preaching to, our family and friends.
Sometimes we need to share God’s Word with others and sometimes we just need to live it.
Until next time,
April 15, 2013 11:59 AM
Did you know that a three-strand cord is not easily broken? That’s what Ecclesiastes 4:12 says. I suppose that’s why Jesus sent his disciples out two by two in Matthew 10:5-8 to “preach . . . heal the sick, cleanse the leper, raise the dead and cast out devils,” because along with each pair of disciples came the third in the party, the Holy Spirit. In the same way Deuteronomy 32:30 speaks of one chasing a thousand, but two putting “ten thousand to flight” with the understanding that God, who makes up the third, is with them.
So we see exponential power here. What one can’t accomplish two can, and that is especially true in ministry or in matters of spiritual warfare or in times of trials and hardship. In these, and indeed any serious situations requiring God’s hand to move, it is always best to join forces with someone else. We are not meant to labor alone. Christians are part of a body, the Body of Christ. We need each other and should not isolate ourselves. And things always seem easier when two are involved.
Unfortunately, during our most difficult hour we often pull back and withdraw. And that’s just the opposite of what we should do. Satan, who walks about like a roaring lion “seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8), likes nothing better than to see a wounded sheep isolated because he knows it will be easier to defeat him/her if separated from the flock.
So if you are experiencing hardship or a crisis or some serious problem, reach out to a trusted friend, and partner in prayer with him/her. It’s amazing how much easier the load will seem and how much power the prayers will generate for it goes without saying that God will be there. After all, He has promised that where two or more are gathered in His name there He will be in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20), making the three-strand cord mighty indeed!
Until next time,
April 8, 2013 12:34 PM
In following Jesus we next find Him resting at Jacob’s well in Samaria. I commented on this story in a post over two years ago, but since it’s one of my favorite “Jesus Encounters” I can’t resist reposting it now.
So while Jesus is resting a woman comes to draw water. Immediately He begins a conversation by asking her for a drink; rather shocking with you consider that she was not only a Samaritan, a member of a mongrel race considered unclean by Jews, but also a woman, a second class citizen in a male dominated society. Jewish men didn’t strike up conversations with strange women.
She acknowledges this prejudice by asking why He’s even talking to her. His response is amazing on so many levels. In essence He says, if you knew who you were talking to, you’d “ask of him and he would have given you living water.” He goes on to explain this living water was “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” He was declaring that He was the source of everlasting life, and here’s the kicker, He was declaring it to a fallen Samaritan women.
A few verses down we realize just how fallen. She’s had five husbands and the man she’s currently living with wasn’t even her husband. That’s probably why she came to the well around the 6th hour or noon, in the heat of the day, when no one else would be there, because she was probably even an outcast among her own people. But Jesus knew all this, and revealed His knowledge to her. And she was amazed. And so am I because even with this prior knowledge He doesn’t say, “boy, you really blew it. You’ve really made a mess of your life.” Rather He said, “if you’d asked, I’d have given.”
And that’s just what he says to us. No matter how much we’ve messed up our life, no matter how low on society’s totem poll we are, no matter how insignificant we feel, no matter how “unclean” our lives have become, God loves us, and says, “if you ask I will give you eternal life.” Wow!
Sometimes I don’t understand why God bothers with us. We are so flawed, so weak, so much like the “dog who returns to his own vomit” yet He’s there, saying to each of us, “ask me, and I’ll give you because I love you, no matter who you are or what you’ve done.”
The end of the story is also wonderful. Jesus uses this woman, this fallen unclean Samaritan, to go and tell her community about Him and lead others to Him, thus showing there is a place for even the lowliest in God’s kingdom and in His plan.
Oh what a God we serve! What a loving, tender, good God! And it’s His very goodness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4b).
Until next week,
April 1, 2013 12:42 PM
“He drives out demons through the prince of demons,” the Pharisees said regarding Jesus in Matthew 9:34 after Jesus healed a dumb man and the man spoke. It’s hard to imagine saying such a thing after seeing the wonder of Jesus’ miracles. But scoffers in Jesus’ day came in all forms, but none more odious than the “church” people, the so-called “religious” crowd. The ones who should know better.
And nothing has changed. Today, people still scoff at the miracles and ministry of Jesus, and that includes “church” people. How many times have you heard a “believer” say, miracles aren’t for today? That was only for the times of the apostles in order to build up the church. Really? Where in scripture does it say that? My Bible says Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
So what’s the problem? Why do people scoff? Especially church people? Why must the body of Christ disagree so? And find so much to criticize? It’s because of the enemy within. The enemy that is within all of us. The enemy of Self. Just like in Jesus’ day, today many in the church allow Self to reign in their lives instead of Jesus.
When you boil everything away, there are only three kingdoms: the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Satan, and the Kingdom of Self. And we all serve one of them. Note they are listed in order of power, Self being on the bottom. Satan will never be able to defeat the Kingdom of God. In fact the only kingdom he can conquer is the Kingdom of Self that’s why it pleases him when we walk in self will. He knows it’s only a matter of time before he will conquer us and we will be serving him.
Self wants to be as God. It wants to call the shots and be elevated. It is the true enemy within. The enemy that will close itself to the Word of God thinking it knows best. The enemy that will divide a church because of pride. The enemy that will seek to exalt itself even at the expense of others. The enemy that can look at the proof of Jesus’ miracles and say it is the act of Satan or look at the very Word of God and then twist it to suit its own purpose or motive.
The enemy within is one we must all guard against. Even after coming into the saving knowledge of Jesus we are still flesh and blood and wrestle against the power of darkness as well as possess a mind that is in desperate need of being transformed by the Word of God. It is a struggle that can only be won through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
Oh, that we may all be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ and love one another! Only then will we experience, in the measure that God desires for us, that other kingdom, the Kingdom of God here on earth.
Until next time,
March 25, 2013 13:36 PM
Think God doesn’t care about your situation? Nothing can be further from the truth. All through the New Testament we see the compassion of Jesus. And since Jesus said “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) we know that God the Father is compassionate, too.
Take the story in Luke 7:11-17. Just as Jesus is heading for the gate of a town a funeral processing is coming out. The deceased is a young man, the only son of a widow. And when Jesus sees the widow, he has compassion on her. That word “compassion” in the Greek means to have sympathy to such an extent that the bowels yearn—the very deepest part of a person. This compassion wasn’t a passive thing but made Jesus stop and move in the widow’s direction. “Don’t weep,” He tells her, then raises her son from the dead showing us there is no problem too big for Him to handle.
Luke 7: 18-22 goes on to tell us about John the Baptist sending two of his disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He was the ONE. The one to come, the Messiah. And Jesus answers by pointing to His deeds, how he had cast out demons, healed the blind, lame, the lepers and the deaf and raised the dead, all signs of the Messiah which most of the Pharisees chose to ignore. Jesus was so clearly the ONE that it actually required those learned in the Scriptures to be willful ignorant of His identity. I suppose because acknowledging Him would shake them out of their comfort zone.
But was Jesus looking to have people acknowledge Him for glory? For profit? No. He was looking for people to come to Him so He could heal, deliver, set free. So He could exercise His incomparable compassion and dispense His unconditional love. And He’s still looking today and saying with a heart of compassion, “Come to me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
There is nothing too small or large that we can’t take to our compassionate Jesus.
Until next time,
March 18, 2013 11:25 AM
Ever wonder why some people who profess to be Christians live like anything but? And some even wilder than the world? I have because I know some and was recently reminded by a friend about the parable of the sower. I’m glad she did because immediately a light went on, making perfect sense of the matter.
In Mark 4 Jesus teaches a crowd about a sower and how some of his seed “fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” Then some of the other seed “fell on ground full of rocks” and since there was little soil and the seed had no roots it withered as soon as the sun came up. Still more of the seed “fell among thorns and thistles” which completely choked it out. But thank goodness, some seed actually landed on good ground.
Jesus goes on to explain what all this means. The seed is the Word of God. Sometimes it’s forcibly removed by Satan just like the birds that came and ate it. The Word that falls on stony ground has no roots and as soon as the person, who initially received it with joy, encounters trouble or persecution they immediately fall away. The seed choked out by “thorns and thistle” represents those who allow life’s cares and pressures to squeeze everything else out. The “good ground” is obviously those who care enough about the Word to cultivate it, allow it to take root, and give it a priority in their life.
But how can one cultivate good ground? Well . . . by having a teachable spirit. By understanding that Christianity is a walk of a lifetime, that there are no easy fixes, and that we will surely encounter trials and troubles. And that it is during these trials and troubles that we most need God and need to move closer to Him and not further away. It’s a life of constant dying to self in order to make room for the growing Word. It’s understanding that we’ll never be perfect but that God loves us anyway and that only by His Sprit can we live this life. It’s also remembering those whose seed has been stolen by Satan, or who have turned away because of trouble and persecution, as well as those who are so burdened by the cares of life they have no room or time for anything else. And when we remember them we need to pray that God takes their puny soil and enriches it and cultivates it and makes it fertile much like He did for us for I truly believe all good ground is good only because it was first fertilized by the prayer of others.
Until next time.