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Good for the Worst

God Almighty, Lord of Heaven & Earth, God-Who-Sees, God-Who-Provides, Judge & Counselor, our sinful lays before You revealed, nothing is hidden, everything is known to You. The darkest corners of our hearts & the false impressions we put on to impress others are exposed for what they are in Your sight. There are no secrets we can keep from You, nowhere we can run or hide from Your gaze. You know our going in & our coming out, our lying down & our rising up again. Grant us this mercy today, remind us of Your best, the good You have provided because of our worst. Let us see You & be reminded of our own condition in the light of Your glory. Let us remember today, pace ourselves with the footsteps of Jesus along the Way of Suffering & the Hill of the Skull. May we be present there today & turn our hearts heavenward. Remind us, sweet Jesus, of Your love, mercy & grace over us. Forgive us our deep failings, every one & restore our hearts with Your blood & Spirit. We pray this in the power of Your precious Name, Jesus, amen.

Read slowly.
Close Your eyes & imagine at the paragraph breaks.
Be present, an observer in the crowd today.
Walk through today aware of what He did for you as your day progresses.

Luke 22:54-23:56

(Friday, Early Morning)
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance.
And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”  And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”  And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.”  But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.  And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”  And he went out and wept bitterly.

 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him.  They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”  And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer.  But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”  So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.”  Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”

(Friday, Morning)
Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate.
  And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”  And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.”  Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”  But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.”

 But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”  A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.

 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’  For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

(Friday, About 9am)
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

(Friday, noon)
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,
while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

(Friday, 3pm)
Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man,
who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.

On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
(Friday, ~6pm)

Remember.

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Resurrecting Hope

Father, You bring us hope over and over again. You remind us of things that are here, present before us, but that we simply overlook. In our attempts to look important, in our trying to build a life & world for ourselves, we gloss over basic truths & simple things. When we do this, we build from our own broken foundations, and develop worldviews that fit within our own expectations. Give us hope beyond our own understanding. Open our eyes so we can see the basic truths. Remove the corrupt lenses that we have placed over our own eyes & reveal Your hope-drenched wisdom to us unworthy souls. We pray this in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 20:27-40
27 There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, 28 and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second 31 and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. 32 Afterward the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”

34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” 39 Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40 For they no longer dared to ask him any question.

Have you ever come to Jesus like this? Have you come with your own answer already in your pocket, ready to hear from Him what you think you already know? I do this all the time, I’m sure we all do. We talk and talk and forget to listen. We come in a way that gives an impression of asking, but in reality, we are doing more telling than anything. We don’t seek to receive we seek to have our own ideas confirmed. We see it in these Sadducees in Luke 20. They come to Jesus prepared with both question and answer in hand & He brings them to a place they were not prepared to go. This is why listening is such an important part of our prayer life. This is why time in Word, coming to hear from God, is so vital.

These men & their cohort come to Jesus with this pre-loaded Q&A, thinking themselves awfully clever & ready to show up those guys from across the aisle, the Pharisees, who haven’t been able to stump Jesus quite yet. It’s a simple question, there’s even a degree of humor to it…a seemingly impossible scenario needs to be explained. As Sadducees, they do not believe that anything happens after death, you simply cease to be, & so the whole scenario feels ridiculous. They have seen Jesus break down the arguments of the Pharisees over & over again, & so they have come ready to either have Him confirm their understanding or to begin a debate they feel they cannot lose. This must be one of their favorite questions to tear down their opponents arguments & they bring it to Jesus.

This is something so common to mankind. This whole situation is repeated in different ways in different times, over & over again. We live this life of ours, and we feel like we get a pretty good handle on how things work and why. We talk with some people who disagree with us, but more often than not, we spend a lot of time with people who think the way we think, who do the things we do, who support the things we support even & we build up this wall, a fortress of understanding that helps us to feel secure.

The problem is that the other people, who live behind other walls, feel just as secure, just as protected by their understanding, their worldviews, as we feel behind our walls. They feel their foundations are just as unshakable as ours and they trust in the power of their arguments just as much as we do. And then someone starts lobbing stones over the wall the moment they notice something in your perspective doesn’t line up with theirs. We don’t want to hear ‘different’ because is shakes us. It doesn’t just shake our walls, it shakes our foundations, & that feeling is sickening, frightening & we fight against it every chance we get.

But Jesus doesn’t just answer to the question in the way we would expect Him to answer. Jesus always has a twist ready for us, something that turns our understanding on its head. Jesus reveals truth to our understanding, & He gets to work opening up our misconceptions, exposing our vulnerabilities. He shows us we don’t know all we think we know. And He does it in the Name of love.

So Jesus shows us something better & it rocks our assumptions.

Jesus shows us a new state, in this case, when we return to where we were pre-Fall, we will live on a different foundation than the one we see & experience today. Our worldview will be radically changed. It’s not simply a matter of this world transported with all its present components & intricacies already in place, but it is something new altogether. Yes, this woman had 7 husbands, but that was this life & so that scenario has nothing to do with the next. There is more to this argument than you can see, a wider view to this world than your constructs allow you to see.

We are more than we think we are. Listen to His words, “…for all live to Him.” Examine for a moment the depth of implication that lies within these words of His. Oh, these words! There is a lot of meaning wrapped up in them, if we hang out here & look at them, letting them soak in for a while. Jesus isn’t just talking about death & life here. He is opening up a massive hole in their understanding of the world. He is pointing toward the true source of meaning & glory & He is letting them know that this life isn’t even about all these petty squabbles &misunderstandings, those little distractions aren’t at the core of what really matters.

There is so much more.

“…for” = Here is the meat of the matter, here is what breaks down your assumptions & self-made logic. This is where the boulder of truth comes smashing through the walls you’ve built.

“all” = Everyone, all parties concerned are affected by this coming statement. Truth isn’t just for one faction or another. This is a foundational, universal truth & if your foundation is lacking this bit of reinforcement…it will come a’tumbling down. Pharisee, Sadducee & CantYouSee alike are all affect by this thing that coming. You cannot build a wall that includes only certain groups or that excludes others.

“live” = Exist. Currently. As in, right now. There isn’t a loophole to jump through here. Everyone lives, even if you can’t see them now, they’re alive. Sadducees would have argued against the soul, the immortal soul, &here Jesus very plainly shows us that there is an existence beyond this physical stuff that we slog around in every day. There is a spiritual realm that isn’t affected by physical death. It’s a point of transition, sure, & when we reach that point, that doorway, there are some things that we need to have come to grips with before we cross through. But everyone crosses through…& they continue on. What you see is not always what you get. What we perceive is not all there is to this world. We are constantly unlocking & exposing new things in this universe through the “marvels” of science. And how often do we hear scientists say that things aren’t ‘behaving’ they way they expected, or that a model will need to be re-looked at or revamped according to the new evidence at hand? It happens all. the. time.

“to Him” = This isn’t simply a state of being. This is also a state of purpose. We all live to Him. We all live to Him. All answers must spring from Him & point to Him. That’s the way this works. We all live for God &are alive in His eyes. Alive or dead by human reckoning means nothing in terms of permanence. Once life comes it remains. Period. Conception, cradle, college, career, care-facility, casket, carried over to eternity…we are alive. We live this life for God & we will always be because of Him. We were created to be immortal after all. Finite, but immortal. And we were created for His good pleasure & purpose, not simply for ourselves.  This is all about God, & the sooner our foundations contain that base platform, the better off we will be.

Look, questions are good, it is great to ask questions. God is cool with us asking Him all sorts of questions. And they are good so long as we come expecting an answer for our lack of understanding. We should not come to God expecting Him to always cater to what we think we know. We should come to Him expecting to be changed & to have our eyes opened. He develops our apologetic, not our own experiences. Jesus comes with an answer that blows open the foundations of the Sadducee worldview, & it’s a beautiful thing. It shuts them up immediately, but it’s a beautiful answer. Jesus resurrects hope, & they don’t know what to do with it at all. When we walk in the rhythms of His grace, we will experience this on a regular basis…&that’s a very good thing. In fact, it becomes a point of joy if we are ready to receive it. Let’s pray that we are…

A Song for the Brokenhearted

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“1 Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
    for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.”
Psalm 147:1-5 ESV

How do you respond to someone when they’re brokenhearted? What do you say when someone’s world has come crashing down? What words are there in the midst of tragedy?
Too often, our song of peace for others in these times is silenced because we fear crossing a boundary. We are worried that we will overstep, say too much, maybe, somehow, make things even worse. And so we give someone a nod, a pat on the shoulder, and simply mutter “I’m praying for you.” Then we walk away wishing there was more we could have said, dozens of phrases begin swirling in our head. But we tell our self that the moment has passed, and it’s best not to make it any more difficult of awkward than it already is…

But that is not where we find God. The psalmist points us in the right direction here. By the power of the Holy Spirit at work in his heart and hand, we find this gentle reminder that we can always share. Look at Who God is, and what He does:

1. God is always worthy of praise, no matter what may be going on.
In times of tragedy, we are often reminded of Job. And what does Job say when he has lost his fortune, and more importantly, his own children?

20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
Job 1:20-22

It may feel absurd to praise God in these moments, but look at what praise does in us. It restores the most basic function of our life, it reminds us of our purpose…to do just that, praise God. And when we praise God we are comforted by His presence, because when we praise Him, we stand before Him.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4

We are comforted when we come into the presence of God, and praise is the remembering of the good things that He has done. In spite of whatever else may be going on, God has been good, is good, and will continue to be good. It is our world that is broken, not Him. And so we praise Him, and in turn we are comforted. He responds when we respond in faith.

2. He builds us up. He heals us. He binds our wounds.

When we feel broken, when others are shattered by the events of life in this sin-wrecked world, when death rears its head and that valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23) looms high over our hearts and heads, we find ourselves still in the almighty clutches of the Good Shepherd (John 10), the Great Physician (John 5) who has promised The Comforter (John 16), The Holy Spirit to be present with us in all things, just as He is (Matthew 28.) He is the Traveler along our road, who stops, stoops down and meets our every need (Luke 10.)
He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13) He has promised us this. He is near to the brokenhearted, and He knows our pains.

3. He reminds us that He is still in control, ordering our days. He knows all the details, and nothing escapes His watchful eye and loving heart. Listen again to what the psalmist says:

He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.

When we feel broken, when others are shattered by the events of life in this sin-wrecked world, we look to God and are lovingly reminded of this great truth. If He knows and names the countless stars in a billion, billion galaxies, surely He knows my name, too. He knows my every hurt. He knows what brings me joy, and He knows how to share His peace.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 10:29-33

He knows us. He acknowledges us. We need only to turn our eyes back to Him, trust in Him, and remember who holds our days. Again, faith brings us to this point of healing. If we allow a root of bitterness to spring up in us, healing will be longer distant and harder fought.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
Hebrews 12:15

Grace is quickly given, but we must also see to it that we allow it to rest on our hearts. It is easy to sink into the mire of depression in a dark season. It is easy to be a party of one, closing ourselves off in a solitary prison of pain. But that root of bitterness grows and strangles, and the answer to it is to seek out God, and serve someone else. Comforting others, even in the midst of our own pain, can be a great healing experience, and help us remember the goodness of God.

3. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.”

When we feel broken, when others are shattered by the events of life in this sin-wrecked world, we need to submit ourselves to this one unbending truth. God is great. He is abundant in power. We cannot grasp the depths of His understanding. And even if we don’t feel like we have the words to share in the midst of pain, this one thing we do have.
Nothing is beyond our God. No hurt stands beyond His understanding, and even when we feel utterly powerless, God is still Sovereign-over-all. He will never fail us. He is our joy, our rock, our refuge and our hiding place.

He never promises us that we will understand everything that happens in this life, either on this side of eternity or the other. But He guarantees us this: He knows, He is in control & He loves us deeply.

Comfort someone with these truths, or allow God to be your point of comfort in the midst of your own trials.

You_are_not_alone.

Psalm 118

1Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
    the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
    What can man do to me?
The Lord is on my side as my helper;
    I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.

10 All nations surrounded me;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees;
    they went out like a fire among thorns;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
13 I was pushed hard,[a] so that I was falling,
    but the Lord helped me.

14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.
15 Glad songs of salvation
    are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
16     the right hand of the Lord exalts,
    the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!”

17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
    and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has disciplined me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.[b]
23 This is the Lord‘s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save us, we pray, O Lord!
    O Lord, we pray, give us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
    up to the horns of the altar!

28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Coming back around

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A year has passed.
I’m blowing the dust off the blog, and getting back into my writing. I initially took a break because I found that my motivations for writing had lapsed from being devotional toward becoming a walk through a lesson plan. Being a teacher by nature, I struggle with this quite often, and so I have to mix up my methods to keep my heart in the right place as I have my daily encounters with God.

It’s silly to say that a lot has happened over the past year, because a lot naturally happens in the course of 366 days (it’s a leap year) but it really has for us. I’m not going to try to walk through all of that today, but bits and pieces will make their way through over time.

For now, suffice it to say, I am beginning a new rotation through my devotional time. I am two weeks into a new prayer schedule that I am really enjoying, and my desire to be up and moving super early is coming back.

I may reflect on my daily reading, my prayer time or even on something from another author or minister during this time. I have several people who ask me questions about faith & practice on a regular basis, so I may work through my thoughts & answers in this format, too.

Regardless of where we may find ourselves a year out from the last time I wrote, may God bless you & keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you & bring you His peace.

In Christ,
Ben

Acts 17:10-15 // Finding Answers

“10 As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas off to Berea. On arrival, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 The people here were more open- minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Consequently, many of them believed, including a number of the prominent Greek women as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica found out that God’s message had been proclaimed by Paul at Berea, they came there too, agitating and disturbing the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul away to go to the sea, but Silas and Timothy stayed on there. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible, they departed.”

Acts 17:10-15

How can I know God’s heart? How can I understand Him better? How can I get better at listening to the Holy Spirit? How can I know God’s will for my life? How can I make better decisions? How can I be stronger in my faith? How can I do a better job at answering questions about my faith? How can I be more confident in sharing my faith? How do I even know what to share and when? How do I do a better job of standing firm in tough times? How do I find comfort when it seem like I’m on my own? How do I do a better job encouraging people? How do I teach my children what’s right? How do I stand as a Christian in a culture that is so different from what I believe? 

There are thousands of other questions along these lines, and for the most part, they have one answer: 

Seek God through His Word.
There is nothing more to say. It is, in fact, that simple. “Consequently, many of them believed…”

Read the Bible. Do it daily. Don’t glance over it. Spend dedicated time in it. Ask God to guide your heart with His Holy Spirit and teach you. Be a ‘good Berean’ and examine the Word to find His answers as you GoLove others. 

reality: it’s not what you think you think it possibly is, usually…

there are lots of fun things to wonder about that we will never know the answers to…

for example, our senses, is what i perceive green to look like what you see as well? do we all see the wavelengths of light the same way? you would think we would, we have near identical make-ups when it comes to how those processes work, but that doesn’t mean that what happens in the process of perception is the same. (and then there are those who are color blind in varying degrees, those are a whole other set of questions.)

when i taste a cup of coffee, or a bagel or a hot ham & cheese sandwich, it what i taste what you taste? we may have a similar description of what it is, but that is because it is a learned response. we may both perceive the sandwich to taste good, we may both enjoy what we understand to be the mellow undertones of the ham mixed with the sharper flavors of the swiss cheese or the bite of the brown mustard…

i know, it’s a big mystery, right? (okay, not a real big mystery) it’s not one we’re usually concerned with. it’s not something we care much about, because we all assume that we share a common experience in these basic areas of life. and in truth, we probably do. it’s going to be those odd times (like when someone is color blind) that things divert from what is ‘normal.’

so how do we determine what reality is? how do we come to some sort of understanding or common ground? colossians 2:17 tells us that reality is found in Christ. everything else is gauged from Him. What we see today must be seen through the filter of the cross in order for us to truly see. the images the world places before us are coated in opinion and propaganda and distorted by sin. 

so, when people were coming out to see Jesus, when those crowds started to grow to the point where there were always people pushing in from all sides, we may wonder what their motivation was, what were they seeing in Jesus that compelled them so strongly?

Jesus tells those who witnessed the feeding of the 5000  that they returned because they got a free meal…their stomachs were filled. but that’s not what His main concern was when people came together. if they weren’t after physical things, then maybe they had a political agenda to be fulfilled, or maybe they had more questions than anything. there were also those who wanted to desperately find fault in Him so they could feel better about their own choices in life.

were their concerns carnal or spiritual? what drove them? what were they after?

and the same questions need to be asked of us today. what do we see  when we look at Jesus? what is it that we are after? are we trying to fulfill a base desire? or do we seek something more? what draws us to Jesus? just what are we in pursuit of?

Jesus will meet us wherever we may be in the process, but His desire is to obviously bring us to the point where we experience and see things in the same way that He did and does. then, and only then, will we have a proper idea of what reality is, just how great the love of God is, and why sin brings His wrath.

Jesus, please give us Your perspective. help us to truly see.

amen.

the list

so, as the meal progresses, Jesus is showing true concern for the ‘sinners’ at levi’s home. they are on the receiving end of love for the first time probably in the spiritual lives since they were children, if not at all. Jesus’ presence there in that home was a confirmation of their worth in God’s eyes, and they probably would have stayed there forever with Him.

the pharisees were still at the door questioning the disciples about just what it was their Teacher was doing, whether He realized who it was He was eating with, if He still had any regard for the Law, etc. and Jesus, as much as those people at the party needed to have His attention, had to step in and explain God to the people who were supposed to understand Him and be the example for the community.

He lays it out for them that it isn’t their call to determine who hears about God and who doesn’t. salvation is not theirs to dole out as they see fit. which is good, because they were completely inept at being who they were supposed to be anyway…let alone caring for the people the way they should have been.

it’s not the healthy who need His attention, not the people who seem to have everything together. not the people who attend church at every opportunity. not the people who already take the time to study the Word. not the people whose needs are being met. not the people whose hearts are in order. not the people who know God already. not he people who have been schooled on the rules, the in’s & out’s of living a God-honoring life. Jesus wasn’t here for them…they should be in pretty good shape because of God’s work in their lives already.

yes, He still has time for those people. yes, He still has concern for those people. yes, He still loves and cares for those people. but they aren’t the ones bleeding out on the operating table. they aren’t the ones suffering from diseases of the soul. they are not the ones who need His attention the most, and having to come answer petty questions from a bunch of spiritual buzz kills is not where He was needed at that moment. but rather than let someone who plays a doctor on tv try to do an operation, He steps in and takes over.

Jesus explains to them that the sick are the ones who need Him.

the downtrodden and rejected need Him.

the poor and disenfranchised need Him.

the wayward and the worldly need Him.

the depraved and the dying need Him.

the lost and confused need Him.

the hopeless and alone need Him.

who are we inviting to our parties? who are we introducing to Jesus? the healthy and ‘safe’ people? great. but they aren’t the ones on the heart donor list. they aren’t the ones whose lives are on the line. we don’t want to rob people from one church to the next. what’s the point? to fluff up our numbers with people who are all spiritually healthy to begin with? what good is that? who does that profit? no one.

instead, we need to find the depraved and the wicked and attend to their wounds.

we need to seek out the lost and the broken and lift them up to their feet, and teach them to walk in Christ Jesus.

we need to bring the hungry to the storehouse of everything that is good, and lay out a feast for them.

quit trying to ‘evangelize’ the saved, and ask your waiter where he goes to church. leave your church going ‘safe’ neighbors to keep on growing in Christ, and instead go to the house no one visits and invite them along with you for Bible study. make conversation in the check out line and become ‘that person’ who will talk to anyone and everyone about God, seeking out those who are sick.

we are all waiting room attendants, and e.r. nurses. Jesus is the resident on call. we do triage, He fixes the heart and brings them back from death. quit throwing the healthy onto a table when the dying need the operation.

Father God, help us to see the sick, the needy, the hopeless. Help us to get off our blessed assurance and uncork our mouths. there are so many who need You, so many who are still in shock from the injuries and don’t understand the seriousness of their wounds. use our hands to apply pressure to the bleeding while you stitch them back up. use our hands to calm them as you stabilize their vitals…and for Your sake, let us concentrate our efforts on those who actually need help.

forgive us for treating the person with the sniffles over the one who has been shot through the heart.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Spirit have mercy.

amen.

avoiding confrontation

so, while Jesus was talking and eating with levi and the other ‘sinners’ in his home, the pharisees pull aside a few of the disciples to ask them questions about their rabbi. they were undoubtedly curious about His choice of eating arrangements for the evening. they were probably also frustrated because of His complete disregard of their system for social interaction, or the lack thereof. also…He was making them look bad in a way they couldn’t cope with on any level.

i imagine that some of the disciples went right into the house with Jesus and levi, because they didn’t hold much regard for the pharisee’s rule either. they had never been in the ‘in crowd’ religiously speaking. the zebedee boys may have enjoyed it because it was something previously forbidden, and so it was kind of like rebelling. but a few of the other disciples must have been uncomfortable, and so they stood just inside the house where you could be near the door in case anything ‘bad’ happened.

so, the pharisees begin to question these few that are near the door about their rabbi’s behavior. they may have been looking for an opportunity just like this, so they could feel morally superior, according to their own standards, and look down their noses at Jesus. they were always on the hunt for an opportunity like this, to ask questions that made them seem better then others. their perception of their moral superiority, and their appearance of holiness to others was a driving factor about why they were who they were.

Jesus’ description of ‘white washed tombs’ was spot on. they were all about the look of spirituality with none of the heart. they couldn’t bear to see someone doing something against their own man-made rules, but they also couldn’t interact wit the people who needed the most help. it would have hurt their image to speak with them, or to make a house call. so they really made for lousy shepherds and blind guides. they were of absolutely no help to anyone.

their lives were inaccurate representations of God’s desire for us, and so they drove more people away from Him than they could drive to Him. they were counter-productive to their own cause. and so they were truly sad to see. like a made for tv movie of your favorite novel. they were ‘loosely based’ on something much better, but the production quality was low and there had been too many re-writes to the script. they were more flawed than the guys who were just out being regular ‘sinners.’ they had a whole series of mental blocks built up against God that had to be torn down, burned and disposed of before they could come to a point of repentance like levi reached by being told ‘follow me.’

they spoke to the disciples, because they knew that speaking to Jesus would have led to some sort of conviction in their own lives, and they couldn’t have that. it was easier avoiding confrontation, and staying on the fringes.

Father God, please forgive me when i stand behind my own ‘moral superiority’ or hide from confrontation. let me be willing at all times, and in all places to speak with and spend time with your children, no matter where they may be found. i don’t want to wear a mask of smug spirituality. i don’t want a calloused heart. forgive me, and mold me into who You want me to be each day.

Father, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Spirit, have mercy.

amen.

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