Thursday, June 22, 2017

He blesses and lives

13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)

Thoughts: What matters is not what the populace is saying- what everyone else is saying.  What matters is what we believe.  The belief in Christ is done individually, and once done it unites us corporately to Christ- as a part of His body; and to other believers- the Church.  The profession and confession of Peter is others may say you are a prophet- but I say you are the Messiah the Son of the Living God.
    There are two parts of this confession that are important.  Jesus is seen as the Messiah- the anointed one (the Christ in Greek).  The Messiah was supposed to come and bless the people with healing, with help, with mercy, and call the people back to God.  Certainly Jesus did all of that.  He taught as no one else taught and healed which was a huge blessing.  His resurrection is a blessing in that it gives us hope after death.
      The other part is "the Son of the Living God" (uios tou theou tou zontos) Later the High Priest would ask, :"Tell us if you are the Christ the Son of God." (Mt. 26:63).  Jesus sometimes called himself, "The Son of Man" emphasizing that His essence is human.  But in calling and allowing Himself to be called "The Son of God" emphasizes that His essence is divine.  He is both human and divine.  The Messiah stands between humanity and divinity to unite them to each other.  He is not the Son of a dying or dead God- but  a living God.  That anything is alive is a testimony to the liveliness of God.  It is not that He died giving birth.  Rather He lives now and continually- the living (zontos) One- sustaining all things- giving breath to the chemicals making life.  If God withdrew His hand the balance of nature would be out of whack.  Jesus is here to show God cares and cares even today.  He was not just the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Moses- He is the living God now who answers prayers.  Jesus shows God's care and answered prayer by healing the sick and welcoming the outcast.   Our task is to let His anointing flow over us.  This means to let His love, mercy, grace, holiness, and power overflow us and heal us from sin and evil.  But our task is also to believe that the God who blesses is living and caring right now.  We should not be ashamed to join Peter in making that confession.  

Prayer: Lord, you answer prayer- than you.  You are alive and you show your love in so many ways.  Help me to witness to this in my life.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

On Your Guard Against False Teaching

5When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
7They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”
8Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  (Matthew 16:5-12)

Thoughts: Jesus wants us to not always have our minds on what we have or don't have.  Instead, He wants us to think of what is good or evil.  In many quarters today- if anything is spiritual it is by nature good. If ISIS teaches us anything it is that "It matters what you believe."  Jesus was saying this about a Jewish group that got a lot right but took it to the extreme losing the balance of love and grace.  To have all the right beliefs but not have love- we are like a clanging cymbal (1 Cor. 13).  Love and grace should tinge every belief.  The other side is just to believe in love as if truth doesn't matter.  We need to hold onto both truth and love: justice and righteousness.
    Eternal things are always more important than physical temporal things.  Jesus certainly cares about our physical needs.  He originated the physical needs and showed his compassion when he fed the 5,000 and 4,000.  Jesus is the great provider.  But He also cares more for our eternal soul.  He wants the disciples to trust in Him to provide but He also wants the disciples to guard their hearts against false teaching.  There are things others teach that wither our souls.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to be conscious of the things that would wither my soul.  Help me to be aware that the teachings I read and put into my mind affect my relationship with you.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Trust Without a Sign

1The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
2He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.a 4A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away. (Mathew 16:1-4)

Thoughts: This was the second time Matthew records the religious leaders asked for a sign (Mt. 12:39).  Both times Jesus says no more signs than what he was doing but promised the sign of Jonah- rising up from the belly of death.
      Jesus also spoke of the weather signs.  He seemed to be insinuating that they people should be able to look around at their environment and see the need for a Messiah.  But to add to this, Jesus had already done many signs- healing the sick, the deaf, the lepers, and others.  Such signs, prophesied by Isaiah, were indications the Messiah had come adn tith Him the presence of God.
       In many ways, Jesus was simply asking the people to trust in Him without some kind of supernatural sign.  It is the same today.  We are called to believe in God whether an answered prayer happens or not.  We are called to "Trust God Period."  Not "I will trust God is He does this for me, or answers this prayer for me."  Jesus would like for us to trust in His sign of the resurrection- it is our hope and our link to eternal life.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to trust in you with all my heart- not relying on any miracle or superstitious sign.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Feeding of the 4,000

29Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
32Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
33His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”
34“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”
35He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.  (Matthew 15:29-39)

Thoughts: Jesus once more shows that he cares about the needs of many.  Jesus fed 5,000 and now he feeds 4,000.  He did this not to wow people but to show compassion.  They were trying to follow Him and He wanted to care for their needs.  It was a seemingly impossible situation.  Food is remote.  The food available is not nearly enough.  Just as God provided Manna from heaven, Jesus provides for His people who chose to follow Him.  When they put the inadequate amount in the hands of Jesus it became more than adequate.  There were even leftovers!
      When we take what we have, however inadequate, and put it in Jesus hands- trusting Him- it becomes adequate to do the job.  

Prayer: Lord. help me to trust in you and to give back to you my gifts.  

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mercy Breaks Through

21Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matthew 15:21-28)

Thoughts: Jesus went to the region of the Gentiles.  This was highly unusual for a Jewish leader.  It was also unusual for a gentile lady to believe that Jesus could help her and her daughter.  She called Him Lord, and put her faith in His ability to help her daughter.  Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, but He is also the Messiah of the world.  While He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, the woman knew His power was not limited.  Her great faith insured her prayer was answered.  She broke through to God's merciful heart.  We too break through when we ask God continually in humility and mercy for help.  God is a merciful God and He longs to be merciful to us - if we will but call on His mercy in humility.  

Prayer: Lord, have mercy on me and hear my prayers.  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sins of the Heart

5Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
16“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matthew 15:15-20)

Thoughts: What is most important for the church is not its buildings, not its robes and candles or fine ornamentation.  The Protestant Reformation really was a reaction against the finery and political power of the church 500 years ago.  It was an effort to get back to Jesus' own priorities.  What counts is the heart.  The exterior washing and exterior words mean nothing without strong heart and actions.  Specifically Jesus pointed out things that are quickly becoming epidemic in our society:
     1) Murder- the devaluing of human life for some ideal is a growing issue.  The shooting of Republican lawmakers, the shooting by a UPS disgruntled employee this week, the Emmanuel Nine shooting in Charleston, the terrorist killing of women and children really all show a devaluing of human life.  We not only need to not murder, we need to respect and value life.
    2) Adultery- the breaking of marriage vows made before God is becoming so problematic that some seem to indicate it is not a sin any more. But God wants to protect us from physical problems (like venereal disease and AIDS), mental problems brought on by the destruction of relationship, and the protection of children from economic and spiritual harm that may come from the desertion of children from a broken relationship.
    3) Sexual Immorality- this is differentiated from adultery by Jesus.  It is the word "porneia" from which we get the word "pornography."  64% of American men admit they view pornography at least once a month.  But porneia includes all sexual activity outside of marriage including fornication, sex  with animals, sex with those of the same gender, and sex with those who are close relatives.  The rape of co-eds in colleges has reached epidemic proportion.  It is the number one fear of co-eds going to college in America today.  
    4) Theft- Theft includes cheating, embezzling, stealing what is not yours.  It is not respecting the work of others by taking what is not ours.  $35 million a day is stolen from American stores in shoplifting.  One Walmart in Winnsboro SC admitted it closed because it could not control shoplifting.
       5) FalseTestimony- this includes lying, but it also is a degrading of truth.  Spin is viewed by many as more valuable than truth.  The accusations around us of fake news, of lying in national testimonies is a problem that seems to fuel the devaluing of truth.
      6) Slander- is falsely accusing others of evil.  There are people who make up evil because they want it to happen.  In 2014 London saw a jump of 60% of defamation law suits.  Social Media where people may comment anonymously adds to the fuel of slander.  Bullying is an example of this- and it is not limited to schools.  28% of students 12-18 years old report being bullied in school.    
There will be many who disagree with me about what is or is not a sin above and will miss the overall point that Jesus called these things sin because they come from the heart and destroy us not just physically and mentally, but also deeply and spiritually.  We need to get back to getting our hearts right with God and all these yukky things will take a back seat.  
Prayer: Lord, let me heart be right with you.  Forgive my sins of the heart against you.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

Leave them alone- they are blind guides

10Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
12Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
13He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14Leave them; they are blind guides.d If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:10-14) 

Thoughts: Jesus told the parable of the weeds and tares and nets.  Soon after the Pharisees wanted Jesus to buy into their secondary laws.  Jesus lived the parables by saying to "leave them alone."  Jesus did not go into megadebate mode- which is what the Pharisees would like.  He did not fight- Pharisees or Romans which is what the zealots would like.  His advice is not to attack them or separate from them.  His advice is just to leave them alone.  In the end, God shows the weeds are weeds and the real plants are real.  Blind guides should be left to go along blind.  This is a turning of the cheek. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to turn the cheek to those who do not understand.  But help me to be faithful to you and your will for me.