Friday, June 30, 2017

Speaking of the Transfiguration...

6When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:6-9)

Thoughts: The disciples were in awe when Moses and Elijah came- as well they should have been.  But when they heard the voice of the Father, they were scared to death.  Typically, Jesus was not, and sought to comfort them.  Many times he was saying, "Do not be afraid."  He said it when he walked on water, He would say it before His arrest and at His resurrection among other times.  The point of the Transfiguration event was to help them to have courage as they prepared to face the cross.
      Why would Jesus ask them to "not tell anyone what they had seen until after the resurrection?"  There were several prophecies in and out of scripture that Elijah would come back before the Messiah came.  If the disciples let the word out that Moses and Elijah had shown up, there would have been a huge commotion, and Jesus' threat to the authorities and his arrest would have been even quicker.  The event was real, but the meaning is clearer after the resurrection than before it.  There is a time to speak and a time to refrain from speaking.  We would be wise to follow that same advice, and also the advice to not be afraid but have courage as we seek to minister in His name.  

Prayer: Lord, give me courage to do your will and answer your call.  Also give me wisdom so I may speak your truth where it can be heard.     

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Jesus and the Shekinah Glory

5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5) 

Thoughts: What would it take for you to listen to someone?  If God Himself said to, would you do it?  This certainly made an impression on Peter, James, and John.  2 Peter 1:18 speaks of the "voice we heard out of heaven when we were on the mount."   John 1:14 says, "We have seen his glory and this glory is the light of all people."  Yet, even with this special light and voice; even with Elijah and Moses, Peter denied Him.  Even seeing God's glory in the the Passover and the miracles of the deliverance from Egypt- the people went back to following their old gods.  Miracles inspire- but keeping that inspiration going is hard. We cannot bottle it (see yesterday's devotion).  
    The bright cloud was a symbol of the "shekinah" glory that filled the Temple (2 Chronicles 7:1-3) and was with Moses as he spoke with God on Sinai and occasionally in the Tabernacle. Shekinah comes from the biblical word "shekinot" that means dwelling.  It is the glory of God dwelling in a certain spot.  We also see this special cloud by day (blocking the heat) and a pillar of fire by night leading the people of Israel and protecting them from their enemies.  So these three disciples saw a bit of the radiance of God resting on Jesus.  

    They also heard the voice of God affirming Jesus and approving of His past work and words.  The Father wanted Jesus' disciples to be brave, listening, and obedient but they were not.  

Prayer: Lord, give me grace to listen to you even without a visible or audible sign of your presence.  Help me to obey you by faith and not by sight.  

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

We Cannot bottle the Spirit

4Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (Matthew 17:4)

Thoughts: We would like to can the moment.  We would like to take the time when we most experienced God and box it up so it would never go away.  Peter wanted to make this temporary but wonderful experience a lasting one.  He wanted to put up at least a tent and maybe a house for each of the three special people.  He was willing to go without and let James and John go without too- just so it would last.  But this transfiguration was not heaven.  It was only a glimpse of heaven. They would have to move through the cross to get to the next big glimpse- the resurrection of Jesus.  The transfiguration was really a time of encouragement and preparation for Jesus and the disciples to face their biggest heartbreak- the arrest, suffering and death of Jesus.
     So we too would like to stay at the Christian conference and never go home.  We would like to remain on the mission trip where our faith grew.  Maybe we would like to stay on vacation just a bit longer.  We cannot bottle the Spirit any more than we can "can" the wind. The Church has tried many times but failed.  Our calling is to answer the call to be the best we can be for the glory of God wherever He leads us.  Our calling to honor God- though difficult at times- is where we need to be, and is a step closer to our real home and peace.  

Prayer: Lord, let me take my spiritual highs and grow from them.  Let your encouragement always work through me to accomplish your goals for me.    

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The transfiguration

1After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
 (Matthew 17:1-3)

Thoughts: Jesus was in Caesarea Philippi (according to Matthew 16), and went to a high mountain.  It does not identify the mountain- early Christians identified it as Mt. Tabor and a monastery is built there to remember the act.   Jesus did not take everyone, just a few who had proven most faithful.  Even today Jesus reveals more of Himself to those who are the most faithful to Him.
      What was the nature of this "transfiguration"?  In old literature it speaks of saints having a special light, glow or halo about them.  But perhaps Jesus' glow is similar to the glow on Moses' face when he met with God on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 34:29-35). When the angels appeared at the resurrection is says (28:3): "
His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow." The God of light leaves a trace like radiation on the face of the One who comes near to Him.  God was especially present in glory on top of this mountain.  It was symbolized by Moses (representing the Law), Elijah (representing the prophets) and the voice from heaven affirming his sonship, his pleasure with what Jesus has said and done, and the need for the disciples to listen to Jesus.
      The transfiguration had a purpose.  It was from here that Jesus goes to Jerusalem to die.  He would face fierce applause and fiercer opposition from this point on.  Moses and Elijah were both leaders who withstood the tests of their time.  Moses was one of the only true believers left when he came down and saw the people reveling like pagans.  Elijah was the only prophet left and they tried to kill him too.  They were encouraging Jesus to persevere.  Perhaps the transfiguration is for us to remember to persevere too.  Let us not lost sight of those who persevered in the past nor lose sight of our future hope and reward. 

Prayer: Lord, give me grace to remember those who were faithful and follow in their footsteps.  But let me also hope in the prospects of your glory.  

Monday, June 26, 2017

He Comes Again

 26What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
28“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:26-28)

Thoughts: The soul (psyche) of us is the essence of who we are.  In Hebrew the word is nephesh (breath- God's life-breath in us).  The soul is the part that lives, and our body is part of it.  Descartes (1620) spent decades trying to find the soul and he suggested it is found in the pineal gland in the brain as it is the only part of the brain not split into two hemispheres.  MacDougal (1901) postulated by weighing those near death with those who died that the soul weighs 21 grams.  My theory is the soul is part of our DNA and resides in each molecule like DNA does/with the DNA.  As air and water reside in each cell so the soul - the essence of who we are resides in each part of us.  To give up our soul is to give up our essence or our mind-- and who would want to do that?  The ancient idea is that one day we will have to stand before the One who made our souls and give an account of our lives- were we good stewards of the breath and life given to us.
       Before we get wary of "wrath of God" type stuff, let us also be assured of these things: - 1) This is a sure way for evil to end; 2) This is something that holds us accountable so that we do not think we can get away with anything;  3) In reality- this means that what we do matters- that there is a good and evil that will be judged; 4) For those who love God this is not something to be afraid of- it is seeing the One we love and being welcomed and accepted fully.  While a bride may be nervous seeing her husband on her wedding day, she can be assured that the wedding day is something not to fear but to look forward to.
        The coming of Christ had four parts: 1) He was in the beginning; 2) He sometimes made theophanies/appearances- like in the fire with Daniel and his friends- "Like the Son of God."  3) He came to earth as a baby and human and suffered; 4) He rose from the dead- coming again in power (this was what was probably alluded to here).  His coming in His kingdom is a measure of His glory.  5) He will come again with all His glory and the total fullness of His kingdom at the end of  human history.  God comes.  He was, and is, and is to come.  It is the "is to come" part that we look forward to as those who love Him. 

Prayer: Lord, may I grow in anticipation of the day when I shall see you face to face either by my death or by your coming again.    

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Lose Your Stuff for Your Soul

24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save their lifef will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  (Matthew 16:24-26)

Thoughts: To believe means to make God your Lord and your God.  If the things of this world are our god, then we will have great difficulty with what Jesus is saying.  But if we want to be free from the worries of this world, then we must be willing to give the world up.  Perhaps we feel that this is a lot to ask.  Such thinking/feeling is already assuming that our lives our our own to give as we want or please.  Once we recognize that we are not our own, we can hold onto this life gingerly- giving it up for the One who gave His life for us.
     This passage combines much of the teachings of Jesus- die to self and live for God.  Quit trying to save this life- your stuff, your reputation, your being fashionable and popular- they will all fade.  I am on a beautiful place called, "Harbor Island" in South Carolina.  But a block away are eight million dollar+ beach homes that are uninhabitable because the beach has eroded and Hurricane Matthew destroyed their foundations.  Some of these homes went from dream homes to nightmare homes.  sandbags and seawalls did not help.  No amount of walls or health care solutions we have could prevent the ultimate health care solution (heaven) from happening.  How much fame, popularity, money, cars, stuff would it take for you to lose your soul forever?  Many have lost it.  Now the burden of debts while they pursued the dream are dragging them (and perhaps our country) down.  There is more student loan debt now than consumer debt  Let us be wiling to lose our lives, 

Prayer: Lord, give me grace to lose myself for your love.  Let me stop blinding myself with the illusion that my stuff goes on forever.  

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Suffering Many Things

21From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:21-23) 

Thoughts: As I write this I am not "suffering many things."  I am on vacation- at the house of one of my elders on the beach.  It seems totally ironic how blessed parts of America are compared to those early disciples or many other parts of the world.  We can almost feel like we deserve such blessing if we are not very, very careful.  When we are blessed it is okay.  It is okay to enjoy the blessings and comforts of life- but we need to express real gratitude.  No one deserves the blessings- big or small that we have.  No one is entitled to these blessings- it is not a fringe benefit or guaranteed benefit of life.  The yeast of the Pharisees- is in part the belief that it is all about the externals- how you look, how you appear on the surface, and the temporary things you have.
      Everyone of us- without exception- must suffer.  Unless we are blessed with the Lord's coming back- we will cross the river of death to get to the other side to the land of life.  Peter didn't want to think of His Lord suffering.  Jesus would go on to say that all who follow Him must deny themselves and take up their cross.
      But Peter was not focused on the end result.  He wasn't saying, "Never should you be raised to life on the third day."  We sometimes miss that there is life after death- and we just want to keep on living forever.  We are like an unborn baby who loves the womb because it is what we are used to.  Life does not stop when our breath stops.  For people of faith, life keeps going- like graduation- we may not know exactly what it will be like- but we move on with the same purpose and hope.  Graduates may not like to leave and move on, but life goes on-only with a milestone behind you.  To want to always live comfortably here- to want or demand a heavenly existence here on earth is to not know the reality we face.  So Peter's insistence that Jesus not suffer, was a temptation for Jesus to give up His purpose.  It is through His suffering that the resurrection happened.  But His suffering had a redemptive quality- He was a sacrifice for our sins.  Secular folks cannot understand sacrifice of anything in this life for another- and even how it could possibly be redemptive.  Jesus didn't suffer continually in life- but when the time came He was willing to suffer.  We should be too.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to be ready to face my cross and to deny myself when I can honor you or serve someone else.  

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.  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tradition vs. the Heart

1Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
3Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’a and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’b 5But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.7You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8“ ‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’c ” (Matthew 15:1-9)

Thoughts: The Pharisees sought Jesus out to accuse Him.  They were looking for something wrong. The washing of hands was not a soap and water thing, but a tradition-- a rule added to the laws of the Bible.  Jesus was saying such things are not necessary.  It is not the exterior things that make someone clean, but getting the heart right.  In some ways, this was Jesus' main message- get your heart right.  He also pointed out they had some traditions that watered down the very law they sought to uphold.
As father's day comes up, perhaps it is good to note that Jesus upheld the commandment to honor father and mother here.  The Jews were saying you could give a gift to the Lord's work (the ultimate father), then you didn't have to support your parents when they were in need.  One great core Biblical tradition is to honor our parents (one of the top ten).  
    If our hearts are far from God, it doesn't matter what we say.  Our worship is fake if we don't have listening ears to God.  We need, with all our heart, to seek God's will and then fulfill it.  

Prayer: Lord, draw my heart ever closer to you.  Open my blindness to your will, and melt the hardness of my heart.  Keep me from being deaf to you by my own cultural traditions.  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Light for the Nations

34When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.  (Matthew 14:34-36)

Thoughts: The Sea of Galilee is sometimes called the "Lake of Gennesaret"  named after a town in the tribe of Naphtali.   Isaiah 9:1 says, "Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan--" There was a light that came to Naphtali that day- that brought healing, hope, grace, and love.  The people brought their sick to Jesus and healed them.
     The world Jesus lived in was also full of terror and violence, much like ours is today.  In Jesus day Galileans were murdered by Romans and several rebellions were squelched violently.  Certainly the cross is a symbol of violence.  But Jesus did not bring violence but hope as the Prince of Peace.  We too should be instruments of peace.  

Prayer: Lord thank you for coming- bringing light and hope.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Doubting and Sinking

28“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:28-33)

Thoughts; Some have called Peter a coward for not believing and sinking.  Others call him courageous for at least he got out of the boat (the other disciples didn't even ask).  Truth is, Peter is a mixture of great boldness and great fear.  Most of us can relate.  Peter's doubt caused him to sink.  We should not elevate doubt to some spiritual status- it is what causes us to sink.  Jesus rebuked Peter for his lack of faith.  The ones in the boat worshiped Christ- their faith increased because he had walked on the water, rescued Peter, and caused the wind and waves to die down.  We too should worship Him and have our faith increase.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

How Can God Get to Me?

22Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:22-27)

Thoughts: Jesus was separate from his disciples.  Jesus had taken care of the people and then gone off to talk to His Father while his disciples went ahead.
      The disciples were far away and were having a tough time because of the wind and waves.  It seemed impossible that Jesus would be able to catch up to them.  It seemed that they were all on their own in this storm.
       There are times when we may think God cannot get to us.  There are times when we may feel even abandoned by God- a dark night of the soul.  But nothing can stop God.  Winds, water, waves cannot stop the unwavering ever-present God!
        When Jesus approached them they were afraid.  But Jesus wasn't trying to make them afraid.  He was trying to calm their fears with His presence.  It wasn't that Jesus was trying to wow them by walking on water- He was simply trying to get to His disciples- whom He loved.  So take courage. We are not alone.  Don't be afraid.  God has not abandoned us.  

Prayer: Lord, thank you that there is nowhere that I can go that you cannot get to me.  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Feeding Five Thousand

15As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
16Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18“Bring them here to me,” he said. 19And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:15-21)

Thoughts: The disciples were aware of the problem of logistics, and cost.  Jesus had tried to go away from everyone- and away he went. There were no markets or stores where he was, and 5,000+ had followed him.  Jesus wanted to remind the disciples of God's ability to provide- and provide through them.  So he said, "You give them something to eat."
     The tine resources, placed in the hands of Jesus fed the multitude.  In fact, they had much left over.  We too should place our resources in the hands of God and He will help us.  
Prayer: Lord, help me to give over what I have to you, knowing that you are able to multiply what I give.