Who do you eat with?

Who do you eat with? That’s an easy question. Most of us eat with our family and occasionally close friends. These are the people we normally associate with and the people we feel comfortable with. As a Christian being comfortable seems natural when around other Christians. We like being around those who share our beliefs; Nothing wrong with that. Except Jesus often didn’t take this common route.

In Matthew 9:9-11 we see Jesus eating dinner with the absolute worst in his community. In the New testament they were referred to as sinners and tax collectors. Interesting how tax collectors had their own category. Many thought of them even worse than ordinary sinners. These people were Jews, whose job was to take money from the common people, many of whom were poor and turn it over to the government. On top of that they overtaxed and kept the difference for themselves. In this fashion they were able to accumulate great wealth.

The religiously pious of the time, the Pharisees, were critical. They did not understand the purpose of Jesus. To reach those who truly were deep in sin, He had to be with them. He had to spend time with them. They needed to see that he cared for them. The actions of Jesus were never meant to display approval. They were meant to display love.

Should Christians today seek to spend more time being with and around those that do not share their beliefs? That’s the very thing Jesus did in order to reach them. It may mean being a little uncomfortable at times. But sharing the gospel will far outweigh this sacrifice.

This one only comes out by fasting and praying

Living often means facing challenges, problems and obstacles. We often enjoy confronting these situations and overcoming. It confirms our self worth and validates our belief that we are intelligent and capable. But none of this teaches us to depend on God and trust in his power. Occasionally God allows situations that seem insurmountable.  Situations that nothing in our past has prepared us to deal with or problems that are just too great for us to solve. We are forced to turn to God for help. It is a wonderful thing when we can approach him with faith. But what if we can’t?

Perhaps this is a problem too great for God. Blaspheme you say. Well isn’t that what we are thinking, when we surrender and give up all hope? We are saying this problem will never be solved. This obstacle cannot be removed. God can’t do it.

Jesus explains that what we lack is faith. He also sends us to do something that has become less and less popular these days, pray and fast. We have become adventurers in a fast paced world of digital wonder and bright lights. Who has time for a quiet moment with God? But for all the wonder of our generation it does not compare to the power and glory of God. This is not discovered in virtual reality, but in spiritual reality. It is discovered on our knees.

This power can transform, heal, and enlighten. It turns sinners into saints, and the weak into conquerors. The foolish become wise and the enslaved are set free.

In Matthew 17 a desperate father brings his child to Jesus. He believes Jesus can set him free. The boy was afflicted with demons that caused the boy to have seizures, throw himself into fire and other times into water.  This evil spirit had every intention of tormenting and destroying this child.

The man reported that the disciples had tried and failed. Jesus rewards the man’s faith and sets his child free, but not before these words ” O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.”  Later he tells the disciples that to cast out this demon they needed to fast and pray more.

Taking time out regularly to pray and fast is not like doing an extra credit assignment. We shouldn’t do it if there is time and when we feel like it. We should purposely make the time to pray and fast. This should be quiet time where we worship God and present all our cares. This is time we spend remembering all the needs of those around us and our entire community.

The problems we face are great and real. Many we will not solve on our own. Faith in God will be required. The kind of faith prayer warriors and those that fast will have.

 

The wisdom of the crowd

A crowd or group can be a powerful force. It can intimidate even the bravest among us.  since the beginning of time it seems that individuals have been known to submit to the “wisdom” of the crowd. “Everybody else is doing it” or “everybody thinks this” is a persuasive reason to just go along with it.  If we think a little different or don’t do as everyone else we are considered weird, foolish, deviant or at worst psychotic.  When individuals are classified in this negative way some really awful things can start to happen. They are made fun of for sure, and they are also ostracized.  Sometimes it can lead to violence and other forms of attacks. No doubt most of  us whether consciously or not try to fit in. But what if being a little different is best for us or just the right thing to do.

In Nazi Germany many fell under the influence of the group and just did what everyone else was doing. They turned in their fellow countrymen if they were Jews and looked the other way while they were systematically stripped of their possession, taken into camps and ultimately killed. It was madness for sure, but everybody was doing it.  Sometimes the crowd is not so wise. It is a warning that screams from the pages of history that doing what everyone is  doing and thinking like everyone else, although easy, even safe for the moment, may be the wrong action to follow.

In Mathew 20 the crowd is present. The force is clear as they attempt to control the situation. Two blind men heard Jesus coming and immediately knew the right thing to do. They called for Jesus.  There is a need for Jesus’ presence in our society today. Many are hurting because of a dark episode in their past that haunts them. Some know there is more to this life  and just want to understand what it is. Some are rightly concerned about eternity. Others desperately seek the truth and what is good. All of these seekers are in need of Christ. However the crowd is screaming for them to be quiet. Today they scream that Jesus is a fable. The crowd says religion is a hoax and God is not real.  It takes courage to persist in seeking what is right for you even when it goes against the crowd.

In Matthew 20 these two blind men could not be controlled by the crowd and as scripture proclaims “…cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O lord, thou son of David.” They kept calling on Jesus and did so even more forcefully than before. Jesus, God almighty made flesh turned to these lowly blind men, and asked them what he should do. Jesus already knew. But He wanted them to proclaim their faith to an unbelieving world and they did.

They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. (Matthew 20:33)

Jesus had compassion and healed them. The lesson to learn is simple.  We can’t be guided by the wisdom of the crowd.  We have to understand what is best for us. The crowd can be wrong. Even when it takes courage we must do what is right. Finally, seeking Jesus is the right decision even when the rest say no. He will have compassion and hear your call.

Power of Truth

It was a warm summer night. The beautiful sky was filled with stars as far as the eye could see. Mary was relaxed in the passenger side starting to doze off, confident that her husband would get them safely to their destination, Myrtle beach, South Carolina. She was already starting to dream of the perfect beaches, fine restaurants and championship golf courses. Then suddenly something started to bother her.

They had made this trip many times and this time things looked a little different. “Tom, this doesn’t seem right. Are you sure we’re going the right way?” Tom patiently replied, “Of course sweetie, just relax and take your nap.” “Tom, I tell you we are going the wrong way where’s that map?” She started looking for the map and Tom just a little more frustrated insisted “You have nothing to worry about. I know where I am going. I am right!” Mary gave up looking and exclaimed “Yeah you’re right. Well I can’t find it anyway.” She made herself comfortable and went off on her nap.

A sudden stop woke Mary up, “We’re there already?” Tom sheepishly answered, “No dear, we’re lost.”

It took a brief stop at a Gas station for directions and a costly 2 hour detour, but Mary and her husband did arrive safely at Myrtle Beach.

What is worse than going the wrong way? Stubbornly insisting your right, while going the wrong way in the middle of the night, on a long trip to South Carolina is definitely worse. What is better than believing your right? Discovering the truth that sets you on the right course and sets you free from a blind belief in deceptions that can only lead to failure and destruction is definitely better.

Jesus tells us that “The truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) He was speaking of the truth that He is the savior that came to sacrifice His life that all could be saved. When we discover the error of our beliefs, what we are left with is the treasure of truth. The truth that Jesus’ death on the cross is the ultimate price that has been paid so that a world lost in sin could be saved is the greatest truth of all. A multitude throughout history have discovered this great truth, that if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior we are forgiven from all sin and immediately become part of God’s kingdom forever.

The power of truth continues to work in all our lives, knocking at our hearts and minds. However it is often hindered by our pride. When we are set in our beliefs and guided by misconceptions it can be difficult to see beyond these cherished beliefs. Sometimes we stubbornly argue like Tom, when all along we are headed in the wrong direction.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Laughing at God

Laughing at God is probably not the most respectful way to react when God comes with a message. Sarah thought it was quiet funny to hear that she was going to have a baby when she was already an old woman. With all the logic and reasoning she could muster, all she could do was see the humor in it and laugh. Others might have cried after waiting so long to have a child. There were probably many times in her life and during her marriage that she had felt like a failure. She had failed to provide a child, especially a son, to her faithful and fine husband Abraham.

Laughing is what we sophisticated people often do when we hear something unbelievable. It is certainly not a sign that we are taking the matter seriously. It is a lack of faith. God “straightened” Sarah out a bit when He said ““Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:13-14)

Sarah failed to realize that when logic and reasoning say God can’t, it is God that smiles and says “Oh yea, I’ll show you!” It was God who got the last laugh when Sarah at the age of ninety-one had a son.

When God makes a promise, He will fulfill it. There are no miracles too small or too great for God. We are blessed to know that God loves us and will hear our prayers. Jesus said “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Instead of laughing or showing our incredulity let us rediscover and strengthen our faith, knowing that God is still able and will deliver us in His time.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sacrificing your son

There you were minding your own business enjoying the son that God had promised you many years ago. Now everything had fallen into place. What could possible go wrong? Then you heard the voice of your God, the voice that had always comforted you, the voice that had always directed you. How many blessings had you received by just listening to this voice? The day just couldn’t get any better, except God made the strangest request. This loving, faithful God who hated evil and sin had just asked you to commit the most heinous act of sacrificing your son.

What do you do? Abraham found himself in this position. (Genesis 22:1-2) What is remarkable is that Abraham’s faith never faltered. He followed God’s direction to the letter.

He went to where God directed him to go, laid down the wood and placed his son on the altar. He then raised his knife and at the very last moment was stopped by God. (Genesis 22:9-12)

God provided a ram for the sacrifice. (Genesis 22:13) This must have felt like the definition of relief. Isaac was spared and Abraham did not lose his son. Beyond any doubt he proved his love and obedience to God.

Jesus reminds us that we must love God above all things. (Matthew 22:37-38) Consider those things that have the most value to you. Now consider the people you love the most. Are they more important to you than God? Would we be willing to sacrifice our relationship with God to please them?

Abraham was willing to lose his son for God. What are we willing to surrender to please God and have a closer relationship with God? This is the God who has already proven His love to us. God is the father who actually did sacrifice His son Jesus so that we might be forgiven and be saved. It was the sacrifice of His son Jesus that paid the debt of our sin and allowed us to be called sons of God.

He has shown us His love. Perhaps it is our turn to show Him our love.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Flee from sin

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is truly an odd one. We have the twin cities standing during Abraham’s time as terrible symbols of rebellious sins against God. The Lord said “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave,”. (Genesis 18:20) He was speaking to Abraham and informed him that He was about to bring destruction on them. Abraham would plead before the Lord, who informed Abraham that He would not destroy the cities if He found at least ten righteous men. History would show that ten were not found. (Genesis 18:32)

Later the Angels would appear to Lot and his family, who lived in Sodom to warn them so that they could flee. The men of the city were so depraved that they demanded to have the Angels to satisfy their sexual hunger. (Genesis 19:5-4) Fortunately the Angels blinded the men before they could cause any harm.

When the morning came Lot and his family fled the city. They had been warned not to look back. It is a message that still speaks to us.

God desires a better life for us and demands that we flee from evil and sin. He demands that we remove them from our lives and distance ourselves as much as possible from their temptations. However evil and sin seem to have a bizarre hold on us even when we see their evil faces. Such was the case of Lot’s wife.

Lot’s wife ignored the warning and longing looked back and instantly turned into a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:26) Perhaps she truly did not want to leave this evil city and was already thinking of all the many wonderful things she was leaving behind. In our lives we must push on, looking forward to the promises of Christ, our eternal future with Him and the many blessings of our new life with Him. We must contemplate on that which is good and resist longing for those things we left in our sinful past.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta