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.

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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.