Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Do As I Say...

Have you ever heard the following phrases?

"Do as I say, not as I do."

"Practice what you preach."

What do those phrases make you think of?  One of the things that the church is accused of is that it is full of hypocrites.  Since the church is full of humans at varying places in their walk with Christ, on the surface that accusation is correct.  We all sin; we all make mistakes.  We have said one thing and at a moment of weakness did the opposite.  We all know what is the right thing to do and have found ourselves overcome in the moment with temptation and followed what our human nature wants rather than what God wants.  That doesn't make it okay, but it does mean that on the surface the church looks full of hypocrites.  In the church, the word hypocrite has almost become synonymous with the word Pharisee.  But, let's look at what Jesus was pointing out when He called the Pharisees hypocrites.  Please use this link and read Matthew 23:1-12.

Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees taught the law and it was important to follow the law; however, He warned against doing what they did.  You see, they demanded that everyone follow the law but didn't require the same from themselves.  That was the issue that Jesus was warning us about.  I want to be careful and point out that He wasn't saying that it was okay to sin.  In fact, Jesus pointed out the importance of following the law.  But He was pointing out that it was important to take a good look at yourself and make sure that you are doing what pleases God.

So, is the church full of hypocrites?  If you mean that the church is full of humans who want to please God but get caught in a weak moment and sin, then yes - the church is completely full of hypocrites.  Looking at the fact that Jesus was concerned that there were people who consistently did the opposite from what they preached kind of changes our perspective on the word, hypocrite.  The reality is, if we truly are hanging on to Jesus' commands we'll also remember that we need to leave the judging to God and not to ourselves.  Only God can read the hearts of people.  We are told to worry about our own heart and behavior rather than someone else.  With that lens, it changes how we view the people in the church, doesn't it?

Where is your heart?  Are you asking God to help you each and every day to live a life that pleases Him?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Greatest

I'm going to step out of what I usually do with my posts and ask you a few questions to reflect on your own.  I think if we change our routine every now and then, it keeps us from getting in a rut when we are reading the Bible and helps us to keep relying on God for understanding.  Please read Matthew 22:34-45.

These verses have been broken up into two separate themes; however, what theme seems to be present in both sections?

What are the two most important commands Jesus tells us to follow?

How do all the other commands fall into order when these two commands are obeyed?

Jesus doesn't give His identity to the Pharisees; however, He instead challenges them on who the Messiah is.  What does He point out about the Messiah's true identity?

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Plans Are So Much Better!

Have you ever tried to surprise your kids with something big?  Maybe it was a Christmas or birthday present, or maybe it was vacation plans.  Either way, your child may have thought that they were going to be receiving something, but you knew it was only a part of what you had planned for them.  You knew that what they understood was just a small piece of a bigger picture that was so much better.  Faith calls for us to have hope beyond our comprehension, doesn't it?  We know that because of Jesus, we will be living a life that is so much better, but we don't know exactly what it will be like.  In Matthew 22:23-33, Jesus had a conversation with some religious teachers that struggled to believe in a better life.  Please click on the link and read through those verses.

In these verses, we are first told that the Sadducees were a group of people who did not believe that there would be a resurrection.  They tested the belief of a resurrection by asking Jesus what they thought would be a trick questions.  They thought they could silence Jesus with this question by making a mockery of the resurrection.  But Jesus pointed out that there were better plans in place and our simple human understandings and passions were nothing compared to the plans God had in place for us.  He pointed out that the things that we hold dear to our hearts here fade in comparison to what lies ahead.  But unfortunately, their unbelief kept them from seeing the hope in better plans.

But Jesus didn't just stop there, He wanted to help them see the error in their thinking.  He wanted them to see that God had given them hints at what was to come.  The example Jesus used was the fact that God called Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He showed them that God spoke of them as living, not as dead.  Isn't that amazing!?  Such a little hint that God has so much more planned for us.  Even those who we considered dead, God spoke of as alive.  We may not fully understand, but we can have faith in the promises He has given to those who believe.

Do you have hope in better plans?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

To Stop A Killer

People make a big deal out of me, which is kind of strange because I am so small.  I'm big enough to see and hear, but small enough that one swipe of the hand would do me in.  I am a mosquito.  No big threat, right?  But I'm not just any mosquito - I am a mosquito that carries the parasite, plasmodia.  I can't control the plasmodia; it is so small that 50 thousand plasmodia can be found in a drop of blood the size of a period.  I've been told that when I take blood from someone, that person gets infected with plasmodia, which causes malaria.  Look, I'm just here to survive; I can't go around worrying if I'm infecting someone.  I'm just looking for the easiest place to find food.  You know where the best place is?  Anywhere where you can find poverty.  Third world poverty.  You see, there are no doors or screens on windows; there really isn't anything to block me from getting a taste of blood at night!  Poverty.  Nothing stops me there...except the occasional mosquito net.  No big deal, I can easily find someone without a net...

Today, April 25, is World Malaria Day.  When I was in Zambia a few years back, I saw the ugliness of malaria.  I also saw how easy it was for our team to get a hold of medicine to fight malaria.  But it isn't so easy for those in poverty.  Poverty blocks the prevention of malaria and poverty stops the treatment of malaria.  In fact, because of poverty, malaria kills approximately 655,000 children per year; many of who are under the age of 5 and most of who live in sub-Saharan Africa (see footnote 1).  We can do something about it!

When I was in Zambia, most of the places we stayed at had open windows; however, we had mosquito nets over our beds.  But, the last night we were there, we stayed at a place that had open windows and no mosquito nets.  We all felt uncomfortable knowing that we had no nets to protect us, but we were also taking medication to prevent malaria.  The problem is, there are millions of people going to bed each night with no nets to protect them and no medication to treat malaria.  That is where we come in.  Compassion International is working hard to provide nets to children living in areas at the greatest risk of malaria.  A simple net helps protect a child from malaria.  You can help out by making a donation here.

Compassion is the heart of Christ.  He modeled the ultimate compassion for us when He died on the cross.  We see the importance of loving people in the words of Jesus: "Jesus replied: '"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,'" Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV).  He told us that we are to love God and love others.  This is one way we can show God's love to others.

1. Courtesy of Compassion International: http://blog.compassion.com/a-creative-writing-assignment-for-world-malaria-day-2013/#ixzz2RTTzQrkq

This post is linked with Compassion International.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ownership

At Easter and Halloween, my husband likes to exercise what he calls "the Daddy Tax."  This tax allows him to have some candy from their stash, which never makes them happy.  In fact, it is kind of fun to watch them pull out the candy they don't like and offer it to him as their Daddy Tax payment.  He usually rejects their offer and takes what he wants.  Does this seem unfair to you?  Well, consider that they often end up with so much candy that there is no way they will be able to consume it all anyway.  Also consider that he really is only taking a few pieces from each one and in comparison to the amount that they possess he is hardly making a dent in their supply.  And one more consideration...the fact that he loves them deeply and will do whatever he can to provide for their needs.  As parents, we have a different perspective, don't we?  We can see that something that feels huge to a child really isn't that big.  But now consider how our perspective differs from God's.  With that in mind, please read Matthew 22:15-22.

In these verses, we see that the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus by asking Him about the Imperial tax.  Jesus understood what was in their hearts and basically told them to pay their taxes and give their tithe to God.  None of us like to pay taxes, but we have to - it is the law.  We complain about the taxes, but we also benefit from the services from the government that the taxes provide.  Should there be better accountability with tax payer accounts?  Absolutely!  But that doesn't mean we should evade paying taxes.  But, Jesus didn't stop there...He reminded them that they needed to give back to God what is His (our tithe).  I love the words He used - give "to God what is God's."  This is a good reminder for all of us.  Who is the owner?

We are told in the Bible that everything in the world is God's: "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty.  Everything in the heavens and on the earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom.  We adore you as the One who is over all things."  (I Chronicles 29:11, NLT).  If we can remember that everything we have is really God's, then we will not struggle so much when it is time to give to God.  If we could look at everything we have as a gift from God, then we can give to Him with joy.  I guess even paying our taxes won't feel quite so bad!

Who owns your things?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Right Clothes

After our first year of marriage, an older lady at our church invited us to move into the upper apartment of her duplex and charged us the same rent we were paying for our little studio apartment.  We felt like we were living large because we had a full kitchen with room for our dining room table and we even had two bedrooms!  I had just completed my unpaid internship and my husband just finished his first teaching position as a part-time assistant band director.  I had been hired to do music therapy at an area nursing home, and my husband had received news that he had a permanent full-time teaching position at two schools close to our new home.  Even though both jobs paid very little and our deferment was up for our student loan; we still had more income than we had ever experienced (trust me, it still wasn't much).  Feeling pretty good, we took a walk after work and explored our new neighborhood.  We came across a cute restaurant and decided to stop in and celebrate some of the positive changes happening in our young lives.  What we didn't realize was that even though it looked like a cute restaurant on the outside, it was actually a very expensive restaurant.  We were almost turned away because my husband didn't have a sports jacket; however, it was only late afternoon and since he was wearing a tie they let us dine in their fine establishment.  To this day, it is one of the best meals I've ever had...it also used up all our extra spending money for the rest of the month!

In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus told a parable of a wedding feast in order to explain the kingdom of heaven.  A king prepared a banquet and invited the guests, but no one showed up.  When he sent his servants out to gather those who were invited, some went away to their own business and others beat his servants.  The king sent his army to destroy them and had his servants invite anyone they could find.  Both the good and the bad showed up for the banquet.  But one man was not wearing wedding clothes and he was thrown out.  Jesus then told everyone that many will be invited but few will be chosen.

There are many things going on in this parable.  The first we see is that the invitation to the feast is sent out and those invited refused to come.  This reminds us that God sends out His invitation to have a relationship with Him, but there will many who refuse or ignore the invitation.  Some will even be angry at the invitation.  In the parable we see that the king sends His servants to invite anyone to the feast since the original invitations were ignored.  We know that through Jesus, the invitation to this incredible relationship was extended to anyone who believed; not just the Jews.  This was a big change from the Jewish tradition.  The last thing we see is that even though we are all invited, there are still things we have to do.

Something I learned a few years ago was that in this culture the person throwing the wedding feast would provide wedding clothes to those who were invited.  It would have been considered unacceptable and unheard of to show up to the feast without the wedding clothes that had been provided.  We are given the proper clothing to wear through the forgiveness we receive in Jesus.  We receive this forgiveness by believing and following Jesus.  We cannot accept the invitation and think that we can still dress in our own clothes (or continue doing what we want).  We have to understand that our clothes will never be acceptable - our sin isn't something that we can clean out of our hearts.  Only Jesus can wash the sin away and give us the clothing for the wedding feast.

What clothes are you wearing?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Don't Forget the Giver of Good Things

My 5th grade friend lay face down on her bed crying because she was so upset at her mom.  She was sure that her mom had just humiliated her and given me a gift that was meant for her.  She was right, the gift was originally meant for her.  They were a set of coveted stickers.  Oh, they were not just any stickers; these were special stickers.  You see, we were growing up in the days when girls collected stickers and put them in photo albums to show and trade with their friends.  Each sticker had different value - there were the plain stickers, which were the average sticker.  Then there were the scratch and sniff stickers and the scent of the sticker determined its value.  Then there were fuzzy stickers that looked cool and the puffy stickers that added dimension to the sticker collection.  The stickers that my friend was crying about were stickers that would have a high value on the sticker trading market: puffy and fuzzy!  Oh, yes!  These stickers were both puffy and fuzzy and no one else in our class had stickers like that in their collection.  My friend's mom had shown them to her as we got in the car after school, but my friend began to argue with her mom about something.  The end result was her mom giving these incredible stickers to me.  Awkward!  As I was reading through the verses I am looking at today; my mind wandered back to that ill-fated day.  Please read through Matthew 21:28-46.

Last week, I considered how there is so much to gain when we believe in Jesus, but there is also so much to lose.  These verses today show Jesus explaining what was happening to those who refused to believe.  In the first parable, we are told of two sons who were given the same instructions and one obeyed and one disobeyed.  But Jesus added a twist by showing that what they said didn't matter as much as what they did.  In the second parable, Jesus points out the fact that God had sent many prophets to Israel in order to help them give to God; however, they were rejected and killed.  But Jesus continued on with the parable by pointing out that God sent His Son who was also beaten and killed by the evil tenants.

But some of the illustrations that Jesus used was interesting because He called the farmers in the parable "tenants."  These tenants didn't want to give the owner what was due to him.  Jesus pointed out that was what was happening to Israel in its unbelief.  Their disobedience to God would eventually lead to their destruction.  Jesus pointed out that God would give the opportunity to serve Him to those who would be willing to obey.  There are a couple of things that stick out at me in these parables.

First, God values our obedience - this is what He wants from all of us.  The next is the fact that in the second parable, the evil tenants seemed to forget who the land owner was.  They seemed to think that because they lived on the land they were set and could do whatever they wanted to do.  In a sense, they were living on the land as if it were their own.  Finally, God values obedience so highly that He will reward the obedient no matter who they are.  We have an inheritance from Heaven that is greater than anything this world can give us.  But, we need to remember where the inheritance came from and continue to obey.  When we forget who gave us the inheritance of life we risk a living a life of disobedience.  But when we believe and obey, there is so much God wants to share with us!

Do you walk through life remembering who gave you life?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Believe His Authority

My husband I and have known a few pastors that had accepted a call from their childhood church to be their senior pastor.  In each case, they were happy to go to their childhood church and minister near their families.  However, they also struggled with some people in the church who had them as a child in their Sunday School class.  The people that knew them since they were a baby struggled with their authority as the pastor of the church.  The people had a hard time getting past the silly and sometimes foolish things our friends had done as children and teens and still viewed them with that lens.  The people in the church were not part of the process when our friends moved away and became responsible adults, so the people just couldn't accept their authority.  The end result was a church that struggled to trust their senior pastor, therefore the church struggled to get anything done.  Everyone lost out.

Jesus' authority was often in question with the religious teachers and Pharisees.  Yesterday, I looked at how unbelief makes us miss out on so much.  But, one thing we have to remember is that Jesus' authority is different than human authority.  It doesn't matter if there are humans who refuse to accept His authority, He still has it.  Jesus' authority doesn't depend on whether or not the people He created accepts it; His authority comes from God.  The big difference between human authority and godly authority is that in human terms when we do not accept someone's authority, they just do not have it.  However, with God, He can still do all things whether or not people accept His authority.  Humans are the ones who miss out when we do not accept His authority.  Please read how we see this in Matthew 21:18-27.

We see two different examples of Jesus' authority.  The first was with the fig tree that withered and He pointed out to His disciples that they can do that and even more when they believe who Jesus is.  That is amazing, isn't it?  When we believe His authority, our faith is empowered!  In the next few verses, we read about an interaction Jesus had with the chief priests who questioned His authority.  But the thing I find interesting is that Jesus didn't share with them.  Instead, He questioned them about John the Baptist's authority; He knew that they didn't want to accept His authority.  So, instead they missed out on treasures of truth from Jesus.  Their unbelief didn't change who Jesus is, but it changed their opportunities to learn and grow.  Do you see how important it is to believe God?  We have so much to gain in belief, but we lose out on so much when we do not believe.

Do you believe in Jesus' authority?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

To Miss Out

Have you ever had a discussion with someone and realized they were completely missing your point?  I've noticed this often happens when I say something earlier on in the conversation and that becomes the mental focus for the rest of the conversation.  Because the listener is still stuck on one little detail in the conversation, the main point gets lost.  For example, I have witnessed so many times people missing the point of a sermon because they were so focused on the fact that a verse used was sited incorrectly.  Maybe the wrong chapter was put on the screen or the speaker said the wrong verse.  Either way, I have seen listeners lose the point because they were so busy correcting that little mistake in their heads.  Unbelief can also make us miss the point because sometimes we can only understand what God is telling us through faith.  An example of this is found in Matthew 21:1-17.

The first part of this scene is one that we celebrate on Palm Sunday and is often referred to "Jesus' Triumphal Entry."  The thing I found interesting today is that we are told in verses 8-10 that there was a crowd that developed before entering Jerusalem that sung His praises.  As He entered the city, the residents gathered and asked who He was among themselves.  But if they would have listened to what the crowd was saying, they would have heard that the Messiah was entering their city.  But Jerusalem had a different mindset and didn't believe.  So, when Jesus entered the temple and moved out all the money changers and began to heal people, the priests and teachers of the law were not happy.  Everything they saw Jesus doing meant nothing because they heard the praises the children were singing and questioned Jesus about it.

Does it make you wonder how differently things would have turned out if they believed who Jesus was?  Jesus knew that He was entering a city that would reject Him.  He knew that they didn't believe; however, that didn't stop Him from coming.  He still had compassion and chose to heal even though He knew that this would be the very place that would condemn Him.  But notice what verse 17 tells us - He spent the night in Bethany.  He didn't reside in Jerusalem while He was there.  Isn't that interesting?

Jesus was there to heal and save, yet their unbelief missed the point that Jesus loved them.  He loved them so much that He still came even though He knew their rejection would mean death.  But, He didn't reside with them in their unbelief.  The city missed out on having the Messiah stay in their homes because they didn't want to believe in who He was.  That had to break His heart!  Without faith, we miss out!  We need to believe God in all things because He loves all of us that much.  There is so much loss in unbelief, but so much gain in faith!

Do you believe?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Vision

A few weeks ago, I went to have my eyes checked because I've noticed my glasses were not seeming to work as well as they used to.  One thing that has frustrated me in particular has been my ability to read small print, such as what you would find on a pill bottle.  No matter how near or far I place the object with small print, it is blurry and sometimes I cannot read it at all.  Last time I went to an optometrist  I was told that it couldn't be fixed and I would probably be wearing bifocals soon.  However, I went to someone different and he was able to find me a prescription that seems like it is going to work!  Part of my issue is that it has been a little over 3 years since my last appointment, so I was overdue and my eyes have changed even more.  Our eyes change slowly over time, but after three years those slow and small changes added up and created even greater vision problems with my prescription.  I am looking forward to getting my new glasses so I can finally see better.  The verses I am looking at today give us a look into a scene where Jesus gave vision to two men who were blind.  Please use this link and read Matthew 20:29-34.

This is an interesting scene because we learn about two blind men who found out that Jesus was passing by.  They shouted, "Lord, son of David, have mercy on us!"  First, I want to point out that the title they used for Jesus was their way of pointing out that they believed He was the Messiah.  They didn't just think that Jesus could change their situation, they knew that He could change their situation.  What I find even more incredible is that they were rebuked not by one person, but we are told that the crowd rebuked them.  But that didn't stop them; they continued to call out to the one person they knew could give them their vision.

We read in verse 34 that Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes.  They immediately received sight and followed Him.  This really caught my attention because their response wasn't to go and live their own lives, they chose to follow Jesus.  Keep in mind that we know that they already recognized Jesus as the long awaited Messiah and they took the gift that Jesus gave them so they could follow Him.  I think that is incredible and it has me thinking about our own application.

First of all, we can all be living our lives with poor vision.  I'm not talking about our physical vision; I'm talking about spiritual vision.  This spiritual vision is what allows us to see who Jesus is and allows us to see why we need Him so desperately.  This vision allows us to follow His lead.  But without Jesus in our lives, we are spiritually blind.  The only one who can heal our spiritual vision is God.  Through the Holy Spirit, we are given vision to see our sin and how that separates us from God.  We are given this vision so we can follow and obey Jesus; we are not given this vision so we can go live our lives the way we want to live.  I think when we decide to go do what we want to do, we run the risk of visual impairment.  We know how we should be seeing, but slowly over time, our vision gets blurred and we are not seeing the truth as clearly as we used to.  How do we keep our vision clear?  By continuing to follow Jesus.  We see where He is leading us by reading the Bible and spending time in prayer every day and by rubbing shoulders with other believers.  It isn't complicated, but it takes purpose.  Without doing these things purposefully, we will accidentally become visually impaired.

What are you doing with the clear vision for truth God gave you?  Are you using the vision to purposefully follow Jesus?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Greatness Is Serving

All this week, I have been reading through one passage after another in Matthew where we are shown that God's economy is so different from the human economy.  His thoughts and ideas and view of what is important are the very things that we humans often run away from.  Our world doesn't place high value on setting aside our own preferences in order to honor someone else.  In fact, I know that when I find myself becoming offended, once I allow myself to be honest I see that I am offended because I am unwilling to step aside from my own preferences.  As soon as I can recognize that in myself, it helps me to change my attitude - if only I could always see that before offense sets in!  You see, God wants our walk to be one of humility not one of greatness.  Please read how Jesus approached the idea of greatness and humility in Matthew 20:17-28.

These verses start with Jesus telling His disciples of His upcoming death and resurrection.  But right  after that we read about the mother who approached Jesus to have her two sons to sit on the right and left of Jesus in heaven.  I find Jesus response incredible because He knew that this was creating offense among all the disciples.  But instead of rebuking everyone, He used it as a teaching moment to explain that they are to be servants and their goal wasn't to be great.  Once again, He pointed out that He came to serve and be our ransom.  When we remember Jesus' purpose, it has a way of sending a jolt of conviction to our hearts, doesn't it?

Humility is greatness in God's eyes.  But, I also think we need to be careful how we view humility. Humility isn't self loathing, because when we are hating ourselves we are still thinking about ourselves.  Humility is setting aside ourselves in order to think of others more than we think of ourselves.  In fact, I believe we become more humble as we grow in our relationship with God.  This is because the Holy Spirit is empowering us to become humble and we begin to understand all the more what Jesus did for us.  The more we understand His sacrifice, the more we are compelled to love Him and love others.  This is what honors God and Jesus' sacrifice.  He came to serve, and He wants us to serve with Him!  How amazing is that!?

Do you see that it is an honor to serve?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Seniority?

If you have been in the work-world long enough, you have probably had a job where seniority was very important.  Seniority can play a role in vacation schedules, pay scale, and job security.  In fact, sometimes it can create tensions in the work environment because people with less seniority may harbor resentment towards those with more seniority because they feel like they are working harder.  But is that really the way we should be thinking of things?  Yesterday, I looked at the fact that God didn't order things the way we do here on earth.  In fact, I later thought of the verses in Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV), "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord.  'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'"  So as we think through what we are being told in the Bible, we cannot think of it from our own perspective; we need to pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal God's perspective.  Jesus had a way of pointing out God's perspective while He walked on this planet and today's reading shows us one more perspective on the idea that "the first will be last and the last will be first."  Please read Matthew 20:1-16.

Our perspective on "seniority" is kind of like a "first come, first serve" mentality.  But Jesus shows us in this parable that God's measuring stick doesn't look at "first come, first serve."  In fact, He shows us that those who have been following Him should take on a servant's heart and be willing to be last.  If we think that we deserve a greater reward because we have been following Jesus longer than someone else, we are mistaken.  Think on this for a moment: in God's kingdom, there is no seniority.  What do you think about that?  Does it seem fair to you?

Okay, now I want us to pull the magnifying glass back on ourselves for a moment and be honest with answering this question: No matter how long I have followed Jesus, have I really done anything that deserves honor before my Creator?  Be honest!  Does that change your perspective on fairness?  You see, we often equate justice and mercy with fairness, and Jesus was pointing out to us that it isn't about fairness.  If God was considering fairness, then Jesus would have never died on the cross for us.  That wasn't fair.  It wasn't fair, but it was mercy and grace.  So, do we have any right to be upset that someone who chose to believe in Christ with their last dying breath gets to share in God's kingdom with someone who believed all their life?  And if we are concerned about seniority, let's consider who has the most seniority and who has been the most faithful at their job - God.  None of us can compare to that measure; we all fall extremely short.  So short, it is ridiculous to even consider.  The reward at the end is too great to be worried about seniority.  Let's just keep running this incredible race and spur each other on with love and encouragement!  Let's do everything we can to finish well!

How do you feel about seniority?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What Is Important?

I remember sitting at the dinner table as a very young child wondering how much more I would be able to eat because I was sure that my legs were filling up with food and eventually I would run out of space.  I reasoned that must be why children grew taller - to make more room to store food.  But still even with growth, eventually I would run out of space and then what?  I later learned that God had designed an amazing thing in each human called a digestive system and it allowed us to live longer lives because there was no space issue!  While it sounds silly to think that our legs are filling up with food, it made a lot of sense to my inexperienced three year old mind.  As we experience life and learn new things, our thinking changes.  Throughout history, we see that there were certain scientific theories and beliefs that now seem ridiculous.  I always warn my own children from mocking the scientists and doctors of so many years ago because there are probably things that we are sure of now that will be shown to be false later.  We see similar things in Matthew when Jesus was correcting the spiritual thinking of His day.  Jesus certainly had a way of turning things upside down to make us readjust our perspective.  Today's reading shows a couple of corrections that Jesus made to show people how God really views the order of things.  Please read Matthew 19:13-30.

The first thing we see that is different is the fact that when children were coming to Jesus, the disciples tried to keep them away.  But Jesus wanted the children with Him and He even told the disciples that the kingdom of heaven belonged to such as them.  That had to cause the disciples to think...and it should cause us to think as well.  We tend to honor those who have a lot of knowledge and experience, but in these verses Jesus shows that wasn't what He looked at.  He was looking at their innocent faith.  When was the last time you would describe your faith as innocent?  You see, a child so innocently believes what they are told and God wants us to just believe Him.

The next thing we see Jesus turn upside down was the idea that what the world considers important really holds no value in God's kingdom.  In fact, the important things of the world could even hinder our walk with Jesus.  Jesus told His disciples that God honored those who actually let go of the things we hold dear in order to follow and obey Him.  Our desire to obey Him had to overcome anything else in our life, even if it meant loss.  So, what is success in this world isn't necessarily success in God's kingdom and what is success in God's kingdom could look like failure in this world.

In both these examples, we see that Jesus was pointing out to us that we need to let go of our own perspective of who and what is important and consider what is important to God's heart.  The first will be last and the last will be first...that is definitely not how we have been taught to think.  But that is how God wants us to think.  Seek Him first and everything will fall into order.

Do you need a change in perspective?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Better Way

Well, this morning I am laughing at myself because I misread my notes and jumped back a few chapters in my reading in Matthew.  It seemed like I had written about those verses before, but I thought that maybe I was confused because re-reading Matthew during the Community Bible Experience.  But when I began to read on in chapter 16, I knew I had written about those verses!  Of course, when I double checked I saw that yesterday I was mistaken!  Sorry about that; however, I have to say that it was a great message I personally needed.  But, let's move forward today and start back where we left off nine weeks ago!  Please read Matthew 19:1-12.

Something that God has been showing me is that often we are missing the main point and focusing on the wrong things.  For example, one discussion I found myself in was whether or not a person can lose their salvation.  I don't even want to participate in that discussion because once we are a child of God it shouldn't matter.  We should be living a life of purpose each and every day and doing everything we can to live a life that pleases God.  We are given warnings to remind us the importance of purposefully choosing God.  If we are doing that, we will not even have to be concerned about whether or not we can lose our salvation.  The main idea is to press on and keep living the life God wants us to live (love God and love others).

In these verses, we see a similar idea.  The Pharisees wanted to test Jesus about the idea of marriage and divorce.  They wanted to know if it was okay to divorce.  Jesus pointed out to them that they are forgetting the main idea of marriage - it is a gift from God and two become one.  Jesus concluded with, "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate," Matthew 19:4 (NIV).  But the Pharisees pressed further and asked why the Law allowed for divorce.  Jesus explained that Moses permitted divorce because of the hard hearts of the Israelites not because that was what God wanted for us.  Interesting.  Just because divorce was permitted for sexual immorality doesn't mean it is what is best for us.  God wants our marriages thriving.

Once again, the main idea gets missed by us!  The idea of marriage was a gift and join two into one, but we humans often are sure we have a better plan.  In our hearts, we question what God has given us and want to know how close we can get to the line.  It is kind of like the little toddler who is always testing the limits to know how far they can go before getting into trouble.  But God has so much better for us!  Instead of wanting to know how bad we can be before condemnation, we should be looking for how much good God wants for us when we please Him.  Do you see the difference in views?  It is not always the easy way, but it is the better way.

Are you looking for the line to see how far you can go, or are you looking to God to see the better way?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Back in Matthew - How Do You Listen?

After taking an eight week break from Matthew to do the Community Bible Experience, it is time to finish up the book!  It was such an interesting contrast to read through the entire New Testament in such a short amount of time after taking sixteen weeks to read through 15 chapters.  I was blessed with such a different view while reading through it so quickly!  After reading small sections of verses, there were some wonderful treasures I found in looking at a broader view.  Don't you just love what a rich and amazing gift God gave us with the Bible?  But, now it is time to finish the book of Matthew and I am ready to dig in!  Please read Matthew 16:1-12 (for the last eight weeks, I haven't linked up to Bible Gateway, so I just wanted to remind you that if you click on the verses, it will take you to biblegateway.com where you can choose to read different versions).

These verses are interesting on so many levels for me.  First, Jesus was asked for a sign and Jesus refused to give the Pharisees a sign.  Instead, He told them that they will receive the sign of Jonah, which I am sure angered them.  Then He told the disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which confused them.  I don't know about you, but these verses make me laugh a little because the disciples were just like us!  They were upset that they forgot to bring bread, so they immediately assumed that Jesus was talking about the bread.  But He wasn't even thinking about the bread; He was trying to warn the disciples against listening to teaching that can lead them astray.

First, I want to point out that the "sign of Jonah" is a reference to the fact that Jonah was in the fish for three days and spit out on the third day.  Jesus was telling them that the only sign He would give them was His death and resurrection on the third day.  He pointed out that they spent so much time studying, yet they still didn't recognize their Savior when He was right there talking to them.  Jesus warned the disciples not to follow the Pharisee's examples because their teaching would only lead them away from Jesus.  But, in both cases the main point was being missed.  However, after correction, the disciples soon understood what Jesus was really telling them.

Why do you think that Jesus was misunderstood?  It is part of our human experience, isn't it?  We misunderstand each other and we are misunderstood.  This is because we often listen to what is being said through our own filters rather than the filter of the person speaking to us.  For example, if I am not always honest to people and say one thing when I really mean something else, I will probably assume that everyone else talking to me is doing the same.  Because of that, I will always be listening to them with a filter of distrust.  Other things that can play a role in this is our past hurts and experiences.  But, when we are listening to others we need to consider their experiences and listen to what they are really saying.  And we need to believe and know that when we read the Bible, that it is truth.  We also need to consider the context and for whom the text was written so we can understand it better.  That is challenging, isn't it?

Are you listening to what the people around you are really saying, or are you listening with your own personal filters?  Are you listening to God as the voice of truth?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Taking a Break This Week

Hey, everyone!  I just wanted to let you know that I am taking a break this week while my kiddos are home on Spring Break.  I will start back up with my regular schedule next Monday.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter.