Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Invitation - Privilege, but also Responsibility

We get invited to things all the time.

A lot of the invitations - we don't care about and totally disregard. No RSVP, no phone call. We just don't answer and don't go. A seminar, for example, where you know they are going to put pressure on you to buy something you don't want or need.

There are others that you agonize over. Don't really want to go, but really SHOULD. What to do? Depending on how important it is, you find an excuse not to go, but you definately communicate that "reason" that you can't attend.

A third level of invitation you want to go to very badly, and you move heaven and earth to be there. A birthday party, a wedding, a family event.

There is a fourth level of invitation. It is so important that to go is an unbelievable privilege. To not go is inconceivable. An invitation to see the President, or Queen or Prime Minister of your country...

Matthew 22
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
1 "Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

This was an invitation that you disregard at your peril.

You also don't show up uninvited!

Jesus is saying the invitation into his kingdom is a big deal. Accept it. Don't reject it!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quirky Story

Quirky Story

Today we read one of the oddest stories in the New Testament.
Jesus is hungry. He goes to pick a fig to munch on. No figs! Nothing but leaves...

Jesus Curses a Fig Tree
18 "Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered."

He wants figs. There are none. So he curses the tree and it withers right on the spot!

What is with that?

Was this a "right of way" tree, that was just by the road and no one owned it or took care of it?

If it belonged to a farmer, was he not hurting their livlihood? Was he cursing the tree because they should have been pruning it so it would be fruitful?

20 "When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked."

The disciples have no issue with him cursing the tree. They were all involved in the mechanics. "Whoa! He cursed the tree and it withered! Right on the spot, man! It just shriveled up... just like that!!!"

Of course, Jesus had a lesson to teach from the experiencce with the tree.
21 "Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

He keyed into what the disciples were amazed at - the power to do cool things.

A quirky story, to be sure...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jesus was a man's man.

Jesus was a man's man.

I have always objected to pictures of Jesus as the holy whimp. He was, after all, a carpenter in the era before power tools. Think of that! This guy was built.

And he was no coward. Taking on his enemies with wit and wisdom, never running or backing down from a confrontation.

Today it gets physical!
It was Jesus all alone against the merchants.
And Jesus won!!!

12 "Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves."

13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

I can just see the glint in his eye, feel the bite of the whip, hear the chaos of tables overturning, pigeons flying, coins rolling on the ground!

Yes, Jesus was a man's man!

14 "The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants

you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night."

This is a gentle man.
A spiritual man.
But also a very powerful man.

He goes from overturning tables to healing the sick from one moment to the other.

Jesus was a man's man...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Was this the high point?

Was this the high point?

It would seen that the high point in Jesus' "career" was when he came into Jerusalem, riding on the preferred steed of kings, hailed as a king, and adulated by all.

Matthew 21:1 "As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Of course, we know the end of the story.
Just a few days later, another crowd in the same city is saying, "crucify him!"

What are the lessons to be learned?

Positive public opinion is sweet!
But it is also fickle!

Jesus received it, but did not rely on it. He did not internalize it. It did not change him, or even affect him.

A truly humble person does not ever entirely believe or internalize the adulation of the masses, or the glory of fame.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Glimpse Into Eternity

A Glimpse Into Eternity

The people around Jesus were getting one amazing experience after another.

In today's story they are on vacation.

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

4 Peter 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.”

5 While 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!”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus."

The three friends got a glimpse into eternity.

9 "As 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.”

10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

We live in two worlds. The physical, present world, and the spiritual, unseen world. Most of us are only aware of, or present in, the physical world.

11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist."

These three friends got a glimpse into eternity.
And were never the same...

When Your World is Rocked

When Your World is Rocked

Some times we go along in life, when suddenly our world is rocked. Our little three year old girl dies suddenly. Our wife leaves a note saying she has taken the kids and they will not be back. Divorce papers coming. Or a visit to the doctor over some malady brings the prognosis - you have three months to live.

Some times we go along in life, when suddenly our world is rocked.

Today's story rocked the world of those around Jesus.

They are on vacation. Jesus makes an announcement.
And their world is rocked.

Matthew 16:21 "From 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."

Didn't you just prove that you were the Messiah?
Weren't those words ascribed to you? And you accepted them?

22 "Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Peter found his voice. The others were in stunned silence. What did he mean? This couldn't happen. No! No! No!
23 "Jesus 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.”

We weren't there. But I wonder how long the awkward silence was after that remark!
24 "Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What 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? 27 For 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.”

The disciples were stunned. Confused. Their heads were spinning.

Kind of like us, when our world is rocked...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

One of the most enduring questions down the ages is:
Who Am I?
Along with, Why am I here?, and What is the purpose of life?

It used to be common for young people to go to Europe, or India to "find themselves." (To which my attitude has always been - What, go to India to find yourself? Just look in the mirror! There you are!!!)

Jesus asked this same question, but with a very different slant. Who Am I?

13 "When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They 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?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

I think it is hard for us to understand what a huge statement this was. The Messiah. The Long Awaited One. The Savior. Christ.

Jesus understood the significance of that little statement:

17 "Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven."

This is huge, Jesus is saying. So huge, in fact, that it was revealed to you by God the Father!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Abstruse Message

Abstruse Message

Jesus often spoke in an abstruse, or abstract way.

Here is a simple problem. They are travelling, and someone forgot to be prepared, so they had no lunch.

5 "When 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.”

Jesus didn't bawl them out for being unprepared.
Didn't even address the deprivation they would all feel when lunch time rolled around.
He made a comment that had them all scratching their heads...
6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

They didn't understand what he meant at all.
8 "Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?"

Jesus wasn't actually talking about bread at all.

"But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then 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."

Finally they got what he was talking about.

So what was the point in talking like this?
Was it to show his superior intelligence?
Was it to keep them on their toes?
Was it to show them that he was on a higher plane than them?

I suspect not...
It seems that Jesus took everyday moments as his teaching points. Making everyday moments into teachable moments.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Was Jesus Calloused and Hard Hearted?

Was Jesus Calloused and Hard Hearted?

Matthew 15:21 "Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A 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.”

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

Since Jesus seemed to be completely ignoring her, the disciples picked up on that.

"She is a nuisance, Lord. Send her away. She is making a ruckus and it is annoying. Just get rid of her. She is a problem!"

Then Jesus engages her.  But his statement and questions seem more calloused and hard hearted than his silence!

24 "He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He 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.”

This woman was persistent!

And desperate!!

She would not go away.
She would not keep silent.
She answered every apparently cruel statement with a rebuttal!
28 "Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment."


And Jesus healed her daughter.

What a lesson for us all in faith, in persistence, in perserverance.

Sometimes God seems to ignore our prayers. Sometimes we pray and things only seem to be getting worse!

Yet he hears... He knows... He cares...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Inside Out

Inside Out

What matters most? The inside? Or the outside?

If you ask our culture, the outside matters most. Whether music, sports, movies or even politics, your good looks open doors, and your poor looks close doors.

But to God, the inside matters most.

The religion of the day put a lot of emphasis on obeying religious rules. Jesus says it is the heart that matter most to God.

Matthew 15:10 "Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides.[d] If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

15 Peter 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? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Jesus Doesn't Like Religion!

Jesus Doesn't Like Religion!

If you are unfamiliar with the life of Jesus this comes as a shocker.
Jesus Doesn't Like Religion!

But, but, but, you say... Didn't he claim to be God? Is that not the source of ALL religion?

Yes and no. Yes he did claim to be God. Repeatedly, in many ways and to many people. The entire New Testament agrees that Jesus is God Incarnate - God in flesh.

But God and religion have issues. Jesus came to bring people to God.

But he considered religion to be a gate to keep people FROM God. I'm pretty sure he feels the same way today.

Matthew 15:1 "Then 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!”

3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a] and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me.

9 They worship me in vain;

their teachings are merely human rules.’”

Jesus is not against the JEWISH religion. He is against ANY and ALL religion that makes rules about how to get to God, and ends up keeping people away from God.

God wants your heart. He wants your life. He doesn't want your performance, your ritual, your adherence to "religious" rules.

He wants YOU! And he wants to have a relationship with you!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Storm!

Storms are scary things.
You are uncomfortable, out of control, and you literally don't know if you are going to live or die.

"the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it."
These guys were experienced boaters. But this squall had caught them off gaurd, and now they had been in it all night long. They were tired and afraid.
25 "Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear."

I have no idea why Jesus decided to walk to them on the water. To show his divinity? To help them believe? Did he know what Peter was going to do?
27 "But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

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. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed."

Certainly a dramatic story! Perhaps one of the most oft told. Not of how Jesus walked on the water, but how Peter walked on the water - however briefly that was!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

An exhausted Jesus Says Goodbye

An exhausted Jesus Says Goodbye

The story of Jesus walking on the water has more paintings made of it than any other event in his life.

Yet it is a footnote to the real story.

Jesus cousin was senslessly murdered by a wicked polititian. When Jesus got the news, he went away with his friends to grieve.

The crowd anticipated where he was going, and there was a huge throng. He healed them, and fed them.

Then, worn out emotionally and physically, he sends his disciples on ahead in the boat.

He says good bye to all the people, then he went up the hill a ways and poured his heart out to the Father. He prayed until late into the night.

THAT is the real story. His catching up with the disciples was an appendage to the real story...

Matthew 14:22 "Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it."

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jesus is Sad

Jesus is sad.
He just got word that his cousin, who we know as John the Baptist, was senslessly murdered by the ruling polititian of the day. The whole thing was sleasy and wrong. An innocent man was murdered.

He does not say a thing (that is recorded) but he does withdraw. Goes to a solitary place. There he can be alone (with his buds) and grieve...

13 "When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns."

But like so many famous people, he is allowed no alone time. Soon people began appearing. Clusters of families, groups of guys, entire villages...

Oh well! So much for quielty grieving!!!

14 "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick."

So he got up, and got to work. Healing the people until it got close to dusk.

There is a lesson here.

Today we are busy addicts. Busy makes us feel good. Busy makes us feel important. We have a wonderful work ethic that gets pleasure in accomplishment.

The down side is - what are you like when you are interrupted?
Grouchy? Impatient? Rude? Brusk?

Jesus just needed time alone.
He didn't get it.
His response? Graciously attend to the needs of the people...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sleazy, Slaughter and Savior

News Flash!
Drunk Polititian has Sleazy entertainment and the result is the Slaughter of an innocent man!

Matthew 14:1 "At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, 2 and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
3 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.
6 On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much 7 that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” 9 The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted 10 and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. 12 John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus."

The Sinless Saviour of the world hears about it and is Sad for his cousin the beheaded prophet and the king who is an unrepentant sinner.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Hometown Effect

The hometown effect.
For some of you it is the family effect.

Those who know you the best sometimes can limit you by their over familiarity.

They remember your awkwardness as a Junior Higher. The crazy things you did as a teen ager. The dramatic statements you made in your early twenties. And they underestimate you.

In todays reading Jesus goes back to his home town. Where he was raised. They did not know him as the miracle worker. The amazing teacher. The one who claimed to be God. They knew him as a carpenter, son of Joseph, the carpenter.

Matthew 13:53 "When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. 54 Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith."

Don't allow yourself to be limited by the family effect.

Or the home town effect either...