ministry mode

"If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner." - Luke 7:39

This Pharisee wanted to impress Jesus. He'd seen the miracles, had heard his words of wisdom, and knew that something was different about Jesus. He invited Jesus to dinner not so much to honor and learn from him. Instead he wanted his own friends to know that he'd had dinner with Jesus.

And he certainly didn't want this "sinner" woman to ruin the moment. Perhaps she could go to the synagogue and be fed by the soup kitchen ministry. Or get some more decent clothes by the ladies ministry. Or even come see Jesus later when he was speaking at the Mt. Olives conference. But seriously woman, don't interrupt MY dinner meeting with Jesus.

I think more times than I'd like to admit, I too, judge others when I'm not in "ministry mode". When at a church function or missions trip, or Sunday service I'm magically transformed into the most "compassionate, caring, and full of God's wisdom" person I know (did i forget to mention humble). I'll share the love of Jesus, feed the hungry, clothe the poor, build a house, listen with empathy, and lead people gently down the Roman's Road to the arms of our Savior.

But if I encounter those same people at Walmart, or if they drive too slow in front of me, or misspell a word on their facebook or twitter update; then they're obnoxious, inconsiderate heathen idiots whom God should smite from the earth.

In all honesty, I even have a good excuse. I could blame my dad. He was a spiritually judgmental, bigoted pastor as well. And I can hear my mom saying to him, "you know God's gonna save one of them and place their mansion in Heaven right next door to yours so you can spend eternity as neighbors!"

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Jesus, forgive me for my critical spirit. Renew my mind and heart to always see people as you see them, not just when it's convenient for me.

i know you

"…but I know you."  - John 5:42

when i was young and getting into mischief or trying to trick my parents into letting me do something i didn't think they'd approve of my dad would say to me, "i know  you nino. i know how you are. you don't think i know you, but i've known you since waaaay back." and then he'd quote my age to me to prove how long he's known me.

and then we'd look at each other and laugh, because i knew that he knew what i was up to and it wasn't going to work. i'd have to find some other tactic.

in the passage quoted above Jesus is saying this to the Jewish leaders not in a loving tender way, but as a means of letting them know he knows even their inner most hearts, desires, and motivations. he knows how cold and callous they'd become.

i've gotta tell you, in hindsight, it's comforting to know that my dad knew me. first of all, i had a dad. and secondly, he was around enough to know me. he knew my heart, my desires, and my motivations even when they weren't the best. heck, even when they were downright bad.

think about it. Jesus "knows" you. he knows you inside and out; the good, the bad, and the ugly. yet he still considers us his own. he still had open arms calling us back to him.

it's nice to know.

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Jesus, you know my heart better than anyone. you've known me since waaaaay back. "purify my heart, cleanse me from within and make me holy. purify my heart, cleanse me from my sin, deep within."

shaved his head

"Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped."  - Job 1:20

If you don't know the story of Job it's worth reading for a lot of reasons. 

Here's a guy that had just heard the news that great calamity had come to his wealth, his servants, and even his own kids and he goes and gives himself a haircut.

What could he have been thinking has he held the razor in his hand to shave his hair? And why shave his head?

I think the reason is simple. It was a visual reminder to the person mourning and to those around them not only the severity of their grief, but more so to indicate how long has passed since the grief started. As the days and weeks progressed everyone could see that their appearance was returning to normal. And since "time heals all wounds", their emotional and mental state should also be returning to "normal"

Grief is a human emotion. But it's not meant to be one we live in perpetually.  Eventually things should return to "normal". It may be a new "normal", but it's different than a time of grieving.

So whether it's the loss of a loved one, a job, a dream, a valued possession, a relationship,  a business, or a marriage what will I do the next time I grieve to ensure that I don't grieve forever? What will be my reminder that things are returning to "normal"?

Jesus, may I lean on you when my heart is wounded. May I trust in you to be my healer, my protector, and my rock.

perform


Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him.  - Luke 23:8

Many people are attracted to Jesus for all kinds of reasons. In this passage Herod wants to see a miracle. He wants to see something that isn't normally seen. He wants to be amazed. He wants Jesus to perform.


And there's the problem. God has never been a "performance" based God. God/Jesus never performed miracles for "show" or to wow and amaze people to gain their approval; to win their relationship. Instead God moves in miraculous ways because of the relationship he already has with his people, because they've already placed their trust/faith in him. It's because he loved the Israelites that he parted the Red Sea. It's because he cared for Mary and Martha and wanted to increase their faith that Lazarus was raised from the dead. It's because he valued the centurion soldier that he healed his ear that one of the disciples had zealously cut off.


And conversely, there's no amount of "performance" we can do to wow God or gain/build our relationship with Him. We can't read our Bible's enough, pray enough, go to church enough, visit the sick and imprisoned enough, or give to the poor enough. Instead it out of the relationship we already have with God that we do all those things.


Where have I been expecting God to "perform" in order to amaze me? In what areas have I been trying to "perform" to show God that I'm "good enough"?


Jesus, I trust you to do the miraculous. I believe you're able to do the impossible when you feel it's necessary. Help me to trust in your timing, and in your way. Jesus, I love you.


like the dew of Hermon


"Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!" - Psalm 133:1 (ESV)


For some reason a sermon my dad gave on this passage has stuck with me for many years.

My dad loved people. We would often have unexpected visitors come and stay for dinner, much to the stress of my mother. We often had people living with us as well.

As a pastor's kid, and now as an associate pastor, I've seen the opposite of this verse. I've seen family members, friends, and Christian brothers and sisters who absolutely can't hardly stand looking at each other. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I've also felt this way towards others at times too.

But oh what joy, power, and blessing there is when there is unity, reconciliation, forgiveness, grace, mercy, camaraderie, fellowship, and celebration.

Thankfully, I've also experience this as well - missions trips, college dorms, Bible Quiz team, other friends, my marriage.

Given the choice, I'll take the latter every single time.

Why is it that sometimes I don't?

Jesus, thank you for being patient with me when I'm a jerk to your children. Thank you for showing me grace and mercy. Thanks for allowing me to see a glimpse of the unity you desire for all of your church.


God has not deserted us


"…so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness…" - Ezra 9:8-9

 


What an amazing understanding of who God is. Even in the lowest of lows, God is still there.  God is still a good God.


What's more amazing is the fact that Ezra even acknowledges that the reason they are slaves, the reason they are in bondage is because of their own disobedience, their own sins. So they were receiving the correction they deserved, and yet, God was still kind.


It may seem "Pollyanna"-ish, to always seeing the bright side of life, but Scripture has shown time and again that God has not deserted us. He still loves us, even when it may seem like he's far off.  Moses told the nation of Israel that "God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deut. 31:6). And as Christians, Jesus promised to be "with us always, to the very end of the age." (Matt. 28:20)


So I will stand on God's Word, on his promises, instead of my feelings. I will not rely on my limited vision and understanding of myself or the world around me.  I choose to believe what Jesus has already said, He will be with me always.


Jesus, forgive me for times I have doubted your presence in my life. Help me to see you with me in every circumstance and situation.

questions, questions, questions


"Some…came to Jesus with a question."  - Luke 20:27


Jesus never backed away from people's questions, even when he knew they were asking just to try to trap him. There were times he asked a question back, but he never simply refused to answer.


I don't think God minds our questions, especially when we're asking out of curiosity, confusion, desperation or even lack of faith.  A quick read through some of the Psalms shows that God isn't intimidated by them. It's not as if he doesn't already know our thoughts, feelings, and intentions.


He knows. Sometimes it's just the process of voicing our questions that allows us to give up trying to control the situation that only He can take care of.


Recently, I've begun to question our MPD journey/adventure. I voiced these to questions to God this past week in prayer.


Why aren't we done with MPD yet?


Is there something we're doing wrong?


Are we not learning what we need to during this process?


How much longer will it take?


Will we ever be done?


What happens if we don't finish?


Jesus, you know the answers to all these questions. It sounds a little childish for me to even write them out. Thank you for knowing, help me trust in you.

he saw the city


"he drew near and saw the city" - Luke 19:41 


In this passage there are a couple references that let us know that Jesus had knowledge that was divinely inspired. Some of it seemed almost trivial; the fact that Zacchaeus was in a tree. Some was instructional; his instructions on where to find the colt, and what to say to the owner. But some of it, I think he may have wished he couldn't see.

He could see the city of Jerusalem as it was then, but he also saw the future of that city and the ruin that would come to it. Jesus saw the suffering, the pain, and the chaos that was to come.

We could wonder all we want about trying to know what Jesus knows, to be able to see what he sees. But perhaps it should just be enough to know that He sees our lives. He knows the past, present, and future. And he knows what my story line is in the grand story of history.

Jesus, may I trust you with my plans, my desires, my dreams, my fears, and my life. Thank you for knowing me at each step of the way. It's comforting to know that someone knows what I'm going through, what I've been through, and what I'll face even if I do not.


Esther

"When Esther's maids and eunuchs came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther summoned Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why."  - Esther 4:4-5

"If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request."  - Esther 7:3

A couple of things stood out to me today when reading this. 

1) Esther was thrust in to this position of power, prestige, wealth, and influence, yet she leveraged this not for her own gain but instead for loved ones and her people. She used what she had at her disposal to help those around her. I have to think that this was not something Esther "just started doing" once she came into her position, but it was part of her character before.  Now she just had the means and influence to make a difference on a much larger scale.

2) It's amazing to read the book of Esther all in one sitting.  To be able to see the grand story unfold.  You get a clear understanding that God was orchestrating it all. All of the choices and decisions that were made that seemed to be unrelated were all part of a master plan that God had in place.

My life, my choices, my work, my decisions all are part of a purpose God is calling me to.  Will my actions now in the simple, mundane, and ordinary situations prepare my character for when the stakes are higher? Am I living every day like today's activities and how I respond to them are vital to the success of things to come.

I don't think Esther or Mordecai, had any idea what was coming.  Nor do I believe that they had to live so "intentional", they were living out of the character that was already inside them.

Oh, God. Lead me and guide me. Mold me. Bend my will to yours. And grant me the wisdom to listen, obey, and follow.

as they went

"And as they went, they were cleansed." Luke 17:14

It's interesting that in this instance Jesus chose not to heal instantly. I don't know about your church and their stance on healing today, but I've always grown up in a church that believed that Jesus could heal instantly any time he wanted to. But it was always kinda vague and somewhat confusing trying to figure out if Jesus "wanted to" this time and in this circumstance. And it was somewhat disappointing feeling like maybe you didn't pray hard enough, or with the right words, or there was something else wrong with you that God chose not to heal you (or your loved one) instantly.

Instead in this passage God chose a more gradual method of healing. They were healed "as they went". I've seen God choose to heal people instantly a couple of times. But more times than not our bodies, spirits, attitudes, emotions, finances, and relationships are healed "as we go".  It's more in the obeying what God asked us to do everyday, day after day.

It's also interesting that the leper's healing wasn't contingent upon their return to give thanks.  Scripture doesn't say that the other nine reverted back into their leprosy a few days or months later.  It does say that the thankful man received an extra blessing from Jesus. He was made whole.

I want to be a man who remembers to thank. Words of affirmation aren't necessarily my love language, but it doesn't mean I should be a jerk who is stingy with praise, thankfulness, appreciation, and gratitude.

What are somethings that have been healed in my life over time that I've neglected to be thankful for?

Jesus, thank you for your abundant blessings, and rich mercy towards me. You have provided for me and my family at every turn. Jesus have mercy on me, extend your grace when I behave selfishly towards the wife you've blessed me. Thank you for the wife you've given me. Over the last 12 years she has been a constant reminder of your gentle calling of me closer to you and of your unmerited favor.

Thanks Jesus.

God's work


"Let the cost be paid from the royal treasury." Ezra 6:4 ESV


What's so awesome about this passage is that God was ready to provide far beyond what they could think or imagine. Here was a group of leaders rebuilding the Temple. They were fulfilling what they believed God had called them to. When questioned by the local authorities why they were fixing the temple, what they were doing, and who gave them permission; they responded by reminding them of a 19yr old law that was given by the previous king to allow them to build. And if they have a problem with that they challenged them to "look it up". Maybe they knew what was written, or maybe they had no idea what the law really said. But not only did the law give them permission, it also decreed that the entire project be paid for by the government. I'm guessing this was a surprise to the Jewish leaders because what they had been working on for the previous 19 years now only took them another 3 years to complete.

I don't know what changed. Why was the original decree forgotten? But God had a plan right from the get go to call leaders, bring workers, grant permissions, and abundantly provide the financial resources to complete the work. So what am I short sighted about? What abundant surprises does God have in store for me? What am I taking way to long to accomplish because I'm not making use of the resources God has already preordained to be given for His work?

Jesus, open my eyes to your blessing. Teach me your ways and best methods for accomplishing your work. God we're ready to do what you've called us to, we will trust in you and in you alone.


 


was dead, and is alive


"It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found." - Luke 15:32 ESV


I've read this passage many times before, and heard it preached from even more. I believe the older brother is the point of all of chapter 15, otherwise Jesus would have stopped the story after verse 24. Yes, Jesus wanted me to understand that he cares about the lost. But he also wanted me to see that when it comes to people I (in the church, religious, believer) haven't cared. And, it's because I haven't realized that spiritually they weren't just "bad" they were dead.



I noticed at the beginning of the chapter the Pharisees and scribes were grumbling because Jesus "receives sinners and eats with them." To the Pharisees and scribes these were dirty people, unclean, unworthy who needed to get their act together.


To Jesus, they were dead and in need of life.


There's many times that I've been guilty of such thoughts. I look at people in their sin and pain and think, "If only they'd made better choices. If only they hadn't… or If only they would have…"


The point of the Gospel, the reason Christ died was not to make bad people good. It's to make dead people alive, that which was lost, found. 


If I can understand that, then I'll see people differently. I'll give Grace, instead of judgement. I'll show compassion, instead of pity or disdain. I'll love because He first loved me, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8 ESV)