Monday, September 22, 2014

Honor Thy Father and Mother

I've read the passage below many times over the course of my life, but for some reason I was fascinated this time with Jesus' interaction with his mother.

"The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration.  The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus' mother told him, 'They have no more wine.'
'Dear woman, that's not our problem,' Jesus replied. 'My time has not yet come.'
But his mother told the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'
Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus told the servants, 'Fill the jars with water.' When the jars had been filled, he said, 'Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.' So the servants followed his instructions."  John 2:1-8  NLT

Here is the Son of God, a grown man, having a "Yes, Mom" moment.  He actually objects briefly.  Clearly he doesn't want to do it, but Mary doesn't even respond to him.  She simply ignores the protest and goes to chat with the servants to get the ball rolling.  So, with nothing more to say, Jesus promptly turns water into wine.  He submitted Himself to her and He honored her.  He didn't have to, obviously.  I'm sure He had plenty of things He could have said to justify not doing what she asked Him to do.  It wasn't exactly in line with His mission statement.  And yet He chose to honor this request anyway.

When I consider that, it seems clear that how we treat our parents (even as adults) is very important to God.  They deserve our honor and respect.  If your parents are still living, what does honoring them as an adult look like?  It's true that we could never repay them for all of the sacrifices they made on our behalf.  But honoring them?  That we can do.

Leading or Following

Matthew 14 contains one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible.  Jesus tells the disciples to feed five thousand men--an impossible task for them.  

"They said to him, 'We have only five loaves here and two fish.'  And he said, 'Bring them here to me.'" (Matthew 14:17-18)

He gives them instructions, they follow them, a miracle happens.

He then performs what amounts to a practical joke, immediately sending them across the lake in a boat without Him.  Their trip was a disaster.  They rowed and rowed all night and couldn't make any progress because of the wind blowing against them.  It turned out to be a second impossible task.  Finally in the middle of the night, as they rowed and rowed they suddenly see Jesus walking (not toward them, but past them) on the lake (Mark 6:48)!  In my head, I picture him whistling to himself as he strolled by.

Then Peter makes an incredible request.  "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."  He didn't say "Look out Jesus, here I come."  He didn't decide for Jesus what miracle he was to perform.  He wanted the command to come from Him, knowing that if Jesus asked then He would provide the power.

Don't we sometimes run on ahead of Jesus and then look around wondering why He's not empowering us to do what we've decided we want to do?  Are we sure that what we're doing is what God has asked us to do?  He is with us, if we have accepted His forgiveness.  We're not out in the boat rowing by ourselves anymore.  That much is settled.  So now the question is, whose idea was this anyway?  Is it me, saying like a child "Daddy, watch me!"  Or is it God lovingly providing the light for our path?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Compelled to Love

"...whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." Mark 10:43-44

Jesus lived that, didn't he?  The Son of God Himself put our needs ahead of his own.  He submitted Himself and became a servant, when He, more than anyone, had the right to get His own way.  His entire life and ministry was characterized by three words: "You then me."  He shredded the standard and then wrote a new one.  For the first time in history, the world was able to see what perfection looked like.  The view was intimidating.  He loved intensely, he spoke truthfully, he served freely, he forgave completely, he accepted unconditionally.  Like the pharisees, we may be tempted to get Him out of the way so we can continue on as we are, unchallenged.  But He didn't do those things for other people.  He loved us; he accepted us.  His love compels us to love.  His acceptance compels us to treat prodigal children with acceptance even before they've turned around fully.  We humble ourselves because He did.  We are compelled to say "you don't owe me", because He did.

The bottom line is that I don't forgive you because of you.  You really don't have very much to do with it.  I forgive you because of Him.  How could I do anything less?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Promises, Promises

Desperate for relief, Paul repeatedly pleaded with God to heal him. God's response wasn't "I'd love to but your faith is just too weak." And, it wasn't "You forgot to spin around and click your heels together three times." There was no "If you... then I..." Instead, God's response was no. Our Heavenly Father looked at Paul, the man He called to carry His message to the gentiles, and refused to heal him.

"So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10

God's promise to Paul was the same as it is for us today. He doesn't promise to change our circumstances. In fact, He may be planning to use those circumstances for good in our lives or the lives of those around us. Instead, he promises that His grace is sufficient--that He will be with us in the middle of those circumstances. God is not our cosmic vending machine. He doesn't do what we tell him. It's actually supposed to be the other way around. But He does love us, and He is with us every step of the way. Even Jesus, His own son, pleaded with Him to change His circumstances on His way to the cross.

Thank you, God, for saying no.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Key To Christianity

Isn't it true that all of Christianity hinges not on the Bible itself but rather on one specific event in history? Without the resurrection, Christianity falls apart. Christianity is really very different from any other world religion. Every other world religion is wrapped around a set of teachings or a message that was given. When the teacher died, the message was free to live on. But, the message of Jesus was in fact Jesus. He had backed his own message into a corner so that it really couldn't survive without him. When he died, there was really nowhere for Christianity to go.
He said things like "I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the father but through me." "The father and I are one." "Upon this rock I will build my church." When he was killed, it was clear that he wasn't building anything.
So how did the early church actually get started after he died? Anyone who denies the resurrection would have to answer this question and the answer can't be "the same way all of the other religions did it". His message simply doesn't allow for that. Did twelve guys make up a story about the resurrection and people all over Judea who wanted Jesus dead and/or watched him die suddenly buy it and hop on the bandwagon? Possible, yes... but not really probable. Bringing the dead back to life would have sounded just as crazy back then as it does today, right?
Or... did people really see a dead man walking?

Let There Be Light

Why do Christians get in a tizzy about people outside the church who are misbehaving? Who cares? For those outside the church, only one thing matters: getting them to Jesus. If they will come to Him, He will work on their behavior as a natural outcome of being in a relationship with Him. If we actually succeed in getting them to stop whatever it is they shouldn't be doing, they are no closer to salvation than they were before. In fact, we've accomplished nothing from an eternal perspective. Trying to get the lost world to conform to God's standard of holiness is a backward implementation of what we were called to do.
Jesus is the light of the world. Christians try desperately to get those in this dark world to act as if they’ve found the light even though they haven’t. We want them to be able to navigate correctly but they can’t because they’re still in the dark. So our solution is to become the “seeing eye dog”. We try to lead them where we want them to go without bothering to turn the light on for them. Maybe it makes more sense to give them light so they can actually see where they're going.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Debunking the Legend

It seems that athiests are fond of saying that the gospels are not reliable because they were written in the early 2nd century by people who were not eye witnesses (not the guys the books were named after). So, generally it's believed that the story of the resurrection surfaced as legend at some point after years of oral communication and eventually made it into the gospels well after the actual events. The problem is that the resurrection of Christ is referenced throughout Paul's letters which are widely accepted to have been written in the 50s (first century, obviously). So if the gospels were written later and these late breaking documents introduced the concept of the resurrection, how did Paul find out about it 20 years after Jesus' death? Clearly the "legend" of the resurrection was widely in circulation at the time of Paul's writings and was not introduced in the second century at all. Also, it was in circulation while eye witnesses were still alive to dispute it.