Monthly Archives: February 2020
Many of our traditions recognize the season of Lent – 40 days set aside in the Christian calendar to reflect on the journey of Jesus leading up to the cross.
It is a time for repentance, forgiveness, sacrifice, reflection, discipline, remembrance and preparation. It is a time of fasting and prayer – a time to seek the Lord in our journey through a walk in His.
Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”
Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”
For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”
Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: “Don’t you dare test the Lord your God.”
For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”
Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”
The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus’ needs. Matthew 4:1-11 The Message
Have you ever prepared for a test by fasting? Have you ever spent 40 days praying for God to give you strength and wisdom and words for a time of testing? During that time have you sought Him in His Word asking Him to speak through Scripture? Have you addressed a troubling situation in the manner of Jesus – by weakening your human condition so that God can be in control and the solution and glory are all His?
Remember . . . traditions are fruitless if we engage in them out of blind habit – they are only fruitful when we engage our hearts, minds, souls and strength in seeking Jesus.
Sometimes our toughest challenges are those close to home – with those we love the most or are supposed to love the most. Sometimes we struggle with those who believe and those who do not – those who say they believe and those who do not – those who think they are awake but are asleep in their beliefs – those who think they believe but have never turned from themselves and put their heart where their head is.
It can be a lonely walk. But do not despair. You are never alone. For those of us who know that “God will never leave us or forsake us”, the question that follows is “what are we being called to do?”
Each of our circumstances are different – none of us lives the same lives. So no one knows the right path for each of us except for God. Thank God that the movement of the Holy Spirit will be different for each of us given what will bring God Glory. The key is to seek God’s path through our circumstances – not rely on our own understanding but seek God’s first. Be careful of outside advise from others who are not in a position to know the entirety of your situation – such advise should only be sought after a clear indication from God.
The Master, God, has given me
a well-taught tongue,
So I know how to encourage tired people.
He wakes me up in the morning,
Wakes me up, opens my ears
to listen as one ready to take orders.
The Master, God, opened my ears,
and I didn’t go back to sleep,
didn’t pull the covers back over my head.
I followed orders,
stood there and took it while they beat me,
held steady while they pulled out my beard,
Didn’t dodge their insults,
faced them as they spit in my face.
And the Master, God, stays right there and helps me,
so I’m not disgraced.
Therefore I set my face like flint,
confident that I’ll never regret this.
My champion is right here.
Let’s take our stand together!
Who dares bring suit against me?
Let him try!
Look! the Master, God, is right here.
Who would dare call me guilty?
Look! My accusers are a clothes bin of threadbare
socks and shirts, fodder for moths!
10-11 Who out there fears God,
actually listens to the voice of his servant?
For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going,
anyone groping in the dark,
Here’s what: Trust in God.
Lean on your God!
But if all you’re after is making trouble,
playing with fire,
Go ahead and see where it gets you.
Set your fires, stir people up, blow on the flames,
But don’t expect me to just stand there and watch.
I’ll hold your feet to those flames.
Remember . . . we cannot be disgraced by those who have no power to disgrace us. Stand firm. Stand strong. We have already won – we are His and we are almost Home.
What is the state of your heart? Is it connected to your mind? Are they working together for God’s Glory? Or does your heart say one thing and your mind say another? Is your heart filled with what you need or what God desires for you? Is your mind scheming to manipulate even the simplest tasks of the day?
After that, Pharisees and religion scholars came to Jesus all the way from Jerusalem, criticizing, “Why do your disciples play fast and loose with the rules?”
But Jesus put it right back on them. “Why do you use your rules to play fast and loose with God’s commands? God clearly says, ‘Respect your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone denouncing father or mother should be killed.’ But you weasel around that by saying, ‘Whoever wants to, can say to father and mother, What I owed to you I’ve given to God.’ That can hardly be called respecting a parent. You cancel God’s command by your rules. Frauds! Isaiah’s prophecy of you hit the bull’s-eye:
These people make a big show of saying the right thing,
but their heart isn’t in it.
They act like they’re worshiping me,
but they don’t mean it.
They just use me as a cover
for teaching whatever suits their fancy.”
He then called the crowd together and said, “Listen, and take this to heart. It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up.”
Later his disciples came and told him, “Did you know how upset the Pharisees were when they heard what you said?”
Jesus shrugged it off. “Every tree that wasn’t planted by my Father in heaven will be pulled up by its roots. Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch.”
Peter said, “I don’t get it. Put it in plain language.”
Jesus replied, “You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don’t you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That’s what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that’s neither here nor there.” Matthew 15:1-20 The Message
Take stock and make adjustments, so that your heart is full of God who is love. If you are conflicted between heart and mind, then focus on love. It is out of the reservoir of your heart that you will live and live abundantly. Remember . . . your life is at stake.
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.
If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. 1 John 4:17-21 The Message
Continuing with Paul’s story after his meeting with Jesus on the Road to Damascus, Paul tells us that he was set apart by God by His grace. Galatians 1:15-16. For what? . . . To preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1
Paul knew he was separated and knew his purpose. He did not consult other human beings. In his own words to the Galatians, he tells us he spent three years in Arabia shortly after his conversion. What was he doing? We can only assume, God was preparing him for his mission – peeling off layers of his “stinkin onion” so he was indeed free of the chains of the past. That took time.
God also calls us to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That “call” takes a different path for each of us. Some, like Paul, are called to travel and share the Gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus Christ. Others are called to share the Good News in their local communities through service or by one-on-one discussions with those they meet in their everyday lives. Still others, like Billy Graham, are called to large forums preaching to millions.
Regardless of how we are called to share the Good News, we need to be focused on that call and not get side-tracked by focusing on our personal holiness and what we perceive as the lack of holiness in others. Too often, we feel it is our business to look for splinters in others’ eyes but forget about the “plank” in our own. The “call” is not for “personal holiness”. The call is to share the “Good News”. Personal holiness is a side effect of knowing Jesus.
So remember the Words of Christ, himself:
“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.
“I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”
Luke 6:31-38 The Message