Archive for August, 2010



He plays, we dance

JESUS SPEAKS

            And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like?  They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: 

            ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;

            we mourned to you and you did not weep.’   

           For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  But wisdom is justified by all her children” (Luke 7: 31-35.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            John the Baptist lived in the wilderness and preached a message of repentance in preparation for the arrival of the messiah (Jesus.)  John did not drink wine, and he and his followers fasted regularly.  He baptized people in the Jordan River, and had no affiliation with the priests in Jerusalem; the priests hated him because the majority of the Jewish people believed he was a prophet, and he undermined their authority by baptizing people with water, for the remission of sins.  John was seen as a threat because he recognized the corruption of the priests, and publicly called them to repent and be baptized.  They refused, because they wanted to keep their power, their wealth, their full stomachs, and their fine clothing.  They wanted John to ‘lighten up;’ they wanted him to ‘play nice;’ this is what Jesus was referring too when he said the priests were like children who ‘played the flute’ for John but he didn’t dance.  (Children in the marketplaces would try to get reactions out of others.)  When John didn’t ‘dance,’ they condemned him as ‘demon possessed.’  Jesus referred to himself as ‘The Son of Man’ (an Old Testament title given to the Messiah.)  He said, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking.”  He and his disciples drank wine, and didn’t fast, because they were celebrating his arrival as the Messiah.  The religious leaders didn’t want anyone celebrating Jesus as the messiah, so they condemned him and his disciples as drunkards and deviants.  This is what is meant by, ‘we mourned to you and you did not weep.’  The religious leaders called Jesus and John evil in an attempt to regain control, with little regard for right and wrong.  They didn’t want to dance to God’s tune, and God doesn’t dance to a man’s tune, so these men became enemies of God.  Rather than helping, they were hindering His work.  Jesus said, “But wisdom is justified by all of her children.”  The children he was referring too were all of his followers.  Those who were repenting were coming to Jesus and giving their lives back to God.  The religious leaders had no one coming to them, because they had nothing to offer.  They had no children, no converts, no followers, because they were blind.

            Many churches have multiple pastors.  Often times a person who is stuck in sin will go to one pastor for counseling, but when faced with the idea of change, they rebel.  Not liking the answer they found with one pastor, they will go to the next pastor hoping for a different outcome.  Until they’ve exhausted all of the pastors.  If they are still unwilling to change themselves they may change churches.  They may go to the next church, a more liberal church, and if rejected for their lifestyle or sin at that church, they will go to the next church.  Often, when exiting a church they condemn the leaders and the church itself.  Today, there are whole churches that have become ‘last stops’ for those who have ventured down this path.  Many of the churches, no longer teach from the word of God, because to do so would make their ‘luke-warm’ congregations feel uncomfortable.  ‘Judgment, hell, condemnation, or change;’ ‘let’s just get rid of the bible and avoid all of these negative reactions’ (sarcasm.)  I was driving by a building that resembled a church, but the sign outside was promoting same-sex marriage.  I pulled my car over and stopped in; hoping to discover what portion of the bible might support their stand on this issue.  The pastor told me, “we’re not biblical literalists.”  What she was really saying was, ‘since God wouldn’t dance to our tune, we had to get rid of him.’  ‘Since God wouldn’t play our game, we’ll just remove the parts of God we don’t like.’ 

            Today, as Christians, we shouldn’t attempt to make God dance to our tune; we’re supposed to dance to His.  We aren’t to chisel portions of the bible out of our minds and hearts to continue on in some sinful practice.  Reading the bible is invaluable in any Christian’s life.  Why?  If you were about to jump out of an airplane and you were being told the directions on how to pull the cord, would you be interested in what you were hearing?  Your life depends on the words in the bible; you cannot be transformed unless you expose yourself to it.  You cannot grow to know more about God unless you are reading His word.  Followers of the Lord make scripture reading a part of daily living; all the scripture, not just the warm fuzzy ones; but the ones that challenge you to change and be more like Him.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You now and we ask and pray that You change us to be more like You.  Give us a hunger to read Your word and to dance to Your tune.  Help us to submit ourselves to Your leading.  We love You Lord, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Serving the Lord is costly

JESUS SPEAKING

            “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.  And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  For which of you intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?” (Luke 14: 26-30.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Most people are more loyal to their families and to themselves than they are to Jesus Christ.  Their service to God is conditioned upon it’s noninterference with what they hold most dear.  Jesus used the illustration of a tower under construction as a metaphor for discipleship.  When building anything, the foundation must come first.  Whatever a person is most loyal too, is the foundation upon which their life is built.  In construction, a lot of earth needs to be removed before a person hits bedrock.  Most, in order to dig down deep within their hearts and give their loyalty to Jesus Christ, must first remove those things that stand in the way.  This includes father or mother, wife or children, brothers or sisters, and even themselves.  Anyone who accomplishes the task of making Christ their foundation, must then deny themselves and embrace pain in order to love others.  A disciple undergoes crucifixion every day; their wants and desires are nailed to the cross so Christ may live in their place.  Christ lives because they die; he has risen because they have been buried.  Is a lifetime of self-denial, crucifixion, and service, worth the reward that comes when we finish the race, when we complete the task, when the tower receives it last stone?  A life with Christ takes work.  Sadly many start that work, and after a month, a year, a decade, they walk away; they abandon everything they had sacrificed, to regain a life of their own choosing.  [Jesus is not saying that we are supposed to stop loving our family, what he is saying is, we need to make sure they are no longer our number one priority; rather, Jesus Christ becomes the priority in our lives, and all of our other relationships take their place accordingly.]

            As a child I was constantly starting projects and never finishing them.  I wanted to build a pool, so I dug up my backyard, but abandoned the effort when my mother came home to find a hole in her lawn.  On another occasion, my dear mother came home to find that I had dug a hole in my bedroom ceiling (there was insulation everywhere.)  I thought I could insert a ladder through the hole to the roof and build an observatory up there (I was a unique child.)  As an artist in adulthood, my track record for incompletion continues somewhat today.  I have more than a number of partially completed paintings to my name.  I often become inspired to start a new painting before the one I’m working on is finished.  My inspiration will often lead me to abandon that one in like manner (not always, some I do finish.)  As an adult I found inspiration in novel ideas; I enjoy starting new projects, new hobbies, and new adventures, but often times my enthusiasm is fleeting. 

            Many people today are inspired to attend church, say a prayer, pick up a bible for a short time, but they don’t dig deep enough to make Christ their true foundation.  He becomes some small part of who they are; he is left in a compartment, in some little area of their life, because to bring him in to every area would result in much discomfort.  In building a life with Christ, in being his disciple, there is no half-way, there is no unfinished business.  There will be pain, there will be discomfort, and there will be trouble.  There will be trials, tribulations, turmoil, broken relationships, but you will know a joy, and you will have a peace through these trials.  You are going to have to deny what you want, what pleasure you might seek for yourself, to seek what pleases him.  Sit down; count the cost, ask yourself if you want what he is promising upon completion of a life of discipleship.  But don’t start something you can’t finish.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask that You help us to let go of our old lives, to take up Your new life.  Give us the strength to deny ourselves daily, and to endure, and to overcome.  We ask You to be raised to life in our place, that others can see You, and know You, and be loved by You.  Help us to serve You, and to serve others, in love.  We love You Lord, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ name, Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Who is your King?

JESUS SPEAKING

            Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

            Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning me?”

            “Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me.  What have you done?” 

            Jesus answered him, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from here.”

            Pilate therefore said to him, “Are you a king then?”

            Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king.  For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”

            Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”  And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in him at all” (John 18: 33-38.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The Romans had conquered all of Israel decades before Jesus arrived.  The issue of kingship was a point of contention between the Romans and the Jews.  The Jews had a strong desire to be ruled over by a king, because they hated being ruled over by the Romans; a king, they believed, would give them a sense of independence.  The Romans had divided Israel up in to five provinces ruled over by leaders who were given the title of ‘Tetriarch.’  The ‘tetrarch’ of the province that encompassed Jerusalem, Herod Archelaus, requested the title of ‘King’ from the emperor of Rome, but his request was denied in 4 B.C.  Archelaus’ brother Antipas was later denied the title of King as well.  It was commonly known that a Jewish ‘King’ would incite rebellion against Roman rule, and so the title was forbidden.  In the Old Testament, God had promised that a descendent of King David would eternally sit on the thrown.  Jesus Christ, being a descendent of David, had ridden through the gates of Jerusalem on a donkey just days earlier, signaling the people’s acceptance of him as king (but what kind of king?  It was the fulfillment of the promise by God to provide an eternal king.  The kingship Jesus had accepted was “not of this world.”  His kingdom was not an earthly kingdom, for nothing earthly is eternal.)  The religious leaders wanted a king, just not Jesus Christ; so they accused him of opposing Rome by taking the title of ‘king.’  Jesus revealed to Pilate that he came to testify about the coming kingdom of God.  His kingship had come from a higher authority than that of a Cesar; his kingship was given to him from the one true and living God.  He also testified that his subjects in this kingdom would be obedient to his words.  Pilate realized the nature of what Jesus was saying to him, and found him not guilty of subverting the earthly authority of the Roman Empire; and yet he was still crucified.

            Today, the majority of people play different roles.  A man or woman can be an architect, a parent, a business owner, a son or daughter, an aunt or uncle, a brother or sister, all at the same time.  Each role may require a different set of actions and responsibilities.  However, just occasionally there are roles that are so pervasive they spill over in to every area of life, and in to every role that a person plays.

            Being a subject of the Kingdom of God is one such role.  We firstly follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, because he is our king.  If a certain role contradicts his teachings, we don’t reject obedience to him in order to fulfill the responsibilities of that role.  Often times the role itself must be rejected so we can maintain our subjection to him.  (For instance, drug dealer and subject of the Lord are incompatible.  So drug dealing must be abandoned in order to serve the Lord.)  We are his subjects, in this world, doing his will, in a place filled with evil and disobedience.  We are going to stand out, we are going to be different, but it will be love that makes us different; it will be the Spirit of God that makes us stand out.  May God be with you, and may you serve Him, until he comes, or you go to meet him.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask and pray that You be our King.  Give us a heart to be obedient to Your teaching, here in this world.  Help us to serve You with a joyful heart, and to withstand the temptations that could carry us away from our faith and trust in You.  Help us to be looking forward, always to Your ‘Coming Kingdom.’  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Serving the Servant!

JESUS SPEAKING

            So when he had washed their feet, taken his garments, and sat down again, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say rightly, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you.  Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant isn’t greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13: 12-17.)

 INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            This foot washing took place at the last supper, just before Jesus was crucified.  The person who was placed at the lowest position at the table was given the duty of washing feet, yet Jesus, who was in the place of honor, did something unheard of; he stood up, girded himself with a towel, and washed the feet of his guests.  Peter, most likely in the lowest position (foot washer), refused at first to allow Christ to wash his feet, no doubt feeling that he was not worthy to have his master serve him.  After washing their feet, Jesus reaffirmed his role as teacher (moral authority) and Lord (master ruler of his servants) so they would not mistake his humble service with a lessened authority.  No true servant would ever make themselves more honorable than their master.  Jesus as master, had made a humiliating task an honorable thing, and as such, those who would not imitate this action would be elevating themselves above their Lord.  Jesus’ ministry was not a ministry of mere words, but of actions.  All of his commands were accompanied by personal example.  Knowledge without action counted for nothing, acknowledged by Jesus in verse 17, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

            I work with a man who is handicapped.  We were walking at the beach, and he happened to step in a spot of oil.  At the beach he scrubbed and scrubbed, and it wouldn’t come off.  Finally when we arrived home, we attempted to clean his foot with lighter fluid.  He scrubbed, but couldn’t get enough leverage to be effective.  The thought of touching another man’s foot with my bare hands initially repulsed me; after thinking of this scripture, I realized it was my duty and my honor to help him.  So I scrubbed until it was clean.  When I was finished, my heart was pleased because the knowledge of God’s word had come to life and was manifest in my action.  Washing a man’s feet may never have its realization in every person’s life, but this scripture becomes real whenever a person serves another human being because they love God.

            Pride is something that is detestable to the Lord; it limits a person’s usefulness to God because He has called his servants to do things the world considers, ‘unimportant, invaluable, and unworthy.’  Pride creates a hunger for money, houses, cars, boats, careers, etc., while humility allows a person to serve God without concern for selfish gain or increased social standing.  As Christians, there is no task that is ‘beneath us,’ because the way to be great in the eyes of God is to be the least in the eyes of men.  Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.  And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mathew 20: 25-28.)

            How are you giving your life up today in order to serve others?  Are you making yourself lower than Jesus Christ, who served others devoid of pride and selfish concern?  Are you involved with service at your church and in your community?  Do you pray for others, love others, and seek to help others who are in need?  Do you fellowship with those the world considers ‘throw-a-ways?’  We can all serve God more by making ourselves less!  Make yourself lowly, and you will know true freedom; you will be blessed beyond anything you could have ever imagined.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask and pray that You will free us from pride, and help us to be lowly in Spirit.  Give us a heart to serve others, and to lift others up above ourselves.  Lord, we wish to follow You, and to serve You, and to give our lives for You; please give us opportunities to humble ourselves and to be an example of servant hood to those around us.  We love You Lord, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.


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