Our Rabbi: Confident, Savvy, and Assertive

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26 They were not able to catch Him in what He said in public, and being amazed at His answer, they became silent.  (HCSB)Today’s full text: Luke 20:1-26

How did Jesus respond when the religious leaders of his day questioned his authority to do the work His father had sent him to do? For context, one of the reasons they doubted his credentials as a Rabbi is because he had never been a disciple for anyone, so he’d rebelled against the status quo, no human had taught him to be just like them and commissioned him as a rabbi to teach others to be just like his own rabbi. So he didn’t meet the education requirements to preach the gospel and had no human certifications saying he was a licensed minister commissioned and under the authority of a particular rabbinical school of thought.

First, he didn’t become offended. He didn’t doubt himself and his ability and qualifications because the experts of the day doubted in him. He remembered what his Father had said about him, that he was the Son of God, and called not to teach disciples to be like a human rabbi, but to be like his Father. He also knew if he pulled out his credentials for the religious leaders, they would refuse to believe, accuse him of blasphemy, and kill him.

Since it wasn’t time yet, he refused not only to doubt in himself, but to prove himself to men, turning the tables on them, asking whether John was commissioned to baptize people by men or by God. The religious leaders were trapped–answering from God would be a winning point to the Lord in the debate, but the crowd would riot if they denied John’s authority, too. The leaders refused to answer, so they got no answer, but the crowd got one right there. Jesus addresses the issue in a parable about tenant farmers who kill the heir to the land hoping to keep what belongs to him for themselves, thus warning them without saying an arrestable word that the religious leaders of the day would be destroyed if they continued on the road to crucifying the Lord.

The leaders were smart enough to get the message and were furious, but he’d made his point to the huge crowd,  making the leaders also afraid to oppose him directly–so they turned to spies pretending to be on the Lord’s side and tried to trap him with their famous question about paying taxes and the Lord again saw through their deception and refused to be trapped into either speaking against paying taxes to Caesar and committing treason, or speaking in favor of Caesar and offending the crowd. So he gave his famous answer, that affirmed giving Caesar his coins per the letter of the law directly while stating indirectly that mankind should give ourselves, our whole lives and bodies, to God, as we bare the image of God and everything we have comes from him and is truly His.

If we disciples want to be more like our Rabbi, we should be more confident of our calling, not swayed by the voices and opinions of man, but aware of them and savvy in our responses, testifying to the truth, but being aware of the climate and what the people accept and reject and what is around us and using that in our Lord’s favor while seeking to avoid needless offenses that would get us arrested and harmed before it is His time. This passage also indicates there is a season to follow the legal/certification processes of the day and a time to reject them and confidently go out and do what our Father has told us to.

Lord, give us your wisdom and discernment! Help us to use what is available in the culture today to your glory and to advance your Kingdom in ways that uphold the truth. Give us confidence of your calling and open our ears to hear what the season is regarding following laws and the ignoring the “normal” established processes traditionally followed in our calling.

Need to Know the Time? Ask God.

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For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:  a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to  keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Would that we knew the seasons of life! How many of us have stumbled and fell because we could not discern whether it was time to speak or time to keep silence, time to love, or time to hate, time to heal, or time to break down, time to keep, or time to cast away? If you’re like me, you may even have such a hard time discerning the times, the medical profession would like to diagnose and treat you for it, if they haven’t already.

We struggle in the flesh. The world is a mighty confusing, overwhelming place, if we’re impaired at discerning what is socially and professionally appropriate in a given moment. While doctors can help, we have another resource to draw upon.

Today let’s remember to be still and seek the Lord for supernatural discernment, and ask him to reveal what the time and the season is. If we can master any impulsive tendencies we have, if we can discipline ourselves to seek his face, knowing in faith if we seek we will find and when we are weak, he is strong, then our spirit walk can begin to look like we’re naturals.

If we ever get there, let us remember to thank him and be ready to profess openly our weakness and who is strong in us and enables us to walk so wisely.

Lord, we confess we are weak and so easily confused as to what deserves our time and attention. Deliver us from the folly of the flesh, enable us to stop and seek your face. Give us spiritual wisdom to know what the season and what it is time for in every moment. Draw us into a closer walk with you today. Guide our every step and give us the right words. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Death, Taxes, and the Word of God

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“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)

Cynics tell us the only constants in this life are death and taxes. This world is ever changing and ever dying. People die, promises are broken and relationships betrayed unto death. The elements ravage, the thief steals, and the moth destroys our possessions.

One thing more remains constant and true and faithful to us. God’s word. His promises, his character, and his standards, and his truth are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Even when we can’t see him, even when we can’t feel him, he is right where he always was. As the gospel song says, what he’s done before in history, he’ll do again for us. We don’t know how or when, but he will come through if we cling to his promises, remember how he’s always been faithful and come through for us before, and continue to trust him in this present storm.

One catch is God’s promises and God’s teachings are true and constant. Men’s interpretations thereof are quite the opposite. When God’s not doing what we expect, we need to be sure we are rightly dividing his word. Don’t take others’ word for it; search the scriptures. Learn the cultural and historical context. Look up the English words the translators chose in a dictionary to ensure proper understanding.  Cross-reference the scripture by other scriptures in other books of the bible as well as the immediate context. Try to read it without assumptions based upon your personal experiences and your culture. Those  twist the meaning of scripture away from their intent.

Lord, give us wisdom and knowledge to understand your word and the promises you make. Increase our discipline and hunger to equip ourselves. Strengthen our faith and our trust in you. Remove all blinders that keep us from grasping the truth of your word. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

A loving God and a fool’s hellish choice

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“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)

The most famous passage in the bible, John 3:15-18,  tells us Christ was lifted up on the cross so all who believe in him would have eternal life, that God loved us so much, he gave us his only son so that no one who believes in Christ should perish. Today’s verse asserts at this point that God’s goal was not to condemn everyone else, but to save the world.  Verse eighteen adds sadly, however, that those who freely choose not to believe in Christ, to not accept the offer of salvation he extends to everyone, is condemned already and choosing to remain condemned rather than accept an offer of pardon.

What would we say of a governor who offered a pardon to a prisoner with no expectation of reform? Would we call an earthly king loving for releasing into his kingdom a person who had make it clear such had no intentions of being a productive, law-abiding citizen? Mind, God’s done all the work for us even.

So, on the judgment day, those “sent” to hell are going where they chose to go. They have condemned themselves and why?  Because they loved their sin more than they desired a pain-free, joyful eternity in the presence of God, who forbid them from taking their pet into his kingdom.

Tell me,  what kind of offenders facing a death sentence are offered a pardon, but say no, they like their old life of crime too much to receive a pardon and live? A stiff-necked fool.

Let us not be so foolish, we who trust and believe in him.

We thank you, Lord, that you came not to condemn, but to save. Search our hearts, be there any wicked way in us? If we have pet sins in our lives we need to surrender and leave behind, show us. Strengthen us to love you more. Open our eyes to the truth and set us free from the chains that bind us. Season our tongues, Lord, so we might also be of a mind to seek not to condemn those who already are, but to gently show them the way to salvation. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

To People Please or Not To . . .

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“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Romans 15:2)

Yikes! Whatever happened to you can’t please everyone? Okay, lay some context on me, please:

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written,”The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” (Romans 15:1-3)

Ah, there, Paul is continuing his discourse from Romans 14 on the varying convictions in the Body and saying we should be sensitive to the weaker consciences some of our brothers and sisters have, that we shouldn’t criticize them for having stricter standards than us, but tolerate them rather than insisting on pleasing ourselves.

I don’t know if this means to let our church service be dictated by the person who complains a style of music offends them. I doubt this means if one person in our family becomes a vegetarian, or if one person at the church supper is a vegan, that we all have to eat that way to please them. I doubt this means if one brother or sister is an alcoholic, the rest of us can’t drink up in front of them. After all, it’s not our fault if they give in and crack one open  .  .  .

Oh wait. That last one is exactly what Paul means. We are not to lay a stumbling block before our brother and sister. If we know they are weak, if we know they can’t handle something, we should refrain from our liberty, and not serve that drink, not wear that garment that shows off skin and/or the contours of our body, not play that violent, gory video game/movie around them, or do anything else that will cause our brother and sister to do something that will violate their conscience and sin before God–even if our own is perfectly clear and we think their conviction silly.

But let’s not let someone confuse us who is offended at us who isn’t sincerely tempted to violate their own conscious and stumble and fall. Is the hymn lover seriously tempted to sing along to a chorus–do they seriously even think it is a sin to? Likewise, is the vegan or vegetarian really so weak they’ll eat the main dish that does have meat in it rather than the meatless main dish that was provided them? Do they really think it would be a sin if they did? (If the answer is yes to both questions, then don’t serve the meat! LOL.)

Of course, if it is your conviction being a people pleaser is what this passage means, let me build you up by encouraging you to, by all means, live according to that belief, if that is what you sincerely, truly believe God has called you to do. I fear you’ll burn out and have to reconsider whether that call really came from God, but who am I to judge another man’s servant?

Lord, grant us wisdom to discern what requests are truly to the benefit and spiritual good of our neighbor, lest in pleasing them, we hurt them and you. Increase our love, so that we would be sick to our stomachs at the mere thought of selfishly waving before a believer what will cause them to sin, deliberately tempting them to disobey what they feel you have told them. Since many can be too embarrassed to speak up, grant us sensitivity, to recognize what is a stumbling block to one another, so we might not in our liberty cause others to sin. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.