Escape #likeJesus

Isn’t it hard to read about Jesus interaction with the Pharisees during Passover week and not judge them for being such… Pharisees?

After cleansing the Temple of the money changers, the target on Jesus’ back grows. The religious leaders continually try and trap Jesus, asking questions that could lead to charges being brought against him.   They wanted to know where his authority came from.   They questioned him about paying taxes to Caesar.   The Sadducees questioned him about the resurrection.   A Pharisee asked him what the greatest commandment was.   He was questioned about being the Son of David.

Jesus gives his most direct rebuke to the Pharisees here (Matthew 23, Mark 12, Luke 20). Jesus tells the crowd, “Faithfully carry out everything the teachers of the law tell you to do.  However, don’t imitate the way they live.”  (Ouch)

Regarding the Pharisees, Jesus says:

•Everything they do is to draw attention to themselves.

•They expect a level of righteousness that they themselves can’t keep, and by doing so drive others away from God.

•They are blind to the truth about themselves and about God.

•They do what’s expected by men, but don’t realize that God sees the heart.

•They are more concerned with appearances than with character.

Jesus concludes, “How can you escape being sentenced to hell?”

It’s so easy for me to look at the Pharisees with disdain…  and become a Pharisee myself in the process.  I look at their actions and compare myself…  but isn’t that exactly what the Pharisees were doing?   They used men as their standard.  Look how good I am.  I’m better than you.

Father, keep the cross ever before me, for it is at the foot of the cross that I experience grace.   Your grace brings humility.  Your grace brings compassion toward those trapped in the hamster wheel hell of a pharisaical works-based spirituality.

It is ONLY by living each day in the transforming power of God’s grace that I escape the trap of becoming a modern day Pharisee.

 

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Fully Present #likeJesus

What does it look like to be fully present?

While on his way to Jerusalem for Passover week,  Jesus encounters many people and ministers from a heart of compassion.

The disciples don’t want Jesus to be bothered with the children, but Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me.”

The rich young man, relying on his wealth (a sign of God’s blessing… so he must be doing something right) and on his moral efforts, wanted to know if he had done enough to inherit eternal life.  Jesus looked at him with love.

When Jesus learned of Lazarus’ death and of how Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, were overcome with grief, Jesus was deeply moved and visibly distressed.  He burst into tears. Those looking on said, “See how much he loved Lazarus!”

Blind Bartimaeus cried out, “Son of David, take pity on me.”

Zacchaeus, a despised, crooked tax collector, was looked in the eyes by Jesus and told Jesus would be a guest at his house (a sign of honor).

For Jesus, people were not a distraction or an intrusion.  He truly loved them.  He was unselfish with his time and attention.  Sometimes I struggle with that.  People can be a bother, a drain, an annoyance.  Like the old saying, “ministry would be great if it weren’t for the people.”  Oh, but that’s the heart of ministry, isn’t it?  The people the Father puts in our path each day are our opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus, the heart and voice of Jesus, to the lost and hurting.

Father, fill me with your love.  Let me see people how Jesus saw them, that my motive in everything will be love.

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Submitted #likeJesus

What comes to mind when you hear the word “submission?”  For most of us, it’s not a word that excites us.  It conjures images of giving up, giving in, losing or being overpowered.  But Jesus was unlike any leader the religious establishment had ever seen.  His was an upside down kingdom.  “The first will be last, and the last will be first.”  “He who loses his life will gain it.”  What kind of a leader speaks like this?

Jesus was a rabbi, but he wasn’t discipled by a rabbi (John 7:14-15).  This confounded the Jewish leaders.  Jesus makes many powerful statements to the Jewish leaders that reverberate with his claims of deity.  And for us who believe He is God made in human likeness, He also reminds us of his humanity.

“I didn’t come on my own initiative but was sent by God.”

“The Father who sent me is reliable. I say nothing but what I have heard from Him.”

“I do nothing on my own and speak only those things the Father has taught me.”

“I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I AM.”

Jesus, though equal with the Father, submitted to the Father in everything.  He listened to the Father, learned from the Father, obeyed the Father.  He didn’t depend on his deity to make obedience easier.  Hebrews 5:8 tells us Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered.”

God’s power is unleashed when we submit.  When we take  control, we depend on our own power.  How sad is that!  Oh, but when we submit to the will of the Father as Jesus did, we access the power of God’s Spirit.  Only then do “all things become possible!”

Father, teach me to listen, learn and obey you just like Jesus did.   I’m raising the white flag of surrender.  I submit.

 

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Knowing #likeJesus

How well do we know our Father?

Jesus’ parables in Luke 15 about the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son; his parables in Luke 16 about the Unjust Steward, the Rich Man and Lazarus; his encounter in Luke 17 with 10 Lepers and his parables of the Unjust Judge, the Pharisee and the Publican…

What do all of these reveal about the heart of our Father?

Our Father is…
…a God who pursues us
…a God who rejoices over us
…a God who receives us, sacrifices for us, embraces us
…a God who honors and rewards our faithfulness
…a God who desires an undivided heart (loyalty) from us
…a God who gives no special treatment… we’re all on equal ground- rich and poor, educated and uneducated- at the Cross
…a God who notices our gratitude
…a God who hears and graciously answers our cries and prayers
…a God who exalts us when we’re humble

Jesus, thank you for wanting us to see the Father and revealing His character through your teaching in the parables.

Father, thank you for being great, gracious, loving, righteous and just.   I want to know you more!

 

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Being Rich #likeJesus

What does Jesus think about money?  Does he want us to be rich?  Does he want us to be poor?  Is money evil?  Is money a sign of God’s favor?

Jesus gives his perspective on wealth in successive accounts in the Gospels.

First, a man asks Jesus to tell his brother to share the family inheritance with him.  Jesus replies, “Be careful!  You need to be on guard against greed of every kind;  for true life is not determined by what a person has, even when he has far more than he needs.”  Luke 12:13-15.

Jesus then drove home this point with the parable of the rich fool, concluding,  “This is how it will turn out for those who stored up treasure for themselves but are not rich toward God.”  

Jesus then instructed his disciples even further, talking to them about worrying about earthly things.  Using the birds of the air and the flowers of the field as illustrations, Jesus points out how His Father takes care of His creation.  His point, “Make the kingdom of God your central concern, and God will provide whatever you may need.”

Jesus concludes, “The purse that holds your treasure should be your heavenly purse…  The important point is that wherever you store your treasure, that is where your heart will be.

The priority we place on money…  what we are willing to do to get it, what we do with it when we have it, how we view other people who do or don’t have it…  reveals the condition of our heart.  God is less concerned with the size of our bank account than He is with the size of our heart.

What does my perspective on money reveal about my heart?

The priority we place on money also reveals the condition of our faith.  Who, or possibly what, are we placing our faith in?  Is our confidence, our faith, in the size of our bank account or the size of our God?

What does my perspective on money reveal about my faith?

Father, may your heart continue to shape my heart towards money.   I want to be rich toward You, putting You and Your kingdom first, and by doing so, storing up treasure in heaven.

 

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No Excuses #likeJesus

In Luke 9:51-56, Jesus sets out for Jerusalem to carry out his redemptive mission. He’s heading toward the cross.  Along the way, he invites some men to follow him, but gets what we would probably consider legitimate excuses.

“Let me take care of my dying father.”  

“Let me say good-bye to my family.”  

Jesus’ reply seems calloused.  “Don’t put your hand to the plow and look back.”  He knows what awaits them in Jerusalem.  Half-hearted or divided commitment will not do.  They are on a mission.

Right after this, Jesus sends out the 70, telling them the harvest is great but the workers are few.  Could these men with excuses have been on his mind when he spoke about the great harvest and the few workers?  Could they have been added to the 70 if they weren’t half-hearted with divided loyalties?  We read that the 70 returned with great joy.  They were used by God in a mighty way.  Could this joy and filling with power have been experienced by those potential followers?  What did their excuses cost them?

Jesus, what great adventure are you inviting me on?   I don’t want to miss it!   When excuses begin to creep into my thinking, help me to remember the joy that awaits when I unreservedly obey.

“Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross…”  Hebrews 12:2

Jesus, for the joy set before me, I will take up my cross, deny myself, and follow you!

 

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Moving Mountains #likeJesus

Where does mountain-moving faith come from?   Can faith be developed, or do you just “have it?”  Does God still move mountains?

Immediately after the Transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9), Jesus comes down from the mountain with Peter, James and John to find the other disciples in what some would call “a pickle.”   A man’s son is demonized by seizures.  The disciples tried but failed to heal the boy.  Seeing Jesus, the boy’s father pleads with him to have mercy and heal his son.

“It (the demon) has often thrown him in the fire or water to kill him.  But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

I’m convicted by Jesus’ reply.

“If you can?  Everything is possible for him who believes.”

The father’s reply is how I too feel most of the time.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

After Jesus cast out the demon, healed the boy, and helped him to his feet, the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast out the demon.

Jesus told them, “Because you have so little faith.  I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”

I want that kind of faith.  Don’t you?  Faith that moves mountains.  Faith that accomplishes the impossible.  But what’s the secret to that kind of faith?

And then Jesus said, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

I had always looked at this account and thought that Jesus was telling them they needed faith-filled prayer to accomplish his work…  and I think that’s what he was telling them…  but not how I envisioned.   Jesus isn’t saying that prayer will be what unlocks the miracle. Jesus doesn’t cast out this demon with prayer.   So where does prayer come in?  Jesus had a rhythm and routine of prayer, going to the garden in Jerusalem or a cave on the mountainside in Galilee.  From his time with the Father, Jesus drew strength and received direction.

Here Jesus connects faith and prayer.   In our intimacy with our Father, our faith grows.  We learn to trust Him in everything and ask Him for anything.  We can ask Him to move the mountains in our life, the mountains in our ministry, the mountains of adversity.  And He will!

Where is our focus?  When we look at the size of the mountains, we say “it’s impossible!”  When we look at the size of our God, we say “nothing is impossible!”  We gain that kind of faith-filled perspective the closer we get to our Father.

“This kind comes out only by prayer.”  Not a magic bullet, faith-filled super prayer…  but from a heart full of faith because I’m spending enough time with the Father (in prayer) to know and trust His heart.

 

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