Blessed #likeJesus

“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.  For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Jesus makes a stunning promise here in Luke 6.  It’s one that hits home.  For the past 17 years, we’ve raised support as faith-based missionaries, depending upon the generosity of others.

I love the picture Jesus paints here.  At harvest time, a long robe was used to carry the overflow of grain.  God wants to pour abundance into the lap of those who are generous.

Even the picture of being “pressed down and shaken together” resonates.  Think about buying something that must fit in a certain sized container or bag…  you know, fill this bag with candy for $4.99.  What do we do?  We fill the bag, and when it’s full, we shake it so the candy will settle in the bag and make more room.  Then we add more.  And we shake it again.  And then we add more.  And we press the candy down to squeeze in even more.  And then we fill the bag so full that the candy is spilling over the top.  We want to get as much as possible.

Shouldn’t that be our approach with the blessings God wants to give?  “Father, keep pouring it on.  Let me make room in my life for even more of your blessings.”

How do we make room in our life for more of God’s blessings?  How do we press down and shake together?  We give.  We just keep on giving.  We use the measure of generosity.  Am I giving generously?  Am I giving liberally, freely, joyfully?  Am I giving sacrificially?  Am I giving abundantly enough to create room in my life for God to bless me even more?

Many Christians operate from a scarcity mindset.  They are struggling financially.  Things are tight.  They are in debt or they are living paycheck to paycheck…  so they feel like they can’t afford to be generous.

I want to live with an abundance mindset.  I have a generous Father who loves to bless, so I’m going to press down and shake together.  I’m going be generous with His abundance.  I’m going to make room for my Daddy to pour an overwhelming, ridiculous abundance of blessing on my life.  Blessed to be a blessing!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Perfect #likeJesus

Has Jesus set us up for failure, raising a standard so high it is impossible to reach?

Jesus was a master teacher.  Today, in reading Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6, the Sermon (on a Level Place) on the Mount, I’m struck by the difference between what is natural and what is supernatural.

Jesus teaches on many subjects…  murder, anger, forgiveness, adultery, lust, purity, divorce, commitment, revenge, love, hate, generosity, lending…

In each case, he tells us what the world’s standard is.  “You have heard that it was said…”  This is what a good person will naturally do.  But is being good good enough?

He then contrasts what a good person would naturally do with what the Father expects of us.  “But I say to you…”

God has a different standard.  He expects more.  His kingdom plays by a different set of rules.

“You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” 

Talk about an impossible standard!

Think you haven’t murdered?  Well, if you’ve thought evil of someone or acted in anger, you’ve committed murder in your heart.  Who of us hasn’t done that?

Impossible standard!

Think you haven’t committed adultery?  Well, if you’ve looked at someone with lustful thoughts, you’ve committed adultery in your heart.  Who of us hasn’t done that?

Impossible standard!

But isn’t that the place He wants us?  The place where the standard is impossible for us to live up to…  naturally?

But that’s the key.  Our  natural goodness will never be enough.  We have to add a little super to our natural!  What is impossible on our own, moral perfection, becomes possible through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit!

Jesus’ teaching should drive us into deep, deep dependence on the Holy Spirit.  By the Spirit, the Jesus-life is possible!

Thank you Father for the gift of your Spirit!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Breaking the Rules #likeJesus

On my flight home from Israel, we landed at JFK and upon arriving at our gate were immediately told to remain in our seats.  As NYC police boarded the plane, they barked out orders to “SIT DOWN!”  Some, after an 11 hour flight, didn’t follow the flight attendant’s initial instructions.  Now, the policeman had everyone’s attention.

Moments later, we were deboarding.  What was that all about?  I had to ask.

It seems a young man thought he could get away with smoking in the lavatory during the flight.  Busted!  The Pilot called ahead and the police were waiting at the gate.  A few moments later, I saw the young man brought out from the immigration officer’s area in handcuffs.  Ouch!

Busted!  At least that’s what the Pharisees thought too.  In John 5, Matthew 12, Mark 2 and Luke 6 we read successive accounts where Jesus apparently breaks Jewish law.  He violates the Sabbath.

Still today, religious Jews are very particular about the Sabbath, or as they call it, Shabbat.  In Jerusalem last week, everything in the Jewish Quarter was closed.  Every shop owned by a Jew was closed by sundown Friday and couldn’t reopen until after sundown on Saturday.  No work is done.  Prayers are said.  Meals are prepared and served with strict care.

Jesus was accused of violating the Sabbath because he healed people on that day.  (Makes me wonder, if a Jew is sick today, would they go to the doctor on the Sabbath?  Would a Jewish Doctor be “on call” for his patients on the Sabbath?)

Jesus healed a lame man, and in doing so, instructed the lame man to break the Sabbath also.  “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”  To carry something on the Sabbath would constitute work.

Jesus and his disciple, while walking through a grain field on the Sabbath, were hungry and picked some grain kernels to eat.  Picking the grain would constitute work, again violating the Sabbath.

Then he also healed a man’s shriveled hand on the Sabbath.  Work. Work. Work.  Busted!

But Jesus used this as a profound opportunity to boldly declare his divinity.  “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.  Therefore, the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”  Wow!  Talk about nerve.  Jesus was basically saying their Sabbath laws didn’t apply to Him because He made it all, including the Sabbath.  The key here is “their Sabbath laws,” not God’s command to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.

The Pharisees weren’t focused on the intent of God’s Law- the heart- but rather on the appearance of the Law.  This was reflected in their vast interpretations and opinions on what was required to keep the Sabbath (read this article for a better understanding of the complexity of the Shanbat meal today:  http://m.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/95914/jewish/Food-Preparation-on-Shabbat.htm).

I have no doubt that Jesus honored the Sabbath and kept it holy, that he never broke God’s law, and that he walked in perfect obedience to his Father.  At times, honoring the Father will look a lot like “breaking the rules,” even to some of the “good Christian folks” around us.

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Devoted #likeJesus

Having just left the most religious city in the world, Jerusalem, I read Jesus’ encounter with the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees recorded in Matthew 9, Mark 2 and Luke 5 with fresh eyes.

On my flight to Jerusalem, I sat next to an Orthodox Rabbi who followed very strict rules.  All his meals on the flight had to be kosher.  He asked if he could switch seats with me for 30 minutes to pray.  He wore his tzit tzit prayer shawl throughout the flight.  He strapped  phylacteries about his head and on his left arm (near his heart) while he prayed. He stood.  He sat.  He rocked.  He chanted.

You see a lot of this at the Wailing Wall too.  In fact, walking throughout the city, you see orthodox Jewish men wearing their black clothing with their tzit tzit dangling out from under their coat.  They wear black hats, do not shave their beards, and certain sects grow their sideburns long, dangling in curls from out their hats.

In the Jewish Quarter, not only will you not find pork, but you also won’t find meat of any kind mixed wth dairy.  No cheese burgers or pepperoni pizza.

And of course, the second most holy place on the face of the earth for Muslims is in Jerusalem.  After Mecca, they revere the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock as the next holiest place of worship.  They too have their rituals, with the way women dress, the hats the men wear, and the call to prayer heard multiple times a day across the Old City by loudspeaker.

And then in the Christian Quarter, at a site like the Church of the Holy Sepluchre, many rituals are also practiced.  It’s actually not one church, but five, because each wants their piece of the Holy Sepluchre.  Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Ethiopian Orthodox and Egyptian Copts.  There you have tears, candles, prayers, anointing oil and various postures of worship.

John’s disciples and the Pharisees were upset because Jesus’ disciples were not abiding by the ritual practices for prayer and fasting.

Here Jesus gives two illustrations, the first about sewing a patch of new fabric onto an old garment.  When washed, the new will shrink and tear away.  Also, you can’t put new wine into old wine skins.  The wine will ferment and expand, and because the old has no room to grow, it will burst.

Naturally, people prefer the old, saying it’s better.  And humanly speaking, that’s true.  As wine ages, it’s taste develops and it’s value increases.  Jesus’ point isn’t to say that the old, the law and customs of Jewish tradition, are bad.  They served their purpose.  Now new wine was here and it would only be restricted by trying to fit it into the form of the old.  Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.

Without the new wine of the Spirit, ritual is just empty religious piety attempting to please God through our sanctimonious self reliance.

I must admit though, I admire and aspire to the level of devotion that the deeply religious in Jerusalem exhibit.  Their devotion touches every area of their lives.  But I want a devotion motivated by love, grace and gratitude for my Heavenly Daddy rather than fear or comparison or striving to prove my worth.

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM