Undivided #likeJesus

“And if any city or house is divided against itself, that house will not stand.  It falls.”  Mt 12:25, Mk 3:25, Lk 11:17

This verse is often repeated, applied to a variety of different contexts

It’s used as a leadership principle on the strength that comes from unity.

It’s used as a relational principle on the need for harmony in marriage, safeguarding against divorce.

It’s used as an athletic principle on the priority of teamwork in achieving success.

It’s used as a political principle on the necessity of rallying behind a candidate or policy to gain victory.  (i.e. if the Republican or Democratic party aren’t united and thus produce a third party presidential candidate, that division would be their downfall)

Many contexts.  Many applications.  But what was the context that prompted Jesus to speak these words?

The Pharisees and the Scribes brought this accusation against Jesus.  “He is possessed by Beelzebub.  This man casts out demons only by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

Jesus replied, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”

The spiritual principle that Jesus is illustrating is this.  The work of God will be self-evident, and the work of Satan will be self-evident.  God will not build up or tear down in a way contrary to His nature, His will or His plan.  Satan will not build up or tear down in a way contrary to his nature, his will or his plan.

We can have confidence in God’s character.  He’s our Father.  We’re dearly loved children.  He has promised to work all things together for our good.  He is good!

And we know Satan’s plan too.  He’s come to steal, kill and destroy.  He’s a liar and a thief.

God is at work all around us. God is for us.  God will act according to His holiness, His love, His righteousness, His goodness, His power.

Do not doubt for a minute the Father’s intentions or His actions.  He’s a good, good Father.  That’s who He is!

 

 

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

Unblinded #likeJesus

Where did the blind man get such courage?  I would have loved to have been there to see him stand up to the Pharisees.

Jesus had healed him, giving him his sight for the first time in his life.  It was the Sabbath.  Jesus was again stirring up controversy, healing on the Sabbath.  This time, He spit on the ground, made mud, wiped it on the blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash it off in the Pool of Siloam.

Making mud.  That was work.  That violated the Sabbath.

Washing in the Pool of Siloam.  That would be work too.

When telling the blind man that Jesus was a sinner for braking Sabbath law, the Pharisees were shocked, even indignant, when the lowly beggar didn’t fall in line.

“If He is a sinner, I do not know.  Only one thing I know – that being blind, now I see.”

After asking him again how Jesus opened his eyes, the blind man replied to the Pharisees, “I already told you, and you did not listen.  Why do you wish to hear again?  Do you also wish to become his disciples?”

Now, I’m pretty sure the blind man was being sarcastic.  He knew they hated Jesus and didn’t want to be His disciples.  They just called Him a “sinner.”

After he told him they don’t know where Jesus was from (of God), the blind man’s sarcasm toward the Pharisees got even more to the point.

If there was a crowd watching, I can only imagine that some were snickering, others were gasping, and still others were ready to stand up and cheer.

“Why, this is a wonderful thing, that you do not know where He is from, and He opened my eyes.  And we know that God does not hear sinners.  But if anyone is a worshipper of God, and does His will, He hears him.  For all time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of one who has been born blind.  If this One were not from God, He would not be able to do anything.”

Drop the mic!

Ouch!  Schooled by a blind, pitiful beggar.

Where did such courage come from?  Remember, this man had been blind his entire life.  He’d NEVER seen anything.  Now, his eyes were opened.  For the first time in his life, he knew what his parents faces looked like.  For the first time, he saw the splendor of the Temple.  For the first time, he saw how shiny gold was, how vibrant red was, how blue the sky was.  He saw.  Can we even comprehend what that must have felt like?

There is NO WAY they were going to convince him that receiving sight was not a gift from God.  Could there be any greater gift?

Well, actually, he was about to receive one.

After the blind man was forcibly removed from the synagogue by the Pharisees (before he made even bigger fools of them), Jesus found him and gave him spiritual sight.  The man was born doubly blind…  physically and spiritually.  Now he received the greatest gift of all.  Spiritual sight.  Faith.  He believed in Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah.

So while I do not know the wonder, the joy, or the miracle of receiving my physical sight, I do know the wonder, the joy, and the miracle of receiving my spiritual sight.

I hope I never cease to be amazed by that.

I hope I can’t be shut up or shot down by those who oppose my gospel and my Savior.

All I know is, I once was blind, but now I see!

 

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

Bring Hope #likeJesus

What did Jesus write?  Was His message for the woman who had been caught in adultery, or was it for the angry mob of Scribes and Pharisees who were prepared to execute her?

It’s early morning. Dawn.  The Temple is beginning to bustle with activity.  It’s the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2), so thousands upon thousands of Jews have made their way to Jerusalem for the Feast.  It was their religious obligation.

The Scribes and Pharisees have learned of this woman’s sin, a crime whose punishment is death.  They’ve dragged her to the Temple court for her to be stoned publicly. It’s probably not just a handful of Scribes and Pharisees.  There are likely hundreds, if not thousands, gathered around to witness the execution.

“At dawn, He came again to the Temple, and all the people came to Him, and He sat and taught them.”  John 8:2

The Scribes and Pharisees bring the woman right to where Jesus is teaching, with a crowd looking on.  They want Jesus to condemn the woman.

“And stooping down, He wrote with His finger on the ground.”

So what did He write?

I’ve heard some speculate that He began to write the 10 commandments.  I’ve heard others say He began to write down specific sins that the Scribes and Pharisees had committed.  If so, this would be a message for them.

And it would make sense then that they would drop their stones and walk away when Jesus said, “Let the sinless one among you cast the first stone at her.”

Years ago, I heard Max Lucado say he believed he knew what Jesus wrote.  My curiosity was piqued.  One word.  Just one.

FORGIVEN

If this word or something like it was what Jesus wrote, what a powerful message for the woman.

But the character in the story I’ve overlooked until now is the crowd, the people who came to hear Jesus teach.

I’ve thought about the Scribes and the Pharisees, with their pride, judgement and blindness to their own guilt.

I’ve thought about the woman, with her humiliation, condemnation and fear.

I’ve thought about Jesus, with His incredible wisdom in handling the situation and His compassion and grace for the sinner.

But I’ve never thought about the crowd.  What were they thinking?  What impact did this event have on them?

Most of them probably felt like they didn’t measure up to the expectations of the Scribes and Pharisees either.  They were probably weary from striving, performing, trying to earn God’s favor.  But if a woman guilty of THIS sin, condemned to death, could be forgiven and accepted by Jesus, then there was certainly hope for them!

There HAD to be a buzz in Jerusalem that day.  Yes, the Scribes and Pharisees had been put in their place by the peasant rabbi, but more than that, there was the palpable feeling of HOPE.

We too can be…

FORGIVEN!

 

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

Strong Leadership #likeJesus

In Luke 10:1-12, Jesus commissions the Seventy, sending them out to the surrounding towns and villages to preach, teach, heal and cast out demons.

Earlier, Jesus had similarly sent out the Twelve.  Just like then, He begins this commissioning with some vision casting, telling them that “the harvest is great but the workers are few.”

The Seventy doesn’t include the Twelve but is an addition to the Twelve.  Luke 10:1 makes this clear. “The Lord also appointed seventy different ones.”

Were the Seventy the fruit of the Twelve being sent out earlier?  Is this evidence of the Twelve multiplying?  That would be conjecture.  It’s very possible, and it lines up with Jesus’ priorities, but Jesus did have many others following Him besides the Twelve.  He could have selected from the larger pool of disciples He had gathered.

Could some of the Seventy have been women?  I’ve never really considered that thought.  We know that Jesus had women followers.  Would any of them have been selected for this assignment?  The only hint to the gender of the Seventy is a saying Jesus quotes, “The workman is worthy of his wages.”  But using “his” in this way, in my mind, isn’t strong enough evidence to argue that women weren’t among the Seventy.  As a husband and a dad of six daughters, I hope they were 🙂

The Seventy returned from their assignment with JOY!  They were excited to be used by God.  They’d seen Jesus do all these things.  Maybe they’d seen or heard about the Twelve doing these things.  But oh the wonder, the thrill of being used by God for the very first time.  I remember the first time I shared my faith, and many times since, experiencing that sense of wonder, joy and honor at the privilege of being used by God.

After the return of the Seventy, there are some things Jesus said that have added meaning now that I see He was saying them to the Seventy.

“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet, will receive a prophet’s reward.  And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, will receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever gives one of these little ones a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple only, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.”

So what does all that mean?  If I look at it through the lens of Jesus speaking to the Seventy, then He is affirming these “little ones” of His for their character (righteous) and for their work (prophet).  And He’s making sure they know they’ve represented Him so those who have responded to their ministry will be blessed as if Jesus was the One ministering (they have a lasting reward).

After this, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you laboring and burdened ones, and I will give you rest.  Take up My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, because I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Don’t those words read differently when you hear them through the ears of the Seventy.  We tend to quote this passage to comfort those who are battered and beaten down by the circumstances of life.

But WHAT IF they were originally intended for harvest workers coming back from the grueling mission they’d been sent on.  They were away from home.  Some faced rejection.  Their comforts were stripped away.  They faced intense spiritual battle, sometimes casting out demons.

In that context Jesus’ words sound more like, “Great job team!  I know you’re tired.  Some might even be discouraged.  Be with Me.  Lean on Me.  Depend on me.  Let Me show you the way.  If you do this in your own strength, you’ll falter and become frustrated.  Oh, but if you depend on Me, if you do this in My Spirit’s strength, what was hard becomes easy and what was heavy becomes light!”

Context.  I used to read these words as “compassionate shepherding.”

Now I read them as “strong leadership.”

 

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

Doing Well #likeJesus

“He has done all things well!”

What a powerful statement!  Talk about the ultimate Twitter profile…  Son of God. Savior of the World. King of kings. Lord of lords. He does all things well!

That’s what the people of Tyre and Sidon said about Jesus.  What do others say about me?

And they were astonished, saying, “He has done all things well.  He makes even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.”  Mark 7:37

And there came to Him great crowds, having with them lame, blind, maimed, dumb, and many different ones, and they cast them beside the feet of Jesus, and He healed them, so that the crowds wondered, seeing the dumb speaking, maimed whole, lame walking, and blind seeing.  And they glorified the God of Israel.  Matthew 15:30-31

Jesus didn’t live for the applause of men.  He honored His Father.  But others will notice when, by honoring the Father, we do all things well.

It’s important to see here that, though they recognized Jesus as “doing all things well,” they “glorified the God of Israel!”

Jesus taught, “you are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14,16

“A city on a hill.”  That sounds like a platform, a place to get noticed from.  Our life, our deeds, our words do build a platform.  But whose platform?  Who is to be noticed?

I want people to look at the life I live as a follower of Christ, one who attempts to “walk as Jesus walked,” and say of me, “he does all things well.”  In so doing, may my life become a platform for the message of the Gospel and the glory of God!

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

Seeing #likeJesus

John, more than any of the other Gospel writers, seems to focus on “seeing” Jesus.  As Jesus’ closest friend among the Twelve, the disciple “whom Jesus loved,” you would expect a more intimate account from John.

Again and again in John’s Gospel, we read the invitation “come and see.”

Jesus says this to Andrew and John when, after meeting Him, they inquired where He was staying.  Their eyes were opened.  They believed in Jesus as their Messiah. (John 1:39)

After this, Philip believed in Jesus, found his friend Nathanael, and told him, “Come and see.  We have found the One that Moses wrote about.”  Their eyes were opened.  They believed. (John 1:45-46)

The Samaritan woman, after encountering Jesus, ran back to her village and told them, “Come and see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done.”  Their eyes were opened.  They believed.  (John 4:29)

In John 6:39, in the midst of some very difficult words  (the Son of God is the Bread of Life, so you must eat His flesh and drink His blood), Jesus said this:

“For this is the will of Him Who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes in Him, may have eternal life, and I will raise him up in the last day.”

Seeing, and then believing.

John, in recording Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, tells us, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.”  John 3:14-15

Moses lifted up the carved snake on a pole so that those who were bitten by a poisonous snake could look upon it and live.  They had to look.  They had to see.

Those who are spiritually lost must SEE Jesus.  Only the Holy Spirit can open their eyes to see the truth.  But we must pray that they see, and we must invite them to come.

Father, it’s my prayer that through my life and through my words your Spirit will help others to see Jesus as I see Him…  to see Him, believe in Him, know Him, follow Him, love Him.  And it is my prayer that today I will see Jesus more clearly, knowing Him more intimately and following Him more closely.

“…we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”  1 John 3:2

 

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

Doing Good #likeJesus

Have you ever wondered why it seemed like Jesus is always healing on the Sabbath?

We can certainly find many examples of Him healing or performing miracles when it wasn’t the Sabbath.  Jesus calmed the storm while He and His disciples traveled by boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, and once they arrived in the Garasenes, He drove the demons out of a man and sent them into a herd of pigs.  This wasn’t the Sabbath.

But right after this, Jesus healed a paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda… on the Sabbath!

Why the Sabbath?  A few possibilities come to mind.

•Perhaps Jesus wanted His miracles to be done in public as a testimony to His identity, and the Sabbath was the one day when you would find people gathered in the same place, worshiping at the synagogue.

•Maybe Jesus performed many of his healings on the Sabbath because He wanted to challenge the status quo and confront the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

•From a practical standpoint, the Sabbath would be where Jesus encountered the most people, so it would make sense that more healings took place when He had the greatest exposure to human needs.

•Another thought is that the theme of the tension between Jesus and the religious leaders, which ultimately led to His crucifixion, was central to the gospel story.  It was more important for the Gospel writers to tell these stories because they built the case for why the religious elite hated Jesus.

My tendency would be to tell Jesus to pick another day of the week to heal.  The paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda had been lame for 38 years.  If I were one of Jesus’ disciples, like Simon Peter, I might have told Jesus, “Can’t we wait one more day?  He’s been lame for 38 years.  What’s another day going to hurt?  Can’t you just heal him tomorrow?  You know how much the Pharisees hate it when you heal on the sabbath.”

But Jesus healed people anyway, knowing the consequences.

Maybe Jesus just had His priorities right.  Don’t put off til tomorrow the good you can do today.  The words of James, Jesus’ younger brother, come to mind.

“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”  James 4:17

 

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