General

11 Mar 2019

THE POOR ARE ALWAYS AROUND US!

By |2019-03-11T13:20:50+00:00March 11th, 2019|General|0 Comments

AND WE CAN HELP THEM WHENEVER WE WANT!

BUT WHAT ABOUT JESUS? CAN WE (WILL WE?) HELP HIM, WHENEVER WE CAN?

 

In Mark 14:3 we discover Jesus “reclining at the table in the home of a man named Simon the Leper,” when in walks a woman with “an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard.” And before we know it, she’s broken the jar and poured the perfume onto Jesus’ head.

What? What is going on? Who is this woman? And who does she think she is that she can just walk into a “dinner party” and just pour out all of this perfume on Jesus’ head?

I mean, really, this woman has a lot of nerve, right?

And of course, there were those at the party who were quick to condemn her act. Who, exactly, “those folks” we aren’t told, but I would venture that those who agreed with this condemnation, may have included some of Jesus’ own disciples (and so many of us, if we were in attendance!).

Why? Because we, too, would have agreed with their rationale: That this “expensive perfume” (which was worth more than a year’s wages!) could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

Sounds reasonable? Right? I mean, who could argue with that thought process?

 

Woman pouring oil on Jesus's head

Well, let’s see how Jesus, himself, reacts to this “extravagant out-pouring of love and affection.”   He immediately defends the woman and her actions (Mark 14:6), and then tells those in attendance why he is defending her and her actions.

Jesus seemingly agrees with those who were critical of her actions when he says, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” (Mark 14:7) He seems to be saying something like, “Hey folks, of course I agree with you, the poor do indeed need as much help as we can give them, and you are “free” to do this whenever you want.” (Notice also Jesus appears to be allowing us “the freedom” to choose just how much we will give, and when we will give.)

But when Jesus states to this crowd (and to us) that “we” will not always have him, he seems to be implying (and not too subtly) that his very life and teachings and example is one of such prime importance that no one should mistake who he is and what his mission is all about.

And guess what? It is this “least” woman (who might have been a woman of some “means” because of the value of her gift…or not) who is the one who comprehends the significance of the moment. This woman had the spiritual insight (a gift from God) to recognize that Jesus’ time on earth was coming to an end… and soon! And she chose (it was her choice) to show her love and appreciation for what Jesus was going to do for her (and everyone else!). And she didn’t care what anyone else thought. All she knew is that she wanted to offer this gift… before the time had passed.

And how does Jesus view her actions?

He says, “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9)

But why is this? Why is what she has done “so important” that wherever the gospel is preached (an integral part of God’s plan) her actions “will also be told?”

I don’t want to pretend to fathom the depths of the meaning behind this story… so I won’t. But I will venture to observe that this woman saw something of primary importance when we are talking about God, the poor, and our relationship with them both. She saw that she ought to give “her all” (give what she had) to this Jesus because of his willingness to go the cross for her. And further, I’d like to think that somehow she “instinctively” seemed to know that without God’s forgiveness and love and care for herself and everyone, well then, all our giving and helping the poor will lack the very deep down, humble integrity that we can only possess if we are in right relationship with God. In other words, one ought to come before the other.

And is not this exactly what the God of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament teaches? Yes indeed, in fact, as most of us are quite aware—God’s whole law can be summed up in the two great commandments.

And how did Jesus respond when an expert in the law asked him, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Matthew 22:36)

Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love you neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)

So we see that God has a desired “order” of how he wants us to live our lives. He simply wants us to love him first and foremost. Why? Because he’s our creator and he knows that life will not “work” (no matter how we hard we try!) the way he intended if we can’t accept how much he loves us and how much he’s done for us.

But if we can “accept” this—and give God his due—then we’ll be so overflowing with love and gratefulness towards our God that we ought not have “too much” problem with loving our neighbors as ourselves. After all, if we truly grasp what God has done for us, well then, we ought to want “the best” for our neighbor.

For when we truly realize how much God loves and forgives us, then hopefully, we will be happy to give “what we have to spare” (whether it’s a lot or a little!) to our neighbors…which include the poor.   I mean, this kind of love is far “too good” to keep to ourselves.

And finally isn’t this what Jesus envisioned how we, who call ourselves his followers, would “put to use” his love for us? (See Matthew 25:31-40)

And this why he will say, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

And how about those who “claimed” to know him and have a relationship with him, but refused to help even a few of the “so many” who were lacking some of lifes’ most basic needs?” How will respond to them?

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:45)

Which response would like to hear from Jesus?

Just remember, it’s your choice, and your life’s actions are telling your story…right now.

Take care,

Chris

(And take care of someone who needs it. You’ll be glad you did!)

1 Feb 2019

Jesus is Not Ashamed of the Least!

By |2019-01-29T13:28:58+00:00February 1st, 2019|General|0 Comments

How about you? How about me?

How many of us “regular” folks know that our Lord and Savior is not ashamed of many of the most “needy or lowly” folks that we encounter in our day-to-day lives? Indeed, he loves them so much that he wasn’t too proud to even become like them.

You see, God in his wisdom believed that the very author of their salvation (Jesus) had to be made perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10) And so, Jesus did not refuse to come down to their level, and to live his life amongst them, and to truly experience what “the least” feel each and every day.

So we see that this Jesus and the least (which is really all of us!) have a lot in common. It seems that they were sort of made for each other. It seems that God has always desired to make a way for anyone who wants to be “friends” with him. And that way was through Jesus.

Still, I think we need a deeper revelation of why it had to be this way. I think we all could use an “extra dose” of heartfelt recognition of just how fantastic and amazing and caring and loving and humbling are all of God’s ways.

Jesus was willing to become lowly and humble and obedient unto death-—and death on a cross for all of our sins. And why was this necessary? It was to free all those who desired to be free from not only the fear of, but the power of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Whoa! So for our God to rescue us he felt that he needed Jesus to be “made like his brothers in every way.” (Hebrews 2:17) God wanted to show his “great love” for humanity . . . and he wanted everyone to make no mistake about who he was (and is!) and how much he was willing to suffer for our sins, and for our sakes.

But you ask, how does this look? “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” (Hebrews 2:11) And I don’t believe that Jesus will be ashamed of anyone who calls themselves a follower of him and his teachings who is doing something for his brother and sister in need. (Matthew 25:34-40)

And that brings us to the question, “Are we ashamed of the least?” I mean, do we really care about the least “human beings” that come across our path, or our TV or computer screens?

But maybe to help us grasp this concept of being “ashamed” we need to list a few words that carry the connotation of how we “regular folks” might more accurately label our feelings and attitudes towards the least of our society and our world. And these words are: distraught, embarrassed, guilty, hesitant, or mortified.

And I have to confess that these words do describe me and my reactions to the least many times. How about you?

I guess I have a lot more to learn from Jesus. How about you?

Thanks for stopping by. And remember we’re all on this journey of discovery regarding our God and ourselves together. It’s more than obvious that we need each other.

Chris.

20 Dec 2018

VIDEO: Homeless Person Memorial

By |2018-12-20T08:57:44+00:00December 20th, 2018|General|0 Comments

They Will Not Go Unremembered

On Dec. 18, I attended a beautiful memorial service for about 40 homeless folks in Chicago who passed away this past year–2018.  The service was sponsored by so many of Chicago’s organizations who are working together to end the injustice of homelessness.  There was some wonderful singing by the Atlanta Homeward Choir, and some heart-felt sharing about the realities of being homeless… something that Jesus, himself, knew something about.

There was a lot of lighting of candles, and each homeless person remembered was represented by a young person between the ages of 8–16.  They walked up to the front of the church and lit some more candles, while the names were read, and many folks were remembered by a short depiction or two.  A few examples of these depictions were:  “He was so humble.”  “She just radiated love with her smile.”  “He was always sharing any information he had that might help anyone else out of homelessness.”    “He could make anyone laugh and feel better about themselves.”

And after about each 10 names that were remembered, the choir would answer the question about where these precious souls had gone.  And they would sing, ” They’re goin’ up yonder (3x) …To be with our Lord.  Here’s a little taste of their singing—beautiful!

Thanks for stopping by.  Chris. 

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20 Dec 2018

Asking the Wrong Question

By |2018-12-20T08:44:37+00:00December 20th, 2018|General|0 Comments

What Question are You Asking?

“WHAT IS TRUTH?” or “WHO IS TRUTH?”

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE DIALOGUE BETWEEN JESUS AND PILATE. 

In John 18, we discover a lot of talk around the topic of truth.  First, we encounter Jesus answering the high priest, “Why question me? Ask those who have heard me.”

Jesus is then struck in the face by an official saying, “Why are talking back to the high priest like that? “

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong.  But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”

The high priest had no answer and sent Jesus to Caiaphas.

Next, we get to listen on Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus… not once, not twice, but three times.  Here, we see Peter does not testify to the truth.  He lies about what he knows to be true.

Then the rooster crows, signaling that what Jesus had predicted had occurred.  He had predicted that one of his closest disciples’, Peter, would deny even knowing him.  Jesus had spoken the truth.

And after Caiaphas, Jesus is taken to Pilate.  The Jewish authorities were probably scheming in their minds, thinking something like, “Ok, this guy is so “slippery.”  Maybe we ought to just take him to Pilate.  Surely, he will agree with us.  Surely, he will find something seriously wrong with this guy.  And we’re pretty sure he’ll have no problem sending him to his execution.” 

But that does not happen… at first.  In fact, Pilate pitches this “dilemma” right back into their laps.  “Hey guys, why are you bringing me this guy to deal with?” he says.  We can even hear Pilate’s likely thoughts: “I mean, come on, guys, this is your department.  And I’m trusting you to do the right thing.”

So how do the Jews respond?  “Yeah, we know, but we really don’t have the “right” to execute anyone?”

Now the “ball” is back in Pilate’s court.  He might have been thinking, “Execution? Who said anything about execution”?

Still, Pilate sensed that this was a potentially “deadly” situation, and so he says, “Alright, let me check this man out myself.  Let me see if I can get to the bottom of what all this hostility is all about.”

So he brings Jesus back into his palace, away from the crowds.  And he probably said something to the effect:  “So I’m told that these folks, these accusers, are your people.  And I’m also hearing that you’re claiming to be a king.  And it seems that these people have become so offended by your claims that they want to have you crucified!”

And then Pilate seems to take a different approach.  “So what do you say about yourself?” he inquiries. “Do you really believe that you are the king of the Jews”?

Jesus must have been taken a back for a moment, but he then simply does some inquiry of his own.  “Are you asking this question–because you really want to know what I really believe about myself and my mission?   Or did you just hear a few reports about me, and so you thought that since you are a sane, rational person that you might as well do some investigating of your own?”

And so, Pilate is questioned by Jesus.  And how does he respond?

He responds rather defensively and seems to say, “What? Can’t you see that I’m on your side?  It was your own people who handed you over to me?  Can’t you see that I’m trying to help you? Can’t you see that I’m trying to get your own people to change their minds about you? I mean, can’t you please tell me, “What is it that you have done?”

Then Jesus seems to understand where Pilate is coming from.  He seems to say, “Alright…just listen, I’ll let you in on a “little” secret.  Yeah, I am a king, but my kingdom is not of this world.  I’ve got my eyes on a lot better kingdom.”

And then Jesus did say something like, “Hey, can’t you see that if my concerns were for here and now, well then, those who follow me would have stood up for me.  They would have fought for me.”

And this is where a rather “far-out,” but possible conversation that Jesus could have had with Pilate.  He could have said, “Well, to be honest, there was a little “slip up” in the garden. My right-hand man Peter–even he had the wrong idea.  He got excited and started to defend me with a sword. (John 18:10)  But I put a stop to that real quick.  I even healed up the man’s ear that Peter had cut off.  (Luke 22:49-51)

“I just wanted everyone to know –my disciples and my accusers–that I did not want to physically fight this battle.  Indeed, I had my own view of what was taking place at my arrest.  I knew that I would have to go through some rather “tough stuff” if I was to be even considered “worthy” of taking my place as king… at another time and place.”

And how does Pilate respond?  “Ok, then, now I think I kind of understand you a bit better than I did before.  I see now that you really believe that you are a king, but it just doesn’t look like it right now.  And furthermore, you honestly believe that your time will come… sometime in the future? Right?“

Jesus: “Hey, you know, I see that you “get me” fairly well. But let me tell you a little more about what I believe about myself.  I sincerely believe that this is why I was born into this world.  I was born into this world to testify to the truth.”

And what was the over-riding “truth” that Jesus himself proclaimed?  He was revealing to everyone just how far “off base” everyone is.  And he meant everyone–all the religious folks and all the not so religious folks.  His message made it clear that everyone needs help, everyone  needs forgiveness , and the way to receive that forgiveness was to trust in him.

And then Jesus lowers the bombshell.  He says, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Whoa?!! What?   You mean, this Jesus is saying is that everyone who wants to get on the right path, who truly wants to understand what this life is all about, well then, they need to “listen” to him.

At this point we sense that Pilate has become increasingly frustrated and befuddled.  He simply can not bring himself to consider even the “remote” possibility that these “truths” that Jesus espouses could possibly be true.  Indeed, he must have felt, this “Jesus” is just “too much.”

Next, Pilate lets his frustration out by saying something like, “Oh, come on, now Jesus, “What is truth? I mean, who really knows what life is all about?  I mean, who really knows all the answers?  Don’t you know that questions like that are way beyond all of our pay-grades?!”

And so we see Pilate at his wits end?  He might have even been thinking, “Oh my, this guy really is convinced about who he thinks he is.  I mean, I even kind of feel bad for him.  I mean, he seems like a good guy… just seriously deluded.“

And so he goes out to the Jews and says, “Hey guys, I can’t find anything serious enough to charge this guy with.  I mean, I just don’t see why you want this guy “gone” so badly”?

And then Pilate himself seems to figure a way out of this “mess.”  And it  comes from his own people (the powers that be).  It was the practice that they, the ruling powers, would release one prisoner each year during Passover.  This practice was looked upon as “a gift” from the Roman rulers to the Jewish rulers.

And so Pilate lays out his idea to them.  He says, “Hey, I think I’ve an answer to this quandary that we all find ourselves in.  How about releasing this guy, this Jesus, who really believes that he’s your king?  I mean, why not, he seems harmless enough, doesn’t he?  I mean, are you really that set on seeing him “eliminated” from your lives? “

Next we see that it didn’t take long for the crowd of Jews to give him an answer. “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!”

They had already had their minds made up.  It’s like they were thinking, “What?  Are you kidding?  Even you Pilate?  Even you have found a soft spot in your heart towards this troublemaker?   Even you are making an appeal for him? “

And so we see that even the Jews –the religious folks of the day had given up on giving this “Jesus” another chance.  They seemed to be thinking, “We gave this guy a chance.  I mean, we gave him so many chances but he refused to fit into our understanding of so many “truths” that we’d been taught for so long.”

Furthermore, the Jews rationale (and everyone’s really) must have been that we’ll even align ourselves with guys like  Barabbas–a guy who’s ways were violent—but at least he was fighting for us, for our rights, our freedoms.

And this is where ALL of us –and that means everyone–is shown to be against this Jesus.  You see, it seems that ALL of us have shown ourselves to doubt this guys “truth” in some way or another.

And I think we can see that it’s because we’re asking the wrong question.  It’s not ,“What is truth?” It’s, “Who is the truth?”

For if Jesus is the truth (John 14:6)—like he claims —-and if he really is “a king” like he says he says is (Luke 23:3), well then, we’d do well to listen to and obey him.

I mean, what other choice do we have?

Oh yeah, we can choose to not follow him, or accept him, or even give him a chance in our lives.  I mean, it’s our lives, and we can make of it what we want, right?

Right!

But it just seems to me that when one stops for a moment and considers his or her options, well then, it would be “crazy” not to seriously consider this Jesus, who says he’s “the truth’, the very embodiment of truth.

You see, this is where we all get so mixed up, where we fall so far short in our understanding of the truth as a Person.

But this Person is so understanding, so forgiving , and so loving that his primary desire is to put our hearts and minds at rest.  And he desires to walk right alongside each of us as we search for and listen for the truth of every little and every big question that we all seek answers to each and every day.

And this Jesus can do this….because he is the truth!

But this is where Jesus has become, and still is, a “stumbling block” to everyone who cannot (or will not) believe that he is who he said he is.  (Romans 9:33)

You see, this Jesus’ assessment of our very “human race” is one that says, “Hey folks, your deeds and your hearts are in need of healing and forgiveness.  And this is the very reason I’ve come, I’ve come to lay down my life for you… because I really do want to be with “whosoever” (John 3:16) desires to know and live with ‘the truth” for all time!”

Of course, there is another option.  One can choose to grab onto a bit of truth wherever one can find it.  This is so, simply “because all truth is God’s truth.”  And so, one can try to hold life’s enigmas the best we can, but it seems we cannot (or will not) “permit” ourselves to come to the full knowledge of the truth. 

And why is this?  It’s because we aren’t holding on to his teaching. (John 8:31)  We haven’t allowed ourselves to really get to know this Jesus.  We haven’t allowed ourselves to really get to know this person who is “Truth.”  For if we had, well then, we would know it (him) and this truth (this person), and he would set us free.  (John 8:32)

And what would we be free from?  We would be free from thinking that we “know it all.”  We would be free from thinking that just because we are religious does not mean that we do not need to be “set free” from our sin.

And then Jesus makes his “truth” absolutely clear.  “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  (John 8:34-36)

You see, it’s the Person of Jesus who sets us free from our selfish, sinful ways.   You see, since he is the very embodiment of “truth” he is the only one who can do this.   And he says we will “know” we are free, and there will be no mistaking where that “freedom” came from!  

And so, the question remains.  Which question are we asking ourselves—“What is truth?”  Or are we asking, “Could the truth-the full and complete, unadulterated truth—be a Person?  The Person of Jesus Christ.

Thanks for stopping by.  Chris.

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