Hearing Jesus

LoveBookends

I was prompted by a blog the other day to reread Luke Chapter Ten. It appears to be a chapter in three parts, emphasizing a single, critical message. In the umpteenth reading of this chapter, I had never quite seen it in this way before; I joyfully share my new insights with you here.

Part 1

The chapter begins as Jesus appoints and sends out 72 new disciples in pairs to preach the Good News. He clearly instructs them to stay in homes where they are welcomed in peace and where those inside are willing to hear the message of love and grace. They are told to wipe the dust from their feet and leave a town that rejects them. Jesus says, “The one who hears you hears me; the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects Him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

The 72 returned “with joy” at all they were able to do. “Even demons are subject to us in your name.” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Jesus was aware every moment his disciples saved someone and freed them from the enemy’s grip.

Yet he also reminded them what was important: “Do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven…Blessed are the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it.” (Luke 10:20, 23-24)

Part 2

Behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Since it’s a lawyer asking the questions, Jesus responds with an appropriate question: “What’s written in the law? How do you read it?”

The lawyer responds predictably and correctly: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus, knowing what’s coming, answers: “You’re correct.”

But seeking to justify himself and entrap Jesus, the lawyer asks a follow-up question: “And who is my neighbor.”

What follows is the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).

The encounter with the lawyer (and the parable of the Good Samaritan) is about whether the lawyer ultimately hears Jesus or rejects him, by showing or not showing mercy to his neighbors.

Part 3

The chapter concludes with Jesus’ encounter with Martha and Mary. Martha is distracted with the “doingness” of preparing the meal. She appears to ‘test’ Jesus by challenging him to rebuke her younger sister Mary who sits at his feet and listens to his teaching. The chapter ends with Jesus saying, “…one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

Mary chose to hear Jesus.

The exciting thing I was allowed to “hear” in this reading was the incredible blessing of spiritual hearing and sight.  It seems the Lord reveals the mystery of His Word to me as He deems me ready to hear it.

At the same time, I believe much of God’s revelation has to do with love. As I am more willing and able to receive His love, I am transformed by it, and in the transformation I am more able to comprehend His Word.

On the other hand, if I close my heart to the grandiosity of God’s love, if I hold onto lifelong beliefs and cling to the safety of laws and rules instead of allowing transformation into the unknown – even if the unknown is the heart of Jesus and the arms of the Father – I will reject His blessing.

LoveBookends

In a hopeful note, there is another dinner honoring Jesus recorded by the apostle John. It was six days before his final supper, after Jesus had raised Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus from the dead. (At that time, Martha revealed to Jesus “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” John 11:27) Once again Martha served dinner – simply served. And Mary anointed Jesus with an entire bottle of fragrant, expensive perfume. (John 12:1-3)

Now, both sisters could hear.

 

For a poetry version of this post, see Hearing Jesus

Thanks to Matt Brumage and paulfg for the inspiration for this post

Metamorphosis, Part 2

Shedding the Old

monarch.in.flight

“Since we have confidence in the new promise, we speak very boldly. We are not like Moses. He kept covering his face with a veil so the people of Israel, who were fearful of it, did not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away.

“However, their minds became closed, and to this day the same veil is still there when they read the Old Testament so they do not understand the truth. It isn’t removed, because only trust in Christ can remove it. Yet, even today, when they read the books of Moses, a veil covers their minds and they do not understand. But whenever a person turns their heart to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

“The Lord is the Spirit. Wherever the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3:12-18 emphasis mine)

The word changed in the verse above in the Greek is metamorphosed. It is where we get the word metamorphosis, which means a profound change from one stage to the next. It is a complete transformation, a rebirth.

As we open our hearts and minds to Christ’s love and grace, we acknowledge law is dead. We allow Christ to remove the veil. We see the Old Covenant for what it was; the chains of the past that Christ died to rescue us from. We rejoice in his resurrection and allow him to restore us into our Father’s embrace.

We must shed the skin of the old and surrender ourselves completely to the New Covenant. We release control and allow and invite full access to the Holy Spirit. We allow the Lord to reign in us, thereby admitting his light and love to fill us, saturate us to overflowing, and fulfill us.

As the Spirit works in us, we awaken to the freedom that this is the way we reflect the true image of God. It is how we continue to grow in his glory. It is through love not law, faith not fear, that his light shines through us onto others. It is only in this surrender, this incredible choice, this willingness to die to self, to shed the old, that we become reborn and fly.

This is how we do it:

Metamorphosis, Part 1

The New Promise

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I generally read a couple of devotionals each morning, and turn to my Bible – the Living Word – to study quoted verses in context. I was captivated after reading Chapter Three in the Second Letter to the Corinthians because I’ve read this letter many times; yet upon this reading this particular chapter came alive to me.

So many new thoughts entered my heart as the words jumped out from the page that it’s going to take two posts to share them with you. I hope you’ll indulge me, because there are some amazing ideas awaiting you tomorrow!

“The ministry that brought death was inscribed on stone. Yet, it came with such glory that the people of Israel couldn’t look at Moses’ face. His face was shining with glory, even though that glory was already fading. Won’t the ministry that brings the Spirit have even more glory?

“If the old ministry, which brings condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry which makes us right with God? In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. If that former ministry faded away despite its glory, how much more does the new ministry which remains forever?

“Since we have confidence in the new promise, we speak very boldly. We are not like Moses. He kept covering his face with a veil so the people of Israel, who were fearful of it, did not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away.” (2 Corinthians 3:7-13, emphasis mine)

©butterflysite.com
©butterflysite.com

We are born in God’s image: loving, trusting, showing His light. As we grow and are exposed to circumstances, this light dims and, in some cases, is shut down altogether. We live our lives without fully realizing the gift we have in Christ. We live by fear and the Old Law, not yet allowing the fullness of the Spirit to work in us. We have not “made straight the way of the Lord.” God’s light is shining on us, but not in us.

 

John the Baptist was the last Old Covenant prophet who transitioned us from the Old to the New Covenant. We have not glided with the transition fully into the New Covenant.

During Old Covenant times, when the only people who had the Spirit were the prophets, God gave Laws for people to follow so they were aware of sin, they knew the boundaries, they learned not to harm each other and they understood how to take care of each other so no one was ever in need. But as a few became educated and studied the Law, they added to it and massaged it and twisted it here and there so eventually the application of the Law became abusive, and came to benefit the educated and wealthy.

When Jesus came, he addressed the abuses of the Old Law when he spoke to the leaders of religious law. He wanted them to get back to the original intent of the law, which was supposed to bring people together in community. Upon his arrival the Old Law was fulfilled; there was no more need for a law that punishes or condemns. Jesus came to take all our wrongdoing upon himself, destroy them for all time, and bring us back, through God’s love and grace, into a right relationship with our Father.

Tomorrow: Part 2 – Shedding the Old

Love is…

©susanirenefox
©susanirenefox

The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (I Timothy 1:5)

Love is patient and kind.

Love understands we all learn in different ways and at different rates. We all have different levels of education. And while we may have a strong desire to learn and understand Scripture, we cannot all understand the King James Version, or the New American Standard Version or the English Standard Version. As beginners, some of us may need to cut our teeth on The Message or The Voice or the Easy to Read Version first. Please be kind and compassionate while we learn and grow in our faith. These versions are not heretical; they simply provide added explanation while we are in transition from milk to meat.

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.

We all fall short of the glory of God. Please don’t hold yourself higher than we are because you’ve had more education. The Pharisee had more education than the tax collector, yet the tax collector humbled himself before God (Luke 18:9-14). Please allow us to develop our own, unique relationship with our Lord.

Love is not self-absorbed, nor does it demand its own way.

Please don’t demand that I worship as you do, pray as you do, or subscribe to your religious laws or doctrine. Please don’t tell me I’m not a Christian if… Please do as He asks and teach me to be His disciple, not yours.

“We have made ourselves content not with seeking the face of God, but with studying the facts of God. We are satisfied with a religion about Christ, without the reality of Christ… There is a place that transcends the boundaries of knowledge and dogma; it is a simple yet eternally profound place where we actually abide in Christ’s love.” Br. Francis Frangipane

Love is not irritable or easily provoked.

Luke recorded Jesus saying, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) If you have fully surrendered yourself to Jesus, then you have accepted His love and grace. Once you have accepted His gift, there is nothing left to irritate, annoy or provoke you. You have an unquenchable desire to give away the love and grace that overflows from Him.

Love keeps no record of being wronged, tallies up no offenses nor keeps score of the sins of others.

In relationship, do you think the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit choose to be offended by each other? Keep score against each other? Decide one was more healing than the other? One saved more souls than the other? When we point out each others’ faults and keep track of wrongs done, over the years we become bitter and resentful. Bitterness and resentment is grist for the enemy; they can easily be turned to hate, and hate locks out love.

Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out.

Love and truth build bridges; hate and fear build walls. Bridges help form relationships; walls prevent relationships. Relationships advance understanding and create true justice. The absence of relationships advances terror and exclusion for everyone. Which would you rather build?

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

When decisions are made from soil of love, faith and hope are harvested. Circumstances are seen from a different point of view. Individual lives are given value instead of being seen as a commodity. Differences become less important than finding connections and common ground which lead to peace.

Love never fails.

God is love. When we allow His love to shine through us, in God’s timing others will desire His unconditional love. They will thirst for His radical grace. They will hunger for His tender mercy. But love must come first.

May [you] have power to comprehend… how wide, how long, how high, and how deep God’s love is, and therefore to know the love of Christ even though it is too great to understand fully, so that your heart may be completely filled up and flooded with God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)

To the Candidates

From Second Philippians

(with thanks to the apostle Paul)

As I was directed to several verses this morning, it seemed to me a letter is in order to the politicians running for the United States Presidency.

As a reminder, the apostle Paul, who was in jail in Rome, wrote to the church in Philippi to encourage them to grow and mature in their faith. He knew what staying immobile and stagnant would look like – he had already written to the church in Galatia about the problem of stagnation (Galatians 5:19-20) – and he didn’t want this to happen to the church in Philippi.

So, I address this letter, borrowing heavily from Paul, to those candidates who claim to be Christians (or who claim to uphold Christian values or who wish to appeal to voters who claim to be Christian or Evangelical or any other denomination who claims to uphold Christian values).

©KennethWyatt1987
©KennethWyatt1987

To All Candidates,

Grace and peace to you. May Christ’s Spirit bring you wisdom, integrity and compassion.

As you travel on this journey, we can all admit it is fraught with temptation. Those even in your midst would attempt to exert influence over you, gambling with your heart and mind to battle those also seeking office. Their intention is resolved to keep your focus away from the true struggle. It is not with your campaign opponents.

Those of us who follow Jesus ache as we watch you flail about in immature pursuits and misdirected messages about our Lord. We cringe because we know the world is watching. We grieve because we feel the Holy Spirit’s grief as you attempt to represent us and speak to our values.

As the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians:

Some people tell the message about Christ because of their jealousy and envy. Others tell the message about him because of their good will. Those who tell the message about Christ out of love know that God has put me here to defend the Good News. But the others are insincere. They tell the message about Christ out of selfish ambition (Philippians 1:15-17)

©Michael Halbert
©Michael Halbert

Pretending you are someone you are not is not the way. Denigrating one another is not the way. Spewing hateful words is not the way. Being spiteful and contentious is not the way. Being boastful is not the way. Telling half truths is not the way.

Certainly you can find ways to disagree while remaining respectful and humble. Clearly you can find ways to point out differences without sarcasm. Undeniably, as presidential material, you can find ways to lead the pack on higher ground.

 

If there is any encouragement in belonging to Christ, any comfort from His love, any fellowship in His abiding Spirit, any affection or compassion, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being united in that same Spirit. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, be moved to think of and treat one another as more important than yourselves. (Philippians 2:1-3)

You see, we Christians who are watching but silent, we Christians who are waiting to cast our votes will determine who you really are by two criteria. And interestingly, they have nothing to do with party affiliation. They have everything to do with leadership qualities.

The First

Again, let’s turn to the apostle Paul. Before he was saved, he had status and wealth, education and title; he persecuted zealously those who he saw as a threat to the established leadership. Yet after Jesus opened his eyes and heart, Paul realized after a lifetime of evangelism what was truly important:

I consider everything else worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain [knowing] Christ…Whoever has a mature faith should think this way. And if you think otherwise, God will reveal it to you and make it plain. (Philippians 3:8, 15)

So are you mature in your faith; do you follow Jesus above all else? Do you show all people you follow him by illustrating your love through your words and actions?

The Second

In 1982, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman wrote a book called In Search of Excellence. The authors coined the term MBWA – management by walking around. One of the points of walking around was to look for things people were doing right.

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes egregious mistakes. Do we honestly – honestly – believe our presidents are or should be pure as the driven snow? Or is it more important they humbly own up to past mistakes and let us know how they have overcome? And is it your job as a candidate to point out the splinter in someone else’s eye without first revealing the log in your own?

Wouldn’t it be something if each of you actually pointed out something the current President and the other candidates did right?

Here’s how the apostle Paul puts it:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

And sorry, using the excuse, “There’s nothing there to find,” just doesn’t cut it.

 

At some point, you and possibly some other folks decided you have the qualities and character to be President of this fine country. You entered the race.

Now it’s time to flip that old adage: Put your mouth where your money is.

May the grace, love and wisdom of God be with you.

Yes, you are here for a reason, but it’s not what you think: Why am I here?

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Look familiar?

One idea sparks another. Your writing and God inspired stories touch my soul. They provide wisdom and truth and open up doors. The likes and comments are human features, it’s the words and conversation that stirs my soul.

I oftentimes find myself writing about God’s gifts and calling. It has been a sort of obsession of mine ever since I can remember. And after finding the truth in God’s son, I chased after it even more. And the commercialization of it led to so much dread and defeat. The idol, that thing that you can’t stop thinking about. They are always “situations,” chasing of dreams. I am talking about the gifts and talents you know God gave you. But you think you’re not using them. And your view is so myopic. Because you are a writer, and you are writing right now. 

And so through the inspiration of another Spirit-filled writer, Melanie Jean Juneau and her post Ladislav Zaborksy: Imprisoned for His Catholic Art, I came to realize what God had been teaching me all along, don’t let the gift become your master. 

I find that us creative types especially oftentimes become prisoners of our gifts. The label of  “working” and “full-time” become intertwined with divine desire. I hear this also among the best of friends who hate their jobs and know they are just made for something more “I am suffering, I cannot bear to be here any longer.” 

Welcome to the passion of the Christ.

And I love this excerpt from Melanie’s post:

“While imprisoned, Ladislav felt as if his hands were nailed to the cross because he could not paint but only seek God in the depths of his soul. .. The result of his inner crucifixion meant he no longer fulfilled his own desires but only sought God and His desires.”

Notice he did not say that he felt crucified because he was imprisoned, but rather he felt crucified because he could not paint. And Paul from Just me Being Curious offered such an eye-opening statement on my last post about forgiveness:

“In the daily readings I have there comes up, from time to time, a suggestion to pray for all those who are prisoners of war around the world. And I always nod – and always wonder: why do we think ourselves free simply because we have a computer, a job, a home and a fine “free” life?” 

And Ladislav understood that, and now I do too. We cry out to God because we are still in jobs we don’t like or our talents don’t get us paid. We believe preachers and pastors when they tell us that we have some singular “purpose” or “calling” on our lives that we must continue to seek out day after day. But fear and pain, it is a gentle liar. 

There is only one singular purpose for our lives, and that is to glorify the Lord Jesus in all that we are and all that we do. It is not only in our giftings but also our lack thereof. It is in the hug that we give or the conversation that we have. It is in the minutia. God does not believe in minutia. In every second of every day our lives should be a song and a prayer.

Our inner crucifixion is our reconciliation to the creator moment to moment. It is deeper, way deeper than a NY Times Best Seller or any stadium filled with thousands of congregants. You may think that your purpose is to write, and that certainly may be part of God’s plan. But what if that one post or newsletter or even that one text or email changes the course of life for someone else? It certainly will not make you money or allow you to quit your day job, but it will lead you closer to understanding the role of the creator.

That thing. That thing you want more than anything. That thing you want so bad. It is consuming you. It is overshadowing God. Let it go and watch it fly away. Die to that moment. And then , only then will you be free.

Don’t call yourself a Christian if you can’t yourself forgive

“Start tearing the old man down
Run past the heather and down to the old road
Start turning the grain into the ground Roll a new leaf over”

Omaha- Counting Crows

Forgiveness is not optional. It is not conditional or with parameters. It is not just because we have to, it is because we want to. It is because we have a greater desire to be one with the crucified Christ in order for ourselves to be risen in Spirit. There is no height or width in our forgiveness. It doesn’t look the same for everyone. It is a necessity. It is the entire basis for what we believe.

I’ve heard a lot of “I shouldn’t have to” apologies and “I’m right” and “my pastor says it’s o.k.” I’ve heard every excuse. I have taught a bible study for sexual abuse survivors for which I am one, where I continually preached about our necessity to forgive our abusers. It was gut wrenching and one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. But at the end, oh at the end, it was us that were free.

I have decided to take up Pope Francis’s Year of Mercy as a personal mission. I offer mercy whenever I can. And mercy and forgiveness don’t negate consequences. It only requires we be the love of the Lord, His heart, His hands and his feet. So I sent a reply to a former client who had sent me a Christmas card from prison.

“Believe in Jesus, believe in forgiveness, you can walk with Him even behind those prison walls.”

And an excerpt from his reply:

“I’ve long ago given my life over to Christ. Everyday I grow closer to Him. My journey in this place has been pure hell. But God has always seemed to free me mentally from these walls.”

He hurt someone. He will be in prison until he is a very old man. I tried to help him when he was free. But now I know that he was never free. He was not free until he got to prison. 

There’s nothing you can do or say that will change my mind about Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness. There is no verse you can turn on its head or teaching you could show me that would convince me that Jesus was anything other than forgiveness itself. He was, in the beginning, the word, and in him, there is only life.

Someone hurt my son, and I chose to forgive him. And I chose mercy. I chose to see him through the eyes of Christ. And God forgives me everyday. And so I forgave him. There is nothing to understand except the God that lives inside of me. And although my heart ached, I was at peace… an indescribable peace. And we prayed together for this person. And we talked about God’s forgiveness as a family. And my children learned that God values their pain and the forgiveness that was extended through our hands. And it was impossible to cry when my son said to a grown man, “apology accepted.”

If you’re feeling convicted you should, there’s nothing to be confused about. You can’t call yourself a follower of Jesus if you don’t follow him. 

The crucified Christ lived inside of me today. And He eased my pain. All I felt was His love, for me and for my son. I was Abraham carrying Isaac in obedience to the God I serve. And He, he provided the ram.