August 3 – Testing Jesus

Matthew 22:15-22

But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? (Matthew 22:18 ESV)

Once again the misguided Pharisees sought to entrap Jesus with their petty questions and clumsy tests. Jesus always saw straight through their tests. They weren’t really interested in getting answers, they were looking for reasons to blame, doubt, of entrap him. People still do the same thing today.

It is true that many atheists and various other skeptics chalk their doubts up to the ideas of proof, but so do believers. I have been a Christian for over twenty years and there a days when I have doubts. There are moments, when like the Pharisees, I look up and cast my test before the King of kings.

I believe that doubt can be a healthy thing when it pushes us toward honest evaluation and careful contemplation. But it can also be arrogant folly when we take our stance, presume ourselves to be the standard for truth, and call all others to verify truth through our personal view of the world.

The Pharisees were testing Jesus because he was undermining their religious hold on their personal world. He was stirring things up. They didn’t test him because they wanted truth. They tested him because they were looking for leverage. That can be easy to forget. I would do better to remember just that the next time that I feel like testing Jesus.

August 2 – Jesus Stumps the Elite

Luke 20:9-26

And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. (Luke 20:26 ESV)

Have you ever tried to argue a point only to have someone say something so incredibly superior to your view that you have to shut up and remain silent in deference to their superior rhetoric? That is exactly what happened to the Jewish religious elite one day when they tried to argue with Jesus. The simple truth is that lost people don’t think like Jesus.

It takes a work of God for the human mind to begin to think in a different way. It takes the infusing of a new perspective, and a life-giving transformation. Many of the Pharisees wethe incapable of this, and so they thought their petty squabbles over inconsequential religious triflings would stump Jesus. No, he always had a superior stance.

When I think about this story it gives me pause to stop and look and my own ridiculously religious nature. It is something I have to fight against. It is a challenge.

God is taking me in new directions in my pursuit of Him. Christ has called me to abandon the petty arrogance and wayward assumptions of things that don’t matter. And the Holy Spirit is leading me into a place of a reinvigorated emphasis on what is important—namely loving people and exalting Jesus.

Does that mean I won’t feel elite or superior? Of course not, I know my ridiculous inclinations. But I pray that he will help. And on those days that I feel truly stumped I will have to stop and acknowledge that Christ is at work in me to change or teach me.

July 19 – Blind Guides

Matthew 15:10-20

Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14 ESV)

Leading people is not an easy task. It involves great risk, responsibility, and repercussions. To lead well requires incredible selflessness and dedication to those in your charge. It also requires understanding, an open mind, and vision. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time were struggling with their leadership roles.

By the time Jesus was born the Jewish religious system had become so corrupt that for many it was a stumbling block. Those charged with escorting the people to the Father were failing in their mission. They were blinded by their assumptions and arrogance. Their willfulness to embrace arrogant ignorance kept them from enjoying the reality of God incarnate, Jesus. In fact, it lead to great animosity and even murder.

If you want to lead people, you need to be able to see. You need to see with clarity, compassion, and character. Have the faith seek the truth about your leadership successes and failures. Find people that will tell you e loving and honest truth, so that you will have clarity. See people compassionately, as Jesus saw them. People are problems to fix, or riddles to solve. They are lives. They are souls. They are precious. Learn to lead with compassionate vision that cares more about the person than the plan. Learn to live and lead with character. That means a consistency of action and desire that is the same every day.

Seeing with clarity, compassion, and character will help, but its not a guarantee. Pray for help. Lead selflessly. And try to avoid blind spots. This world doesn’t need anymore blind guides.

July 4 – The Lazarus Problem

John 12:9-11

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11 ESV)

Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead and the religious people went nuts. They started making plans to kill Jesus. But that wasn’t enough. Even had they killed Jesus, which they did, there was still the Lazarus problem for them.

Had they actually been able to remove Jesus there was still the fact that he raised Lazarus to life. A dead man living again is powerful evidence in favor for the reality of Jesus’ supernatural power and divine origin. So they went beyond the plan to kill Jesus and started making plans to kill Lazarus as well.

The resurrection of Lazarus is a historical fact, even as much so as the resurrection of Jesus. People wanted to refute Lazarus’ miraculous reviving. The power players wanted to remove him as evidence in the situation.

Today Christianity is often under assault. Historical revisionists try to blot out the truth of the resurrection and downplay the influence of Christianity on our culture. Typically their first line of attack is to undermine, rewrite, or ignore, the overwhelming historical evidence in favor of the orthodox view of Christ, his miracles, nature, and resurrection.

To make this even more personal—we have an instinct to act the same way sometimes. When we do something that makes us feel a tinge of guilt we try to erase the evidence. However small that might be. I’m sure you could think of your own personal example.

The Lazarus problem faces all of us. Lazarus was brought back by Jesus. Jesus was brought back by himself. We face the eventuality of life beyond death. None of us have experienced it as of yet, but there is coming a day when it will be irrefutable. And not only do we face the awesomely confounding prospect of resurrected eternity with Christ, we also may embrace the spiritual reality of a resurrected soul in this life.

Our choices have led us to death, destruction, and disaster. Jesus raises us up out of that. Lazarus wasn’t a problem for Jesus. And neither are you.

July 3 – Follow With Us

Luke 9:49-50

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” (Luke 9:49 ESV)

Sometimes it is all too easy to make assumptions. John and company made assumptions about the person casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They assumed he was not to be performing miracles of that nature without being a part of their little band. They assumed he was not like them. They assumed he did not believe like them. They assumed God wasn’t using him to do incredible things.

Isn’t that just like us? Especially where certain doctrinal things can confuse and confound things. We often assume that people, even fellow believers in Christ, aren’t getting the job done unless they do it like we do. We assume we are doing it right.

The truth is that we’re all in this together. It will take all of us living as shining examples of Christ’s love and deliverance in order to reach our respective communities. Everyone doesn’t have to follow with us. They just have to follow Jesus.

March 25 – The Good Portion?

Read: Luke 10:38-42

And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. (Luke 10:39 ESV)

Martha welcomed Jesus into her home and began to serve his needs and offer hospitality. Her sister Mary was captivated by Jesus and sat at his feet listening to his teaching. Martha didn’t like it at all. In her opinion Mary had left her to do all the work. Jesus’ gentle rebuke of Martha’s complaining speaks volumes. Martha was blessed by her service to The Lord, but Mary was more blessed by sitting at his feet to enjoy his presence.

This brief story sheds light on a big question among some Christians today. What is more important: serving Jesus through your actions, or serving him through abiding in his presence? The answers are as varied as the lives of those who ask the question.

Truthfully, there isn’t a blanket answer that fits the life of every believer and every scenario. The story of Mary and Martha shows us that in this specific example Jesus was very pleased with Mary’s decision to simply enjoy his presence. However, it is also clear that at other points Scripture is very clear about the need for us to actually doing something.

The big idea found here I believe is that we cannot assume that the way we connect to Jesus or serve him is how everyone else must do it. Let me be clear, I believe everyone must connect to Jesus. He is after all the “way, the truth, and the life”. But let us not assume that the good portion is the same for everyone. Where Jesus calls one to instruction and abiding, he may call someone else to action and serving.

January 23 – A Place for Jesus

Read: Luke 2:1-19

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7 ESV)

Jesus is often heralded as the King of Kings. In fact, it is among the titles listed for him in the Bible. The manner of his birth however, was anything but kingly. He was born to poor peasant parents from a rural village with a humble heritage. He was birthed in what probably amounted to a small cave because there was no room left for hospitality among the people of Bethlehem.

It was standard practice among the Jews to offer great hospitality to travelers. If someone came to your home needing a place to stay, eat, or rest, it was normal to provide those amenities. The problem in the birth story of Christ is that there were so many people traveling to Bethlehem to take part in a census declared by the government.

I wonder, if Jesus came to us today would we treat him this way? Would we be forced to hand him just the leftovers because we already divvied up the best parts for those we deemed more worthy, or important. Is there a place for Jesus in our lives?