Accusation

Have you been falsely accused of something you did not do? Has gossip and slander been hurled at your character? Have you felt helpless to defend yourself when false information is spread concerning you? It stings and burns, right?

May I encourage you to read Psalm 69:1-21 as part of your quiet time? It describes a helpless trauma with powerful effect. It also connects with Jesus on the Cross, with none to comfort Him, enemies gloating over His torture, even being offered sour wine to drink. At one point it asks, “why do I have to pay back that which I did not steal??”

To be attacked without just cause should not lead us to stoically stuffing the pain emotionally. We need to verbalize it, to cry out as the “waters are up to our necks”. On the Cross, in His agony, Jesus cried out “Where are you??” to His Father. He did not stuff His pain.

Why should we not follow His example? Verbalize to Him and a trusted friend how much it hurts to be falsely accused.

Time's Up

There is a climatic scene in Star Trek: Insurrection where Captain Picard prepares to sacrifice himself in an exploding space station. As the crew of the Enterprise race to save him, Picard says “Time’s up!” and presses the button for the bomb to explode. Of course, they rescue him in the nick of time.

But I am intrigued that in John 12 Jesus uses the same phrase: “Time’s up!” when some Greeks wanted to see Him. He knew it was time for suffering and death and resurrection. He said He was “storm tossed” emotionally in what He was about to face. There would be no rescue, no way out. His students would run like rabbits from Him at crunch time. He would be all alone with evil men whose hate wanted Him to be tortured and die slowly.

His blood may have run red that day, but He did not run at all. Have you considered that lately? He withstood whips with bone embedded, thorns being crushed into His skull, fists being pounded into His body, sharp nails being driven into His hands and feet, and the eyes of sadistic men who delighted in His suffering and anguish. For us. What kind of love could do that?

Time’s up. He knew this was coming, and did not run from it. Isn’t He awesome and cool and worthy of thankfulness today?

Reaction

There was a car commercial a few years back which always ended in a small boy saying “Something’s up!” It created an atmosphere of expectations.

Such is the atmosphere of John 11 and the raising of Lazarus. Jesus delays going, telling His students that something big is about to happen. Because they, like us, cannot grasp the power of Christ, they think He means physical rest is helping him. Jesus responds with “No guys, not this time. You will see something that will rock your world.”

Notice the reaction to Lazarus coming out of the tomb after being dead 4 days. Belief and betrayal. Some of the observers ran to the local religious mafia, and told them what happened. Do they praise God? NOPE. “Oh no, He is is going to take our power away from us!” Miracles don’t always bring belief.

If Jesus were to perform a miracle today, in our hyper critical world, on live television, would the reaction be any different? Facebook and Twitter would explode, experts would demand DNA testing to prove it. Would it change lives? For some yes, but many would doubt and demand more proof.

If Jesus were to perform a miracle for you today, would it change your life in permanent ways? Would it rock your world, too?

Bible Bunkers

Are you afraid of spending time with people who do not believe as you do? Whether because of your faith in Christ, your political views, or those who just do not think as you do, we tend to build “tribes” around those who “walk” as we do.

Do you recall that Jesus hung out with “sinners”, and was accused of being a glutton and drunk because of it? By the hyper “religious” of his day, too. But one step further, please. Do you think that all the “tax collectors and sinners” fell before Jesus, at his feet in awe? NO. But some did, and Jesus continued to be Himself by mingling who those who did not agree with Him. He was not afraid of their rejection. He wanted to get to know their stories, to build relationships by friendship.

Hurling Bible “grenades” at those who disagree with us does not change hearts and minds. Changed lives that are observable make people want what we have to give away, by friendship.

So take a Democrat to lunch! Or a Republican! Hear them out. Be comfortable enough in who you are to quit hiding in your Bible Bunker. Engage your world, model what our Teacher did.

Protection

In ancient times women were treated more like property than an unique persons. Yet God was keenly aware of that status, and fought to protect them. Notice in Malachi 2, around 400 years before Christ, when the men were complaining that God was not blessing them, God responds: “Stop cheating on your wives!” “Honor your covenant with the woman you married!” “Protect her!”

Then in John 8 Jesus is confronted by the Religious Leaders who drag a woman caught “in the act of adultery”. Kill her, right Jesus? Notice there is no mention of the man caught as well. But in His amazing way He redeems the situation, and the accusers walk away in shame.

Jesus was 2000 years ahead of the #metoo movement we see today. He did not condemn the woman, but in grace He did tell her to change her lifestyle. If you have been divorced, you know the sting and the hurt, If you are married, treat you spouse with dignity and respect. Malachi 2 still applies to the protection of women. Women are in no way inferior in God’s design, he made them unique and special.

As Jesus’ students, we need to stand up against the abuse of women. Perhaps #metoo for us as His followers need to be #Himtoo. He was fighting for justice for women long before it became politically popular.

Silence

In my first real dating experience in high school, I “went steady” with a girl for a while. But it became apparent that she was not comfortable with silence. She would many times demand I say something if there were pauses on the phone, or if in her chatter I was perceived as not listening. Silence was definitely not golden.

But on the subject of silence, how comfortable are we with that state of being, with friends and with God especially? Does being silent mean you do not care? Or that God does not care about you?

Psalm 61:2 and 5 speak of being silent before God. It bothers me that my mind has such a hard time doing that. To empty my mind that feels only satisfied with “doing”, not “being still”. We are so conditioned that only in “doing” do we find fulfillment in our world, even Christian ministry.

Jesus was rejected by his own brothers in John 7, who mocked Him. Yet He spent much time alone with His Father, praying but also in silence listening. It is how He sustained and maintained an inner calm from the crush of life. Are we His students willing to do the same? Before we go out and “do”? Silence is Golden when we can be still and listen for His still, small voice. It is what Elijah found after taking on the 400 prophets of Baal, in his exhaustion afterwards. It is the antidote for a scattered and harried mind.

Acknowledgement

Yesterday we spoke of admission of our weaknesses. To really shred our pride and ask for help when we are desperate. And desperation with perspiration is the state we find ourselves in more than we would like to admit.

In John 5 we find Jesus in conversation with a man paralyzed for 38 years. “Do you want to get well?” seems an odd question, right? But instead of “you betcha!!” the man goes analytical and starts listing the reasons why he cannot. Jesus did not ask for that. He said, “Do you WANT healed?”

He still asks us the same question! And more times than we would like to admit, we go analytical too. Or could it be that the crutch has become too comfortable we lean on? It is good for sympathy and getting attention, right?

Admitting weakness in our lives is a big step. But the NEXT step is wanting to overcome it. We must truly want to overcome that weakness. Acknowledgement follows Admission in the healing process. “Do you WANT to be healed?”

Admission

Comedian Robin Williams committed suicide in part because he suffered from severe depression. The happy face he put on the outside hid a dark spirit inside which consumed him. Clinical Depression creates a hopeless feeling and feelings of unworthiness. A sense that nothing matters. Even for sincere Christ followers.

When we come before Christ daily, we need to be keenly aware of our weaknesses and admit our great need of His care. We have to drain our pride and tell him of our desperate need.

Notice in John 4 that story of the “high official” of the king who comes begging Jesus for the life of his son. Jesus at first puts him off. But the father will not be put off. He shreds his pride and pleads harder. The powerful, and the not so powerful, have a hard time admitting their deepest need. Only the does Jesus swing into action.

There is a shame associated with mental health weakness. But until we admit our great need, only then can help be found. Admission is a powerful word. But it still moves Jesus into action today. He designed godly counselors, Scripture, and and caring friends to help. Whatever your weakness, admission is the first step to healing.

Tick.Tick.Tick

Why did Jesus refer to Himself as the Son of Man so much in the Gospels. Just a cool title? Nope. I read this morning in Daniel 7 about a “Son of Man” taking authority over the nations. Jesus knew His Old Testament well by study. Also remember that at age 12 He was blowing the minds of the Jewish leaders with His understanding.

Daniel’s prophetic vision was several hundred years before Christ came. For those who cared to investigate, Jesus was making a point: “I’m that Son of Man”. Scripture connects to itself. Going back to Moses, there are references to Someone Greater coming in future history, which Jesus was.

So the scoffers who mock His Second Coming, who feel that prophecy is a myth, remember that Daniel had other future visions as well. Some have been fulfilled to the letter, but others still await to be fulfilled.

The clock is ticking. The technology exists today for things to happen in quick order. Do not laugh at Daniel. He saw things which he tried to describe that overwhelmed him and left him “pale” in his appearance.

Scripture connects to real life. Prophecy is still coming true in our day. Hold tight to that Truth, Christ follower!

Paint Brush Blues

When I was in college I needed to find work to pay for the costs of attending school. A friend of the family offered to pay me to paint her house. I had no training or experience, was just handed a paint brush and scraper. “Go get “em”. It did not go well. No training generally brings poor results.

Do you sometimes wonder how to “train” to be an apprentice of Jesus? I can truly say he does not just give you a paint brush and walk away! He knows you will make mistakes, and He is ok with that. That is what apprentices do, they learn from their mistakes.

Read the 4 Gospels of the New Testament slowly. See the how and why Jesus did what He did. Everything He did is in there by His design, as a Training Manual for us. Scripture teaches that God looks upon the “heart” of those who chose to be like Him. He knows you will mess up today! But then He smiles and says, “Keep trying, you are getting the hang of it.”

We have a “how to” manual called Scripture. Don’t get discouraged today when you mess up, it will happen. Instead see His encouragement and affirmation that He believes in you, and keep trying. That is a teacher who I can love to learn from!

Firefighters

The three friends faced a stark choice: bow before a false God, or burned alive in a blazing fire. They refused and said that their God was large and in charge. If He wished, He would deliver them from the flames. But if not, they would not bow the knee to another.

But then the story gets fascinating. They are tossed into the super heated furnace, and Somebody joins them in walking around in the fire. Keep in mind, this is no camp fire to roast hot dogs. Yet they walk out when summoned smelling like Febreeze after clean laundry! No smoke smell, no damage to their clothes. If you have been around a campfire you know that your clothes end up smelling like smoke. Not so with these guys. Amazing!

Yesterday I met a client to go over her insurance needs, at a local restaurant. To my delighted surprise, she announced she was a Christian and would like to offer thanks for the food. I eagerly agreed.

Pushing back against the flames of evil makes us who follow Jesus “firefighters” just as much today as in ancient Babylon. Jesus walks with us today as much as he did the 3 friends eons ago. A simple prayer of faith is just as effective a flame retardant as coming out of a fire unharmed. Be a firefighter today.!

The Gospel of DO

What genuinely excites you today? A bonus at work? Is your baseball team in the playoffs? Your children do something really special?

Does your faith in Jesus excite you? The idea of a WOW Creator who simply cannot wait to spend the day with you to truly be the Best Friend you really want?

The flip side of this is duty alone. I have to read my Bible and pray…. I have to DO so Jesus will not be disappointed in me! His frown of disapproval drives me to DO so He will like me. But the Gospel of DO crumbles into disillusioned, dispassionate grit and get.

Make no mistake, there are plenty of those types of days. Our circumstances drive us to the ground like a battering ram. But our Best Friend is still there with us, groaning with us. At times like that, when we moan, He does not just expect us to grit and get. DOING bows before BEING, a sense of His pleasure over you, and that He will shield you from more than what you can bear.

Jesus is more beautiful than words can do justice. Truly, does having Jesus in your life bring you inspiration or perspiration? It really matters in the ordering of your day.

Embrace

As a student of Jesus, what are we to do with his “embrace suffering” comments in Mark 7? Is He some kind of sick? No, He is not. Throughout the history of Christianity there has been those who take these comments to extremes, and out of context. The Flagellants did this in the Middle Ages.

But Jesus was teaching that suffering is inevitable in this life. It is how you respond that matters. During suffering we find out what and Who we trust in. Character and Wisdom develop from that suffering, if we let that happen. He walks with us in our suffering and asks us to look to Him for strength during it.

Remember that He asked His Father to “let this cup of suffering pass” in the night before He was tortured. So no, He is not some sicko. Jesus modeled HOW to deal with suffering. He placed His faith in the hands of His Father.

There are many types of suffering: emotional, physical, and spiritual. If you face some sort of it this week, “embrace” it and ask Jesus to help you through it. Remember, “embrace” and “enjoy” are worlds apart in terms of suffering.

Jesus said it is your soul that is at stake here. Choose wisely if you are hammered with suffering this week, friends!

Hometown Blues

Mark 6 records the sad story of Jesus returning to his hometown of Nazareth as a hero, and being shipped out as a bum. It says that they tripped over what little they knew of Him, and went sprawling, And they never got any closer.

Are you trying to be a witness to the power of Christ in your family to your family or “hometown”? Have you felt the sting of rejection Jesus did? “Who do you think you are, getting religious on us? We know you and your family! We’re just as good as you are! So go shove your Jesus talk.”

In sadness, Jesus walked away. They refused to believe Him. So He did not force Himself upon them. He was excited about Kingdom Life, and wanted to share it with His friends. But instead they sent Him packing. Have you ever pictured Jesus excited and smiling as He shared the Good News? What excellent teacher does not get excited about what he teaches?

Do you have a case of “Hometown Blues” this morning? You are excited about how awesome and rocking Jesus is, and by your words and actions you try to share that with friends and family, in your unique way. You are not an evangelist, you just are crazy about Jesus! But your “hometown” people take a whiff and say “get lost, you are nuts!” Yeah, rejection stinks.

Take heart, Jesus relates and knows the price of “hometown blues”. But keep going, don’t lose heart. Don’t lose the wonder of who He is!

Noise

We are surrounded by information and technology. At any corner of the globe we can find out what is happening nearly as it happens. And the news is usually something bad happening to humans or animals or the planet. It has the ability to overwhelm the soul.

Psalm 46 is all about our reactions to what we see around us. God is present in the strife. He has the Last Word. He tells us to be still and know He is near. Nothing surprises Him, He is allowing men and women to pursue their vanities here on the earth. Until He says, “enough”!

i have decided this week to shut out some of the noise of life. I have made a pact with my eyes to avoid seeing the news on the Internet or TV for a season. I have become too concerned with the machinations of men and women as they jockey for power and influence. It has helped me greatly to let go of that, to see Who is really in charge of the Earth.

My hope is in God, and I know that every knee will bow before Him as Truth. And I will be still, and know He is God, not powerful men and women in governments. Would you consider reading Psalm 46 today?

Family Matters

There are two recordings in Mark 3 where the “Friends and Family” plan for Jesus was going to take place. They thought he was getting too big for his britches and were attempting to “rescue” Him. Even Jesus’ sisters show up along with brothers and mother, to set Him straight. We know from other Scripture that His brothers did not believe in Him, at least until the Resurrection. “Knock it off, brother, you are embarrassing us!”

So Jesus “gets” rejection from friends and family members, who think you are nuts to follow Him. You are His current day “brothers and sisters” He spoke of a the end of chapter 3. Jesus’ own family came “to take charge of him”. The irony that God needs protection! But if you are a dedicated Christ student, your friends and family may try to “take charge of” your thinking about Him as well.

Don’t let that happen! Jesus is worth any sacrifice you make to put Him first!

Accusation

In my early years of employment where we now live, I reported directly to the CEO of the company. He was a powerful man who did not suffer fools. I made it a point to be always prepared and have an answer for any questions he might have. But I would never have to thought to question his running of the company or accuse him of messing up my budget for the department. I would have been unemployed quickly.

But if you take a look at Psalm 44, that is exactly what the writer is saying to God! You are asleep God! Wake up and help us, will ya? There is a memorable line in Star Trek 5 where the crew has found an entity who claims to be all knowing. When Kirk questions the entity, McCoy looks at Kirk in astonishment and says: “Jim, you don’t ask the Almighty for his ID”! But that is exactly what the Psalm writer is doing here. “Where are you? Why don’t you get down here and do something like you use to? Are you asleep?” What audacity!!

So why doesn’t God zap him or why allow this kind of talk in His Scriptures? First, because He is very secure in who He is, and is not threatened by it. Second, He knows we are dust, and in our frailty we must vent our emotions. But mostly, He is just crazy about His Creation, and will take any kind of talk directed at Him, even in anger or frustration. At least it is communication, because He does not consume us in anger. Like my CEO would have done to me.

Can we take a moment and see what kind of Crazy Love He has for us? That drove the nails into Jesus willingly. In Him we are not “fired” for our screw ups. Instead we are “hired” to show others the Crazy Love of God. Incredible!

"Where are you?"

All of us who follow Jesus have the “where are you” moments when life is chaotic and He does not seem anywhere around. His disciples thought they were going to drown with Him in the boat! Mary and Martha couldn’t believe Jesus would not show up for their brother Lazarus. “Hey, Jesus, where are you??”

Our emotional and physical storms threaten to overwhelm us at times, and we ask the same question. In Psalm 43 the writer is about to explode in anguish. Yet in the end he chooses to trust in God, to put his hope in Him, even when he cannot see past the edge of his nose at the moment. He needs God’s lantern to light his steps.

That is what I choose to do today. To “put my hope in God”, even when I have no more than a tiny seed of faith because of the lighting and thunder around me. God’s heart is tender toward those who do so. My hope is in Him, period.

The Bog

When the sheep get thirsty in the arid land of Israel, they will ignore danger to get at the pools of water And they can get stuck in the mud and cannot get out without the Shepherd’s Help. Hence the analogy of Psalm 40 with the Bog and the Rock.

I found Psalm 40 very comforting this morning. It shows a God who looks at the heart, not just the “sacrifices” we think we must do to get His attention. We miss the tender heart of God in our frantic desires to “please Him” daily. He is already pleased because of Jesus in us! Keep that in mind today, please.

Forever

I read a caption of a news article yesterday, wondering if artificial intelligence will allow us to live forever. Who would want to have eternity in the broken world we live in now? Endless killing and bad actions being repeated over and over? It sounds like an old episode of Star Trek where Kirk realizes that he and the Romulans are being controlled by an entity which enjoyed killing and violence, being repeated over and over for all time.

Psalm 39 speaks of our life as a “shadow” in length. That what we achieve in this life does not matter anyway. That holding onto this life alone is so misguided.

Oh, we are going to live forever all right! We were designed that way. The question is whether or not we will spend it with God or apart from Him. And no amount of “artificial intelligence” will make the least bit of difference. There is nothing artificial about God. He is the Great I AM, and Jesus is very real today in this world, building his Kingdom in the hearts of those who believe.

Put your hope in Him, not computers and artificial intelligence. Forever is not an option, it is the Truth we face.