Woe to you!

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“But woe to you Pharisees! You give a tenth of mint, rue, and every kind of herb, and you bypass justice and love for God. These things you should have done without neglecting the others. “Woe to you Pharisees! You love the front seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. “Woe to you! You are like unmarked graves; the people who walk over them don’t know it.” One of the experts in the law answered Him, “Teacher, when You say these things You insult us too.” Then He said: “Woe also to you experts in the law! You load people with burdens that are hard to carry, yet you yourselves don’t touch these burdens with one of your fingers. Luke 11:42-46

In these verses, Luke documents some pretty stern words that Jesus shares with the Pharisees. Let me emphasis that “woe” is used to express grief, regret, or distress. In these passages Jesus is showing his distress and sadness for the lack of understanding and hypocritical ways of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were all about the show: they prayed in the streets not privately and they gave their ten percent, but were the first to neglect someone’s needs. The scribes were also being addressed. Jesus called them out for how they documented all the immeasurable expectations others were to follow and condemned them when they didn’t meet them, all the while looking the other way for themselves.

That particular verse (v. 46) struck a significant cord in me. Then He said: “Woe also to you experts in the law! You load people with burdens that are hard to carry, yet you yourselves don’t touch these burdens with one of your fingers.

It reminds me of how quickly we jump to judgement when another denomination or Christian doesn’t do exactly what we do or believe exactly what we believe. Now, I’m not talking about the common theme that is the foundation of Christianity:  The life, death and resurrection of Jesus! I’m talking about the man made laws of wine vs. juice at communion, to dance or not to dance, baptism by sprinkling or submersion, baby dedications or baptisms, no communion until you are baptized or as soon as you accept Jesus, drinking is a sin vs. getting drunk is a sin. . . . Oh, how I could go on and on.

The point is that we get bogged down in the rules when it’s the resurrection that really matters. We load ourselves down with burdens that we carry and use to judge others while believing everything we do it the right and best way. There is only one right way and that is the way to Jesus! Everything falls off the back of the truck and the load becomes lighter when we look to the one whose “yoke is easy and burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)

Jesus! It’s Jesus! He is God’s Son and God delights in Him, He put His Spirit on Him so that He could give us Living Water, take our weaknesses, flaws and fears away and place us in the palm of His hand. We are not to worship laws over our Lord and we are not to fill the storerooms of our hearts with evil, worldly ways or deceit. We must look beyond the differences and look for what is important, for truth and overarching commonality that ties us together as Christ followers.

Jesus was crucified, buried and rose again three days later. We are the only religion that serves a risen Savior. Let’s revel in that and be bound together in that glorious news!

Do Not Be AMAZED!

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These four words caught my eye as I read John 3-5. Jesus uses them before two important teaching points concerning the Lord’s return and our eternal life with Him in Heaven.

Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. John 3:7

Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice. John 5:28

I encourage you to read through chapters 3-5 in their entirety to get a full understanding. Because today, I want to focus on some other important reminders Jesus has given us. Reminders that we should not be amazed to here because He was so incredibly counter cultural and full of love and grace. These reminders convicted my heart as I reread them again in Matthew 5-7 from Matthew’s perspective. I’m going to briefly pull them out of the message He gave from a mountaintop called the Sermon on the Mount. However, I’m going to skip the beginning (The Beatitudes) because they are so frequently talked about. As you read them, try to imagine sitting on a beautiful mountainside looking up at the Son of God and hearing Him speak these words to your heart. Imagine the spectacular glory of the backdrop and basking in the Son of God’s presence. Although you may not be sitting on the mountainside as you read this blog, you are hearing the words our Savior spoke.

 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16) 

If we are to be the light of the world, these instructions are vital to keeping our light shining in the darkness of this world.

  • Murder and Adultery don’t just include actions, the thought and the words make you guilty as well.(v.21-28)
  • “It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce. But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (v. 31-32)
  • Don’t swear or take oaths, just be true to your word. Let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one. (v. 33-35, 37-38)
  • Don’t repay evil with evil, but instead look away and pray for your enemy. Not just those who you love, but also those you hate. (v. 38-43)
  • Give, pray and fast in private. Don’t do it to show off, but for the Lord and you will be rewarded. (Matthew 5:6)
  • Don’t worry yourself with earthly money and treasures, but store up treasures and memories of the heart because they can’t be stolen or rust away. You can’t love your God above all else when money and possessions have made you a slave to them. (v. 19-24)
  • You are worth more to God than any bird or sunflower and He provides for them. So don’t worry about tomorrow or the next day, but instead focus your attention on the present and the provision that God has given you for that day and moment. (v. 25-34)
  • Don’t be so judgmental. Instead of worrying about your neighbors trash – take our your own and then you can help him with his. (Matthew 7:7-6)
  • Please ask me [God] for help. If you ask me, seek my wisdom and knock on my door, I will open it and give you more than you ever imagined. If I don’t answer the first time, don’t give up! (v. 7-12)
  • The world loves to take the easy way, but the way to Me is through the teeny, tiny narrow gate that so few find and then are willing to enter. Don’t follow the herd, follow Me. It isn’t easy and it takes time, courage and dedication, but the reward will be great. (v. 13-23)
  • Build your life, your values, morals and heart upon My word because it is the strongest foundation available. I promise you, not matter what else you try will only end in complete disaster and destruction.

I paraphrased these with my simple words, but When Jesus had finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, because He was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes. (Matthew 6:28-29)

I pray these reminders will sink into our hearts and renew our desire to follow Jesus and be His light in this dark world.

 

Gone Fishing

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As He was passing along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. “Follow Me,” Jesus told them, “and I will make you fish for people!” 18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Mark 1:16-18

As I read the verses above from Matthew and Mark, I wondered what had happened for Simon, Andrew and Simon’s brother to “immediately” leave their families and jobs to follow Jesus. Had John the Baptist told them Jesus was coming or did they have an overwhelming desire in their hearts to follow Jesus because God was leading them. Then, I get to Luke and find all the answers.

As the crowd was pressing in on Jesus to hear God’s word, He was standing by Lake Gennesaret. He saw two boats at the edge of the lake; the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the land. Then He sat down and was teaching the crowds from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  “Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing! But at Your word, I’ll let down the nets.” When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they took, and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people!” Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed Him. Luke 5:1-11

Luke gives us the rest of the story. Not only was Jesus along the lake teaching, He specifically picked out Simon to show give him a clear sign (or miracle) that He was who He said He was [the Son of God]. This has such an effect on Simon that he immediately felt his sin and unworthiness falling to his knees before the Lord. And I love how Jesus says, just as the angels all through the Old Testament told prophet after prophet and Mary, “Don’t be afraid.”

The power of these three words from our Father in Heaven is tremendous. Let’s sit on them for just a minute.

What if you came to your Father in prayer daily and remembered what He is whispering to your heart?

Don’t be afraid, I will accept your apology and forgive you no matter what the sin. Don’t be afraid, the price for your sin was paid when my Son died on the cross so that you could receive eternal life. Don’t be afraid, I created you, adore you and only want to draw you closer to me. Don’t be afraid, I already know your heart, there is nothing you can hide from me. Don’t be afraid, I know you are struggling with that sin and I desire to help you if you will just ask. Don’t be afraid, even when you don’t feel me close, I’m walking beside you. Don’t be afraid, my plan is perfect and you are a part of it. Don’t be afraid, there is no sin to big for me to handle and heal you from if you allow Me in. Don’t be afraid, I will guide and protect you with my strong Hand.

I could go on and on because when you know God through the reading of His word, you know Him personally and His promises to be true. If we could remember to place fear aside, I feel strongly we would run to our Lord and Savior “immediately”. We would serve, follow, listen and allow Him to guide us always and respond “immediately” to His request and nudge.

I pray as we each go throughout the week that each of us will reflect and ponder what it is we are afraid of when it comes to our Father in Heaven. Is it a fear of forgiveness, acceptance, loss of control or something else? If we can identify the fear, allow God to remove it and heal us our trust, desire to follow Him and peace will follow.

 

*I’m posting my blog a few days early this week because I leave tomorrow morning for Trinidad to spend the week with the women of Grace Church. I’m so honored to have the opportunity to lead their women’s retreat this year and welcome your prayers for God to lead and guide each word and action of the week.*

 

Out of the Blue?

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I can’t tell you how incredible it was to read through the Old Testament in chronological order. God opened my eyes to so many new and amazing things. However, I am so VERY grateful to be moving on to the New Testament this week. Glory!!! I appreciated Jesus and His sacrifice before, but today I can honestly say I have a greater and deeper appreciation for Him than ever before. This year’s journey is changing my heart to look more like His and showing me the great power of His word in ways I’ve never known. That said, let’s get into some gospels!

The beginning of Luke reminds us this book was a letter to Theophilus. We don’t know anything about Theophilus except the book of Acts was also a letter written to him. Even though it’s thought that Luke was written after both Matthew and Mark, I pause on his book today because Luke was an avid researcher and Gentile. He didn’t take the stories of Jesus lightly and investigated them in detail before compiling his letter.

Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed. Luke 1:1-4

In fact, without the book of Luke we wouldn’t know as much as we do about the life of Jesus. Scholars have even said that almost 60% of Luke (HCSB, pg. 1725) isn’t even mentioned in the other gospels. Unique to Luke is information on: the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, more detailed travel information, the Emmaus road experience, the only description of Jesus’s ascension into Heaven and much more. For me, this illustrates the obsession Luke had for research and detail.

And John the Baptist . . . many of us know his amazing story of being born to Elizabeth (who was to old to conceive) after an angel appeared to her husband in the temple and how John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary (who was pregnant with Jesus) came to visit. All that information really stands out, but I came across this little nugget about John the Baptist that stood out to me. It’s just one verse.

The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel. John 1:80

John was clearly sent by God to foretell of the coming of Jesus. God ensured his parents (although old) had a firm foundation and clearly brought him up under God’s laws, but they were old so either they died and left John, they just couldn’t keep up with him because of their age so he roamed the wilderness or he just liked the wilderness. Whatever the case, what’s amazing to me is that He stayed tucked away, out of the public eye only to step out at the age of 30 and begin a very public ministry foretelling of the Savior of the world and Son of God.

Wow! Think about it. He went from wilderness to the spot light overnight. If you ever doubt that God can take your set of skills (no matter how insignificant they seem to you) and use them for His glory, I pray you will remember John the Baptist. If you ever feel as if you don’t have enough experience or God doesn’t have a plan for your life, I pray you will remember John the Baptist. I wonder how John finally realized his role for God’s Kingdom? What made him set out at the age of 30 to begin telling others about Jesus? These and so many more questions keep me coming back to God’s story day after day?