‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ Jesus’ response to the man lying by the porticos in Jerusalem could easily be a command for us. The statement reminds me of the slogan “Just do it” made popular by a notable sneaker company some years ago. Of course it is easier said than done. Much like the man in John’s Gospel, these days we have plenty of forces that hinder our own movement towards reaching our goals. We know that many successful athletes learn to rise above the physical challenges of the body as well as the external challenges from the naysayers, haters, and those who have something to gain by their success or failure. All of which affect the mind’s capacity to believe in one self. I believe from a spiritual perspective we must have the same resolve to believe in the power and authority of Christ within us as we face those same physical and spiritual challenges. How is it possible for a multitude of descendants to come from one man except by the grace of God and that same man’s fullest capacity to believe? While God does not need our cooperation for his purpose to be fulfilled, how much more are we blessed when we choose to believe? Yes we have rules, regulations and rituals, but we shouldn’t allow them to keep us from moving forward. When convention tells us that we don’t have the capacity, we shouldn’t allow them to be an excuse. Finally, when we find ourselves standing, we should not allow them to be used for gain while intentionally using them to the destruction of others. Thus, much like the Apostle Paul, our redemption and reward will be received through one sacrifice and our own capacity to believe and willingness to stand.
Why would Jesus tell his disciples not to share with anyone who he was? Peter at least is convinced. After all who could possibly perform the miracles that the disciples themselves have witnessed? However, when the word “officially” reaches the authorities and Jesus is brought before them, who among the disciples remain present to defend him? As we look back over our own life how do we share the blessings we’ve experienced? To whom do we attribute those blessings? When Jesus asks Peter and the other disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” he is asking each of us the same question. It speaks to the essence of our relationship with Christ and I believe the question goes even deeper to asks of us who are we. What have we experienced in this relationship with Christ? Are we in fact ready to defend that experience? How will people know we are, who we say we are, if we don’t first understand who Christ is within us? For Peter, Jesus was The Good Shepherd. As a sheep it’s not uncommon to experience feelings of flight; Peter and all the other disciples did. But after the resurrection, Peter would become the shepherd. Eventually, that manifestation of the resurrection comes for each us as we journey to become shepherds of our own experience with Christ. It is then that we like Peter, are no longer hesitant of the truth about who we are in Christ, bold and reconciled to share the true experience of the Gospel.
Merry Christmas! Be encouraged! We are almost to the New Year. Whatever is left undone or unaccomplished can always be attended to as the New Year turns. I know from experience that we are often our own worst critics! We don’t have to be so hard on our selves. I myself work on this everyday. I have learned that when we are working earnestly at the one thing that we love, the one thing we understand our purpose to be, we don’t have to wait for others to believe in what we can do. We don’t have to wait for others to validate who we know ourselves to be. The fact that God has given us this gift is assurance that he believes in us and has already validated who we are! By this, we can and should always believe in ourselves and continue to work for the glory of His name. For our own physical, intellectual and emotional wellbeing, it’s very important in this journey to believe. Doubt is a true enemy and will stifle or redirect us at its first opportunity. Believe in your self as a child of God, and no other resolution needs to be made. Let the Spirit of Christmas reign. Live born again, and walk in reconciliation with one another!
No doubt, we grow tired from waiting. We grow anxious. If something takes too long we get worried. We begin to believe that maybe, just maybe, the “something” that we’re waiting for is not going to happen, even when we are assured that it will. We all have experienced events that didn’t happen within the time we expected and while we were waiting all kinds of interference took place. Today I am remembering the story of Jesus falling asleep in the boat while he and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). When Jesus became tired he took the time he needed to rest. Even as they were waiting to get across the sea through a storm, Jesus slept. We often forget that physical rest is very important in this journey. We know that one day a year we celebrate Christ’s birth. One day a year we commemorate his death and one day a year we rejoice his resurrection. Throughout the rest of the year we are awaiting his coming in Glory. Amidst the pushing and the shoving, the constant attacks and distractions and the rising and calming of storms, our preparation for the coming of Christ will need to include some rest! If we have an intimate relationship with Christ, the peace of God within us is the faith and confidence we have to take the rest we need as we wait, even in the midst of those storms. When the bridegroom comes, will we be ready?
Matthew 25:1-13 Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise…As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.
Mark 4:35-41 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion..
Some might say this world is a mess. I say the world is beautiful just as God created it. It’s the people in the world who are a mess with their thoughts and actions against one another. Even in this season of Love, people still find a way to mess that up. If we just listen to the news there is more than enough hateful acts to break the spirit of any of us (if we allow it), sadly, even from those of us who say there is a God. Who then is the faithful and wise servant (Matthew 24:45-51)? The core of Christ’s message is love (love God, love neighbor as self, Matthew 22:36-40). At the heart of Christ’s message of Love is relationship; how we treat one another. If there were ever a time to be more tolerant, forgiving, patient, or kind (aspects of love), wouldn’t the celebration of Christmas be one of those times? Whatever our beliefs, whatever to which, we claim to be faithful; now is the opportunity to let our love prevail. On the 70th birthday celebration of a very dear Aunt, she shared some words that will remain with me forever. “No matter what they do, or whatever (ridiculous, stupid, painful) decision they make, I’ve simply learned to love them more.” We were speaking about our children, but as a person of faith I believe “they” could be anybody.
Psalm 53 They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one.
Matthew 22:36-40 ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ (John 1:6-8, 19-28) In today’s world perhaps we’ve all at some point and time faced modern day Pharisee types (and at other times played its role) who rightfully question authenticity. After all they’ve studied the law and presumably followed its instruction. They too have been waiting for the Messiah to come and they need to be sure. Of course, we know in the end many of them chose not to believe that the Messiah was in fact among them despite John’s message, but that’s not the point. When the question comes before us, just like John, we need to know who we are! There is no need for pretense because like John, God has already anointed us to do what he has called us to do. If we by our testimony, confess with our mouth God’s authority within us to use the gift that he has given, it’s not our fault they don’t believe or our responsibility to make them believe who we are. However, for those other times when our own authority causes us to question God’s authority and testimony within others, what will we believe? It may help us to remember, that if we ever begin to think that we are the greatest person in the room, among our profession, or even in our own ministry, we limit God’s possibilities for growth within us.
John 1:6-8, 19-28 ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,”…‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’
Life is not easy. Life is not hard. Life just is. The valley the Psalmist speaks of, is not intended to be a permanent place. We do what we have to do in order to survive and we learn that not everything is necessary. A shadow is the dark image that is cast off an object when it comes between rays of light and a surface. When we begin to walk in truth about who we are and why we are here, as we walk through the valley, it is only necessary to walk towards the light and simply allow the shadows to fall behind. We all have shadows. Our own shadow is burden enough for anyone. We don’t have to walk in other people’s shadows too. We can however, as we walk towards the light, comfort one another through the valley and we never walk alone.
Psalm 23 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil…
It’s not always easy to understand the direction our life seems to be taking, but here the Psalmist not only expresses confidence in being lead, but also understands it is to fulfill God’s will and not his own. While in Sinai, God had become angry with the people of Israel and said to Moses he would only send an angel ahead of them in to the promise land. God himself would not go with them (Exodus 33:1-6). Moses prayed asking the Lord to not send them out of Sinai if God’s presence would not go with them. Without God’s presence how will others know that they are God’s people? Without his presence how will people see God’s glory? Probably the worse punishment I could give to my children was to ignore them, a shun of sorts. Because they no longer had my attention they knew I was very angry. Of course eventually I needed to be able to speak with them to encourage them and they needed to know that in spite of the situation, I still very much loved them and would always be there for them. God chooses us and he wants to be with us, so that we too can walk the same path of righteousness in which Moses walked. After Moses’ prayed (Exodus 33:12-16) God did change his mind. I believe he always intended to remain with them through their journey and God will remain with us in our journey also.
Psalm 23 He guides me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake…
I remember in my much younger years I was afraid of the book of Revelation. I had seen the movie “The Omen” and was certain that Revelation was not a book in the bible that I wanted to read. I was okay with that until my first year in college and foolishly watched the movie again, this time with a friend who made light of the movie while I secretly feared for my life. Didn’t he understand that stuff was real! How is it that he thought the movie was funny? Several sleepless nights went past when almost suddenly as I lay motionless on the bed, I heard a voice quietly say “read the book.” I didn’t get up immediately, but the following day the words never left my head. The next weekend I made the decision to read the book and wouldn’t you know it, the makers of that movie got it all wrong. They managed to pull a few things from the scriptures but mostly what they managed to do was scare me into believing a bunch of half-truths. No wonder my friend was laughing. For the life of me, I don’t know what I was afraid of. To this day I do believe in principalities (Ephesians 6:12), but I’ve never looked at another movie in the same way. We have to know what the bible says (with use of divine inspired interpretation) for our selves in order for it to affect our lives positively. The only way to do that is to pick it up and read it. Most assuredly, it’s not the words that we should be afraid of!
Nehemiah 7:73 – 8:1-18 So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation… And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the book of the law of God. (The Israelites, after being freed from Babylonian captivity)
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Matthew 13:19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.
Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
First believe in God. Second believe in his son Jesus Christ. Third, believe in the Holy Spirit. Fourth, believe in the authority of all three over everything. Fifth, believe in your own salvation by that authority. The Canaanite woman believed. It was what led her to seek out Jesus. It led her to put aside the derogatory thoughts about her and her culture. Most assuredly, it led to the healing of her daughter. Some might say that Jesus was testing her. Why would he need to? He understood his ministry to be to the Israelites. He had no reason to test her nor answer her request. However, when she showed the kind of faith that he had hope to find among his own people, how could he deny her? His own disciples needed to see what it takes to live through this journey. It doesn’t matter what other people think of you, it matters what you believe. If Christ is willing to step out of his own box for an outsider, how much more will he provide for us in our time of need? Just continue to believe!
Matthew 15:21-28 He (Jesus) answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’