Access

If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Zechariah 3:1-10  How many times have we heard these instructions? These are the words spoken, to assure the high priest Joshua, that God intends to keep his promise to the faithful remnant of Israel, who after near total destruction, repent and return to Judea. Joshua himself covered in filth, is by God’s grace made clean and clothed with festal apparel and a turban for his head. Even as the enemy stands ready to accuse, God does not forsake Joshua’s desire to lead the righteous. So too, though guilty we are not forgotten as God does not forsake the repentant heart. Today, we as believers are allowed over and again to step out of the muck and the mire and be washed clean, repent and give God access to cleanse us from the inside out. This promise of access to God’s faithfulness belongs to each of us.  As he washes the filth away, and we hold to our life through Christ, by God’s grace and favor we are forever redeemed.

Don’t Size Me Up

“If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him… Luke 7:36-50  When Jesus said “I know my own and my own no me” It was people like this woman with her alabaster jar, to which he was referring. Jesus didn’t need to be a prophet to know who she was, what kind of woman she was, from where she’d come, or what she’d done or had done to her, which caused her to seek him out that day! And by her actions a prophet certainly wasn’t what she needed. What she needed was healing. What she needed was freedom from the bondage of the Law. What she needed was access, protection, salvation and ultimately what she needed was forgiveness. Jesus, knowing her, isn’t concerned with who she was before she pours out her story with that alabaster jar. That’s the good news about Christ! Before we get to the place of the woman with the alabaster jar, Jesus already knows who we are and receives us anyway. Under ordinary human circumstance what we know about others causes us to turn away from one another and we end relationships before they have a chance to begin. God’s knowledge of us is only the beginning, the foundation and the core of our relationship with him. Every time we find ourselves sizing up one another we do well to remember that only God knows the plans he has for each of us none of which is based on the mistakes or even successes of the past. Because, just like the woman and the alabaster jar, it’s what we do today in the name of Christ that really matters. What”s in your alabaster jar. Maybe today it’s time to pour out your testimony. God is waiting to receive you too.

Featured image; Painting by benedict edet©

Legacy

Give the king your justice, O God and your righteousness to a king’s son. Psalm 72  What we choose to hand down to upcoming generations is for us to consider. In the midst of all his troubles, setbacks and mishaps, King David chose righteousness. This encourages us because it shows us that doing what is right has little to do with perfection. Rather returning to God through faith has its reward. No one knows the number of days God gives. Whether the the days are many or few, people will remember how you made them feel. God has the same memory.

Return, O faithless children,…I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:6-18

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land . . . So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”

Potato Chips For Lent

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21  More than twenty plus years ago, I had a terrible “addiction” to potato chips. I didn’t realize how bad it was until one day I walked past a display of potato chip bags while in a Wawa store and my mouth started watering. I am not sure how long my body had been reacting this way, nor why on this particular day I somehow noticed it. But looking back on it, subconsciously I suppose it may have been because the season of Lent was approaching and I had been previously thinking that Lent had no real affect on me and was trying to decide whether I should have some participation in it that year. Up to that point the only thing I had ever done for Lent was to not eat meat on Fridays. I understand now that the reason this practice did not have any real affect on me was because it left fish in my diet and I loved eating fish, thus there was no sacrifice. To make maters worse, in spite of my Pavlovian response to the potato chip bags, I bought them anyway. A few days later after a scheduled doctor’s appointment, I had to come to grips with the fact that over one year I had gain 15 pounds and was heavier than I had ever been except for the time when I carried my children. It didn’t take me long to deduce that my eating habits were taking my body in a direction I knew I didn’t want to go. It was clear to me that salivating at the mouth was sign that I had been conditioned to the propensity for desiring potato chips. If I was going to achieve a healthier body, I needed to change my eating habits and potato chips were first on the list. Needless to say, Lent was tough for me that year – and yes I fell off the wagon, prayerfully only one time. But this is exactly what the season of Lent is about – consciously giving ourselves the opportunity to come face to face with our weaknesses and those things that have kept us from knowing more of God’s love for us – giving them over to God totally and completely – replacing our desire for the physical with our desire for the spiritual – forgiving ourselves when we fall – and returning with a repentant heart towards a forgiving God who is nothing less than gracious, merciful and abounding in steadfast love.

Something as delightful as a bag of potato chips had become an obstacle albeit a small one, but nonetheless and obstacle to my health. It’s easy to do in this world. But weaning ourselves off of physical things we have conditioned ourselves to become servants to is necessary if we intend to be servants of Christ. Like Paul we sometimes must commend (accept) ourselves in humility – in order that we may obtain the ultimate reward; as Paul says – having nothing and yet possessing everything.

May He who came into the world to save sinners – strengthen each of us through this season and beyond to complete the fast with humility, share in the feast of his grace and mercy upon us – and in the end, raise us up into his glory.  AMEN

Who Else But God?

“This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  Luke 15:1-10 Many years ago I was asked what was the most important relationship in my life. While others responded that their relationship with a significant other or children as the most important, I responded that it was my relationship with God. I did wonder for a little while if my feelings were skewed or distorted in some way, but then I remembered that God’s love for me is perfect. The relationships I have with my spouse and children can not compete with that perfection. So it made sense to me to put what is perfect before what is imperfect. This perfect love that God has for me is what I strive for in my relationships. I wouldn’t know how to do that if God had not given Christ into the world (John 3:16; 10:7-10). Because we are imperfect as human beings, in every physical aspect of our lives – life, death and resurrection is an ongoing process until we reach spiritual perfection of eternal life. When we hurt, disappoint and frustrate one another is it not God’s love through Christ that calls us back into relationship (Mark 12:28-33)? This I believe is what the Pharisees and leaders like them today miss. While the physical law” (of Moses or any other law) disciplines, it does not love, it does not forgive. God’s law also disciplines, but it always loves, and always forgives. So my prayer for each of us today is that as we continue to grow in understanding of God’s perfect love for us, we grow and live into the manifestation of God’s perfect love for one another with the knowledge that we are imperfect yet always striving towards the goal that is perfect in Jesus Christ (Phil 3:2-15). “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.” Luke 15:1-10

Mark 12:28-33  …you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” …“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.      

John 10:7-10  I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Overcoming The Challenge

Herod’s story helps us to understand several things. First, that John’s message was for everyone. Second, not everyone who hears the message of repentance will be committed to it. Third, for those who hear and receive it, they will make the choice to prepare themselves so that God can enter in and live according to God’s will and not the will of the self. By doing so it doesn’t make us perfect and we won’t always make the right decision but the spirit that condemns us will lead us back to John’s message of repentance of the heart. What story would we be telling if Herod chose not to honor his daughter’s request? How many decisions have we made in our own lives simply for our own self-preservation out of pride, arrogance, selfishness and fear? How many times have we in hindsight, with knowledge of Christ, wish we had made a different decision, not for things in which we have no relationship like the color of carpet, but rather in those matters that reflect our relationship to others? However, in spite of our selves and out past, God chooses to be in relationship with us, as blameless before him according to his love, which is revealed to us through Christ. As we strive to live according to God’s love, a Herod’s dilemma becomes less prevalent in our lives as we travel this journey.

A Herod Dilemma

We all know the story (Mark 6:14-29). John had been speaking the truth about Herod and John being who he was just couldn’t keep quiet about it. This of course today is not always the most popular thing to do (publicly airing other peoples’ dirty laundry) but John’s charge was a message of repentance and Herod claiming himself to be Jewish (by his family conversion) had blatantly defied Jewish law. John could have ignored this ruthless Edomite “Jewish” leader of Galilee and Perea and simply stayed focused on the ever popular “brood of vipers” living as Pharisees (Matthew 12:34). However, it seems clear that was simply not God’s plan, and not John’s destiny and he intended to follow his destiny. The message of repentance was for any one who had ears to “hear”, regardless of the polity in which they happen to align themselves. Everyone has fallen short and the time of preparation for God’s grace and mercy has come. It would cost John his life, but not before it cost Herod his integrity. This I believe is at the heart of finding our selves in a Herod’s dilemma. We all claim to be something but when the integrity of the something we claim to be is challenged, it doesn’t matter what we say or how loud we speak, our actions will speak louder. If you’ve ever been to the edge of your own integrity and fallen, you know it is a very difficult place to be, but it’s not necessarily the end, for a sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart God will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Matthew 12:37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’ 

Mark 6:20, 24-26 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.

She (Herodias) went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’ Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 

Walking The Way

Wednesday:

There is a distinct difference between humiliation and humility. Humiliation is a sense of shame brought on us either by someone else or occasionally our self. Humility is a choice we make that reflects our acceptance of who we are at the core and quiet confidence in the guidance of a spirit greater than the self. We’re all familiar with the poverty to wealth stories and the greatest of these is the birth of Our Lord and Savior, born in the most humble of circumstances. Yet the manifestation of his life embodies a kind of wealth that everyone before and after, young and old, rich and poor can only achieve if they believe. It is the peace in the knowledge that God reigns over all. Christ knew this from the very beginning and I believe it is why he walked among us in the way that he did. He didn’t need the earthly royalty, prestige, or favor because his anointing came from God. So too does our anointing come from God without regard to circumstance. So, there is no shame in walking the way of the Gospel because in it there is room for error (on our part), forgiveness and growth.

Matthew 23:1-12 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat… They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; They do all their deeds to be seen by others… They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi… All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Our enemies can be found in many places, some high, some low and occasionally within our self.