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Reflections of Grace Slider

We have been looking at the following scripture up close and personal.

Isaiah 26: 3, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trust in you!!

Last week we got up to “him whose mind is steadfast.  This week we are starting with:

“Because he trusts in you”….. the Hebrew word trust is batach, to attach oneself.  To confide in, feel safe, be confident, secure.   Picture a baby with her mom or dad, don’t we want to trust God like that child who is utterly dependent.

  • Let’s pray for a deeper trust to have an open mind so God can work in our lives.   His plan for us is not to harm us but to prosper us!!  Jeremiah 29:11…
  • Invite Him once again to be the watchman over your mind.

Now let’s look at this word out of 2 Corinthians 10:5taking thoughts captive

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

  • Divine power to demolish strongholds!!  The word for demolish in Hebrew implies a kind of destruction requiring tremendous power—divine power.   You might think of it this way:  A stronghold is anything we hold onto that ends up holding us.
  • Much of the reason believers end up in a yoke of slavery is because we swat at our own strongholds like they are gnats.  Strongholds are like concrete fortresses we’ve constructed around our lives block by block, ordinarily over the course of years.  We created them, whether or not we were aware, for protection and comfort.  Inevitably these fortresses become prisons.  At some point we realize we no longer control them but they control us..

When did you last break a stronghold in your own strength and end up feeling powerless and totally defeated?   Do you see any patterns?demolishing strongholds

  • Human effort is useless in demolishing strongholds.  No amount of discipline or determination will do it.  Satanic strongholds require divine demolition.  Discipline and determination often help in opening your life to the supernatural power of God, but only he can provide the divine dynamite.
  • Interesting point I have seen is that Satan’s power comes from his power to bluff.  Once we learn the truth and how to use it, he loses his hold.

Think about a stronghold you have experienced my friend.  What part did insecurity play in it?

Insecurity played a major part in the strongholds the enemy built in my life.  An important part of learning for me to live in victory has been discerning the heart rumblings of insecurity.

  • My stronghold of weight story is included in this podcast that I have been sharing each week.
  • To be filled with Him works its way to our whole being, spirit, soul and body.   We are trying to fill that hole in our soul with food.   And it has created an endless cycle of defeat in our lives.
  • Our greatest inmost desire is for the love of God, even though we don’t realize it most of the time.  The Hand of God carves out places in us only He can fill.   Oh what a day of rejoicing when we really get this.  He can fill us up when food cannot!!  He wants to flood your life with His unfailing love.

I had to learn to pour out my heart to God and acknowledge every hollow place.  I had to surrender my eating habits to Him every day

“When you make a daily practice of inviting His love to fill your hollow places and make sure you are not hindering the process, God will begin to satisfy you more than a double cheeseburger.”    …Halleluiah!!

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Jesus in HD Slider

We are going to begin this week’s PODCAST precisely from where we left off in last week’s podcast.

We left off last week by considering together this most enigmatic verse:

“Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8)

If you are at all uncomfortable with that, then the rest of this story will make no sense, and will leave you with an even greater discomfort.

But if you are willing to allow for the fact that “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered,” then you are in for this great big blessing: The grand and glorious realization that Jesus, just like you and just like me, learned in real time what it means to live a life of obedience to God the Father.

We stressed last week, and I will ever-so-briefly remind you now, that Jesus was fully human, just like us.

Last week we discussed some of the implications of Hebrews 4:15, where the writer emphatically affirms this ever-so-comforting reality:Jesus Praying Tired

Jesus “understands all of our human weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings and temptations we do, yet He did not sin.”

Jesus experienced every human emotion, felt keenly every human feeling — including our feelings of fear, insecurity, uncertainty, abandonment, betrayal.

I mean, you just wait until we get to the Garden of Gethsemane, at which time there will be no doubt that in Jesus 100% deity meets 100% humanity, with all that that word humanity implies.

As we saw so vividly last week, life threw at Jesus unexpected challenges, unanticipated conflicts, undeserved difficulties, uninvited troubles… Just like life throws at us.

Jesus learned, just as so many of us are now learning, that sometimes, perhaps even most times, our richest life lessons can be taught only in the crucible of calamity.

By the reading of books our minds become broad. But it is only as we walk the pathway of pain that our souls become deep.

Something that Jesus learned. Something that we are each learning.

“Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered.”

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Christian teaching how to influence the culture in the culture war.

Some people who are “Born Again”… and KNOW that they are born again… You see, you’ll know that you know when you are. But, when you’re not sure, then you probably aren’t. But some people who are and know that they are are what I call a “Point In Time” Christian.

A Point in Time Christian is someone who may not remember the exact date, but they remember the circumstance – it may have been at a revival meeting or Harvest Crusade, it may have been kneeling beside your bed with your Grandpa, it may have been at camp, or even in front of your television… either way, you remember the circumstance when you prayed and asked Jesus Christ to enter your life.
This accounts for about two-thirds of people who claim to follow Christ.
But here’s the problem with being a “Point in Time” guy: there are more of them than there are what I call “Process Christians”, so therefore, Point in Time Christians tend to want Process Christians to have a time, date, and place. Why do they want this for them? Because it’s the way that they got saved, so Point in Timers want to make sure that Processors are in fact saved so that they can be sure that they are in… as if the Point in Timers are fruit inspectors at the holy gates or something.
So, Point in Timers make life really tough for Processors.
Now, Process Christians are people who acknowledge that at some point in time they were born again, but they are not exactly certain when that was. All that they know is that right now they know that they know that they know. They’re just not sure when it happened.

Either way, the Bible is very clear that if we want to spend eternity with God and be saved from an eternity without Him, then we must be born again.

In John 3:9-15, we learn that this didn’t make sense to Nicodemus. He asked Jesus,What Do You Mean Born Again?

“How can these things be?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and you do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak that We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that it, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”

In other words, Jesus said, “I’m putting it as plainly as I can. I know what I’m talking about here. I am God!” Jesus continued:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus comes right out of left field with this line.
Consider your basic, everyday, run of the mill snake.moses snake on a stick

In the Old Testament, Numbers 21 tells the story that Jesus is referring to. You see, every time that the Hebrews messed up, God had to lay a heavy on them to get their attention. At one point, they grumbled about the food He had provided for them, so He laid a real big heavy on them. He sent some little red snakes to bite them.
Every time a little red snake bit somebody, they would die.
The Israelites cried out, “Oh, Moses! This is the heaviest heavy that God has ever laid on us. Go pray like crazy and ask God to lighten up!”
Moses returned with some good news and some bad news: The bad news was that God was not getting rid of the snakes. Every time God got rid of the snakes or their equivalent, the people stopped trusting God. The good news was that if they made a bronze stick with a golden snake on it and if they looked on the snake after getting bit, they would be healed and would not die. God gave them the world’s best snakebite kit, but he didn’t get rid of the snakes.
The Hebrews had four responses.Snake Bite
Some refused to follow God’s instructions, followed their own thinking, and died.
Some thought that there must be other options to being healed from the snake’s venom. There’s no way that God’s instructions are THE ONLY way to be saved. They died.
Some took off and ran far away from where all the snakes were thinking that they could run away from the situation at hand. But the snakes were there, too and they were bit. But by the time they turned to look for the golden snake, they had wandered so far away that there were hills between them and camp. They couldn’t see it. They died.
But, some, after being bit by the snakes, did as God told them and immediately looked upon the golden serpent. They didn’t die.
They did things the way that God said to do them.
And, Jesus, who is God, said, “You must be born again.”

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Reflections of Grace Slider

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you!!” (Isaiah 26: 3 )

Let’s take a look at this word up close and personal:

  1.  “You will keep” …Satan is very cunning.  Our knowledge alone will not keep us protected.  What we need is a watchman.  And we do have Jesus who is willing and able if we will set our minds on him.
  • The Hebrew word for keep is nasar, meaning to guard, keep, and protect.   The Holy Spirit is the perfect watchman over our minds.
  • Surrendering our thought lives to God is not just a means to more consistent victory.  It is the safeguard against being given over to defeat.
  • Give God your whole heart and mind.World-Peace-Scrabble
  1. “in perfect peace”  The Hebrew term translated perfect peace means ‘shalom’ meaning to be safe, be complete, whole , secure…it denotes a satisfied condition, a state of peacefulness, and a sense of well being.
  • Just as surely as the kingdom of God prospers when we are steadfast in Him, so do our hearts and minds.
  • God is faithful to His word.  If you remain steadfast in Him you will be built up.

3.  Him whose mind is steadfast”.    We see events from our own perspective and context.  Have you noticed how two people can look at the same experience so differently?  They put the picture of what happened in different frames and act accordingly.  Our reaction depends on how we framed the event.

  • When temptations and troubling thoughts come the steadfast believer chooses to lay her hand on God’s word and know that it is the truth.
  • The Holy Spirit never fails to bring our minds comfort when we fight this fight.  He promises actually, His perfect peace.

Included in this podcast is my stronghold of weight story I have been sharing each week.

  • Remember, anything that cheats you of what God has for you in this life could be a stronghold.   He wants you free to enjoy His provisions for you spirit, soul, and body.

Write these scriptures down and meditate on them.God-loves-you-sparklers

  • Did you know?

You are deeply and completely loved. (Romans 8:38–39)

You are totally and completely forgiven. (1 John 2:12)

When God sees you, he sees the righteousness of Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

You mean the whole world to him. (John 3:16)

He thinks you are beautiful. Right now. (Song of Songs 4:1)

He is committed to your restoration. (Romans 8:29)

You are not now, nor have you ever been, alone. (Hebrews 13:5)

Meditate on these scriptures friends. They will completely change the way you think about yourself.

For more information, visit ReflectionsOfGraceHome.com

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Christian teaching how to influence the culture in the culture war.

Nobody consulted you and asked you if you wanted to be born.
They just “had” you.
Then, a generation later, you had your kids. You didn’t consult them beforehand, either.
So, when we are born, we have life. And, one of these days, each and every one of us are going to die. Therefore, life is basically the dash between two dates. We see it on tombstones across the globe. Another definition for life is this: Life is a sexually transmitted disease that is 100% fatal!
The bottom line is that life is the period of time that you get to solve the problem of being born spiritually dead.
We are born physically alive. But because we are born in Adam’s sin, we are born spiritually dead. So, the thing that you don’t want is for physical death to catch you spiritually dead. You want to solve that problem while you can. And you can solve that problem while you are physically alive, but you cannot solve the problem when you are physically dead.
Eternity hangs in the balance.
Now, there are some people – very noteworthy, educated folks like theologian John Stott – who have put together a very convincing argument for something called “Annihilationism”. What they present is that eternal punishment is contrary to God’s nature of being eternal love, and that rather than having to spend eternity in conscious awareness in hell, since fire has the property of consuming that which it encounters, people cease to exist as an entity and are annihilated.
But, I’m afraid Annihilationism is pie in the sky because it doesn’t hold to Scripture. I wish it were true. It seems to be a better alternative than eternal torment, but I’m not God, so I can’t make the rules… and neither can Mr. Stott.Heaven Hell Escalator
The Bible supports the concept called hell. And, the Bible states that if physical death catches you spiritually dead, then you spend eternal awareness in the absolute absence of God.
Now, that’s minimal. I don’t know about the fire part, or the whaling and gnashing of teeth, but minimally, you will spend eternity in a timelessness where there is the absolute absence of God.
But, if while you are physically alive, you solve the problem of spiritual death, and are “born again”, then you spend eternity with God.
You see, you were born physically – that’s the first birth; “born again” – that’s the second birth, which is spiritual birth. So, when you see the term “born again”, you can better understand it now. And the Bible says that this spiritual birth has to happen before we die physically.
If it does, then we spend eternity in the presence of the living and loving God.Girl Wind Blowing Face

John 3:8 says:

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

Have you ever stood in the wind? When you feel the wind blow across your face, you don’t know where it comes from, nor where it is going. We know, scientifically, that it may have been derived from a high pressure zone overhead and gravitated toward a neighboring low pressure zone, but its original location and final destination are unknown. But, you do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, where it is when it blows across your face.
That’s the way it is when you are born again.
It’s tough to describe, but you’ll know that you know that you know when you know. But when you don’t know, then there’s no way of knowing.
This is what John 3:8 is talking about.

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Jesus in HD Slider

Welcome to one of the strangest stories — many would call this a troubling tale — in Jesus’ entire life and ministry.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, what happens here in Mark 7, and its parallel passage in Matthew 15, seems highly uncharacteristic of Jesus; uncharitable to a tragically needy-yet-remarkable mommy; and unnecessarily cold and calloused as far as a Jesus is concerned.

A Jesus, I will humbly remind you, who defined Himself as “gentle” in Matthew 11, and who described His mission as one “to seek and to save the lost in Luke 19.

As you read this story, at first blush anyway, Jesus was Anything. But. Gentle in the way He spoke to this panic-stricken mother who was understandably distraught over the condition of her daughter.

Tell you what: If His mission was to seek and to save the lost, you couldn’t find anyone more lost than this woman.

As we read this story together (it’s only 8 verses in Matthew’s account), you tell me if you find this encounter between Jesus and this mom at all unsettling or unnerving. Put yourself in the mom’s sandals for a second and imagine that Jesus is talking to you about your little girl.jesus_canaanite_woman

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matthew 15:21-28)

A happy ending to be sure.

But what an insensitive, ungracious, uncaring way to get to that happy ending..

You talk about showing a little kindness (as we did last week), there was no kindness shown to this woman; no kindness of any kind was shown to her at all. Until the very end.

Jesus (apparently) ignored her (“Jesus did not answer a word.”), then (apparently) refused and rebuffed her (“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”), then (apparently) belittled her (“It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”).

Curiously enough, that’s it as far as Jesus’ road trip up North into what is today Lebanon, what was then Phoenicia, was concerned.

This one strange story.

And as always, my friend, we have much to talk about.How Human Was Jesus

You see, when I try to understand what Jesus was doing in this scene of His life, I start with the question: How human was Jesus?

While Jesus was on earth, He – out of necessity – laid aside the independent usage of many of His divine attributes. Most notable of these are the three “omni’s”: Omnipotence, Omnipresence, and Omniscience.

For example, Jesus exercised His omnipotence (all-powerfulness) when He stilled the raging storm. But then, He immediately laid it aside afterward when He got exhausted and fell asleep in the back of the boat. How could someone be omnipotent and exhausted simultaneously?

He also, quite obviously, laid aside his omnipresence since He was localized to wherever His one body traveled. He couldn’t be two places at one time.

He also laid aside His omniscience – knowing everything… sometimes.

When He spoke to the women at the well, He exercised His omniscience. He told her things about her personal life than only omniscient God could know. But there were times when He laid aside His omniscience and there were things that He didn’t know, including the day that God will return to earth, as we read in Mark 13:32 –

But no one knows the day or the hour. No! Not even the angels in heaven know. The Son does not know. Only the Father knows.

So, when Jesus was born, He did not possess a mental checklist of events that needed to occur between the manger and the cross. He knew He was going to the cross. He knew when He was going to the cross – Passover. But there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that He had every single event of His life completely laid out for His knowledge and understanding. Therefore, there were times when He would be caught by surprise.

Examples: Did Jesus know in advance that He would be rejected in Capernaum and have to leave His hometown? Did He know that He would be totally and completely rejected in Nazareth? Did He know that John the Baptizer was going to be murdered? If He did know, then why did the news of the event shake Him to the core?

So, getting back to this week’s story in Tyre, if you are willing to accept that Jesus was fully God AND fully human, then I believe that these events were unexpected to Jesus and He was simply trying to get His legs back under Him, just like we experience when unexpected events rock our world.

Therefore, maybe – just maybe – Jesus understands our personal dilemmas more than we give Him credit for. Because His world got rocked, too.

Jesus was trying to get away. He hid out in a house, trying to escape for a bit. Then, this heartbroken mother sought Him out and invaded His schedule. She came shouting loudly, begging for mercy, telling Him about her little girl’s suffering.

And Jesus did not answer at all… not a single word.

I don’t believe He did this out of rudeness. If you look at how she was shouting – “as if from a long way off”, then she wasn’t nearby enough for Him to speak to her. He would have needed to shout back… from inside the house that he was retreating in.

He couldn’t answer her. She was too far away.

When she finally came closer, then He spoke with her.

Well… actually, when He first spoke, He didn’t answer her. She was still too far away. He answered His disciples.

In fact, I believe that He was still processing – out loud, even – what was occurring in this foreign land and how these events were going to affect the mission He was sent on – to save the lost sheep of Israel. He had ministered to Gentiles before, but they had always come to Him in Israel, for all of Israel to see, hear and learn from.

Once she approached Him, then He spoke with her. And His words seem quite cold and calloused… unless you understand the rabbinic teachings of Jesus’ faith tradition. The rabbis said:

“As the sacred food was intended for men, but not for the dogs, so the Torah was intended to be given to the chosen people, but not to Gentiles.”

That’s what Jesus was taught in Sabbath School.

But, Jesus misquoted them. He changed the word for “dog”. Instead of the word meaning wild mongrels, he used the word meaning a dog who is loved, accepted and treated like a member of the family.

It’s as if He were going back and forth with the should I / could I debate as he processed her request, and where and when it was made.

After thinking it through, when He arrived at the answer, He told her, “You have mega-faith! Your request is granted!!” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

In other words, Jesus didn’t know exactly what to do at that very second. He needed a second to pray, seek God and assess the situation. He’s a lot like me… and I love that!

And I believe that all this explains an otherwise tough-to-understand in Hebrews.

Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)

Jesus suffered rejection in Capernaum, rejection in Nazareth, rejection by Herod Antipas, the murder of His beloved cousin John the Baptist, attacks from Jerusalem rabbis… and this was just the beginning!

In these chapters, we are watching Jesus – even though He was fully God – learning to walk in obedience to the will of His Father.

Just like you and I need to learn how to do.

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Reflections of Grace Slider

  • If we are made new in Christ why do we avoid dealing with certain areas of our life? Why do we tolerate people treating us the way they do? How is it that we keep finding ourselves repeating the same old dysfunctional patterns? We ask these questions because we recognize we’re stuck in behaviors that we know are not a part of God’s will. Even when we know the answer as to why we do what we do, we often stay stuck.
    • Learning to merge off of the broad way and onto the narrow road is a process that he wants to work in you, not a requirement he’s made for you. It’s simply a matter of learning to lean into him a bit more each day and leaning away from what draws you down the broader road. You can’t do this alone.
    • Learning to live out of your spirit, rather than your intellect or emotions alone, will take some time. Ask him to show you the next step ahead and relax in a growing trust that he will. The Spirit makes his direction clear in a variety of ways–it might be that stray thought in your mind, affirmed by something that you read or hear, perhaps even a lyric of a song in the background that resonates with your heart.
    • Don’t look for a “voice” per se, but a growing awareness of his thoughts in your mind. Of course, familiarity with his words in Scripture and conversations with others on a similar journey will also bring clarity to what he’s showing you.narrow path
    • As you learn to live more on the narrow road, you’ll have a better idea just how destructive the broad way was, to yourself and others. Rather than be embarrassed by it, embrace that new reality. One of the most redemptive things we do on the narrow road is to go back to people we’ve wronged, seek their forgiveness and offer restitution where we can. Such moments bring great healing and clarity to all involved. Yes, it may not be easy, but that’s exactly the point of the narrow road–most fruitful things aren’t fun at the outset, but yield great joy later on.

A continuation of my own story:

  • Do you have the voice speaking to you in any area?   Do you battle the negativity it brings?  The fear?  The dread?  What have you been believing as a result of this constant voice in your head?my mind is a mess
  • What do I mean when I say “The Voice”?  There is another voice, other than our own.  We have all kind of put up with at different junctures of our journey in life.  Everyone has “The Voice”.  Psychologists have called it the internalized parent, or the inner critic. It is that record that plays in our heads telling us stuff that is not true, but because it is so familiar we believe what it is saying about ourselves.  We sometimes perceive The Voice as the enemy of our souls attempting to keep us from moving into the plans God has for us because we believe what “The Voice” is telling us.   It is interesting though, that our voices take on the familiar sound of our mothers, fathers, or authority figures.
  • Remember the old picture of an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other?
  • Releasing myself from the grip of The Voice, that felt so much like me, felt like ripping something from my psychic; separating my body from my mind.  Yet, for so many years I equated most everything I did with how I looked doing it.   It seemed I was always standing outside myself watching myself, not in a loving accepting way, but in a critical way, hating what I was seeing.
  • I was not aware of how much I was under the influence of the Voice until I began to eradicate it from my mind.     And with its departure I felt weak at first and diminished, somehow.     When I was in total agreement with The Voice I had convinced myself that my only recourse is to be ashamed of myself and to continually try harder to get it right.  I didn’t realize that the only way to get it right is to get rid of The Voice and crawl out of the yo-yo box of dieting to try to get it right.
  • When The Voice left in increments as I grew into a mindfulness and awareness of who I really was outside of my distorted image of myself, it was like breathing for the first time in my life free of all pollutants.    I knew my accuser, Satan, had no more of a foothold into my head, and I could now separate from that which is not me.
  • I could now learn to love life without the familiar record playing in my mind of my past.
  • And I was less willing to endure suffering as a result of my compulsive eating.

My encouragement and exhortation for you is this:  Choose freedom over familiarity!

Learn more about my ministry at www.ReflectionsOfMercyHome.com

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Jesus in HD Slider

In this PODCAST, you are about to see a side of Jesus that you’ve likely never seen before.

Your love for Jesus is about to grow exponentially. And rightly so.

Let’s begin by reading Matthew 15:15-20 –

15 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”

16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”

We have come to a defining moment in Jesus’ life and ministry. And clichés seem to abound.

Such as “Piling On”.jesus-wept

Emotionally, physically, an spiritually, Jesus was at rock bottom at this point of His story… to the point where he retreated to the North. He had been run out of His hometown of Capernaum, as He was run out of the town of His birth, Nazareth. He said Himself in Matthew 8:20,

“The Son of Man has no place to lay His head”

He was homeless and rejected.

He was also on the run. Herod had just killed His cousin, John the Baptist, and was now gunning for Jesus.

So, He looked to the local leaders of His religion – the Rabbis, Pharisees and Scribes of Jerusalem. They, after all, had traveled far from Jerusalem to be near Him. But, they didn’t come to offer Jesus comfort.

They came to “kick a man when he is down” and “shoot the wounded” (aka “pile on”). In fact, when they came upon Him, they didn’t offer condolences. They went on the attack:Condemning Pharisees

Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.” (Matthew 15:1-2)

Now, I know that we don’t typically think of Jesus as being “down and out”, but He had His moments. The Bible tells us that when Lazarus died, “Jesus wept”. Not just cried a little, or shed a slight tear, but WEPT. So, it should be no surprise that He would feel the same when His cousin, partner in ministry, and person who baptized Him was put to death.

What Jesus really needed from His fellow Bible-believing Rabbis was a listening ear and kind word. But instead, they zealously criticized and condemned Jesus for allowing His followers to disobey their rules.

They just didn’t care.

They were more interested in being right than anything else.

It’s a lot easier to focus on how right you are and condemn someone than to focus on somebody’s redemption.

So, how did Jesus react? What did He say in regards to the hearts of the condemning religious leaders?

17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” (Matthew 15:17-20)

They thought that eating without observing their hand-washing rules was what would defile someone, but Jesus was not bound by their rules. He knew their hearts. He knew God’s rules. He knew what was truly required by God Almighty.

They didn’t hold anything back in their self-righteous condemnation; and Jesus, in Matthew 23, didn’t hold back in setting the record straight:

23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!

25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Let me share a bit about where my heart is, especially in regards to these passages.

Recently, acclaimed blogger Matt Walsh visited a church service near a convention where he was speaking. To be bluntly brief, Matt said that he didn’t care for the service. The music was too fluffy and the sermon had too many stories. So, Matt went into “blog attack” mode. Matt wrote:

If the faith is to regain lost ground in this country, it will only happen when Christianity is presented and understood as what it is: a warrior’s religion. A faith for fighters and soldiers. CS Lewis said it best (as usual):

Enemy-occupied territory–that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.

There. There it is, explained more compellingly in two sentences than many pastors can muster in a lifetime of sermons. This is frightening, militant language, but it’s exciting, it’s exhilarating, and it is, most importantly, accurate. As Christians, we are fighting a war against the Devil himself. We are advancing against the darkest forces of the universe, and we march with God by our side. And all the while, all around us, on a dimension invisible to mortal eyes, angels and demons and supernatural forces, both good and evil, work to defend or destroy us.

The stakes are infinite. Our souls hang in the balance. We are standing on a battlefield where the hope of eternal life awaits the loyal soldiers. The Psalms say “praise be the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war.” This is the feeling and the attitude that our leaders and churches should be stirring in us. This is the truth of this life and of this faith that we claim. It’s a ferocious, formidable, terrifying, joyful truth. It’s the truth that Scripture spends over 1,000 pages trying to explain. It’s the truth that should be shouted from the rooftops of every church and proclaimed from the mouths of every Christian.

I thought the Crusades were long over.

Isn’t this – declaring war against someone – exactly what the Pharisees did to Jesus 2,000 years ago? Did they read Matt’s blog?

As for me, I don’t want a call to arms. I just want to know God.

I reflect on Jesus’ words in John 1:17 –

17 The Law was given by Moses, but Jesus Christ brought us undeserved kindness and truth.

Undeserved kindness.

Imagine what the world would be like if we reacted with undeserved kindness more often. Imagine what the Biblical account would be if the religious leaders of 2,000 years ago would have reacted with undeserved kindness, instead of what we read in Acts 4:9-10

If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.

The same religious leaders who Jesus confronted were now about to imprison Peter for showing undeserved kindness to a lame man. They weren’t concerned about anyone’s redemption. They were only concerned about Peter’s breaking of the rules, touching a lame man and defiling himself.

Did you know that the word “Kindness” appears in the Bible 354 times? Maybe that’s a clue for us.

Maybe we need more kindness… much more kindness; and much less condemnation.

I can’t put it any better than the Apostle Paul did in Acts 20:24 –

24 But I don’t care what happens to me, as long as I finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do. And that work is to tell the good news about God’s great kindness.

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Reflections of Grace Slider

Today we will talk about the difference in the spirit, which is the part of you that is alive unto God, and the soul, which are our mind, will and emotions.  It is the soulish realm, our minds that keep us bound to strongholds.  Simply put, it is the renewing of our minds that will set us free.  When we accepted Jesus and His atonement into our hearts we were born again.   Our spirits were alive unto God and we know we have eternal life with him.  Our minds however, are still functioning out of our old patterns, records, lifestyles, etc.  It is the mind that has to be renewed daily by God’s word to us that will begin to reveal and set us free from strongholds.

James 1: 22-25 says,

“But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth]    For if anyone only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror;    For he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like.   But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, what determines the path you take?

  • Sometimes it’s as simple as following the flesh’s desire, either to maximize our happiness, or to minimize our pain in whatever circumstance we are in. But, to simply do what’s easiest, what makes us feel good, what soothes our ego, or what is in our financial or personal self-interest, will usually work to our destruction if we are not listening to our spirits. We can easily lose ourselves just going along with the distractions of this age, be they too much entertainment, political arguments, or the mundane chores of life.
  • At other times it can be far subtler, the still lingering coping mechanism that helped us survive childhood trauma, but now leads us to harmful routes.
  • Religious obligation provides a compelling voice in most situations, especially since we’re doing what we have to do, not what we want to do. But it is all the more dangerous because it appears to be righteous even as it draws us into the appearance of self-denial.
  • Even trying to build a ministry or an income stream from it, instead of simply making God’s gifts available will drive us to choices that will prove more hurtful than helpful..and create strongholds in our lives.
  • We find the narrow road when we find rest in his love for us and then recognize his leading as he offers us a different way to see what’s going on around us. We often don’t even see a new way of thinking until he nudges us towards it.   Then He shows us how to break the power of the past over ourselves.
  • God speaks to all of us. You don’t have to be a spiritual giant. You only have to have a heart that wants to follow him and he will teach you how he speaks to you and invites you into life.  He will show you those hidden areas we are bound up in.hearing-god
  • You may think you have never heard him, but that may only be because you have not yet learned to recognize how he speaks to you. I’ve no doubt he’s speaking, but you may be looking for a voice instead of a nudge or wanting him to say something different than what he is saying. Listening to him is not living by feelings, but by recognizing those impulses he brings to your mind and following them.
  • One thing I know about people who listen to God, they don’t act destructively and they aren’t arrogant about what they think they hear. Learning to listen to God is a humbling process. You just have an impulse in your heart you can’t explain. It grows over time, but he is never forceful or manipulative, and that is also true of people learning to listen to him. They can be firm, but not defensive and are always willing to sacrifice for others, instead of asking others to sacrifice for them.
  • He wants to be with us in those moments to help us navigate our experience in a broken world and be transformed through it. He invites us to participate with him, which is why love and obedience go hand in hand in the Scriptures. As you grow to trust his love you will want to obey him, and it’s in following him that you get to live in the fruit of his love.
  • How we live either leads us more into his life, or draws us away from it, whether we’ll contribute to his redemption in the world, or be part of its destruction. That’s what Jesus meant when he affirmed those who followed him….,
  • “Well done! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25: 21)

  • This is not about earning his life by our obedience, but participating with him as he transforms and sets us free.

Isaiah 29:16 says:

“You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay.  Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, He did not make me?  Can the pot say of the potter, He knows nothing?”

 My personal Illustration follows in this podcast!!

For more information about my ministry, visit www.ReflectionsOfGraceHome.com

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Jesus in HD Slider

With this PODCAST, we break the seal on the last year of Jesus’ life here on earth.

And admittedly, His last year begins on a rather ominous note.

Immediately following this story, Jesus will leave the country. That is no exaggeration. For the first time in His storied 3½ year ministry, Jesus now has to get out of Dodge, fast!

As we have seen in past podcasts, Jesus was run out of His adopted hometown of Capernaum. He was then run out of Nazareth, His boyhood hometown. On top of that, Herod Antipas was hunting Jesus in order to kill Him (this in the wake of Herod’s senseless execution of John the Baptizer). And so we read this in Mark 7:24:

“Then Jesus left Galilee and went North to the region of Tyre” (in modern-day Lebanon).

Yes, indeed. Jesus was literally run out of Galilee and run out of the country.

Something significant happened in this story, here in Mark 7, that forced Jesus to go North and out of the country, rather than South to the familiar environs of His beloved Jerusalem.

What in the world happened?

What did Jesus do? Or more accurately, what did Jesus fail to do? A failure that caused a cataclysmic religious scandal. A scandal so serious that Jesus fled to the North. Which, by the way, is the exact same word that Matthew used in his telling of this story: scandal.

Let’s begin by reading Mark 7:6-7hypocrite

Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce,
    for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’

WOW! Talk about a rebuke of all rebukes!!

To put Jesus’ words into context, let’s back up a few verses to Mark 7:1

Some Pharisees and several teachers of the Law of Moses from Jerusalem came and gathered around Jesus. 

They came all the way from Jerusalem?! Jesus had traveled north to Tyre to get away from Jerusalem, but they came after Him with an agenda to confront, condemn and harass Him! All because Jesus was a rabbi who failed to recite the “party line”.

But, what in the world could He have done (or not done) that upset the religious leaders so much that caused Jesus to flee north and caused the Pharisees to pursue Him? And not only was it evident that Jesus had offended the religious leaders, but His disciples picked up on it to, as we read in Matthew 15:12

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”

So, what was this scandal that Jesus put Himself into? What rocked the Jewish boat so much that it put Jesus smack dab in the middle of Jerusalem’s deadly scope? We read this in Mark 7:2-5condemning preacher

They noticed that some of his disciples ate without first washing their hands.

The Pharisees and many other Jewish people obey the teachings of their ancestors. They always wash their hands in the proper way before eating. None of them will eat anything they buy in the market until it is washed. They also follow a lot of other teachings, such as washing cups, pitchers, and bowls.

The Pharisees and teachers asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? Why do they eat without washing their hands?”

Yup. Jesus – that good for nothing, leader of people with dirty hands!

Now, let’s go back even further for even more context. In Exodus, we learn that Moses received the Law from God, Himself, high atop Mount Sinai. The heart and soul of the Law is the Ten Commandments. To be very elementary, the entire Torah (or first five books of the Old Testament) are expanded commentary and application about how to make God’s Ten Commandments work in the lives of the Israelites and throughout the Nation of Israel. Then, over the next 1,500 years or so, from Mount Sinai to the Day of Jesus, the religious leaders (or ancestors) added even more “clarity” and “application” to God’s instructions. In essence, they sought to “build a fence around the Torah”; meaning that they wanted to make sure that they were so pure before God that if the Ten Commandments draw a line in the sand, we don’t even want to get close to the line. These 613 man-made laws were upheld for so many years, that by the time Jesus began teaching, they were regarded as just as authoritative and binding as the original Torah – God’s laws!

So, Jesus’ not mandating that His disciples ceremoniously wash their hands before eating was just as sacrilegious to the Pharisees as breaking one of God’s actual Commandments.

In other words, by the time Jesus arrived on the scene, the relationship between God and His people had been redefined to be all about a person’s performance. It was all about who could out-perform whom by “doing religious stuff”, like cleaning your hands before a meal.

You can imagine what this did to fuel and seduce the religious leaders’ – and their followers’ – pride and arrogance. On the contrary, Jesus actually said:

“Blessed are the poor in sprit, for theirs alone is the kingdom of heaven.”

Judging by how the sages were teaching and living, they had their own mantra: “Blessed are the proud in spirit, because they observe the traditions of the elders”.

And Jesus hates this stuff! It’s right out of the parable in Luke 18:10-14God Looks At the Heart

10 Two men went into the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood over by himself and prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not greedy, dishonest, and unfaithful in marriage like other people. And I am really glad that I am not like that tax collector over there. 12 I go without eating for two days a week, and I give you one tenth of all I earn.”

13 The tax collector stood off at a distance and did not think he was good enough even to look up toward heaven. He was so sorry for what he had done that he pounded his chest and prayed, “God, have pity on me! I am such a sinner.”

14 Then Jesus said, “When the two men went home, it was the tax collector and not the Pharisee who was pleasing to God. If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored.”

Jesus wasn’t impressed by the holier-than-thou Pharisees, but was very interested in the poor in spirit, the humble, those who realized that they need God. As Jesus put it in Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

So, ask yourself this: Has trying to be a good enough, Godly enough Christian ever become a burden for you? Have you felt like you live in a perpetual state of Spiritual defeat because you can’t even begin to follow all the “rules”? Ever feel like Jesus’ yoke is anything BUT easy and light?

Then, perhaps you need a new perspective. The God-given rules of the Torah are actually very reasonable and logical. You need to have laws in order to live together in community. But, when these laws are encumbered by unreasonable, man-made rules that God never intended for His people to keep, then it absolutely logical that only bad can come of it.

Therefore, when the Pharisees asked Jesus why He allowed His disciples to not wash their hands before eating and disregard the teachings of their ancestors, He went straight to the heart of the matter with His response:

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites;

Now, keep in mind that Isaiah was writing about the religious leaders of his own day, as well as those in Jesus’. In Isaiah’s day, things had gotten so bad within Israel that God allowed the Babylonians to wipe out Israel and burned their temple. In the years to follow Jesus’ ministry, God would allow the Romans to wipe out the Jews and burn down their rebuilt temple.

You think Jesus’ words caught their attention?

…as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother, and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

To the contrary, when we look at Isaiah 1:17, we see what God really, truly wants from us:

Learn to do good

Too often, even Christians today get hung up on our “man made rules” of Christianity. If only we would simply learn to do good. Isaiah further defined what God wants:

See that justice is done.

In other words, treat others justly. Deal with them honestly and fairly. React to people kindly. Be a man or woman of integrity. Be trustworthy. When you err, make it right. Clear enough?

If not, James 1:27 says

This is true religion: showing compassion for the least among us.

It’s not about singing in the choir, attending Sunday School, sending your kids to Private school, standing on church committees or anything other than how you honorably treat other people. It’s about your character.

What good is it if you and I participate in every church activity that ever exists and yet we mistreat the people within the community we allegedly pray for?

That’s my point.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were so off the mark that Jesus said this:

10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”

It really all boils down to one question. The question that Jesus was asked in Matthew 22:36-40

 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Love God and love the people around you.

If you “yoke” yourself to Jesus, this all becomes easy, light and not burdensome. All you need to do is love Him, allow Him to love you; and while you’re at it, love the people around you. That’s what the Christian life is all about.

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