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Chronological Bible: June 30, Ever faithful…

 

Read:

  • 2 Chronicles 33:1-35:19

What one king tore down, another built back up. The idolatry Josiah sought to destroy returned. Not just from one king to the next, but over and over in the history of Israel, the leadership could not be trusted to do the right thing. Tossed to and fro, the people’s national experience wavered more than a sock puppet on a string in a hurricane.

Sound familiar? We trust in kings, in presidents, and congress. We trust in bosses and pastors and teachers. We just want someone else to make the decisions for us. We want to blindly follow. But, praise God, He created us to crave. He created us to seek and create and decide. And He created us to desire peace.

When the seas of political or societal change crash to the shore, then ebb to the sea only to build up and crash to the shore again, what should we do? We are called to faithfulness regardless of those around us. And in the sea of chaos, it is the singular faithfulness to God, our individual daily connection with Him, that will calm the raging sea. Look at the sea and like Peter you will fall. Look at the Creator and you will walk on water.

sayings of Christ: Week 14, Don’t judge…

Read:

  • “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

DO NOT JUDGE SO THAT YOU WILL NOT BE JUDGED

Judging: a difficult topic that we struggle with in the church. When can we judge? What can we judge? Can we judge actions as long as we don’t judge people? Or does judging actions actually judge people? And at some point, all of the questions boil down to the result of not knowing what to do so we judge anyway. And the cycle continues.

This week’s study is not that series of questions. As I struggled through what to teach, how to teach it, and what real-world examples could be used to prove the point, God intervened. In many ways, we have missed the point on this command. We look at the tiny intricacies of every situation and determine whether it is okay to judge and how. But the truth of the matter is that in order to understand the command, we have to try and understand the Man who gave it and how He behaved toward others.

JESUS TO HIS SEEKERS

Jesus loved all people. Yes, sometimes that love came with a stern rebuke, but He loved them nonetheless. Judging is all about putting oneself above another. Yet Jesus says to be servant of all.

Read Luke 7:36-39. What stands out to you?

There are several things here. One, in verse 39, the Pharisee judges Jesus based on the company He kept. This man invited Jesus in for dinner then judged Him because of the prostitute. How often do we do that? How often have we judged one person as unrighteous or unworthy and then judged everyone around them the same way in the spirit of guilty-by-association?

Confess that now.

Another aspect of this is that not only was the woman a prostitute, generally speaking, the act of a woman unwrapping her hair was an act of seduction. It just wasn’t done in public. Yet this woman, overcome by her love for Jesus, took whatever she had and used it. His feet needed wiping and her hair was all she had.

We can appreciate the heart of what the woman did. She was wiping away her tears with the only thing she had. But what if this happened today, and the only thing the woman had was a peasant blouse with nothing on underneath? Would we be so understanding? Or would we, like the Pharisees, shun her and judge the Man she sought to love?

If Jesus could welcome genuine expressions of love without social restrictions, why do we so harshly judge others? Yes, Jesus is God and can see her heart; but reading this account, the sum of her actions reveal her heart as well. The sum of her actions is that she loved Him. And instead of the violated social graces that waved bright and clear in the Pharisees’ minds, Jesus welcomed her and forgave her sins.

What is He showing you? What can you learn from these few verses of scripture? What judging attitudes need to be rooted up and destroyed?

I am more and more convinced that judging stems form a heart that asks “just who do you think you are?” As I write this lesson, I am confronted again and again with my own judging behaviors. And consistent in them is the deep root of arrogant pre-determination of what someone else things, feels, or what motivation is driving them. The following scripture is one where I must admit, I would have been in the crowd asking, “what on earth is going on in that man’s mind?!?” And yet, my own attitude would have cut off one of the genuine seekers.

Read Luke 19:1-10. What stands out to you?

Zaccheus sought to see Jesus so passionately that he climbed a tree. A tree. And Jesus honored that passion, once again overlooking the unconventional way the seeker came to Him. Or rather, maybe Jesus honors the unconventional. Maybe He would love to see more passionate outbursts of devotion and fewer polite greetings. Maybe He would love to receive the pure, honest, genuine love of an overwhelmed seeker than the conventional step-by-step approach we impose on those who do not believe in Jesus.

In what ways has your conventional approach squelched your passionate seeking of Jesus?

 

What were the results of Jesus’ visit to Zaccheus’ house?

 

What or whom might we be cutting off from Jesus because we rely too much on convention and overlook sincere passion?

 

What is Jesus asking you to do?

 

In comparing the account of the prostitute’s tears and Zaccheus’ exuberance, what do you find in common with their stories?

When people passionately seek Jesus, there actions often lay outside the conventional boundaries we tend to put on things. We overlook that someone can just as passionately serve Jesus in a job outside of ministry as they can inside ministry. And we overlook that someone’s passionate seeking might be someone else’s quest for personal glory. We cannot judge someone’s motivation. What we can do is passionately seek Jesus in our own lives. We can study His word and follow His lead. And what we will find is more gracious and loving community as a result.

JESUS’ TREATMENT OF THOSE WHO BETRAY

It is a great story to study those who passionately seek Jesus. It can be much easier to buy into a non-judging perspective when the person’s heart is driving toward the cross. But what about those who betray us? What are we to do with those who knowingly do something to hurt us? Let’s look at two cases where Jesus dealt with this exact issue.

Read Mark 14:27-31 and 66-72. What stands out to you?

 

How did Jesus treat Peter? Read verses 32-42 for more information.

 

Jesus knew Peter would betray Him. We often only think of Judas’ actions as betrayal, but Peter’s denial left Jesus to stand alone. It was betrayal too.

Read Acts 2:1-40. What happened to Peter after Christ ascended to heaven following the resurrection?

Peter, one of the closest disciples to Jesus, denied knowing Him, and thus betrayed Him. Jesus did not avoid the issue, but neither did He cut Peter off from the fold. He addressed it early, and when it happened, Jesus looked Peter in the eye. If Peter’s story stopped there, we would have branded him a betrayer. Yet Peter kept trying, kept seeking, and eventually stood as the first pastor at Pentacost and a great in the household of faith.

In what ways do we see a particular action of a person and pre-determine that they will never be great in faith?

 

In what ways have you been denied by someone?

 

What was your reaction?

 

What lessons can you take from Jesus’ interaction with Peter to help you the next time you feel denied or betrayed?

Peter’s betrayal of Christ overlapped in the same 24 hours as another’s betrayal. Judas was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. He was close to Christ. He left his life just like all the other disciples to follow Jesus. And yet, like Peter, Judas betrayed Christ as well.

Go back to Mark 14. Read verses 18-26, 41-46. What stands out to you?

Notice the disciples’ response in verse 18. Jesus spoke of the betrayal, but in a way that the disciples did not know which one would actually carry out the deed. In fact, they all questioned their devotion and wondered if it was they who would betray.

In verses 20-26, how did Jesus treat Judas?

Jesus continued to share the Passover meal without interruption. Judas experienced it all and Jesus knew of Judas’ plot. Again, Jesus did not shy away from the issue, while also continuing fellowship with the one who would hand Him over to be crucified.

And yet, we focus so greatly on that single act of “betrayal” that we overlook a very important point.

Read Mark 14:34-36. Who did Jesus see as the responsible decision-maker in His crucifixion?

Jesus could fellowship with Judas because He knew that His crucifixion lay in the hands of God, not of men. Many people were gunning for Jesus. The crowds had tried to toss Him off a cliff before. The crucifixion would have come about whether Judas was involved or not. Jesus knew that. And because Jesus put His faith in the faithful God and not in unfaithful man, He could endure the betrayal.

In what ways have you placed too much emphasis on the actions of men and not enough emphasis on the sovereignty of God?

 

There is more to Judas’ story that we often overlook. Read Matthew 27:1-5. What stands out to you?

 

Compare Peter’s remorse with Judas’. What do they have in common? What is different?

Both men showed remorse. Read that again: BOTH men showed remorse. And Judas actually went back to the priests and told them he was wrong. He gave back the money and admitted his guilt. Peter simply ran away, never admitting to the young girl that he knew Christ.

I point this out to show that we have judged Judas, who showed remorse for his betrayal, and we have elevated Peter, who showed remorse in a different way. We have judged one betrayal as worse than another when both betrayed and both repented. We have forgotten that Jesus knew both actions would happen and He trusted the Father more than men.

Because of our harsher judgment of Judas, there is one more thing we overlook about his story. Judas hanged himself. His remorse was great, but his self-condemnation drove him to take his own life. Jesus did not condemn him, he condemned himself. And we have spent centuries agreeing with his self-condemnation.

In what ways can your judgment of someone actually feed an already-existing reality of self-condemnation?

We think of judging in mere terms of “they hurt me so I’m cutting them off.” We lie to ourselves, believing that our condemnation will lead to the other person’s repentance. What it may very well lead to is their life-long determination that they are not worthy to be called a child of God.

Make NO EXCUSES for your condemnation of others. You have no idea what is going on in their hearts. You cannot know the impact of your judging.

Confess it now. What is Christ asking you to do right now?

sayings of Christ: Week 10, Who is Jesus?

Read:

  • Mark 8:29 “And He continued by questioning them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘You are the Christ.'”

 

WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?

Who is Jesus to you?

What three qualities, characteristics, and/or traits of His stand out most prominently to you? For each one, find at least three verses that support that.

In sharing Jesus with others, Peter and John express in few words their approach to sharing Christ: “for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20, NKJV).

In your walk of faith, what have you seen Jesus do?

 

What have you heard from Him regarding Himself, His plan for you, His desire for your life?

Reviewing your answers to the last two questions,

list out any additional qualities/characteristics/ traits you you appreciate in Jesus–and verses to support them.

Spend some time praising and thanking Him for everything He is in your life.

 

WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM–BY YOUR WORDS…

We are created in God’s image. We claim discipleship with Christ. As such, people look to us to see who Jesus is. Do we fail? Yes. Are we flawed? Yes. But still, the outside world who does not know Jesus looks to His followers to see His impact on a life.

I challenge you to take one day and categorize the words that you say. Our words speak volumes as to what is in our heart and mind. Our words reveal our thoughts, our motivations, and our plans.

What are your words revealing about you? For the next day, for every comment or series of comments made, mark which of the following categories that comment falls into: praising God; edifying another person; thanking someone; asking politely; tearing down another person; gossip; complaint; demanding; other (specify).

There are no excuses. Be honest, be accurate. Hiding the reality of your day-to-day interactions will not help you change them.

What do the results of this assessment reveal?

 

Does this assessment reveal an accurate picture of Christ?

 

What needs eradication?

 

What would you like to see more of in your words?

As Jesus for help! He longs to teach you.

 

WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM–BY YOUR ACTIONS…

“Actions speak louder than words,” or so we say. The Bible tells us that it is from the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks. With that being true, where do actions come from?

I submit that actions come from what we truly believe. Words come from the things we meditate on, the things we speak about. If you think kind thoughts about a person, you are much more likely to say kind things about them. But if you ignore them completely, your actions say they aren’t worth your time or energy.

So often we translate a person’s words by using their actions. Growing up, when my parents responded to a request with “we’ll see,” I knew it meant “no.” How did I know that? Because the actions I saw after the words were, in all but one occasion, a refusal of the request. However, the actions I saw after a request was answered with “maybe” showed that “maybe” meant the request had a chance of being fulfilled, or not. Even though “we’ll see” and “maybe” could mean the same thing, the actions that followed told the story of how those words were operationalized in my home.

Read Genesis 3:1-6. What stands out to you?

Eve’s words in this passage show that she had considered the command of God not to eat of the fruit. She knew it was important, so she remembered what was commanded. We won’t go into the fact that she actually made the command much more restrictive than God had (see Genesis 1:29-31); the point is that Eve heard God and remembered the command.

Her actions show the translation of that hearing. Whether she had a weakness, or questioned God’s command, or simply wasn’t paying all that much attention to the environment or wasn’t being wary of who was speaking to her, we will never know. We can speculate all we want about her intentions or motivations, but we cannot actually know them.

What we can look at are her actions. For whatever reason, she took the fruit and ate of it. That is the action that defines her words. We can guess that she may have doubted God. We can guess that she really didn’t care what God had said. We can guess she was simply not all that smart and fell to the persuasion of the serpent. But those are guesses.

What we can know for sure is that she took the fruit and she ate of it. And then she handed it to her husband.

Words are important. Words matter. What also matters is your actions.

Read Luke 10:30-37. What stands out to you?

In the Jewish culture there was animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. Samaritans claimed to be heirs of Abraham, though their heritage was only half-Jewish. And on that basis, the Jews saw Samaritans as illegitimate children who deserved rejection. The hatred ran deep, so for Jesus to choose the Samaritan as the “hero” of this story hit at that very core of how Jews viewed Samaritans. Much as been studied and preached about those issues and why Jesus may have used that situation as a catalyst for re-defining the definition of neighbor. In this passage, however, we do not know if the man who was beaten was a Samaritan or not; he is simply described as a man.

The priest had likely counseled many times about taking care of the sick and destitute. The Levite was defined by their service in the temple. Yes, there were rules about remaining clean and therefore avoiding dead bodies. However, there must have been some indication that the man was not actually dead, else the Samaritan wouldn’t have stopped to help. The robbers didn’t “leave him for dead,” they left him “half dead.” This is not a fluke of my translation; I checked seven translations and every one reads “half dead.”

What does half-dead look like? We don’t know. But whatever it is, the robbers didn’t even think he was dead. So it was quite likely that the priest and Levite could have also determined the man was not dead and therefore they would not have broken any religious laws to help him.

The priest was a preacher of the Scriptures. The Levite was a servant in the house of God. Both likely spoke as one would expect from someone in such positions. But neither man’s actions showed their love for another.

What are your actions showing? I trust that as you have read this, God has brought something to your mind He would like you to address. What is He asking of you?

We all have ways in which our actions do not follow our words, or our heartfelt desire to do good things falls flat when it comes to execution. But we must keep pressing forward. We must continue to try, not allowing excuses to reign, but to keep pressing forward. The world is watching. Why should they believe in Christ if you, being one who proclaims Christ, has actions consistently different than your words.

It can be a struggle to change behavior. Know that you are not alone in it.

Read Romans 7:15-25. Read it through slowly as turns of phrases can cause confusion. What is at war in Paul?

If Paul struggled with this issue of making actions fit beliefs, then you are in good company. And just as he continued to press on, we must do the same.

Read Hebrews 12:1-3. For each active verb, note who is to be doing that verb.

 

Go back and put a check mark next to the active verbs that belong to Jesus. What stands out to you?

 

No circle the verbs that belong to you. What stands out to you?

Take comfort. Jesus’ verbs are bigger than ours. And He will help us through the verbs we need to do. Spend some time thanking Him for all He has already done, petitioning His help for all He is about to do, and resting in the peace that comes with knowing you are not alone in this. As you continually grow to make your actions match your beliefs, your life will be more and more like Jesus. And thus, your actions will tell the worlds exactly who you think He is.

Weeds…

the water boils, catching the tea post just before the whistle.
i pour the water over the tea bag–vanilla caramel, by the way.
and i wait…

…steep…
…steep…
…steep…

and i laugh. so many words spent over a lifetime telling kids to stop eating things off the ground—and we pour water over crushed leaves and call it a tasty beverage.

it makes me wonder
what else we are calling dirt, inedible,
that is really just a tasty beverage in an unexpected wrapper.

“And a voice came to him, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean!'” –Acts 10:13-14, NKJV

Just like Peter, we balk at what we have considered unclean. To Peter’s credit, God called these things unclean as well. But as the very Lord who created the original command gave Peter a new vision of the kingdom of God, Peter’s training over-rode God’s direction.

I wonder how many people we have turned away
because our training said they were unclean.

I wonder how many miracles we have missed.
I wonder…

Remember the resolution to this piece of Peter’s experience:

“And a voice spoke to him again a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, you must not call common.'” –Acts 10:15, NKJV

“Then Peter opened his mouth and said, ‘In truth, I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation, whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him… While Peter was speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. –Acts 10:34-35, 44-46, NKJV

Peter obeyed when God told him to go. Peter obeyed when God called the Gentiles clean. And because Peter obeyed, and took steps in areas that he, himself, called unclean, the God of Israel was magnified, and Peter’s posse witnessed a miracle.

God poured His Spirit out on the unclean, in the presence of the chosen, that all may become His children. Who are you to deny the same to another?

What God has called clean, no longer call unclean.

__________________________________

Photo by Aleksandra

foooocusssss…

photo by shari hoover

“where is your focus?”

this question rises to the top.  like fresh cream raising to the top of the milk bucket, the richness of this question comes to the forefront of my mind.  and just as cream is the best of the milk, the answer to this singular question can bring richness, depth, and concentration to a life.

i sit in another state, looking over the hills and valleys of my childhood…literally.  and i wonder, thinking over the hills and valleys of life.  i wonder what will come.  and i wonder the results of the direction i feel God leading me.

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