Tag Archives: Gospel of Matthew

The Beatitudes, part 3: Mourners

Read Matthew 5:4; Luke 6:21b

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalms 34:18 NLT)

black-and-blue-lament-e1468181738718Jesus continued his bestowal of blessings, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” The words rang out and filled the ears and souls of the multitude of people gathered around Jesus that day. There was much to mourn in their day and age, there had been much to be grieved over. Under the weight of such suffering, there wasn’t a single soul among Jesus’ followers who hadn’t been in some state of mourning or another.

Whether rich or poor, whether powerful or weak, whether a person of status or a peasant, all were in a state of grief over the travesty of being subjegated to the Roman Empire. Sure, there were some who had much to gain from Rome’s presence. The High Priest, Caiaphas, and his whole priestly family benefited from Rome. According to Flavius Josephus, Annas (the same Annas who took part in Jesus’ mock trial) was appointed High Priest in 6 CE by the Roman Governor Quirinius as the first High Priest of the new Roman Province of Iudaea (aka Judea). He served in that role until he was deposed by the Roman Governor Gratus in 15 CE and was replaced by his son, Eleazar, in 16 CE. In 17 CE, Gratus deposed Eleazar and appointed Annas’ son-in-law, Joseph son of Caiaphas (aka Caiaphas) as the high priest.

There were others who also had much to gain. Herod, an Idumaean Jew, and his family gained power under Rome, as did those who supported Herod’s agenda of Hellenizing Judea (aka the Herodians). Yet, even they were not without their mourning for, under the Roman boot, no one was truly free to do as they pleased, not even Herod. Following Herod’s death, Caesar Augustus refused to give any of his children the title of king, but appointed three of his sons as governors. Herod’s son Archelaus, though willed by his father to be king, was eventually deposed by Augustus and the regions he ruled (Samaria, Judah, and Idumaea) were consolodated into a new Roman province of Iudaea (aka Judea) and placed directly under Roman Rule. Antipas and Phillip both kept governorship of their regions, but the tension between them and Rome was thick.

So, yes, many had much to mourn over in the days and years Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth, and no doubt, everyone has something to mourn about in our day and age as well; however, Jesus was not merely speaking to those who mourned in the physical sense, as it is often misunderstood. Jesus was, in actuality, speaking to those who mourn in both the physical and spiritual senses.

Without doubt, by using the phrase “those who mourn”, Jesus is referring to the poor. This can be evidenced in Luke’s literal interpretation of this famous beatitude (Luke 6:21b). With that said, I would once again caution anyone from rushing to the judgment that Matthew is “spiritualizing” Jesus’ words. First, it is more than likely that Luke was written after Matthew, not beforehand. Thus, chronologically speaking, it would be more likely that Luke “literalized” the words of Jesus found in Matthew, and even that’s just as unlikely. Second, since the mysterious Q source of Jesus’ sayings has never been found, only speculative (and not empirical) claims can be made regarding what Jesus was actually recorded as saying. Without empirical evidence, there’s no reason to believe that either Matthew or Luke are detracting from what Jesus said, but more or less expounding upon it.

Lastly and most importantly, Matthew’s text (regardless of the points above) does not exclude the literal poor, but most certainly includes them when mentioning those who mourn. Blessed are they who mourn because of the greed, the corruption, the power, and oppression of the wicked, for they will be comforted. Also included in this group of blessed people are those who mourn and lament because of how far wayward God’s people had gone as a result of greed, corruption and abuse of power. Blessed are those mourners for they, too, will be comforted when God’s Kingdom finally and fully reigns on the earth.

What’s more, as will be seen later in the beatitudes, the mourners are not merely those who are helpless and voiceless against injustice, but those who stand up against it and face the consequences of doing so. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. The question for you is, which one of these are you? Are you one of the poor and helpless who mourn? Are you one of those who mourn and lament over injustice and stand up against it, or are you one of those who our Lord (Matthew 23; Luke 6:24-26) declares a series of woes against? Challenge yourself to earnestly reflect on this, not only this week, but always.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Good God, if our civilization were to sober up for a couple of days it’d die of remorse on the third.” – Malcom Lowry
PRAYER
Lord, as I mourn the way this world is, empower me to follow you and change it. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Woken Up in a Dream

181817372While it is important to keep moving forward, sometimes it is also important to pause and look back at what we’ve learned from the past. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this post from December 2012. It is just as relevant now as it was then.

Click here to view today’s devotion.

Many blessings,

Pastor Todd

Journey with Jesus: Holy Thursday

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:7-71; John 13 – 18:27

Christ-in-the-garden-of-gethsemaneAN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

Turn, O LORD! How long? Have compassion on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil.* O woe this night! Jesus had us prepare for our passover feast together, and so we found this room and had it set aside for us to be together and to celebrate the night the angel of death passed over Egypt. Little did I know that death would be passing over us.

At the table, Jesus began to act very cryptically. He took his robe off and tied it around his waist like a common servant. Then he proceeded to wash everyone’s feet. I tried to protest it, but he wouldn’t let me. He told me that if I didn’t allow him to I would have no share with him in the Kingdom of Heaven! Can you imagine it. So I relented and allowed him to wash me.

Finally, he took the unleavened bread and the wine, blessed them both, and said that they were his body and his blood, broken and poured out for the a new covenant. He said that he was going to die and that we could not follow him, that one of us would betray him and that I would deny him three times! I just couldn’t believe it.

Following the meal we went to the garden of Gethsemane and Jesus asked us to stay up with him and pray. But we were so exhausted that we fell asleep. Jesus woke us up a couple of times but we could not stay awake. But then we heard the soldiers marching toward us and the night was lit up by their torches! They came and arrested Jesus, binding him up like a common criminal! I tried to stop them, but Jesus told me to put away my sword. He said that “Those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword.” And with that they took him!

I am so confused, so lost, so fearful for what lies ahead. I am going to the house of the high priest now. I am afraid that people might arrest me, but I just have to go and to find out what happens to our teacher, to my Lord. I just have to know. God help me in this hour of bitter darkness!

*Psalms 90:13-15

REFLECTION

This night, nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples, and arrested like a common criminal. He was taken away in the dark of night, and brought to the house of the high priest. Jesus of Nazareth was to be abandoned by all of his disciples, condemned a blasphemer and was to be handed over to the Romans to be tried for committing treason against the empire.

Even Peter, the rock on which the church would be built, was afraid he would be arrested and denied knowing Jesus. Like Peter, we all have done our share of denying Jesus. Like Judas, we all have had our share of betraying Jesus. In fact, when we live in a way counter to how Jesus calls us to live, we are betraying and denying the very same Christ who lives within us.

But this reflection is not being written to guilt you; rather, it is written to bring you great hope. There is hope in knowing that Jesus shared last supper with the very ones who would betray, deny and abandon him. Even in those painful hours, Jesus extended Grace, Love and Compassion to those who would not extend it back to him. Jesus NEVER stops extending his hope, healing, and wholeness to us. And that is truly Good News.

So, spend this moment now to pause and reflect on the ways that you have betrayed, denied and abandoned Christ and his mission. Take this moment to peer into your soul and search for those moments of fear, confusion and shame. Then shift your focus to the countless blessings, the endless grace God has given you despite those moments. Think of all the times God was present in your life, even in the moments of denial and betrayal. Feel God’s presence with you now and meditate of the endless love God has for you.

PRAYER

Take this time to pray a prayer from your heart.

 

Journey with Jesus: Holy Wednesday

SCRIPTURE:

Matthew 26:6-16

30 Pieces of SilverAN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

Today I did something that I am not sure I should have done. I have been following Jesus for three long years, waiting for the time when he would step up and become the Messiah we are so longing for! With all of the miracles and signs, I just knew that this man must be the one God is sending to liberate our people from the foreign oppressors.

But I fear that these past three years have been in vain. On Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem and there was such a crowd! He could have easily inspired that crowd to rise up against the Romans! And who would stop this man who can control the winds and the seas? Who would be able to stop this man who can raise the dead to life and cause the paralyzed to walk again! Surely, Jesus has the power to crush Rome at the snap of his fingers, but instead he does nothing by causes division among our leaders and teaches about his coming death.

I fear that I have been mistaken these past few years. Today I went to the chief priests and spoke with them. They told me that this Jesus was dangerous and that he needed to be dealt with before Rome crushed us all. They said that all Jesus would offer me is Roman punishment and death; however, they said that if I brought them to Jesus, they would give me thirty pieces of silver. Though I am still uncertain as to whether I should or not, I agreed to lead them to Jesus tomorrow night. At least they are offering me something tangible.

REFLECTION

How long have you traveled with Jesus? How long have you listened to him and learned from his teachings? Are you sure you know him as well as you think you do? Are you sure that you understand all that he has been teaching you?

It is easy for us to look at Judas as being different than we are. It is easy to see him as the scapegoat, as the ONE who betrayed Jesus. Yet, are we free from that betrayal? Do we sacrifice our loyalty when Jesus doesn’t fit into our worldview? The truth is that Judas is not alone in the department of betrayal. When we preach the Good News, but don’t live it…are we not betraying Jesus? When we ignore the poor, avoid the sick, judge the “sinner”, and put our own theologies before the LOVE of God, are we not betraying Jesus

Hear the Good News: in whatever ways you have betrayed Jesus, he as forgiven you! Now, move on from the past and allow God to transform you. Embrace Jesus mission of hope, healing and wholeness (Luke 4:18-19) and go forth into the world bearing it!

PRAYER

Lord, Create in me a clean heart and renew a righteous spirit within me. Use me in a way that bears hope, healing and wholeness to those around me who need it. Amen.

Journey with Jesus: Holy Tuesday

SCRIPTURE:

Matthew 21:23 – 24:51; Mark 11:27-13:37; Luke 20:1-21:36

Matthew 231322AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

Wow, and I thought yesterday was tense! I was shaking from head to toe when Jesus started to overturn those tables and was shouting like a madman! Part of me was scared that the Romans, perched in towers overlooking the Temple complex, would descend on us and crush us right then and right there. The other part of me was excited because Jesus was finally showing the zeal that we have been taught that the Messiah would have. I began to wonder if, perhaps Jesus was this Messiah…cleansing the House of God before purging Israel of her enemies.

But today Jesus started teaching really strange things! He spoke in parables that were set up to make the Pharisees look bad. He compared the Pharisees to a group of murderous farm tenants who refused to give the farm owner his due and killed anyone the farm owner sent them…including his own son! Jesus went on to flat-out curse the Pharisees and the scribes shouting, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.”

You could just feel the tension in the air. The religious leaders looked beyond mad. If looks could kill…well you know how the phrase goes. Then, Jesus questioned their knowledge of the very scriptures they are well versed in. He asked them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?” I got the real sense that he was referring to himself! Was he saying that he was going to be rejected and die? How could he be the Messiah and die? How was that even possible if the Messiah was supposed to free Israel from oppression? Why would this “Messiah” curse our religious leaders? Wouldn’t the Messiah focus his energy on Rome?

REFLECTION

What are your expectations of Jesus? Who is Jesus to you? Do you find that your “Jesus” falls in line with what you think he should be? When you hear or read Jesus’ words of chastisement, who do you envision Jesus talking to? Is he talking about “them”, or is he talking about “us”? Is he talking about “you” or is he talking about “me”?

On this Holy Tuesday, let us remember Jesus’ warnings to the religious leaders of the day. Will we continue to cross land and sea to create converts to OUR way? Will we look like we are righteous on the outside, when in reality we are dead on the inside? Will we be the ones who reject the stone only to be crushed by it? Or will we lay down OUR way and make GOD’s way the cornerstone of our faith? What is God’s way, “No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

PRAYER

Lord, humble me and become the cornerstone of my faith. Let me drop my religion and pick up your love, compassion and mercy in its stead. Amen.

Journey with Jesus: Holy Monday

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-48

AN EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT:

Second_TempleTalk about taking a turn for the worse! It was just yesterday that we were celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry! The palms were scattered around the road, and being waved ecstatically in our hands! “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!” We shouted even louder, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna!”

Yet, it is only a day later and this same “messiah” does something beyond what any of us could have predicted. He enters into our sacred Temple and starts ranting and raving. He screams, “You have heard it said that, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” Can he really mean it?!? He is supposed to protect us against our enemies! He is supposed to overthrow the ones who are threatening us! He isn’t supposed to come into our very Temple and attack us! How dare he!

Then this Jesus starts violently overturning the tables of the bankers in the Temple market. Money is flying everywhere and he opens up the animal pens and lets them loose. It is utter chaos. This way man is going too far! Someone needs to stop him before he brings ruin upon us all. Doesn’t he know that there are certain rules that need to be followed? Doesn’t he realize that we do things a certain way here, that we are not the ones who need cleansing!

REFLECTION:

What in your life is sacred? What do you cherish the most? What is it that you cling to and refuse to let go of? What is your sacred Temple? Do these things stand in your way of God? Are these sacred things holy because you have deemed them so, or because God has called you to them?

Just as Jesus entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and cleansed it of the things that were distracting it from it’s true purpose, so too Jesus is entering into your life and driving out those things that distract you from serving your true purpose.  What is that purpose? To be a living Temple of the living God, to be the house of the living God, to be the bearer of the presence of the Living God to all of those who are around you.

This Holy Monday, recognize that God is calling you to cleanse your Temple so that it may be filled with the hope, the healing, and the wholeness that God is calling you to bring to others. Anything that gets in the way of that purpose has got to go.

PRAYER:

Lord, drive out the impurities that keep me from being your true, and living Temple. Amen.

Don’t Feed the Trolls!

Read Matthew 16:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” (Matthew 7:6)

troll1Have you ever encountered a troll? You may be scratching your head at such a question. You might be wondering, “Why in the world would he ever ask me if I’ve encountered a troll?” After all, surely such a fantastical creature doesn’t exist, outside of fantasy novels and fairy tales such as “Three Billy Goats Gruff.” What an odd, and seemingly trivial question for someone to ask, right?

Yet, I ask it. Have you ever encountered a troll? My guess is you probably have even if you’ve never referred to it that way. So, what exactly is a troll? Anyone who has ever spent any amount of time reading blogs, chatting in chat rooms, or participating in discussions on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube knows what a troll is. It is very easy to find these trolls online. Indeed, one does not have to look far at all, and if one is not careful, he or she might end up a victim of trolling.

A troll, in this sense of the word, is a person who goes on to blogs, into chatrooms, into conversations on social media and seeks to cause trouble. They will go online and, as the Urban Dictionary defines it, “deliberately post provocative messages with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.” Such a person, in the online community, is referred to as a troll…for obvious reasons.

While Jesus didn’t have the Internet in his day, he certainly had his share of trolls. People were purposely setting out traps for him to fall into, with the intention of discrediting him, causing disruption and division among the people following him. These people were out to get Jesus, and they made trolling him their mission in life every chance they got.  Yet, they could never seem to get an edge on Jesus, and he taught his disciples to turn the other cheek all the while moving on from people who clearly had no intention of engaging in serious and sincere dialog with them.

Often times, we want to please others to the point that we will endure all sorts of abuse. We want people to like us and we want people to accept us. We want them to see worth in us and to at least see our worldview as being valid; however, some people are simply not interested in seeing that no matter what you do to show it to them. Some people are simply out to trap, humiliate and discourage you.

While Jesus did call us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, he did not call us to suffer abuse needlessly. There are times when we suffer abuse unexpectedly and that is bad enough. We certainly do not need to be persistently putting ourselves in situations that set us up for abuse. In fact, loving our enemies sometimes means recognizing that there can be no mutual relationship with them and, therefore, recognizing the need to let such a relationship go.

That may be a hard thing to do, but sometimes it is the loving thing to do. Jesus did it with those who only intended to troll him and his followers, with those who refused to seriously engage in a meaningful and constructive way. It follows, then, that Jesus frees you to do the same. Don’t feed the trolls! Don’t play into their game of division and derision. It’s simply not worth it as there is nothing you can do to change them. As Jesus rightfully said, “Don’t give what is holy to dogs, and don’t throw your pearls before swine, or they trample them under their foot and turn to maul you.” But do not hold grudges either. Rather, lovingly and respectfully let such people go and continue building meaningful relationships of hope, healing and wholeness with those who truly seek it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.” – Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew 7:16-17.

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to profoundly and unconditionally love everyone, and to learn to let go out of that love. Amen.

Keep CHRIST in Christmas

Read Matthew 10:37-40

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Keep_Christ_in_ChristmasHere we are mid-Advent, fast approaching Christmas. Can you believe how quick Christmas has come this year? It feels like just yesterday I was sitting down at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort enjoying a nice summer vacation (and what summer vacation beats a Disney Vacation?). Yet, here we are nearing mid-December with the countdown to Christmas fast underway.

Speaking of Christmas, have you ever seen the bumper sticker or the little magnet that reads, “Keep CHRIST in Christmas.” That is a phrase that gets passed around quite a bit during this season. But what does keeping CHRIST in Christmas mean? Does it mean keeping the not-so-Christian tradition of Christmas trees and yule logs? Does it mean keeping the tradition of Santa Claus, Elves and his nine (counting Rudolph) reindeer? Does it mean, racing out to the store to funnel our money into big business in order to acquire an excess amount of gifts and Christmas-time deals? Most Christians would probably say no to all of these things.

So let me narrow the question even more. Does keeping CHRIST in Christmas mean watching movies about the Nativity story? Does it mean going to church once out of the year on Christmas Eve? Does it mean singing carols about the Jesus’ birth? Does it mean Christmas pageants and concerts? Does keeping CHRIST in Christmas mean spending time with family and giving gifts to our already abundantly blessed children?

The truth is that I do AGREE that we should be keeping CHRIST in Christmas; however, to do that we have to be open to the change that God wants to spark in us. If we are to truly anticipate the coming of Christ, and if we are to truly welcome Christ into our lives, we must first realize that ADVENT and CHRISTMAS are not a once-a-year type event; rather, every day we live is an opportunity to experience ADVENT.

Christ would much rather us keep him in our lives than in a holiday set aside for observance once a year! But in order to do that we must live into the life that Christ led. We must be willing to give everything up, to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24; Luke 14:27-35). We must be willing to serve the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the disabled, the outcasts, the marginalized and all of those who our society looks down upon (Matthew 25:31-46). In fact, we are to become, according to Jesus, the SERVANTS of ALL (Mark 9:35)!

So, according to the standards set by Jesus himself, how do we keep CHRIST in Christmas? Clearly, buying presents, singing carols, drinking wassail, roasting chestnuts, buying presents and erecting Christmas trees is not what Jesus had in mind. While those things are nice, the reality is they are not at the heart of who CHRIST is or what CHRIST has called us toward. According to the standards set by Jesus, we keep CHRIST in CHRISTMAS by following in his footsteps…not once a year…but every day of our lives for the rest of our lives, until we go on to glory in Christ Jesus our Lord! Amen!

So, starting this Christmas season, and everyday from this point forward, begin to work toward keeping CHRIST in Christmas. Don’t just say the words, as if they are just another meaningless cliché; rather, live into those words by being all that GOD is calling you to be. Love God, by loving your neighbors. Invest yourself in the lives of others. Be present for those in need. Bring God’s gift of hope, healing and wholeness to this broken world and desperate world. Then, and only then, will you be truly keeping CHRIST in Christmas!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” – Charles Dickens

Lord, guide me toward keeping YOU, not only in Christmas, but in my heart. Transform me into your vessel of hope, healing and wholeness. Amen.

From Fear to Faith

Read Matthew 14:23-33

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13)

20090908_walking_on_water_lake_erie1When I was growing up, I knew from a very young age that I was called into ministry. At three years old, I used to use my mom and dad’s 8-track (yes…I said 8-track) cassette tower case as a make-shift pulpit. From that “pulpit” I would preach to my parents, “God tells you to lub one anudder!” From that point on, I kept growing in my faith and in my knowledge of the Bible. By the age of ten, the pastor of my church was retiring and he pulled me and my mom aside and gave my mom his entire set of commentary to hold on to for when I got older. “That boy is going to be a pastor and, since I don’t need these anymore, I would like him to have them.”

Yet, as bold as I was in my faith when I was young, things were about to change. Without getting into all of the details, which could fill up a book I am sure, I began to become a person who was filled with fear. For one, I had several close family members pass away and that caused me to fear what happens beyond this life. I never quite fit in at school and I feared not being accepted by my classmates. I never seemed to quite do as well as I wanted to in school and I began to fear the possibility of failure. There were many different varieties of fear that crept into me as I grew from boy to teenager to man. In the end, those fears put me on a decade long detour that took me far away from answering my call before I found my way back to it.

In the story of Jesus walking on the water, we see a bold Peter step out on to the water to meet his Lord. How boldly he put his feet out on that water, how boldly he took his first few steps of faith. Yet, as he began to look at the environment around him, things started to change. The wind was fierce, the waves were tall and crashing down around him, the lightning was flashing, and Peter’s bold faith began to melt away into fear. The more he feared, the more and more he began to sink down into the water.

How many of us live our daily lives in fear? How many of us go day to day fearing this or fearing that…holding back from doing things that we know we should be doing. How many of us, in the end, feel as if our entire purpose in life is sinking beneath the treacherous waves of our fear? We often mask our fears by justifying them in away that makes us feel better; however, the reality is that we find ourselves in paralysis, we find our lives have stagnated, because we simply have not let go of our fears.

Like he did with me and with Peter, Christ is reaching down to you right now. He is reaching out his hand waiting for you to clasp it. He is waiting to pull you up out of your fears and into the boldness of your faith. It was a leap of faith for me to finally say “yes” to God’s call and enter into a life of ministry, uncertain of where God will lead me. It was a leap fo faith for Peter to move beyond his fears to clasp Christ’s hand and be pulled back up to the surface of the waters.

God is calling you, the reader, as well! What is it that God is calling you to do? What purpose has God given you? And, most importantly, what is stopping you from doing it? God is calling you to move from fear to faith, from hopelessness to a world of hope and wonder! All you need to do is put your trust in God and take that first step forward. God has revealed, and will continue to reveal to you what your purpose is; however, you have to have move forward in faith before you will ever begin to live into it. Move from fear to faith and begin to TRULY LIVE.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy thousand fathoms of water, still preserving my faith” – Søren Kierkegaard

PRAYER

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Help me to move from fear to faith so that I may fulfill your purpose for me. Amen.

Two Probing Questions

Read Mark 8:27-30; Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 9:18-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

who_am_iAnyone who has ever had me as their teacher in confirmation class can attest to the fact that I take confirmation very seriously. I have developed a curriculum that goes beyond teaching the meaning of membership to a curriculum that instructs the students to engage in Christian History from Jesus to our current day and age. The curriculum has the students actively engage theology and doctrine (and the history behind the formation of the doctrines) as well as learn about the meaning of membership in the church.

One of the exercises I have the students do as a requirement for the class is to write a 3 page paper, or longer if they desire, answering two very simple, and very Biblical questions. In Mark 8:27-30, in Matthew 16:13-20, and in Luke 9:18-21, Jesus asks his disciples who people say that he is and, following their various answers, he asks them who they say that he is. So, likewise, I have the students answer those two questions.

It is amazing how challenging such an exercise is. Most of us can easily and quickly come up with a long list of the things that people say Jesus is; however, when it comes to who we say Jesus is, if we are going to take the exercise seriously, it becomes much more difficult to articulate. But each of my students have been through the exercise and each have come away saying that the experience of it was rewarding, leaving them with a richer sense of who Jesus is to them.

When God created humanity, God did not create robots. It was not God’s intention to have an android creation that just mindlessly, and robotically, did whatever God wanted them to do. Rather, God created a free-willed, free-spirited, and free-thinking people who had the ability to not only choose to be in a relationship with God and, in that relationship, seek to come to an understanding of God and of self in the context of that relationship. As human beings, we do not only define ourselves by our own thoughts of who we are, but rather we define ourselves by the relationships we have with ourselves and with others. Who am I without my mom, my sister, my friends, my wife, my children, and myself?

Thus, if we are Christians who claim to be in a relationship with God and with Jesus the Christ, then doesn’t it make sense that we would seek out who Jesus is? Doesn’t it make sense that we would not just settle for who people say Jesus is, but that we would find out who Christ is to us? Doesn’t it makes sense that we would want to get to “know” the person we claim to love and to follow?

Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt for you to write down Jesus’ two probing questions: “Who do people say that I am?” Who do you say that I am?” God is calling you to probe deep into your faith. It is never okay to just accept things at face value. God is calling you to move beyond what you’ve been taught into the realm of personal, experiential knowledge. Who is Christ for you? How have you experienced the power and the love of Christ in your life? How has Christ healed you, been present with you, changed you, and/or challenged you? Where does your story and the Gospel story intersect? God is calling you to truly discover who Jesus is and to deepen your faith in him. Such an invitation leads to transformation and conviction. Get to know your Lord and be convicted to bear his hope, healing and wholeness to world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The steady discipline of intimate friendship with Jesus results in [people] becoming like Him.” – Harry Emerson Fosdick

PRAYER

Lord, take me deeper in my faith that I may more intimately know you and grow more and more like you. Amen.