Think Like This?

Mark 10:28 Peter said to him, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed you.”

Don’t you just love Peter? I love how he always seems to put his foot in his mouth. This is a great skill Peter has developed. I’m getting good at putting both feet in my mouth when I say things I shouldn’t. I have also learned how to add salt so it’s not as bitter. 🙂

Peter has been with Jesus almost three years up to this point. He has heard Jesus say “the last will be first and the first will be last.” Jesus also said many things which talk about humility. At one point, Jesus even calls Peter “Satan!” We have got to love Peter for his arrogance and for making sure he gets all that Jesus promised.

How does this relate to you? Honestly, I have felt like Peter. There have been times I feel like reminding God all I have done for Him and just want to make sure I’ll get my recognition. If we live in this kind of mindset for too long, we can easily become narcissistic and stop thinking about God’s glory and where our talents, and even life comes from.

This is the week we have been talking about letting go of things that potentially hold us back from living in the grace and light of Jesus Christ. Arrogance, pride, and even my ego are some huge things that keep a perception of me elevating myself more than I should. Truthfully, God is the source of why we do what we do. He is the reason and the foundation for our life. Jesus teaches and models a humble lifestyle that points toward God.

Even with all of my flaws, I am striving to give glory to God in all aspects of my life. Jesus has made a profound impact in my life. Each day I have to ask Him to be, which reminds me, the Lord and Savior of my life.

There will be times I will have similar thoughts and conversations like Peter; but God’s grace is incredible and is with us each day. I pray we all remember this.

Unjoining Union

Mark 10:2-8 “Some Pharisees came and, trying to test him, they asked, “Does the Law allow a man to divorce his wife?” Jesus answered, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a divorce certificate and to divorce his wife.” Jesus said to them, “He wrote this commandment for you because of your unyielding hearts. At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Because of this, a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.”

Today, we look at a passage that can be a place of argument and division among people. There may be things I say people may not agree with, and that’s okay.

What is happening in this passage? The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus by getting him to say anything contrary to the Law that was passed down by Moses. In one way, I think, they were trying to show their own superiority based upon their knowledge and were trying to show how “ignorant” or “uninformed” Jesus was. As we already know, Jesus proves the contrary.

The Pharisees were asking about a Law that was given by Moses. Right away, we can see they were elevating Moses to the position of God by saying his law had more authority. Jesus listened to their question, and answered their question directly. Not really going into further details or explanation except what had been written down in the Scriptures. The Pharisees were looking at this life from the point of view of man. Jesus was looking at life from the point of view of God the Father.

So, where does this leave us? I believe there is something in Jesus’ words that we can take out and help guide us today. What was He talking about? Division. Separation. Consequences of doing our own things.

The line that strikes me more than any of the others is “Because of your hardness of hearts…” The people were given what they wanted, a chance to break union “because of their hard hearts;” because of the human rebellious spirit. Now, to be clear on something, I don’t see Jesus here saying that every divorce is because of a person’s rebellious spirit, just wanting to get what ever they want. Commentators point out that Jesus was simply answering the question of the Pharisees. He wasn’t, here, giving regulations or stipulations that are acceptable for divorce.

I do think that Jesus is bringing the human condition to light. We simply want things our way, and will try in whatever manner to get it. Instead of leaving this statement alone and walking away, Jesus points all the way back to the beginning…God. He stressed the basis and purpose of God’s creation of humans, to be in relationship with one another. Then He talks about the two becoming one.

Glue is fun to use. I like to glue objects together to try and fix the brokenness. What happens when I try to take apart something that has been joined together by glue? A mess, the two piece are never the same. There has been an unjoining of the union. The two are no longer part of the one, they are separated. If this were done on people, we would feel a lot of pain.

I believe one of our purposes is to be in relationship with other people. Our relationship with people should be based upon our relationship with God. But our hard, rebellious hearts cause us to not look to God. But, we can go back and see God’s original purpose. At points like this, we can see grace because God has not left us.

Normal Life

Mark 10:1 “Jesus left that place and went beyond the Jordan and into the region of Judea. Crowds gathered around him again and, as usual, he taught them.”

This month we are looking at the 10th chapter in the Gospel of Mark. As we begin this new series, I invite you to open your heart and see what God may be speaking to you through the Scripture. (Click here for the sermon on Mark 1:1-16)

Reading through Mark 10 and you can see some difficult passages. Divorce, adultery, rich man told to leave behind possessions, figuring out who is the greatest and a blind beggar.

But today, we get to pause in the first verse.

Think about your normal day. What does it involve? Waking up, breakfast, going to work, lunch, going home, dinner, trying to relax, bed, and then start all over? Any memorable conversations?

I think what we do in our day to day lives is of more importance than anything we do. Our habits are formed, health, etc. These are the moments when we are living real life. Life is the little moments we do daily. We do not have to go out of our way to say we’re “living life.”

I love the line, “And crowds gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he taught them.” Jesus’ “normal” life was being surrounded by people. It was very hard to schedule who he could meet with because you never knew who would show up. But he did not let that stop him. His details he had to do each day were in the midst of talking and teaching people. He taught them about the Kingdom of God.

Imagine how our lives would be if we made this our priority. Everything we do would certainly give God glory (like Colossians 3:17 says it should); and we would lead people to see and experience the Living God.

Jesus’ “normal” day was not written in a schedule, it was being where he needed to be. We have our days scheduled, but what if the people we meet with and talk with are the very people God had scheduled for us to meet? Maybe we need to hear what they have to say. Maybe, just maybe, our normal day is more special than we realize.

Stories

James 5:17-18 “Elijah was a person just like us. When he earnestly prayed that it wouldn’t rain, no rain fell for three and a half years. He prayed again, God sent rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”

There are incredible stories of God answering prayers throughout the Bible. Sometimes I think we do not think that God answers prayers in the same way as recorded in scripture; or we may believe that we are not as good as the people who had the answers to prayers.

One thing is for certain, the people mentioned in the Bible are real people who did their best to keep their hearts in tune with God. We do not have to worry about them being better than we are. They made mistakes as well; yet they still stayed faithful to God and hearing from Him.

There are people who have incredible stories of prayer and God’s answer to them. We can praise God for any answer He give: yes, no, not yet. Often times we hear of how a person prayed and God miraculously stepped in to deliver them from several kinds of situations (health failing, finances, work, etc). But what about those stories that do not get as much press or media attention?

Think for a moment about the times you know God has answered your prayers. Were they always the way you wanted them answered? Most likely not. Yet, we still have stories of how God answered prayers, even when we didn’t like the answer, to be an example of faithfulness to our Creator.

Jesus prayed for the cup of suffering to be taken away from Him; but He still followed through. You and I can be examples to show how we keep communication open with God, through our prayers, in all aspects of our lives.

What kinds of stories can you tell about God’s answers to your prayers? If this is something challenging to think of, I invite you to begin a Prayer Journal. In this journal, record the date, time, prayer you prayed and leave a space for answer. Every now and then go through this Prayer Journal to recall your prayers and see how many answers you received. This will be an incredible story of faithfulness that will make an impact not only on your life, but on the lives of your family and friends that will be able to help them in their walk with Jesus Christ.

Prayer of the Righteous

James 5:15-16 “Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve.”

Do you believe in the power to be healed by faith? I do. Before someone tries to counter this, let me explain. First of all, we have to consider what “sick” means. I believe this can affect so many aspects of our life (physical, mental, emotional, relational, spiritual).

Physical healing can be done by God, and there are cases this has happened. Most of the time, I believe God works through doctors and medical professionals. It is amazing the work they do and I believe it is a gift of God they have the wisdom, giftedness and the calling to do that work. I say calling because I think it is a calling that someone answers whether or not they know it is God. Through the prayers of the community, it is amazing what God can and does in and through people who are physically sick.

Now, physical healing can take place instantly; but it can take time too. Sometimes complete healing comes after this life. But there is a kind of healing that can take place instantaneously. These verses can and should take us back to the healings Jesus did. Most of the time when Jesus healed a person physically, he also forgave their sins.

A question we should ask is, “does sickness come from sin?” The answer is yes and no. Not all sickness or diseases come from sin. We live in a fallen world, so diseases are prevalent among us. There are sins that do cause diseases. If we knowingly do something that is bad for our health, then we live with the consequences.

When Jesus forgave sins, he was doing something that happens instantaneously. The condition of the soul can manifest itself physically. For Jesus to forgive sins, he was healing the person from the inside out, not just the outside appearance. This kind of healing can and does happen instantaneously.

When we are forgiven of our sins, we no longer are bound by the sin that held us down. We have been given the chance to leave a way of life that was not healthy for us and move into a new way of life, one that is filled with joy (even though life is tough at times), filled with peace (even among the turmoil around us), filled with love (even though we don’t see people acting out of love).

This is why it is important to confess our sins to one another. A simple reminder that we are not in this life alone and that our actions do have consequences that affect more than just us. Confessing our sins puts us back on the path that God intends for us. Not only that, we have people to walk alongside us!

This can happen all at once and it is amazing the power of God at work in and through a community of faith.

Suffering & Singing

James 5:13 “If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing.”

This week we are entering into the final week of our series on James. We’ll be focusing this week on prayer and it’s power.

“Are any of you suffering?” This is the first thing we come to is the idea of suffering. I find that we tend to over think suffering and try to make this as something really bad. This is one of the reasons, I believe, many people avoid praying because our “problems” or “issues” may not seem big enough to “bother” God with our “little lives.”

Suffering is defined as, “pain that is caused by injury, illness, loss, etc. : physical, mental, or emotional pain sufferings : feelings of pain.” So, with this definition, we all suffer on some level.

One thing I would like to take care of first is reminding us that, no matter how small or insignificant we think our problems or issues are, God loves when we communicate our “sufferings.”

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:6, “Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.” Anything we go through or have on our minds or hearts, we can bring up to God and express our thoughts and our feelings. We don’t not have to be in a place where we think our problems are big enough for God. We have a God who wants us to bring to Him any and every part of our life.

Praying is a sense of release of the burdens we carry on our hearts. This means that we have a chance to experience joy. Through joy, we can sing our praises. Singing expresses joy in our hearts. This joy is then expressed throughout our actions and our relationships.

What is it you need to pray about today (big or small) to release it off your heart and allow God to fill your spirit with joy and happiness?

The best part is that it doesn’t require any special words or phrases. Simply talk with God as you would another person.

: pain that is caused by injury, illness, loss, etc. : physical, mental, or emotional pain

sufferings : feelings of pain

God is Near

James 4:7-10 “Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Do you ever have those days where the scripture seems to beat you down? We can personalize scripture and, if we’re not careful, we’ll make it all about us and feel like it’s telling us what a bad person we are. Even throughout the Old Testament, I read grace. Specifically grace from God.

There is always hope. God has not abandoned. Jesus will not forsake. The Holy Spirit is with us and guiding us. This is where we are today with the passage. All week long, there have been times in the scripture (James 3:13-4:6) where it can seem like we have to have our lives perfect. Arrogance, pride, jealousy, selfish ambition, etc have all been talked about and discussed. I pray this is not where you are left, dwelling on any negative aspect you may view about yourself.

Today, we see something amazing. God is saying, “come near.” This doesn’t mean that God is far off and He is wanting us to go up to Him to be in His presence. God is already near to us. There are times when we feel like we are distant from God or that God is distant from us. God’s proximity to us is always the same. Our proximity to God is always the same. We will still feel distant because of a number of reasons: we know we sinned, how much sleep we got, how hungry we are, having a rough day or a rough week.

These are all reasons we feel distant from God, and I’m sure there are more. God says “come near.” When we realize He is already present among us, all we have to do is acknowledge His presence.

I invite you right now to pause, close your eyes, and thank God for His presence with you at this moment.

It is through these times when we realize we can still come close to God, even though we messed up, even though we feel low, that we can experience and live into the grace He gives. We have this opportunity to confess, repent, and allow God to purify us.

God will “lift you up.” I don’t take this to mean that He will automatically make everything better, or that He will wipe away consequences from our actions. He does make His presence known, and somehow gives us the strength and the power to endure the situation and allow Him to shine through us.

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” What an incredible verse in scripture! The Apostle Paul is showing that he can handle and still live joyfully in every situation. He wasn’t saying that he can do anything he wants because Jesus said he could. Paul is saying that because of the power of Jesus Christ working through him, he is able to handle what comes his way.

I believe God does the same for you and for me. So, draw near to God, confess, repent, purify, humble yourself and see how God is working in you and through you.

We all need the power of Jesus Christ in our lives. It is through grace that we are able to be lifted up and brought to a place of knowing who and whose we are.

Lord God, you are close to us. Help us see you and experience your presence. We confess the ways We have gone against you….We pray for the strength to handle the situations in life and for your power and grace to shine through us. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Faithful

James 4:4-6 “You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy. Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble.”

Ouch! This is a tough passage for today. It could be easy to take this in the negative and run with it. I have known many people who use a scripture like this to degrade another person.

One of the questions we have to ask is, “what does it mean to be a friend of God?” David was (and is) classified as a man after God’s own heart. Moses and Abraham were considered “friends of God.” This is showing that we do not have to have perfect lives to be considered a “friend of God.”

So what does this phrase mean? The New Interpreters Bible commentary says, “For the ancients, to be friends with another person meant to see things the same way, to share the same outlook.” I think this is important. There are times in our life where our actions does not match the words we say, but we can still be considered a “friend of God” because we come back to God and see the world through His eyes. Being transformed in the image of Christ should mean that we begin to develop the eyes and the heart of Jesus Christ for the world.

We will not always see things the exact same way. In fact, I am okay with people disagreeing with anything I say or write. This is a chance to develop relationships and learn where people are. One of the things that seems to get us in trouble is when we stick to one point of view and not even allow people the opportunity to express how they came to their understanding.

The Proverb quoted is Proverb 3:34. A better word instead of proud might be “arrogant.” Arrogant means, “having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.” When we elevate ourselves above people, we are essentially devaluing them.

There are days this Proverb hits me right between the eyes. Those days, like today, I have to be careful. It could be easy to flat out say that I am right and you are wrong; but then where is the grace in that? I believe God wants us to have a humble, teachable spirit so we can be the people who allow Him to transform our lives to work with Him to transform the world.

It is the times when we believe, yet live a different standard than our faith says, that we are “unfaithful to God.” “You unfaithful people!” In other translations, the word “Adulterers!” is used. This is how serious the scriptures are showing God takes our relationship with Him. When we profess belief in Him and go another path, we are essentially “cheating” on Him with other ideologies and worldly living.

To be “friends with God,” is a way to show we are moving in His direction. Our lives point to Him. Even in the messed up parts of our life, we can still show people the grace that has been bestowed on us. Do we always get it right? No. But we can be humble and keep seeking to see life, the world and people as God sees them and have a heart that breaks when His heart breaks.

Lord, show us, through your eyes, the hurting and brokenness in this world so we can respond with grace and lead people to you. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Conflicts & Consequenses

James 4:1-3 “What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives? You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight. You don’t have because you don’t ask. You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.”

Today we are looking at the consequences of our actions. Many of us may not take these attitudes to the extreme that is mentioned here; but maybe we do and don’t pay much attention to it.

This is not meant to convict and try to coerce anyone to change out of guilt. This is more meant for us to look at our lives objectively. From the beginning, we have said our purpose is to challenge us to draw us closer to Christ and encourage us to live our lives according to Him.

As we live, there are emotions and attitudes that come up. Every action has a reaction. Every attitude has a consequence.

So, we start with conflicts that arise. Why do we have conflicts? There are many reasons and many opinions that people give. Some legit and some just plain silly if we look at them closely. The heart of the matter is we are conflicted with people for many reasons. Most of the reasons is they conflict with our personal desires.

This doesn’t mean that all of our desires are bad. People are in conflict with others because of the good work that God is doing in them and through them. We have the desire for people to know and believe in the God who created them; yet we come into conflict.

Looking at this from a simply wordly perspective, we can see there are serious consequences to certain attitudes, mindsets and behaviors if not checked. My guess would be that there are people reading this who would say, “I have never murdered anyone.” I invite us to closely read Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5. This shows us that whenever we think about harm coming to another person, or how another person makes us feel in a way that our spouse doesn’t, this is really just one step away from completing the “task”.

Throughout James, we have been examining that what comes into our mind is powerful and can lead us to do things we never intended. This even happens in our prayer life. How many times have we wanted something for our own use, our own cravings or selfish reasons? This can be on so many levels. James reminds us that we don’t get what we want, especially in times of selfishness.

I am so grateful for my wife. She is incredible and we are there for each other. As we live this life together, we are good sounding boards for each other. It is easy to slip into thinking solely about our own personal desires and wants; but we communicate with each other and we can grow our relationship and being open with each other. This doesn’t mean that we get it perfect every time; but praying for her and telling her what is on my heart and mind is how I can grow closer to her. She does the same thing with me.

How will we live today? For us? or for God’s purposes?

God, we come to you today to hear from you. We ask you to pour into us your Spirit, the Spirit that gives life and walks with us to be in line with Your will for our lives. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

What Drives You?

James 3:14-18 “However, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, then stop bragging and living in ways that deny the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above. Instead, it is from the earth, natural and demonic. Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil. What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.”

This week, we’re continuing to look at wisdom and our lives. Today, I’ll ask the question, “what drives you?” Maybe a better way to ask this is, “where do you get the motivation to do what you do?” I think this is a very important question to ask because it shows where we get our “wisdom” from: culture around us or God in heaven.

If we get our wisdom from the culture around us, we’ll be more interested in what the majority of people think. We’ll look to news and media for sensationalism and entertainment instead of seeing the world as a broken place that God is working in. We’ll say it’s okay to be jealous because people are messing with “our possessions” or our relationships. We’ll focus more on what we want and do anything to get it instead of doing what we can to improve the lives of those around us, including our own.

Wisdom from God is different. It is a way of life that sows the seeds of the gospel for the good of the Kingdom of God. We’ll see evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in our life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Our way of life, our actions will show this. God gives us a spirit that, if nurtured, will grow and bring forth fruit that will transform the world with the power of God working in us and through us.

What drives you?

Jesus, we call on you to work in our lives and nurture the gifts you and given us. May we have the wisdom to hear from you and allow you to continue to work in us and through us for the transformation of the world. Amen