One more look at Jesus’ words this week.

Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.

John 7:24

Read: John 7:21-24

Jesus is referencing a miracle he performed on the Sabbath. He showed compassion rather than following the restrictions for the Sabbath that forbid a person to do work. The healing required the man to carry his mat and walk home, both of which would have been considered work.

Jesus pointed out their inconsistency. If necessary to fulfill one part of the law, they would set aside another part. In this way, they did exactly what they accused Jesus of doing.

Jesus is, in essence, saying that things aren’t always as cut and dried as they seem.

Does everything seem black and white to you? No grey areas? Look again. Maybe everything isn’t as it seems.

Have a blessed Saturday as you prepare for worship tomorrow!

The humiliation of being caught in sin. A horrible place indeed. Never has a large brimmed hat and designer sun glasses looked so good. Hiding away behind the props, I find solace and anonymity.

Read: John 8:1-11

Jesus words have never sounded so good! When others are yelling for my demise, Jesus quietly stoops down and says, “I don’t condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Set free! Free from judgment. Free from condemnation. I am free to begin again.

Soak in the words of Jesus and let the shame of failure wash away. Stand up and begin again.

There are times when I am asked to explain myself. Not by those who are close to me or even those who are “for me,” but by those who oppose me. How do I know when to give a full explanation and when to smile and nod?

Read: Mark 11:27-33

Jesus’ interaction with the religious leaders of his day often resulted in questions meant to trap Jesus. He was an expert at knowing how to deflect their questions and avoid traps. I learn so much from the way he answered their questions with a question.

Too often I get caught trying to make someone understand the why of my life. And there are times when we can talk until we are blue in the face and our adversary will never understand. Less is more has become my mantra.

How have you been drawn into answering questions that need to be deflected? Do you tend to give too much time to those who are experts at criticism but spend very little time in the trenches? Who are the armchair quarterbacks in your life?

Comparison. It kills. It kills inspiration, creativity, innovation. Constantly looking at someone else prevents me from living fully, celebrating my opportunities, resting in my reality.

Read: John 21:20-23

As we look this week at What Would Jesus Say, my mind immediately went to this saying of Jesus. Too often we concern ourselves with the other guy. Jesus says it quite clearly here. Don’t worry about her. His path is of no concern to you. Walk yours and follow me.

Do you compare yourself to others? Does your path seem difficult while others seem to have it easier? What does Jesus want to say to you about this? How is comparison preventing you from living your best version of yourself?

The first time I encountered a ropes course was my first year of teaching in 2008. Every fall the high school students participated in a three day event designed to build community. Interterm, as it was called, offered a different activity each day. I chose to go with the students to the ropes course.

A ropes course traditionally has challenges that are low to the ground and others that are elevated as much as 30 feet above the ground. It was interesting to observe the students as they approached each event. Of particular interest to me was the high rope challenges, with one event specifically highlighted in my memory.

For this particular challenge, the participant climbed a pole to a small platform, maybe four feet square and 30 feet off the ground. The student was safely harnessed and instructed to jump from the platform and hit a ball that swung from a rope. After hitting the ball, the participant slowly descended to the ground. If you missed the ball, you still descended slowly to the ground because of the harnessing mechanism. So, practically speaking, there was no real danger. But that did not make the reality of jumping off a platform into the air any easier.

Two students stand out to me. The first clambored up the pole with no difficulty whatsoever, stood on the platform and immediately plunged off to hit the ball and descend to the ground. All of this was done in a very short time, he smiled the whole time and would have done it again and again. It took absolutely no effort or courage for him to accomplish this feat.

The final student in that group tentatively crawled up the pole, hanging on for dear life and cautiously crawled onto the platform. He could barely force himself to stand up and it took a long time for him to summon the courage to jump off the platform to hit the ball. There was no smile on his face, just sheer terror at being 30 feet off the ground, propelling himself off the platform. The fear was palpable. He finally accomplished the feat with loud cheers from all those watching. The courage he displayed was tremendous as he overcame his fear of heights to jump off that platform.

Read: Matthew 9:9-13

Today as I read this passage I was arrested by Jesus’ words to the Pharisees (religious leaders of his day). When they criticized him for eating with disreputable people, he told them to go home and learn the meaning of the Scripture “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.”

Jesus referenced Hosea 6:6 and Micah 6:6-8. Both of these passages warrant reading, so I encourage you to take the extra minute to do that. This wasn’t a new problem for the Israelites. God had been telling them for centuries that he wanted their hearts, not just their actions. I wonder if I know what it means to show mercy rather than offer a sacrifice.

In the two passages above, the “sacrifice” referred to is the animal that is killed and offered to the deity in a worship service. Sacrifices in the Old Testament were a part of Israelite worship, serving as a reminder to the one offering the sacrifice that God is holy and he/she is not. Sacrifices were offered to express thanksgiving, sin, peace and guilt; they were symbols of purity and cleansing as well.

In our culture, sacrifices are a bit different. Anything done as a ritual to appease the conscience or satisfy religious requirements could be considered a sacrifice. This includes church attendance, Bible reading, good deeds, giving/tithing, volunteering with a service project, baptism, etc.

Offering a sacrifice is likened to the student who clambored up the pole and jumped off to hit the ball with no hesitation whatsoever. It’s easy to attend church, volunteer to greet new visitors or bring cookies for the bake sale. It requires a little extra time, but doesn’t require too much outside of a little courage to complete the assignment.

Showing mercy, on the other hand, is much more complicated. At least for me. It means willingness to hang out with people who are really different from me. Not just hanging out, but listening to their stories and empathizing with them.

It means a willingness to be inconvenienced. It might mean my project isn’t finished because I sat with someone in the hospital or at a park. It is the willingness to be singled out because I sat with someone “different” rather than walking past them. It means I take time for dinner when I normally choose my favorite sitcom. It means I check in on the single mom and make sure her lawn mower works rather than pretend I don’t know.

What does it mean to you to show mercy rather than offer a sacrifice? Hosea 6:6 says that God wants us to show love rather than offer sacrifices and to know Him rather than offer burnt offerings. What does it mean to you to show love or to know Him? Is offering a sacrifice preferrable?

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

A decade or more ago there was a popular study entitled, “WWJD – What would Jesus Do?” It came complete with wrist bands, books, study guides – the complete deal. As a church we worked through the study in small groups, deliberately attentive to how we responded to difficult situations in daily life.

Saturday my daughter showed me the following:

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That made me chuckle! And then it made me think….hmmmm…what would Jesus say to me in certain situations? And so, I invite you to hang with me this week as we take a look at some of the things Jesus said to his disciples, to religious people, to his opposers… Here’s something to get you started.

Read: John 6:26-29

This is one of my all time favorite passages. Every time I read it I have to ask myself: why do I want to be with Jesus? What motivates me?

What motivates you? Is it because you think you should? Because you feel guilty if you don’t? Or is it because you expect/want a miracle? Some kind of treasure chest? Are you interested in HIM or just what he can give you?

But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.

Acts 13:22

So Jesus said, “…I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me. And the one who sent me is with me–he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.”

John 8:28-29

So then, it appears God approves of those whose heart is fully committed to him, willing to obey what he says.

Today as you worship in community, seek God’s heart and pray for willingness to do what pleases him.

Read: Acts1:14

The good news is that Jesus’ mother and brothers did become believers. They were gathered with the others in the upper room at Pentecost. His brother, James, wrote the book of James we find in the New Testament. He also lead the Jerusalem council recorded in Acts 15.

Whatever you are experiencing right now will work itself out in time. When we listen to our Father in heaven, he has a way of changing situations and filling our hearts with more than we can imagine.

Remember…

But you, O Lord are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain.

Psalm 3:3-4

Welcome summer! I am glad you are here!

A few years ago I attended a seminar that taught us to ask Jesus questions. I admit, it seemed a little strange to expect Jesus to answer my questions. After all, wasn’t my mind just primed to hear an answer based on the information I knew about Jesus? So essentially, I would be answering my own questions, right?!

But I gave it a try anyway. I was pleasantly surprised. This morning as I was getting ready for the day, I pondered my blog posts from the last few days. I thought about Jesus and his choices that separated him from his family. I thought about what he might have struggled with in doing that. I wondered how it felt to him. So, I decided to ask him. “How did you feel not doing what your father expected?”

And before the thought was barely formed, I heard an answer. You can think I’m crazy – you might not be the first – but I heard an answer. I heard him say, “I did exactly what my Father wanted me to do.”

No where in my thinking was that idea even remotely present. I have been so blessed all day as I keep coming back to that simple statement. He did exactly what his father wanted. Along with this simple statement came an immediate understanding that Jesus’ eyes were on His Father in heaven, not his earthly family.

I encourage you to give it a try. What is the issue you are struggling with right now? Ask Jesus about it. Do you feel rejected or left out? Ask Jesus how he handled rejection. Are you feeling overwhelmed with ministry/job/personal responsibilities? Ask Jesus how he dealt with the stress and pressure of responsibility.

Psalm 62 begins with these words: “I wait quietly before God…” and verse 5 says, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God…” The Hebrew word translated “I” in these verses relates to the inner person but is also related to the physical, animate life including the seat of cravings and desires. In essence, the psalmist is saying “let all of me – spirit, body and mind – wait quietly before God….”

And therein lies the secret. Taking the time to ask the question and then confidently believing what you hear.

What have you got to lose? Maybe a few seconds of the day. No one is going to know, so no embarrassment if it “doesn’t work.” A little word of advice – often the first thing you hear is what the Lord wants you to know. Listen carefully and don’t over analyze. If it seems whacky, check it with a stable friend. And as always, I would love to hear your experiences. Don’t be afraid to use the Contact page to leave me a personal message.

Read: John 7:3-5

I wonder what the expectation for the oldest child was in a Jewish family. In one resource it said, “Sons, especially the firstborn, were the guarantee of lineage and the promise of maintaining family holdings.”* Jesus’ announcement to his family that he was leaving the business and going into ministry was likely met with a certain level of hostility. He had responsibilities as the oldest son.

I have many friends and acquaintances who work as families in business. Some children follow their parents and continue the business. Others decide to follow dreams that don’t include the family business. A tough decision, to be sure.

Read: Mark 10:29-31

Jesus had just encountered the rich young man who walked away sad when Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. He admitted the decision to follow such drastic advice was indeed difficult, but not without its reward both here and in eternity.

What have you given up that feels really drastic? Jesus knows what it feels like to make an unpopular decision and to face hostility as a result. Sit with him a minute. Psalm 62 talks about waiting quietly before God, confessing that he alone is our rock and salvation, our fortress where we won’t be shaken. Allow these words to sink into the deep parts of your experiences and bring victory and honor.

*Dictionary of New Testament Background, Ed. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter, Intervarsity Press, 2000.