Bursting the Bubble

Bubble – noun –anything lacking firmness, substance or permanence; an illusion or delusion.

Every day we get reminders our world is a dangerous place. Home invasions, car jacking’s, terrorist bombs are tragic and terrifying daily occurrences. Bomb sniffing dogs, home alarm systems, gates, fences, and security guards are in place to feed our cherished illusion of safety and security. We are shocked when these “foolproof” systems fail and rush to blame someone/thing/agency. Some of our safety nets are more ordinary and seem justifiable; investing for retirement, eating the right foods, not eating the “wrong” things, endless warning labels.

For three years Jesus had traveled, taught and lived in close and constant contact with his 12 disciples. He had told them His time with them was short; He knew He was hours away from betrayal and a horrific public death yet they still just did not get it (Luke 22:24 – 38). They continued to think Jesus was going to be a glorious and majestic King who would deliver the nation of Israel from Rome’s oppressive rule; their bubble was about to burst.

So they argue about which of them was regarded as the greatest (v24). Don’t you just love how easy it is to relate to these men? How quickly the “self” and pride rears it’s ugly head? We hear about a co-workers promotion and, to our shame, our very first thought is, “Oh but I work just as hard/harder than they do!”

Peter, the disciple most likely to put his foot in his mouth, boldly declares that he is ready to follow Jesus to prison and death (v33) but Jesus knows his weakness and, very soon, Peter will know it too. God allows trials and testing to burst our bubble of self-confidence, independence and strength; to reveal our desperate need to depend on Him and to increase our faith.

Jesus reminds Peter (v35) of the time He had sent him out into the world with nothing yet, Peter was taken care of; Jesus kept the twelve close, in a bubble of protection and provision, they did not fully understand all He had told them and were ignorant of the future. That is all about to change.

The disciples point out the two swords they have in their possession and Jesus ends the discussion abruptly, “It is enough.” (v38)

What is “enough”? The swords? No way can two swords deter the well-trained and armed Roman soldiers. Talking? Was Jesus angry at their thick heads and foolishness, tired of explanations? I don’t think so. As I read this story again it struck me in a new way.

Jesus death and resurrection burst the bubble of safety; the veil was torn and access to the most holy place was exposed for all to see. The torn veil, truth exposed, means the moment of decision is at hand and each person must choose to accept or reject Jesus. The disciples were about to be sent out into their world to pour out all that Jesus had poured into them for the past years.

Like these men, we can choose; we can stay within our safety bubble or pick up our weapons, step out in faith and follow Jesus.

We delude ourselves by thinking earthly and man-made systems, walls and fences, big bank accounts and airport scanners keep us safe and secure.   We often live as if doing the “right thing” (whatever THAT is) gives us a guarantee and complete protection. The bubble of people-pleasing safety, of shortsighted living, of trusting emotions instead of truth, of trusting myself is the greatest illusion.

Jesus’ abrupt “enough” is His instruction to take my great treasure (Jesus Himself) and invest my time and energy in the only real security and safety; my guaranteed eternity in heaven.  My weapons (the Word and the Spirit) will sustain the life of faith I am called to live and tools I can and should share with anyone and everyone.

“Enough” is my daily challenge. Oh Lord, show me how to live a life that demonstrates my belief that You are enough. Keep my heart and mind focused only on You!

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3

 

Keep it Light

DISSIPATION
noun
1.the act of dissipating.
2.the state of being dissipated; dispersion; disintegration.
3.a wasting by misuse: the dissipation of a fortune.
4.mental distraction; amusement; diversion.
5.dissolute way of living, especially excessive drinking of liquor;intemperance.
6.Physics, Mechanics. a process in which energy is used or lost without accomplishing useful work, as friction causing loss of mechanical energy.
If you knew a major storm was coming, what would be your words of warning and advice to your family and close friends?  Probably, you would give them some practical suggestions; store some food and water, gas up your car, maybe consider evacuating to safety.  Jesus, in Luke Chapter 21,  informs the disciples that devastating destruction is coming, He issues a storm warning.

“Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap;”  Luke 21:34

Jesus warning to all His disciples is to prepare, to be on guard and alert, to live expectantly.  But His concern is not for the practical, the material, but for the heart…always the heart…

  • Not weighted down with dissipation – keep your heart from wasting itself on things that do not matter.  God created a wonderful world and He wants us to enjoy it but when fun becomes our priority we are left empty.
  • and drunkenness – avoid over-indulgence in anything and everything that replaces God in our affections.  Jesus is referring directly to becoming drunk on alcohol but we can become addicted to anything: shopping, TV, food, etc.
  • and the worries of life – when a heart is full of worry it is full of pain, unable to function well.  Life has many problems and challenges but God does not want us to worry ; He want us to trust Him in and for everything  (Matthew 6:25-34).

I love how Jesus groups these three “problem children” together – dissipation, drunkenness, and worry.  All result in wasted time, energy and effort.  Like a gerbil in a wheel, spinning at top speed, going nowhere. The only way to keep going is to go faster but it is a waste.  The combination of dissipation, drunkenness, and worry are like heavy rocks that we carry with us everywhere.  These burdens consume our energy and thoughts and become the focus of our lives.  We are so busy carrying the “rocks” we don’t pay attention to anything or anyone else.  Our hearts are dragged down, damaged and crushed by the weight…

Jesus’ storm warning causes me to look into my heart.  How much time do I waste in a day?  Time is NOT a renewable resource!  Is my energy focused on indulging myself or does it flow outward to others.  How do I “spend” my time and energy?  Am I more focused on people or on myself and things?  Does what I am doing bring me closer to God of pull me away from Him?  Worry, is the worst of the three in some ways.  It is so easy to convince ourselves that with all that is going on in the world, we should be worried.  There are so many terrible things that can happen, we feel like worry makes sense, right?  WRONG!  My worry always indicates my lack of trust in God’s plan, purpose and care in my life.  Worry is a gigantic weight around my neck that hurts my back, makes my heart work too hard, and paralyzes me, causing me to be useless and ineffective.   Worst of all, worry is a sign of unbelief…

Oh Lord, help me keep you first in my heart.  There is no substitute for you, anything but you is a shadow.  Help me to properly balance work, rest and the enjoyment of the life you have graciously given me.  Help me trust you and keep my mind at peace.  Keep me light-hearted…

 

My Two Cents

Ever been inside a large, crowded casino? It is an assault on the senses – colors, people and noise. Slot machines dominate with music, bells, beeps and the sound of coins. Coins dropping into the trays below with every win – over and over and over…

Jesus is in the temple of Jerusalem (Luke 20), teaching and preaching the gospel to the people. The temple would have been very crowded; it was days before the Passover, the highest holy day for Jews, many would have made the journey to the city to remember God’s deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian bondage with the Passover meal.

Jesus must be been in the Court of the Women, off to the side is the Temple Treasury. History records that the Temple Treasury was an area set apart to receive offerings. There were thirteen boxes set around the walls and each box had a large, trumpet-like opening; the faithful would put their coins into these trumpets. In my mind it must have sounded a lot like a casino floor minus the beeps and bells.   In the midst of all this noise, the press of people, Jesus notices a single woman (Luke 21).

A poor widow who puts her two tiny coins into the opening and walks away. The tiny tinkle made by her little coins was probably lost in the cacophony of the larger and more numerous coins of other givers yet Jesus sees and hears her. If the story ended right at that moment it would be enough for me because this incident is one of those that makes me love Jesus. Women in Jesus’ day were looked down upon, men did not speak or even look at women in public, they were on the edge of society but Jesus changed that – He spoke to women, He looked them in the eye, He treated women with respect and honor – I love this about Jesus!

Jesus also observed the rich putting their coins; He was watching HOW they gave. Many of them made a big show of their generosity; they wanted to be noticed and to be known as big givers. Jesus had just warned His disciples about these religious phonies who wanted the admiration of the people but “devoured” widows by taking advantage of their desperation.

Jesus commends the widow, not for the AMOUNT of her gift, but for it’s COST. Those two tiny coins were all she had to give and it cost her everything to give them. She gives in obedience and out of love, not seeking any notice or reward.  She had to work her way through the crowd to put her coins in, being jostled, and possibly scorned or mocked as she pushed up to the trumpet.

The widow’s gift causes me to examine my own heart towards giving. What is my true motivation for giving?  Do I only give when it is easy/comfortable? Do I give with a poor or begrudging attitude?   Is my gift for “show”, because I have to or because I want to.  Slot machines no longer accept or pay out in actual coins.  When you collect your winnings a paper receipt prints out which you can use in another machine or redeem for cash.  As the receipt is printing you hear the sound of coins dropping into a tray – it is an illusion, a sham.  Jesus saw what was phony, He saw what was real – Oh God, help me be real…

Search me, O God and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting…Psalm 139:23

 

Pardon the Interruption – Luke 8

When my kids were young I had two wishes, 1. to finish a cup of coffee while it was still hot and, 2. to take an uninterrupted shower.  Two simple wishes that I think every parent or caregiver of young kids understands.  Is it a law that my phone will only ring when I it is on the other side of the room and I am sitting in my favorite comfy chair AND it is just a  phone solicitation?  Is there a bulletin that goes out saying, “She’s reading, start your conversation now!”  Why are these little interruptions so darn interrupting?

After being asked to leave the swine herders, Jesus gets a warm welcome at his next stop, (Luke 8:40) where He is met by a man named Jairus,  Unlike the Gerasene demoniac, Jairus was an important and highly respected man.  He is also a desperate man, a loving father whose daughter is dying.  He falls at Jesus feet, pleading for Jesus to come and heal his daughter.  I understand Jairus desperation; God taught me how to pray as I prayed for my children, when they were sick, when they were struggling, when they rebelled.  In those times, I prayed fervently and without ceasing, often without words but with groans and tears.  Desperation will drive you to your knees at the feet of Jesus and there is no better place to be!  Jairus came humbly but also confidently; he expected Jesus to answer, he expected Jesus to act.  When we lay it all down before Jesus we can have that same confidence; that if what we ask is in His will, He will hear and answer, how glorious!

BUT…

…an interruption…

A woman pushes and shoves her way through the crush of people and touches the fringe of Jesus’ cloak.  The briefest touch by a single finger and a quick withdrawal but Jesus notices – He always notices.  I love that about Jesus!  I am very goal oriented, I can be so focused on my agenda, my “to-do” list, that I miss the people around me, I miss an opportunity to give a kind or encouraging word.  If I am not listening to God’s voice, I can see interruptions as annoyances and not as divine appointments.

Jesus not only notices her, He draws attention to her and she is forced to proclaim her shame.  The hemorrhage would have made her “unclean” and unable to worship in the temple.  During her 12 years of suffering, she endured much at the hands of physicians and spent all she had seeking a cure.  And she shares the news of the immediate, miraculous healing she just experienced to the crowd – she must have been smiling as she told this good news.

In the meantime, Jairus is waiting.  Jairus knows every second counts, his daughter, his only daughter, is dying – why is Jesus taking so long?  So, another…

…interruption…

News comes, the worst news, Jairus’ daughter has died.  “Don’t trouble the teacher”,  (Luke 8:49) in other words, don’t bother Jesus, we don’t need Him any more.  Jesus always knows what is best and His timing is perfect; He knows what we think, He knows how we feel so He tells Jairus not to be afraid, He will make his daughter well.  Jesus goes to Jairus’ house.  The mourners laugh; it can be easier to laugh than to accept Jesus words as true and I wonder how foolish they felt when Jairus’ daughter got up!

Jesus orders that someone get her something to eat.  Jesus is both miraculous and practical.  This reminds me that after an amazing encounter with Jesus, I need to get back to the everyday business of living life, a changed life, a new life, an ordinary, interrupted life made extraordinary by Jesus!

Dead Man Walking – Luke 8

Have you ever eaten those frozen pot pies?  I have not eaten one in years but I used to love the chicken ones.  One of my early cooking attempts was baking a couple of them for an easy summer dinner for the family.  I had put a few of them on a cookie sheet and anxiously waited for them to finish baking.  As I took them out of the oven my hand brushed the pan.  I recoiled and dropped the pot pies, spilling them on the door of the oven and the floor, the pies exploded.  The contents hit my bare legs (I had shorts on) and it felt like hot lava. I screamed and jumped back – too late.  I had second and third degree burns on my upper left thigh.  For a long time I was afraid to use the oven.

Jesus has just calmed the storm in Luke 8 and in verse 26, Jesus and his disciples are back in the boat.  I can tell you that after being in those waves and wind the last thing I would have wanted to do was get back into the boat but that is not Jesus.  He goes where and when His father tells Him and the safest place to be is with Jesus.  They land in the Gadara (or Gerasene depending on your translation) and meet a demon possessed man.  Jesus does not seem surprised or dismayed by this man or his appearance – Jesus knows what is going on with him; He knows what is going on with me.

Luke 8 and Mark 5 taken together paint a picture of a man who was seemed more inhuman than human.  The man was naked and incredibly strong, he had been bound with chains but they could not hold or subdue him.  He was scarred and bleeding; he cut himself with sharp stones.  He screamed constantly.  He lived in the tombs among the dead bodies.  There is no record of how long he suffered in this condition but I picture his filthy, matted hair and beard and the nearly visible stench of his unwashed body and of death.  I would have recoiled and fled in terror. Jesus strides in; this is the fearless, warrior Jesus who has come to fight for this lost man, the Jesus who will come back to fight for His bride, who fights for me.

The demons possessing the man cry out when they see and recognize Jesus and they call Him by name, Jesus, Son of the Most High God.  These evil creatures know who He is yet how many in that day, how many today, still do not recognize Him, refuse to recognize Him.  Someday every knee will bow as they recognize Him when He comes again in glory and power.  The demons would rather be sent into some nearby pigs than sent into the abyss, the place of eternal torment.  It is sad to hear some today claim that they are not afraid of hell, that they prefer hell to heaven; these demons know what that really means, they understood the seriousness and the finality of eternal separation from God.

The herdsman run away, full of fear.  The townspeople come to investigate and ask Jesus to leave.  What are they all afraid of? Losing the pigs and the income they represented?  Are they afraid of change?  A genuine encounter with Jesus will cause a change and some are more focused on what they may have to give up than on what they might gain by yielding to Christ; fear holds many back but perfect love casts out fear and Jesus love is so perfect!  So Jesus leaves, He will not stay where He is not wanted.

The man, now dressed and in his right mind, begs to go with Jesus, but Jesus instructs him to go back to his home, to tell of the great things Jesus had done.  I am so glad this story is recorded for us.  Once upon a time, I was one of the walking dead. I was afraid that if I trusted Jesus I might lose out on the fun of life; I worried about what I might have to give up.   I was in chains and full of scars, now I am free in Christ, He broke the chains, He bears my scars.  All around me are dead men, and women, but they don’t know that apart from Christ they are dead.  Jesus came intentionally to the demon possessed man of Gadara to heal his mind, his tortured spirit, to set him free.  Jesus comes today to heal and free the captives, to bring those walking in eternal death to eternal life.  Only Jesus can do this, only Jesus…

Tri-focal – Now Choose

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!”And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.  Luke 6:6 – 11

When you encounter Jesus, you must choose and there are only two choices:

Come closer – the man with the withered hand came forward, he stood next to Jesus.  He turned away from the crowd and looked at Jesus with expectation.  He knew something was going to happen but he did not know what; he didn’t care, he just wanted to be near Jesus.  He chose Jesus; he chose healing and restoration.

Turn away – the Pharisees turned and whispered among themselves.  They rejected Jesus and rejected the truth of The Word.  They were full of rage and the trap they were hoping to use on Jesus revealed their hearts.  They chose to cling to their old life, a life of bitterness, anger, and self-righteousness.

Today is a good day to choose for yourself…

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve:” Joshua 24:15

Tri-focal – Part 3

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!”And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

Focus On – The Pharisees

The scribes and Pharisees were watching Him closely – good idea!!  Watching Jesus closely is so worthwhile, He is interesting, endearing and altogether lovely BUT why were they so interested? They hope to trap, accuse and persecute Jesus; their motives were all wrong.

But when Jesus puts the  focus is on them, they remain silent.  They have no answer to His direct question.  They claim they are the defenders and teachers of the law; they should know it perfectly.  Why don’t they answer?

A withered hand is restored and the Pharisees are filled with rage, not just frustrated and annoyed, enraged – why?  They just witnessed a miraculous healing, why aren’t they celebrating with the man and praising God?  Not the Pharisees, they whisper together, to them, people don’t matter, rules rule.  They would rather be plotting a trap for Jesus.

Christians are always being watched and the more public we are the more closely we are watched.  Pharisees watch hoping to catch Christ followers in sin, failure, or hypocrisy. Believers are not perfect and we will and do sin, fail and act like phonies and fools.  When we do, we need to be quick to ask for forgiveness from those we’ve offended, to admit our sin and failure, to make amends.

Oh Lord, help me to be aware that I am being watched.  Help me to live above reproach and when I fail to ask for forgiveness quickly.  Help me remember that I am not the target, Jesus is!  It is the reputation of Jesus Christ I need to uphold, it is the reputation of Jesus Christ that is being attacked and defamed. Lord, show me if I am ever being a “Pharisee”, if my attitude or words are judgmental or condemning, help me to be someone who extends grace .  Help me to walk in a manner worthy of being called by His name, Christian.

Tri-focal – Part 2

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!”And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

Focus on The Man

I have a large scar on the back of my right hand.  I have had this scar since I was a baby and in my younger years it was much larger and very obvious; it has gotten smaller with the passing of time.  I never think much about it unless someone notices and comments. I used to feel very self-conscious and uncomfortable whenever I was asked about it.

Jesus sees the man with the withered hand and tells him to come forward.  I can guess how the man feels, awkward and  uncomfortable, not wanting to be noticed, yet,the man does not hesitate.  Jesus could have healed the man from across the room but He wanted him to come close to Him.  What was it about Jesus that compelled the man to obey?  Whatever it was, I want that same “Jesus fragrance”.  I want to be someone who draws people closer to Jesus.  I want to stay close to Jesus, breathing deep of His aroma.

The man does not hesitate but walks forward; He makes the best decision and moves in the right direction – towards Jesus!  Oh God, help me to continually press in close to you!  The man was willing to be exposed before the crowd when he stretched out his hand and revealed his shame, his embarrassment.  When we expose our weakness, our shame, sin loses its power over us and God’s glory is displayed for all to see.

What did the man think was going to happen?  Jesus did not give a hint.  The man walked forward in faith.  He expected nothing and got everything!  Oh Lord, increase my withered faith to obey you immediately without caring what others think!

Up Next – Focus 3, The Pharisees

Tri-focal – Part 1

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!”And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6:6 – 11

Jesus, in the place of meeting and discussion is teaching; in the three years He ministered on earth, Jesus spent hours teaching, explaining and discussing the Word of God with people.  Jesus sees a man with a withered hand.  He also see the scribes and Pharisees watching and He knows what they are thinking – He always knows but knowing does not change what He intends to do, to teach.  He knows my thoughts before I do and the deep desires of my heart.  He knows that sin begins with a  thought and He wants to change me by changing the way I think.

Jesus saw everyone; I love that about Him.  Jesus really sees the least of them, the ones who were wounded inside and out; on this day He sees the man with the withered hand.  How often do I walk past people, barely noticing their existence or worse, deliberately ignoring the person I just don’t want to see or deal with?  Oh God, help me be sensitive to the people right around me, forgive me for the times I have chosen to ignore someone.  Everyone is wounded in some way, hurting, in need of a kind word or prayer, it only takes a few moments.  Jesus notices me, how can I fail to see those He loves and died to save.

Jesus questions the watchers about the law they claimed they knew and zealously argued and upheld; He wants them to see the true purpose of the law was not to condemn but to show our need for a Savior; the law could change behavior but it could not change a heart.  He restores the withered hand and the spirit of the man.  Jesus, the Great Physician the ultimate healer is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Up Next, Focus 2 – The Man

Just a Question

But some of the Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” Luke 6:2

Lots of great discoveries are made because someone asks a simple question but sometimes the person asking the question does not really want an answer, they just want to see you squirm.

The Pharisees often tried to trap Jesus with their questions and that was their intent here; they had seen Jesus’ disciples picking and eating grain from the field.  Deuteronomy 23:25 specifically permits plucking grain by hand;  it was the use of harvesting tools that was prohibited.

Jesus, instead of ignoring them, asks them a question.  He asks them a question about The Bible and their own history. Jesus refers to the time when a hungry David took bread from the temple (1 Samuel 21), bread that had been dedicated to God, holy bread.

I love how the living Word, the Word made flesh, uses The Bible to expose their motives and reveal the true state of their hearts to themselves, Jesus already knows what they are thinking.   And that is what The Bible does, as we read it and meditate upon it we learn of a holy God, we see ourselves as we truly are; lost sinners in need of a Savior.  Jesus Himself is the answer to every question of your soul, ask Him your questions.