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.

Stay Flat!

Some of my least favorite conversations start like this.

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.”

“I can tell something is bothering you. What’s wrong?”

Like a ping pong match, this exchange can go for a while until one or the other person breaks down and tells why they are angry/hurt/upset/worried/sad etc.  Most of the time it is pretty easy to “read” the people we are close to and we know when to start this conversation.

But we know how to hide, how to pretend, how to dissemble, and how to divert attention from what is really going on with us to some other meaningless thing.  God knows we do this and that we like to think we are pretty good at it.  When Adam and Eve were hiding in that garden He knew where they were and why they were hiding but He asked, “Where are you?” It was similar to asking them, “What’s the matter?”

We may be able to hide from one another but we cannot hide from God.  In chapter 5 of the book of Numbers God has some interesting instructions about revealing some things that could easily be kept hidden.

Leprosy – cannot be in the camp where God is; a person having leprosy must be put out of the camp.  Leprosy often begins with a  visible sore or white patch on the skin and it would it be easy to keep it hidden for a while.

Wrong another person – the offender must confess their sin and make proper restitution. But what if the wrong is not such a big deal or the person offended cannot be found?   “No one will ever know”  This is not an acceptable excuse, we know we did it and so does God.  No procrastination either, do it right away before you “forget”.

Suspected adultery – a husband suspects his wife may have committed adultery but has no proof. (And yes, sorry ladies, a woman suspecting her husband did not have this same recourse and yes, this does not seem fair.)  The husband must take her to the priest, he is not to nag her with accusations and because there are no witnesses she cannot be stoned to death. (The penalty for adultery Leviticus 20:10).  Now it gets really interesting, the priest prepares bitter water for her to drink (water with dust from the ground mixed in)  and the priest makes this pronouncement,

the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people by the Lord’s making your thigh waste away and your abdomen swell; and this water that brings a curse shall go into your stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away.” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.”

There was really nothing special or “magical” in the water, the priest and woman were agreeing that God would judge her.  If she had committed adultery, she would become barren – unable to bear children, her sin would be exposed.

This is one of those parts of the Bible that makes me look up to God and say, “Huh?  I don’t think I really get all this, God.”  And I “hear” God say, “That’s ok, I am glad you are working on it, you don’t have to understand every word of my Word but what do you get?”

And here are two things that seem very clear:

  • Sin spreads, like leprosy, it will not go away and must be dealt with or it may “infect” others.  Once I have taken one apple from my neighbors orchard it becomes much easier to take two or three the next time,  “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.”
  • God expects His people to be holy as He is holy.  To be honest in all our dealings with one another.  To be honest with Him, to confess our sin, apologize to those we have hurt, to make restitution if necessary, to honor our marriage vows with our faithfulness.  To be pure and holy is a process, it begins on the outside with cleaning up the obvious sin in our lives, whatever that is, drinking, bad language, etc.  Then we are to move on the deeper levels, being honest in all of our dealings with each other and finally to honesty in our closest, most intimate relationship – our marriages.

Jon Courson (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Volume 1) writing on the woman accused of adultery in this passage says that her swollen belly indicates her inner turmoil and her rotten (wasted) thigh represents an inability to walk spiritually.  A swollen belly and a painful leg make it difficult to walk (ask anyone who is 8 – 9 months pregnant!)  A pure life brings inner peace and a strong walk with the Lord.  How do you get that?  Admit your sin to God, ask Him to forgive you, believe that Jesus died for you, accept Jesus’ gift of salvation.  So, keep your belly flat and your legs strong!

Empty Excuses

“No, I didn’t do that!”

“That is not true.”

“Yes, but do you know what they did/said?”

“I promise I won’t do it again.”

“I only did that once!”

“Let me tell you what really happened.”

“Things are really hard for me right now.”

I sat listening to a steady stream of excuses, justifications and blame. After a few moments I tuned it all out because it was just the same old same old repeated over and over with minor variations.

When the conversation finally ended, the person who had been in the “hot seat” left, clutching the tattered shreds of their delusion that somehow, they were believed. The lies they had told to others, the lies they clung to about themselves were so deep, they were convinced their pride and dignity was still intact. They were wrong. I was not the only one listening to this conversation and all of us knew the truth. The person making the excuses was being dishonest. The excuses were exactly that, lame excuses and there was no legitimate justification for any of the foolish and disrespectful actions. Only one person was to blame.

As this pitiful conversation was drawn to a close I felt amused, disgusted, ashamed, saddened, angered and finally, deeply convicted. I began to consider the hours of precious life wasted; how “Satan fascinates and then assassinates” to quote my dear friend, Debbie. This person was caught in a web of lies and deceptions that took years to construct; the wasted potential for good, for creativity, for happiness made me sad and angry.   A lack of personal responsibility, for “owning” your decisions, for blaming others disgusts me; the “victim mentality” so prevalent in our world is a big lie from the pit. Yes, I do understand that bad things can happen to people through no fault of their own, some people are truly victims but let’s face it if I eat candy bars all day every day and all my teeth fall out and I balloon up to 700 lbs. it is not the fault of the candy company – take responsibility for your decisions people!

I began to see this person as God does and realized how often I make excuses for my own sinful choices that sound exactly the same as the excuses, justifications and blame I had overheard. How God must hate listening to my ridiculous statements: “He made me so angry. “ “She hurt my feelings.” “I would do ______ better if I didn’t have this problem right now.” “I will start tomorrow/I will never do that again!” And so on and so forth the excuses march on.

God, forgive me. Help me to be a worshipper in Spirit and in TRUTH, to be honest in my confession, to take responsibility for my own actions, to compare myself only to you and not to others. Remind me to pray for this person, for their freedom from lies and for their salvation; show me the lies I believe. Help me stay dependent on you, not making empty promises to do things on my own strength but drawing on your power and the Holy Spirit to transform me from the inside out.

Blogging 101 – Dear Dream Reader

Today’s assignment – create a post that addresses your “Dream Reader”, the person who hope to reach through your blog and do something different.

Dear Dream Reader,

Be encouraged, be inspired…

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:37 – 39

With a prayer for you…

Writing 101 – Storm Clouds

Todays’ challenge: Write a post inspired by a real conversation. The Twist: Include foreshadowing.

“Good Morning, Garden Gifts, how can we help you today? Oh, hello Lainie, how are you? What? You’re at the hospital? What was it this time? Don’t tell me, let me guess, he took his bike down that trail again!” said Meg.  Meg was in her usual spot on a Monday morning. Meg’s tiny, cluttered office was her home away from home. Post-It notes were everywhere, lots of photos, a calendar covered with more notes and a several “to-do” lists covered every inch of one wall. Meg tried to come in early on Monday’s hoping to take advantage of the solitude before her shop opened and the “real” workday began. Her Monday goal was to get ahead on things but she was happy if she could just catch up a little; running your own business was more than a full time job. And now, this phone call…

“Huh? Say that again, I am really having a hard time hearing you. You must be in a bad spot, the reception is terrible, all static-y. I’ll wait till you get to a better spot.“ She started to dig through a pile of folders, the perpetual Leaning Tower of Paper on the corner of her desk. “He did what?” With an abrupt motion, she stood, gripping the phone.   “I thought he was finished with all that! Well, what does the doctor say? Ok, ok, calm down, I can barely understand you. You’re right it IS serious. Yes I know you are upset, I’m upset too. It must have been terrifying.”

Meg began to pace back and forth, head down, receiver pressed to her ear. She nodded occasionally, even though she was all alone and no one could see her. At intervals, she would interject a short, “H-m-m” into the soliloquy pouring from the phone.

“Look, you have to try to calm yourself. Breathe slowly. Count with me. Breathe in one, two, three four, five, now hold it, hold it. Now let it out, real slow…one, two, three, four, five. Ok, again.” Meg was also breathing, inhaling and exhaling, the same slow deep breaths to calm herself.

“That’s better now. I know you are upset but try not to worry. We’ll get through this. He’s exactly where he needs to be right now.  You know God’s got this right?” Meg plunked down in her chair again and began searching her desk. Finally, her hand grasped a worn, leather-clad volume. She began flipping its pages. Like her wall, there were Post-It notes stuck to some pages, handwriting filled the margins on others, a few small sheets of notepaper fluttered onto the floor as she went back and forth, searching for the page she needed.

“Remember that verse, Lamentations 3:37, ‘Can anything happen without the Lord’s permission?’ Yes, I know this is difficult to hear right now, Lainie, but God is allowing this to happen. He has a purpose in all things!” Meg’s head was bent over her worn Bible, concentrating; at the same time, her lips were moving in silent prayer.

“You’re right, yes, God forgives our sins, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, He will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’   But sometimes sin has consequences and those consequences can be painful. God’s not taking revenge on you or him. I know you don’t want to go through this again, none of us do, including him. Oh, ok, I can hold on, you go ahead.” Meg held the phone away from her ear and waited, covering her eyes with her hand. She could hear the faint sound of a conversation through the phone.

“Oh, sure I understand. Let me share just one more verse with you, this has been my favorite for years, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.’ Notice how it does not say the path will be level or easy, just straight! It means He will show you the way if you just trust Him. That’s Proverbs 3:5, 6 by the way,” Meg paused, listening.

“Ok, I have to get going too. I am going to pray right now. Maybe this will be the last time he has to go to rehab. Some people have to go through the program a few times before it sticks with them and they quit for good. My brother has always been pretty hard-headed, you know that better than anyone, Sis, you’ve been down this road before. Thank God he’s alive.  It sounds like you found him just in time. God has given him another chance; our job is to pray he takes it!  Call me if anything changes and I will call you tomorrow. You take care of yourself, I’ll be praying for both of you!”

Only the Sick Need Apply – Mark 2:14 – 17

As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He *said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. (Mark 2:14)

Jesus, passing by sees Levi in his tax booth. The more I learn about Jesus the more I realize that Jesus did not just “see” people, He SAW people. Jesus really looked at them and acknowledged them, He often stopped and spoke to them. How many people do I pass in a day and literally just pass them? Do I take even a moment to SEE them as individuals? As people having goals, ambitions, possibly carrying heavy burdens of physical pain, grief, worry?

“I pray I would take time to give a friendly greeting, a warm smile to really look into their eyes. I ask you God to give me an opportunity to speak a word of encouragement, a word of blessing and not disgust or complaint. Oh God, I am sorry for just ignoring people, for thinking badly of them or, even worse, not thinking of them at all. Help me be more like Jesus, help me SEE a person, not an interruption or annoyance.”

And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, (Mark 2:15)

Things never just “happened” with Jesus! He was always intentional and purposeful in everything He did. His sole purpose and intention, daily was to do the will of His Father. How did He do this? There are several recorded instances where Jesus took time to be alone to pray, to speak to and seek God.

“Oh God, help me to follow Jesus example! He Himself was God yet He made time to be with you. I am an ordinary woman, if Jesus needed to pray, I need it much more!”

and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. (Mark 2:15)

Jesus did not discriminate! Tax collectors were the outcasts of the day. No one wanted to be with them! Associating with sinners made you a sinner too. Who wants to be with the crowd that everybody else avoids? Jesus!

“Oh Lord, forgive me for looking down on people for any reason. Help me not to avoid those who are different from me. Help me not to be judgmental, especially help me not to judge anyone on their outward appearance. Help me see them as you see them.  Help me love them as you do.”

When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:16)

I find it interesting that the scribes (pious Jews who strictly followed the religious laws) did not confront Jesus directly with their “concern”; they asked His disciples. The reality was that they were not really concerned about Jesus; they were more interested in catching Him breaking their laws. They were interested in punishment, not restoration. Their behavior is a good lesson for me…

“Jesus, I am so grateful for the Bible. Grateful that I can learn who you are, who God is and who I am as I read it. Help me remember what I read and apply it to my life. I don’t want to read it just to learn facts; I want it to change me from the inside out. Help me not to be a religious phony or pretender. Jesus, help me remember to come to you with everything, every question, every worry and help me come to you first!”

And hearing this, Jesus *said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

What a great answer! Jesus knew the real problem of the scribes; self-righteousness and pride. They believed that perfect obedience made them perfect; they saw themselves as healthy. Jesus knows we, they, are all UN-healthy; we are all sick, we are all sinners. Sadly for the scribes, they did not welcome Jesus; the tax collectors and sinners did. Jesus will only go where He is welcomed; He is a gentleman; He waits to be invited.

“Thank you, Jesus that you made me aware of my sickness. Thank you that I invited you into my heart. Help me to remember that I did invite you and asked you to be Lord of my life. Help me to truly surrender all of myself, all of my life, all of my mind to you – to hold nothing back. Thank you that I am made righteous because You made it so by paying the price for my sin. It is not about me; I could not have made this decision if you had not called me. It is always, only all about you, Jesus!”

“Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible by The Lockman Foundation.”