Tag Archives: Bible

Listen at Your Own Risk

When Jesus told a parable, it was a time-release gotcha, His version of a Trojan Horse.  He’d light the fuse on what looked like a nice little story and slide it right past the people’s defenses.  Too late, they’d realize His stories were aimed at them, at their bone-headed stupidity or wickedness.

As an experiment, this week I’ve edited an audio message about one of His parables into five chunks, each about 5 minutes long or so, thinking you might spread them out and listen to them during the week. You will discover His seemingly harmless story springs its trap just as effectively today as it did when He first told it.  So, you have been warned: Listen at your own risk.  Here they are the audio links.  Take your time and work your way through these chunks in order:

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If  you are willing, let me know how you respond to blog messages in audio form.  They are more work on this end, but worth it to me, if they work for you,

Taproot – Part 3

Are you afraid to love, believing it will constrain you?  Certainly some neurotic relationships constrain us, but these are not real love.  Real love releases false constraints, setting us free to be all we really are.  That is the kind  of love relationship God wants for us with Himself (See: previous two posts).

It seems counterintuitive: How can submitting to a relationship with someone else, making a commitment, result in more freedom?  Picture those flying suits people wear to jump from high cliffs and soar.  It is strapping oneself into the tight bonds of the suit that allows the freedom to fly.  Additionally, unless they fully commit and jump, they will not fly but fall.  Love works like that, especially love mutually extended between you and God. 

You can see the relationship between love, commitment and freedom in the following two quotes from Jesus.

“Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”   –  (John 14:23)

The word, “obey,” makes us cautious and reluctant, but it is that commitment that leads to freedom.  The Father and Son come and “make their home” with us.  This happens with the life of the Holy Spirit in our souls.  The word for “make their home”, also translated as “abide” is used in this saying of Jesus:

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to (literally, abide or make your home in…) my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  –  (John 8:31-32 with my added note)

It is the love commitment of making one’s home in the teachings of Jesus, the ways of God, that causes us to soar in freedom.  Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b) 

If you are standing at the edge of that cliff, worried that loving God will inhibit you or constrain you, do not hesitate;  Go for it!  Fully commit and watch how this relationship of love spreads your wings.

Warning: Offensive Words

“We don’t say ____; someone might be offended.”  You may think that is a new attitude of our hyper-sensitive times, but in fact, they said similar things to Jesus. He paid no attention.  Jesus constantly said things that offended people.  So much so, they killed Him.  Roughly paraphrased, He said, “I am God.”  I don’t think anyone would be offended by that today. 

But there are two words Jesus said that still offend people deeply today.  I think the offensiveness of the two words has a lot to do with why so many people reject Him.  The two words?  “Deny himself.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” –  (Matthew 16:24)

We don’t say “deny himself” or “deny yourself” today.  People definitely get offended.  We say, “find yourself,” “express yourself,” “help yourself,” “be yourself,” “love yourself” and “protect yourself.”  But not that D word…  “Take up your cross?”  No problem.  That phrase no longer contains any horror for us.  Not like denying my self

Jesus’ offensive truth is this: You cannot follow Him and follow your “self” at the same time.  And to choose your “self” over following Him is to forfeit your eternal soul. I know, I know, we don’t say that.  We don’t want to get anyone’s feathers ruffled.  But Jesus not only said it, He explained it:

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.   What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?…”   –  (Matthew 16:25-26a)

It sounds like heresy in our “Me” world.  But instead of being offended, why not spend some time considering whether Jesus might have been telling the truth?

More than You Knew

The people who frequently have the hardest time understanding about Jesus are the ones who grew up with Him.  Jesus got served with the mashed potatoes; He was used to shame them into picking up their socks. He coopted play time on Sundays.  When Jesus has been an annoying houseguest and a bit of a bully, it’s a pretty big leap to see He is God. 

Even when Jesus was presented in a very loving and wonderful way old, childish distortions sometimes get in the way of seeing Him with clarity later on.  We thought we knew Who He was, and then we are startled and dismayed by Who He really is. 

Jesus understood   familiarity breeds misunderstanding. 

Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”
– (Matthew 13:54-57)

They couldn’t “see” Him because they thought they already “knew” Him. Don’t make the same mistake. When Jesus begins to show His astonishing wisdom and power, don’t try to cram what you see into the mold of what you thought you already knew. He’s more than what you knew.

If Nobody is Home

Exorcism can be dangerous, Jesus said, because it can leave you worse off.

“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” –  (Matthew 12:43–45)

The problem in this scenario is that the soul of the exorcised person is not filled with another and better spirit.  It is merely “swept clean.”  It may be “put in order,” temporarily following a set of rules for moral living.  But it is vulnerable to spiritual attack.  This is the condition of so many who attempt to become morally good by following rules and strict discipline.  In Jesus’ day, it was the Pharisees who followed that path.  In our day it is frequently those raised in a legalistic church who find themselves in this kind of peril.  His or her “house” is “swept clean” but it is “unoccupied.”  Take that person out of their childhood environment and plunk them down, unsupervised on, say, a college campus and some very strange and sad things tend to happen.

However, when a person trusts Jesus, He sends His Spirit to live in their soul to guide them and empower them in truth.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—  the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  –  (John 14:16–17)

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. –  (John 16:13a)

This is an essential difference.  Their “house,” their soul, is no longer “unoccupied.”  It is the reason why the message of Jesus is not merely another religion, doomed to failure, but is genuine, Good News!  He gives the Holy Spirit Who lives in our souls and overpowers the forces of evil.

Quotes: The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Mt 12:43–45). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Turned Loose

A guy I knew in high school was confined to a wheelchair.  Then just about this time one year, he showed up at school walking!  He used canes, but he was really walking.  And the look on his face is still etched on my mind.

Imagine the look on the face of the paralytic guy to whom Jesus said, “”Pick up your mat and go home.”  I’ll bet it broadcast alternate waves of amazement and pure joy.  But rereading the account in Matthew, I noticed that the physical healing was secondary.  Jesus’ first words to this man were:

“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2b)

The religious experts who heard Him were shocked at His supposed blasphemy.  So, Jesus used the healing as proof of His authority to forgive sins.

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?    Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?   But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” –  (Matthew 9:4-6)

It is easy to be astonished with the act of physical healing and lose sight of the fact it was given as proof of Jesus’ authority to forgive sins. My guess?  He would have healed the man out of kindness anyway.  But His first gift to the man was forgiveness. 

Jesus said it was easier for Him to say “Your sins are forgiven,” but in fact, it was not easy for Him to make that possible.  Only Jesus had that authority, and He alone, because He was sinless, was able to purchase forgiveness for others on the Cross. 

I think Jesus chose such moments with care, using those that were living pictures of His deeper truth.  Chances are pretty good that you, like me, have felt, paralyzed by sin from time to time, helplessly locked up and unworthy of release.  Jesus has the full authority to say, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven; take up your mat and go home.” 

Trust Him on that…

Master Mechanic

I’ve always admired the calm attitude of a master mechanic.  When something breaks, if you don’t know what is wrong or what to do, most people respond out of a reservoir of great stress.  Bang your head on the steering wheel, pace back and forth, throwing your hands up in the air, utter a few choice phrases – you know what I mean, I’m sure.  But a mechanic, one who knows what is wrong and exactly what to do, proceeds to work on the problem with a steady peace about him.  An infectious peace.

Jesus, Almighty God in the flesh, must have had the peace of a master mechanic.  And then some.  He always knew what was wrong.  Moreover, He always knew exactly how to fix it.  Imagine how His peace must have settled those around Him as He set about His work.

“Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.   The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
   He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”  –  (Matthew 8:24-26)

Movies about Jesus tend to make Him seem slow of speech and unemotional, as though He was reciting from a dull script.  But His peace must have captivated and instilled confidence in the hearts of those present.  Can you imagine how thankful they must have been to receive the service of the Master Mechanic?  If you can see that, check out this bit of Paul’s letter to the Colossians:

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” –  (Colossians 3:15)

Jesus knows what is broken and He knows exactly what to do.  Let His peace rule!