Meek But Not A Coward

Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

To be meek is to be gentle, forgiving, and not easily angered. But perhaps you’ve heard the expression, ‘meekness is weakness’. That’s because what can look like meekness is often downright timidity.

1b2ff62802979b8b25c83661422aa52cMeekness is often attributed to a personality type. Those who are naturally meek in nature haven’t attained it by God’s definition. The bent toward being peace-loving is in their DNA but they are imbalanced. I speak from experience. I am a gentle person by nature but my heart is wicked. Others have often admired me for what they see on the outside but would be taken back by what I’m thinking on the inside. That is why Jesus made sure to tell His disciples that it’s not appearance that matters but what is in the heart. The Pharisees looked righteous but were full of pride. I can look meek but underneath, it still can be all about fear and pride.

Jesus is the perfection of meekness. None of us would say that Jesus was weak. He knew when to be gentle but also knew when to be angry. He was both extremes under God’s umbrella of righteousness. Gentleness was not used as a cover to gain admiration or as a way to avoid confrontation.

He was not above using His power to speak to a raging sea, call out the demonic, turn temple tables over, or rebuke a seething mob who were set on His destruction. And yet, when He could have answered the taunts of the crowd to call upon heaven to deliver Himself from the cross, He chose restraint and forgiveness. Meekness was really strength in disguise!

When Jesus was angry, He was never out of control. He knew what He was doing. When Jesus was meek, He was also never out of control. He knew what He was doing. Once I understand the great power of God that undergirds true meekness, I will seek it earnestly. Someone once said, “If all God’s attributes were offered at auction, the last one to be sold would be meekness.” That’s only because I don’t know Jesus well enough yet.

Expose my fears for using meekness to hide and give me grace to live in the power of holy restraint when it doesn’t benefit me, but benefits You and Your kingdom. Amen

My Eyes Were Opened

And I did not recognize Him, but in order that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.  John 1:31

Even though the mothers of Jesus and John the Baptist were cousins, there is no record anywhere that John and Jesus knew each other as children.  Even if they had, John did not know Jesus was the Messiah until God the Father revealed it to him.  He was spiritually blind until God opened his eyes.  Perhaps he only knew it as Jesus approached the Jordan river and John saw Jesus walking toward him.

cidi_pic_divine_interventionI can not see Jesus either until God opens my eyes.  I can not even recognize Jesus’ activity around me unless my heart is touched by God in a way that allows me to discern His presence.  I am like a blind sheep.  I am lost and cannot find my way home without being led by the hand.  I did not even decide, on my own, to become God’s child.  He had to grace me first with the faith to believe.  I responded to His invitation.

My faith only exists today because His grace births it moment by moment.  How about the times I looked back, consumed by the painful things of my past, and asked, “Where were you, God?”  I was blind, ignorant that God was right there.  I didn’t recognize Him.  He was sustaining me at that moment, already having planned the redemption of my tragedy, knowing down the road that He would enable me to trust Him for healing. He was sovereign and active, weaving together every thread of my story.  I just couldn’t see Him.  Consequently, I misjudged Him.  I maligned His name by accusing Him of being absent and indifferent. I’ve spent much of my last ten years repenting.

Where do you need the faith to believe Him today?  Where do you know His Word but stumble in disbelief?  Ask Him for the grace to believe, the grace to obey, the grace to apply it.  The Word is foolishness without the enabling of the Spirit.

I know Your Word but there are times I just can’t believe it’s for me.  Open my eyes to see You.  Open my heart to receive Your voice.  Without Your grace, I am defeated.  With Your grace, I will soar on eagle’s wings.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

The Horrific End To Sacrifices

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

My sister Nancy, an attorney from upstate New York, finds the best stuff to read. Yesterday, she turned up a pamphlet written by Jon Oswalt, O.T. professor from Asbury Seminary, on some of the little-known happenings at Passover. On any given day, 2 lambs were slaughtered in the temple; one in the morning and one in the evening. On Passover however, 250,000 lambs were slaughtered. I can’t fathom such a scene. Here’s the quote from Oswalt’s writing. “At Passover time, rivers of blood poured off the high altar, so much so that there was a gutter system under the altar designed to carry that blood away into the Kidron Valley. Think about it: if Jesus waded across the Kidron on his way from the Upper Room to Gethsemane, he may have waded through blood up to his knees.”

Knowing that this would have been a yearly reality for the Jewish people, I’m surprised that they had long periods of disobedience, and subsequent captivity, given the horrific scenes they saw at each Passover. It was visually evident how God felt about sin. Such carnage was proof. Oh, but what a moment when Jesus said, “It is finished.” No more sacrifices. No more bloodshed. He was the Lamb, the once and for all Lamb, who didn’t just cover sins. No, He removed them completely.

I can’t help but remember how I felt one morning when reading of the first sacrifice in Genesis. The lamb that might have been Adam and Eve’s pet, a pet they had probably named, had to be put to death because of their sin. It was a moment when innocence was shattered and they saw a glimpse into the implications of the fall. Perhaps they felt, on a visceral level, what the crack in their idyllic world really meant.

No wonder Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.’ We look back thousands of years to remember stories, and the Person of Christ, to be impacted profoundly. I contend that it would be impossible to be moved without the very Spirit of the Living Christ living inside; empowering our memory, fueling our spiritual eyesight, and sharing His own emotions over His own death and resurrection. By His grace and the power of His Spirit, I am able to feel the impact. I am able to call it horrific and realize that it was His love for me that propelled Him to finish what He came to do without compromise.

My sin. None of it is small. You were, and are, my Lamb for all eternity. Amen

When Satan Pours On The Heat

And when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. Luke 4:13

I find that temptation rarely comes on a good day. I would have more resources to resist. Temptation comes when I’m worn down. When I’ve lost a night’s sleep. When I’m grieving something. When I’m stressed by life. That’s when the enemy pours it on. Is there a scripture to support that? Actually, yes.

Jesus went from his own beautiful baptism by John the Baptist to the desert for 40 days. The stunning calling was followed by a season of testing. (Isn’t that the way it is!) When Jesus was alone, weathering the elements of an unforgiving wilderness, hungry, also tired….that’s when Satan came with guns loaded. One temptation after another bombarded him to offer Jesus a way out of distress early.  Instead of persevering and waiting for God’s intervention and care, Satan wanted Him to take advantage of a counterfeit fix. All Jesus had to do was worship him.

We can also be sure that temptation will usually involve an offer of pain relief that that encourages us to circumvent waiting on God. Jesus showed us what to do. He didn’t cave, no matter how weakened He was. He quoted scripture and put the enemy in His place. He stayed the course and waited on God’s grace and comfort, and eventually, deliverance.

Today’s scripture is what concludes His wilderness temptation. When the devil had been unsuccessful at every juncture point, he departed from Jesus until another opportune time. When would that be? When Jesus would be weary from ministry, misunderstood by those who once loved Him, and betrayed by Judas. These would comprise the next temptation opportunities.

If you are in a difficult period of life, beware of the one who doesn’t play fair. Satan loves to prey on the vulnerable. Listen for the roar of the pretend lion. Have a plan. Have some scripture picked out and ready so that when you want like everything to compromise, you can withstand the temptation. Every victory tones our spiritual muscle for the ‘next time.’

And when Your wilderness was over, You entered ministry with power. I want everything You promised. Don’t let me cave. Amen

And Jesus Gave Him Back To His Mother

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the stretcher they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:12-16

A dead son, an only son, was touched by Jesus. He rose to life and then ‘Jesus gave him back to his mother.’   In 2 Kings 4, Elisha laid on the dead son of a godly woman, her only son, and this boy also rose to life. The story concludes with the same line. ‘And he gave the boy back to his mother.’

There are circumstances only God can change. There are people only God can transform. There are loved ones we need to relinquish into God’s hands to do what only He can do. When He’s done, they return to us as different people.

For this mother from Nain, it wasn’t hard for her to let Jesus enter the picture. Things were desperate and death was the end of the road. But in the land of the living, we play the Savior —- trying to fix, inspire, motivate, chide —- and we don’t realize that it’s necessary to step back in order to let God step close. Loving from afar is difficult when we’ve been the caretaker. Entrusting them to Jesus’ care doesn’t seem like the most loving thing to do. His way of bringing about a yielded life is usually much more severe than ours. We like to cushion people to make their journey as easy as possible but Jesus is not so much about comfort as He is holiness. And isn’t that what we want for them? Is any divine measure too unkind if it culminates in surrender? Is any wound too bad if it is a saving wound?

For whom do I want change so badly that I stand in the way of God? Ultimately, it’s an issue of trust. Do I trust God with someone with whom I’ve been so involved? Wrapping my arms around a person and bringing them to the Savior in prayer is not failure on my part. It is the beginning of their redemptive story if they will just bow at the feet of Jesus.

Help us know how to apply this. People need You first, then we can love each other. Father us and help us relinquish control. Amen

“What Have You Ever Done For Me?”

Here is a saying that you can trust. It should be accepted completely. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the worst sinner of all. I Tim. 2:15

Parenting is hard work and though sometimes it’s so very rewarding, it can be equally painful. Ask God. He created, fathered, sacrificed, only to see the majority of His creation use His name in vain, shake their fist at Him, ignore Him completely, or chalk up His character as mean, stingy, and vengeful. I’ve heard more than one person say, “What has He ever done for me?”

If you’ve been a parent, it would be like crawling on your hands and knees from San Francisco to Maine to prove your love to your child, arriving, and then having your child say, “You’ve never done anything for me!” With knees still bloody from the journey, you wouldn’t believe your ears nor begin to fathom such blindness to sacrificial love.

Jesus came to save us. It wasn’t quick or painless. It was His response to the wounds He sustained in the Garden of Eden. The pain had to have been severe. God does grieve. God does weep. The plan of redemption came at great cost. He asked His Son to leave glory, put on mortal flesh, suffer rejection and persecution at the hands of those He created, and then die the worst death possible in order to display His love. By His blood, we can be spared eternal wrath. And yet, the gift seems like a trifle to so many. I contend that, for me, the cross is not just central to Easter. It’s central to my everyday. I must never forget everything that it means. At the epicenter of something so gruesome was a love so exquisite, I’ll never be able to take it in.

In closing, here’s another picture. After completing your San Francisco/Maine journey, you see your child waiting for you over the finish line. They are cheering, arms open to receive you, and their face is stained with tears. Today, I offer this to my Savior. I cheer Him as being the Great Savior. I open my heart to more of me, and my face is tearfully joyful at so great a love.

For the many years I treated You casually, and the cross recklessly, forgive me. Amen

The Sin-Eater

Jesus, seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” But there were some of the scribes sitting there and reason in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; ‘who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 2:6-7

The scribes in this story are right. Claiming to forgive sins is a big deal and no one can do it except God but they didn’t recognize their Yahweh in the face of His Son, Jesus.

People will do anything to wash themselves of nagging guilt. Most refuse to run to Jesus because their own pride convinces them that they have the power to do something about it. Never has this self-sufficiency been more twisted than with the ancient practice of choosing a sin-eater within a community.

Still in existence within rural Appalachia, this ritual originated in southern England. A sin-eater was selected from among the most despised of society. Their calling would ostracize them for life. Their role was, 1.) to live in obscurity, 2.) to appear at the home of a deceased person at the time of the funeral, 3.) perch themselves at the border of the property and wait for the casket to emerge from the house, and 4.) perform the ritual of eating bread and drinking wine. All of the sins of the deceased would be transferred to the bread/wine and enter the sin eater’s body. They were believed to be the new ‘dwelling place’ of the dead’s iniquity.

Before meeting Jesus, the hymn writer, William Cowper, succumbed to a deep depression from the weight of his own guilt. While living in a mental institution, he was known to keep washing his hands and lamenting, “My guilt, my guilt. What can wash it away?” After his conversion and having looked to Jesus to wash away his sins, he wrote, Unless the Almighty arm had been under me, I think I should have died with gratitude and joy.” Within weeks, he wrote the words to the hymn, “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners cleansed beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”

There is only one sin-eater. Jesus. He became the despised, was shunned by His people, and took on the sins of the damned. He was the sacrifice for any who will apply His blood to their iniquity. Today, we do not need to wallow in guilt nor employ a scapegoat to bear our sins. Jesus did it – and then He said, “It is finished.” 

Nagging guilt need never plague me. You are a God of closure. I repent, you forgive, and it is finished. Amen