Mad, Sad, or Glad

Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving. Mark 10:21-22

My husband’s father used to preach a message about the rich young ruler’s visit with Jesus. After asking Jesus what he had to do to gain eternal life, Jesus told him to take all his possessions and give them away to the poor. He went away from Jesus feeling sad because the price seemed too steep. The point of my father in law’s sermon was this: Everyone leaves Jesus sad, mad, or glad. angry-crowds-approach-jesusI used to think it a bit simplistic but now, many years later, simple is right. Are there more reactions to Jesus than this? Perhaps not.

Sad ~ You’re attracted to Jesus. You see the light. You know you’re in the presence of holiness. You know your life will never be the same but after weighing everything involved in following Him, it’s just too costly. The sadness is so great that you walk away and suspect you missed something beautiful.

Mad ~ Your pride is offended. How dare Jesus say that you’ll never be good enough. How dare He call you a sinner. How dare He require that everything you love and everything you want come second to Him. The offense is so great that you walk away and believe you missed nothing.

Glad ~ You find a treasure. You recognize, in Jesus, what you’ve always longed for. Real love. Lasting forgiveness. A second chance. Eternal beauty. A cause bigger than yourself. Though you lay your life down, it is nothing in comparison to what you gain.  The joy is so great that you walk away celebrating.

Is there someone in your life who is fighting Jesus? There are a few people close by to me who are. One is mad ~ offended at the thought that God forgives too recklessly. He wants others to pay for what they’ve done to him. Another is sad ~ offended because there would be loss of control. Trust in anyone, including God, seems wrong. And the last person is also sad as she believes that she’s too much of a loser for God to love her.

As I re-read the scripture for today, I notice that before Jesus told the young man to give everything away, it said that Jesus felt love for him. I can often believe that what Jesus asks me to give up is driven by something other than love. It’s not. He knows that my joy will be full when I love Him most of all.

For every one of us today who are seeing ‘mad’ loved ones, or ‘sad’ loved ones, help us model the joy of having found you as the pearl of great price. Amen

Ensnared By Perception

After He had sent them away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. Matt. 14:23

One of the gravest mistakes I can make today is to judge things by how I perceive them. How things are now mean nothing as to how things will be tomorrow.

portrait of one sad woman standing near a wall and holding her head in her hands

I’m not speaking of actions and consequences. God did say that if we reap sin, or righteousness, we will reap the same. But I’m talking about the obedient walk of a disciple and the many times he can believe that things are declining, even failing. If he is following Jesus, ‘failure’ is not how heaven defines his journey.

I have been surprised by the number of times scripture says that Jesus withdrew from the crowd to go and pray. He did this when he was fatigued but also withdrew after a profound time of discouragement due to the crowd’s fickleness, immaturity, and/or outright rejection. Did Jesus, at any time, believe that His mission was failing? I believe that He struggled with tempting thoughts just as we do but He never succumbed ultimately to the lies that He was failing. Perception could not be built on a single day. Though the crowds rejected him, a few did not and the ‘few’ were the point of His mission. No matter how great the resistance, His mission was completed at the cross and victory was won.

I can see things deteriorate around me. Church, family, ministry, friendships, even a marriage. I can say that it is in obvious decline but I can not safely say that ‘it is finished.’ What was ‘finished’ was the work of salvation and redemption. As long as I live today, there is still time for faith. There is still time for prayer. There is still time for firm belief in eternal truths.

I speak into despair with enduring words of hope. I speak into the battle with reminders of ultimate victory. I speak into grim predictions with words of faith. God’s mathematics defies perception. A few hundred of his people defeated hundreds of thousands of enemies. The proportions were always ludicrous and God’s enemies risked everything on false perceptions. They didn’t know God. Pure and simple. The kingdom is where I plant my feet.

This is the day where I affirm, yet again, “Lord, I believe.” What You started in me, You will complete. Amen

Am I Balanced About Anger?

And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers seated.  And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple.  John 2:14,15a

Jesus is God.  Because of that, He knew the great significance of the Passover, the holiness of the temple, and the sacrificial system of offering the blood of animals for the forgiveness of sins.  He didn’t view any of this as man would, but as God would.  Consequently, I can only begin to imagine His reaction when He made his way to Jerusalem, entered the temple court and saw the commerce being carried out there by greedy men.  Outrage must have been instantaneous.

jesus-cleanses-the-templeTwo sins were being committed.

1.) To pay the temple tax, one had to have temple currency.  Jews who had come from long distances only possessed Roman currency. Money changers were needed to convert one kind of currency into another, much like what we see in airports when we travel abroad.  The problem was, the money changers had inflated the rate of conversion, perhaps giving priests a cut of the profit.

2.) If an animal, brought to be sacrificed, had a blemish and was considered unsuitable, temple businessmen would sell a Jewish man a replacement at ten times the cost. In response to all of this, Jesus turned over the tables and sent coins flying.

I find that most people, including me, have a distorted view of a God who gets angry. Either I re-construct an angry God into a passive and loving one, or I fashion Him to be one who is angry and unreasonable all of the time.  No middle ground. Both views are rooted in the erroneous conclusions we made about God because of painful relationships here on earth.  The ones who represented God to us didn’t do a very good job. We experienced great permissiveness or great oppression under their reign.  Satan loves imbalance and doesn’t have to work very hard to thwart our intimacy with God when this kind of foundation is laid.

My desire is to follow Jesus in all things.  That means that I can get angry, as He did, yet not sin.  I must hate the things that He hates yet love the people who commit them.  Most of the time however, my anger is tainted with my flesh. I am angry over injustice, how sin destroys, and at that point, I am like Jesus. But then, if the offense is personal, I am angry at the one who hurt me.  I must constantly sort anger issues out with the help of the Counselor, the Holy Spirit. If I’m going to turn tables over anywhere in my life, using my tongue and some decisive action, I must be sure that I have bathed the issue in prayer, searched my heart, and allowed God to sift out any unholy qualities in my response.

So much of this issue feels like a graduate course in the life of the Spirit.  Like everything else, I approach Jesus with the heart of a child and say, “teach me!”

These are hard lessons, Jesus.  There are times I have longed to see your anger over injustice.  Other times, my sin has been the object.  Help me see anger asYou see it.  Teach me.  Amen

Why Can’t I See Him?

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8

Purity and defilement are polar opposites. A pure heart sees God. A defiled heart does not. A pure heart has a cleansed conscience. A defiled heart has a seared conscience.

Can I achieve purity of heart with mere mental discipline? Not remotely. Some would say to just ‘think on the things’ that Paul advocates in Philippians. But those mental gymnastics don’t make me pure. Though they might help me stay pure in heart, purity is the gift God gives to me upon confession of sin.

ww-spiritual-blindnessA defiled heart is one that is deceived. To the degree that I have a history of unconfessed sin, I can be sure that deception has a hold on me and has rendered partially blind. Christ is not someone I treasure because my vision is impaired.

When mentoring women, I take them through a life inventory. I explain that past sins, not yet confessed, bear consequences of spiritual blindness. Unholy spiritual legacies from family bloodlines will also pass on deception. Let me speak from personal experience. My father, and his parents, belonged to the Masonic Lodge. When he asked to be released from his vows, he initiated a freedom for my sister and me. If he had stayed in the Lodge, he would have passed on spiritual blindness since the belief system of the Lodge is rooted in Eastern religion. Our family did some significant spiritual work to fully renounce the ties of our ancestors. Just as they took vows, one at a time, they needed to be renounced one at a time. Some vague general prayer didn’t really hit the mark.

Paul addressed this subject another way. “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” Titus 1:15 My rudder, resident in my conscience, is corrupted by unbelief.

If I want to see God and remain pure in heart, I need to be tough on sin. I aim to be a sin-killer. Otherwise, I risk wearing foggy eyeglasses when I behold the face of God.

Bad eyesight can creep up on me. Expose my sin before it metastasizes. I want to see You in all of Your glory. Amen

How Mature Am I?

Many of the people believed in Him.  They said, “When the Christ appears, will He do more signs than this man has done?”  John 7:31

Miracles can bring confusion.  If I am hungry and Jesus miraculously feeds me with a boy’s lunch, does that mean that I’ll never be hungry again?  If I am Mary or Martha and I’ve watched Jesus raise my brother, Lazarus, from the dead, does that mean that he will never be sick again?  That he won’t die a second time?  Many people came to Jesus because of the signs they saw Him perform.  They believed in Him and wanted to crown Him king.  Yet, they were not prepared to take up their cross and follow Him in the paths of discipleship.  When things got hard, they became disillusioned and abandoned Him.

My faith can be that shaky unless I know how to cultivate something deeper, a faith that can’t be shaken by false expectations.  tozer-bw-freedom-in-gods-presenceWhen I cry out in my need and see Jesus come through with a miracle so personal and powerful that I declare His glory from the rooftops, I can be lulled into entitlement.  I believe He will do that every time.  It never occurs to me that the next time, He might answer in a different way.  I forget that I am also called to suffer as He did in order to show a world, who also suffers, that God’s presence is the greater miracle.  His love and grace sustain no matter how many, or how few, signs and wonders I may see in my lifetime.  The real miracle is my new birth, my awaiting destiny, and a relationship with a God who knows my name and draws near to me no matter what.

If many of God’s children were honest today, they would admit to preferring a financial miracle to the presence of Christ.  Miracles can appear to have far greater value than the presence of One I can’t see, can’t touch, can’t look in the eye.  This is a childish preference.  However, that is how we all begin our walk with Jesus but we are to mature past that point.

God loves His children and has promised to meet all their needs.  Sometimes it will be in the form of physical bread.  Other times, it will be grace to endure hunger.  Peter, when crucified upside down for his faith, experienced a Savior who provided for him.  Though he didn’t deliver him from martyrdom, he provided Himself as a companion through the experience.  Paul, imprisoned many times for his faith, saw deliverance happen two ways.  One time, his jail cell sprung open.  The next, he was beaten savagely.  Would he say that one time Jesus came through, and the next, He didn’t?  Hardly.  Our spiritual father’s faith was built, not on signs and wonders, but on kingdom realities.  The were mature enough in their faith to know that ultimately, it’s not about what happens to us in this world.  It’s all about the next.  Until I get safely home, Jesus is with me.  That is the greatest miracle of all and one I can depend on.

I pray there will be nothing in my life to bring my faith to a crisis of belief.  Lord, it’s not about deliverance from pain every time.  It’s about grace through the pain. I walk behind You, trusting in Your Father as you did.  Amen