Sunday, June 28, 2009

"By Who's Authority?!"

Today in the meeting, we went through the second half of Matthew chapter 21 (for those of you who don't know, we go verse by verse- that's why we're still in Matthew). Ok. So, We started at verse 23 and went to the end of the chapter.

Topic? The authority of Jesus questioned. I know, maybe not the most interesting topic but it is, I promise! Read on:

Jesus had just gone and overturned tables at the temple, causing a pretty big scene. He was crashing stuff around, healing people, children were shouting out his praises, and of course... the chief priests and elders came to question him. I'm sure I would if someone started turning over tables at my church.They asked him, "By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?"

Here is where it gets interesting. Instead of answering them directly, Jesus poses a question back to them. He puts the ball back in their court by bringing up John the Baptist, and asks them where his (John's) baptismal authority came from. ...huh? The chief priests and elders debated how to answer, and realized that they couldn't answer without exposing their true murderous intentions so they lied to Him. "We don't know," they said. So then JC was like fine, then I won't tell you the answer.

So why is this so interesting? Why did Jesus bring up John the Baptist? It has to do with who Jesus was (and is) and why he overturned the temple tables in the first place.

First of all, this whole business of buying an animal to sacrifice once you got to the temple- instead of bringing your carefully selected animal- was a problem. The way it was supposed to work was that a man would carefully check over his sheep or goat or ox or whatever and carefully groom it practically from birth. You were supposed to raise it, and bond with it, and feed it, and love it; things that made it all the more painful and personal to see it killed as a sacrifice to God. Simply buying one at the temple was kind of like cheating, in a sense. Ok, so there is reason number 1. But reason number 2 is a whole lot BIGGER !

What is reason number two?

Glad you asked. Let's go back to John for a sec. What was his message? Why in the world did Jesus bring up John the Baptist?! Because, John's message was this (in a deep, rugged, locust- eating manly voice): "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!!!!!" AHHH! (Yes. I'm sure there was some yelling involved.)

The main and most IMPORTANT point Jesus was making was that He, in fact, was the Perfect Lamb of God- rendering the rest of the temple sacrifices unnecessary.

I mean, He essentially was saying to those guys, "Look. The Lamb of God, The Savior, just walked in through your city gates, and you are completely missing the boat here! Drowning, in fact!" Yeah. So there you have it, why Jesus brought up John.

Cool, huh? He was our Sacrifice, our King coming to valiantly liberate us by being the only acceptable sacrifice for our sins on the cross. He even entered the city like a King... but that's a whole 'nother note. :)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Randy is Gone!

Randy decided it would be best for him to move in with his grandparents, and so today he moved out. That is all. :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Living Vicariously Through Celebs

Wow. What does it mean when an entire culture lives vicariously through its celebrities? Nothing good, I can tell you that. Ed McMahon died, then Farrah Fawcett, then Michael Jackson. That' s a lot.

Michael Jackson. Jackson will be remembered, yes, but I feel awful that he died without knowing God. I mean, he was the king of pop, did drugs, molested little boys, and at best was a Jehovah's Witness. Yikes, his eternal future is not looking so good.

I think it is also sad that so many people are simply devastated by it. Why? He had it coming, anorexia + drugs + training for upcoming London concerts = Death. Sad but true story. Yes, he was talented. Yes, he had some good music. But none of it was God- honoring, and talent isn't everything. The guy was a mere mortal after all people.

Psalm 63:1

"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Lord, Son of David!"

Today in church, we talked about the end of Matthew 20 and a little bit of 21. At the end of chapter 20, Jesus is leaving Jericho and two men shouted out to him, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" and Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. They asked for their sight, and so He had compassion on them and gave it to them. It says, "Immediately they received their sight and followed him." -20:34b.

Well, it is interesting that they called him the "Son of David" here. Throughout the book of Matthew, we see Jesus being called the "Son of David" when he heals others. Elsewhere he is called teacher, like when the rich young ruler asks him what he must do to get to heaven, but it's only when he is being called "the Son of David" that He heals people.

Why? What's the connection?

It has to do with the kind of King Jesus was (and is).

Let's look at David for a minute. David was a servant to the people, one who put the people's needs before his own and cared for them, unlike most kings of the ancient near east who only cared about themselves and their power, and getting more. In 1 Samuel 23 we see David asking the Lord if he should go to Keilah and save the people from the Philistines. David saw his people being oppressed, and he knew it was within his power to do something about it.

He had nothing to gain by going to Keilah, and everything to lose. But he did in fact go, and delivered the people. However, the Lord urged him on to go somewhere else because the people would turn him over to Saul, who was looking to kill him. They betrayed him.

It is here we see the similarity between Christ and David.

Again, by going to Keilah David had nothing to gain and everything to lose. But he saw that his people were being oppressed, and knew he could do something about it. Then, the people betrayed him.

Christ came into this world as a man with absolutely nothing to gain, and everything to lose. But He saw that His people were being oppressed, and He knew it was within His power to do something about it. And then, the very people He came to save betrayed Him.

What a King we have! One who came not to be served, but to serve.

It is also interesting that this comes right after the story of the mother asking Jesus to grant her sons permission to sit at the right and left hand of God in His kingdom. Christ responds by stating that even though gentile kings lord their power over others, it is not so in the kingdom of God. Instead, He says, "whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:26-28).


So here we have another confirmation of the kinf of King God is- a King who serves.

To further illustrate this, let's look at Phillipians. Phillipians 2:5-11, it says: "Therefore your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Sorry that was kind of long, but you see how He is? He's a servant!

Thank God for Christ. He's the kind of King I want to have!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Amazing Grace

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness."

Not My grace will be sufficient, not My grace might be sufficient, but My grace is sufficient. This statement implies that I don't need anything else to cover for me, because it is enough whatever my circumstance. I am so grateful for this verse tonight. As I get older, I am getting better at detecting honesty in people. Not that I always know for sure, but really- I'm getting better.

You know what really hurts? When you care about someone dearly, and you want the best for them no matter the cost to you... and then you realize: they don't reciprocate that kind of love. All they know how to do is take, and they are so focused on themselves for it to even occur to them that you might be worth sacrificing something, anything really- for. Ouch! It hurts. And then, when you limit the relationship to a lower level of intimacy, they get mad. But here's the thing... they don't miss you, it's not you they miss. They just whine becuase now no one's there to fulfill there own selfish needs anymore. Well you know what? That stinks, knowing that that person never cared about you, only what you could give them. Honestly, it's an awful, forsaken feeling.

But you know what? God's grace is over the entire situation when that happens. He knows that we are indeed of value, that we are His sons and daughters! And His grace is sufficient to make up for it. Amen!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bethlehem: בית לחם

Bethlehem. The place of Christ's birth!

I am taking Hebrew as my foreign language, and I was pondering the word "Bethlehem."

"Bet" or "בית" is the word for "house." "Lehem," or "לחם" is the word used for the special temple bread as far as I understand. Not just any bread, it's holy bread.

It hit me: how very FUNNY that the Bread of Life (Jesus) came out of the house of bread!!


I have a love/ hate relationship with birds. Honestly, sometimes I can't stand them, and then I see one in pain or suffering and I have to do all I can to help it. When I was at the beach, there were these birds on the water that let me get reeeeeeally close to them. I would get about two feet away- literally two feet- and then they'd give me this long look and fly away. I found it amazing that they let me get that close though!

I know people like that. People who just let you look at them, maybe let you get really close even- and then simply fly away. But you know what? You have to let them go.

(In case you were wondering, I took these in San Diego at Mission Beach.)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Take it to the Landowner

In church today, the message was about not comparing ourselves to others, not to try and figure out why everyone else seems to have something you don't, and to take our issues like that to our Maker rather than grumble to other people (the scripture was Matthew 20). As I was listening to this, I couldn't help but think of the story of the ten talents, and just started turning it over in my mind. I mentally went through the story, as simple as it is, and when I got to the point where the servant is telling his master why he didn't do anything with his talents, his answer struck me. You know, this master gives some guys different amounts of money to try and invest, and this one dude just buries it in the ground. When the master comes back later to see what the guys did with what they were given, he is surprised that the one simply buried it! "Why didn't you at least put it in the bank, so it could collect interest?" he asks. And his answer: " I knew you to be a hard man..."


Hard man?!

Many times I've read this parable, and often I think things like, why didn't you put in the bank?! Why on earth did you bury it of all things? Come on man, what's wrong with you? Not very sympathetic, I know. But that's when it hit me: the source of the problem. The guy knew of his master, had knowledge of what he had done. The problem was, he didn't actually know his master, know his nature. He didn't know his master well enough to know that he was a generous man. 1 talent back in those days was equivalent to I want to say a year's wages, and usually masters didn't hand their servants that kind of money to dink around with.

But isn't that the truth, though? The more we experience and get to know God, the more we understand about His nature and that He in fact is very generous.

So on to Matthew 20, and how this ties in.

In this chapter, there is a landowner who goes and seeks people to go and work for him in his vineyard. Some men he hires right away, some later, and some not until the eleventh hour. At the end of the day, the landowner says to his steward to give the men their wages, starting with the last and ending with the first. Ok, so the steward gives the men who had only worked an hour a denarius (equal to a day's wages), and the ones who had been there since the morning see this. When the early workers get their turn in line, they are given a denarius also. Yeah, that causes a rift. Basically these guys say wait a minute, we've been here all day, and they get the same pay?! And the landowner says something to the effect of, "If I want to be generous, what's it to you?"

Whoa! Here is the point: when you think about it, who was treated unfairly? The early workers got their fair share of payment, and the later ones were payed generously. Sometimes I want to cmpare my situation to others, and gripe and complain about how come I don't have this, or how come they have that, and ultimately? It just doesn't matter, because my Landowner is generous!!!!!

But that's how the Kingdom of God is, it is intrinsically unfair.

We each get more than we deserve. :)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Be Thou My Vision

"Be thou my vision, oh Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me save that thou art!
Thou my best song, by day or by night;
Waking or sleeping, thy Presence, my Light!"

I wish I could write as beautifully as that. What was it that allowed all of the hymn writers to capture their thoughts into song so cleanly? To melt the sweet melodies into our hearts, to blend the words into rhyme so succinctly, to frost them like icing onto our spirits and souls? If only I could do that! I guess I will just have to practice. :)

I give it all to You. I give it all to You,
To You oh Lord, You I give
My life, my hope, my plans.

I give it all to You, I give it all to You.
For You oh Lord always have
The whole world in Your hands!

Haha, so it needs a LOT of work, I know. But I will eventually come up with something, hopefully.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Acts 4:12

In church one Sunday we discussed the name of Jesus, and all the power it holds with it- also, the first few verses in Matthew. And I was sitting there, thinking about Acts 4:12, which goes, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” and I kept thinking "no other name" over and over again- just "no other name," when it hit me! In Matthew, when it talks about the naming of Jesus, that’s the first time in the whole Bible that there is a face connected to a name of God- a name that He gives the world. In the Old Testament, the people give God a name such as Yahweh or Elohim, but those are names the people give God, not the name God gives people. Even Moses, who directly asked God for a name, was simply told, “I am.” And that’s not really a name; it’s more of a state of being… ‘I am.’

It’s also interesting because in ancient times, it was thought that if you knew a person’s name, you had power over them. In fact, in many old cultures people were given a birth name- there true name- and then they went and lived the rest of their lives by another name, so that nobody would have power over them. Neat, huh? That in those times God never revealed a name to call Him.

So, in conclusion, what hit me: the name of Jesus is so powerful because, even though it doesn’t give us power over Him, it allows us to share in the power of Him.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Matthew 11:11

So a while ago, we went through Matthew chapter three- and some of John, too. Then we skipped around to Matthew 11:11 which says, "Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
...and I thought, "huh? What does that mean- 'no one greater than he'"

And then, bam! I got it.

Why was John the baptist, first of all, the "greatest?" Because of all the prophets that came before him- Daniel, Hosea, Isaiah- only John had the unique calling on his life to not only prepare the way for- but also to baptize the Messiah! I mean, all the other ones could prophecy about him, but only John could say he baptized Him! Sha-bam!

So then, that answers the first question. The next one is: why is it that those in the kingdom of heaven are greater than he is? What???!

Because, even though John was with Jesus, he didn't have Jesus IN him like we Christians do today. God highly values those who have God in them.

Whoa! How COOL is that

Monday, June 1, 2009

"I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice."

These words, spoken by Jesus to the pharisees on several occasions, are incredibly powerful.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrews needed to atone for their sins by offering the appropriate offerings/ sacrifices. People would come with bulls, rams, goats, birds. The occasional sheep or two. Ba-a-a. And there were soooo many occasions for this, if you look at Leviticus it's overwhelming! I can just imagine a conversation between two neighbors:

"Hey there, Jereboam. I think your sheep have been looking a little nervous lately."

"Well hey there, Jedididah. Of course they do, the annual sheep offering is coming up! Yeah, the bulls and oxen are partying because they didn't get picked for the feast last night."

Ok, so I made up the sheep offering.

Anyway, there were many regulations and rituals to follow regarding this whole offering thing. But what is Jesus's take on all this? (paraphrasing here) "If you are about to offer a sacrifice and suddenly remember that you have a quarrel with your brother, leave your offering there and go and make things right with him. Then come back and give your offering." -Matthew 5:23


What is it God really wants from us?

To take care of our relationships with each other in a loving way. I know from personal experience that I just don't grow very much spiritually in times of fighting with my own brother (poor Daniel!).

It's like we come to him with our 2,000 rams, 536 cows and 487 doves all full of ourselves and boasting," Look what I'm giving to the Lord!" And God says, dismissively, "Yeah... *waves hand* I made those. Go apologize to your bro, then we'll talk."

...Darn it. God notices when we don't treat people with love. *sigh. Guess I better go apologize to Daniel for making fun of his Napolean Dynamite talking plush figures earlier. ... :)