Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 85: What Do Your Whispers Say About You?

Luke 12

 1 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
Yowza. I read this scripture, and I won't lie. My heart pretty much sunk into my stomach. 

What if everything I "whispered in the ear" this very day was published in the newspaper tomorrow? That is, in fact, a general rule in the PR world... never write an email for your business/organization that you wouldn't want to see on the front page of the paper, because it could happen.

Jesus says it will happen. Every secret thing is going to come to light, and the things we've said "secretly" will be proclaimed from the roofs. That, my friends, is a scary, scary thought. And it makes it want to change everything about my life. I don't have a lot to add to this scripture... it speaks for itself. It's a matter of acting on the knowledge that, one day, I'll be held accountable for every careless word I've spoken. 

Now, if you'll all excuse me, I have a lot of praying and changing to do.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day 84: No Teachers, Please

Luke 11
45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”
 46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
   47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ 50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.
   52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”
 53 When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54waiting to catch him in something he might say.

*Deep breath* Sooo... what I'm about to say is what I categorize as the "tough stuff". I've been thinking about it for a while now, and when I saw that this particular passage was the thought for the day, I knew I had to bite the bullet and talk about it. I'll categorize myself in this, so please don't think I'm being accusatory. I'm just trying to be up front with myself and others.

I shall now stop procrastinating and go forward.

The question we must answer is: are we these "teachers of the law"? I'm sad to say that when I stop and consider it, the similarities are... horrifying. It actually makes my stomach turn to think about it. Here's why.

"You load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them." I'm afraid we've become a people of much talk and little action. Someone will mention someone without work, or who needs "benevolent help", and we'll say that they could find a job if they tried harder. We assume that they're lazy. Guilty until proven innocent. The unspoken rule is if they were more like us, they wouldn't have problem X.

These "teachers" had forgotten - or maybe never knew - what it was like to be on the other side of the line. To be the adulteress caught in her own shame or the lame man who just wanted to be healed. Maybe we forget, too. I've walked a few hard paths - days when it was all I could do to get up in the morning and stumble through. Forget being super-righteous, or even somewhat-sort-of righteous, for that matter. The goal of the day was survival. We've all had those days. For some of us, they've stretched on into months or weeks or years. And we mustn't forget how that feels when we see someone who isn't where we feel they need to be. We don't know their pain story, and we must be awfully careful not to put a load on them that they can barely carry. They might just give up the fight.

"You have taken away the key to knowledge." Possibly the scariest passage of all to me. We have the key to knowledge, and we have the capability to hold it over people's heads to the extent that both they and we lose our salvation. Read it again. Isn't that the image? Dangling those precious keys of the kingdom, and judging whether someone is "worthy" to hear it, based on their clothes/attitude/language/what have you. God forbid.

God help us all never to become "teachers of the law".

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day 83: Evaluating Our Purpose

Luke 11:42-44
42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
   43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.
   44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”

I'm officially designated myself the worst "daily blogger" in the world. Between a child with croup/visit to the emergency room, a weekend retreat without internet capability, and a few sleepless nights, I have once again been weighed and been found wanting. But I've been thinking about it, and the thing is that this whole project was not intended to be a burden for me. It was intended to be enlightening... a spiritual journey. There's not one thing enlightening about forcing yourself to ramble out some incomprehensible blog-like drivel after getting in from the ER with a croupy baby at 1:30 in the a.m., and I've decided that I'm okay with that. I'm okay, too, with missing a couple days of blogging while retreating with a group of growing teenagers. It's part of the journey, and that's all right.

Now, on with the show. Our retreat this weekend focused on unity, and I can truly say that I saw God this weekend. I saw Him in the way the girls poured their hearts out to each other on Saturday night, and in the way the kids left with a renewed determination and purpose. And as I think about the weekend, and think about these verses, it occurs to me that the concept of unity and these verses have much in common.

There was much discussion about what the church was designed to be - a family. A living, active body that shares the hurts, the sorrows, and the joys of all the other members. So why do we fail so often at that? Because we are like the Pharisees in v. 42: we follow the letter of the law, tick off the boxes (Go to Bible class: check. Sit through Sunday night sermon: check. Write visitation team cards: check.), and "neglect justice and the love of God". We do that when we see someone sitting alone and yet we pass them by. When we know that someone is struggling but deem ourselves "too busy" to help, or even when we're too busy to notice that they're struggling in the first place.

And v. 43 is quite the kick in the pants. We do love to get the "most important seats", don't we? What I mean by that is this: we all want to be in the "in" crowd... even at church. It's just the way it is. We want people to stroke us and tell us how great our VBS room looks and how essential we are to the fill-in-the-blank program. It's a good idea to look at our motives from time to time, and remember why we started doing whatever-our-thing-is in the first place. If our motives are pure, awesome. If not, maybe some fixin' is in order.

Last, notice that Jesus doesn't say it's wrong to "check off the boxes". In fact, he says we should. "You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone." Go to Bible class, but remember why you're going. Write the visitation cards, of course, but be prayerful of their purpose. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 82: Every Person is a Person

Luke 11:37-41
37 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.
 39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

Well, well, well. First off, I love that Jesus went in and reclined at the Pharisee's table. As far as I can find, He never rejected an offer to dine with someone - anyone - or denied anyone who requested the chance to spend time with him. We could learn from this. I think that sometimes when we have issues with people who don't hold the same values as we do, we lose our minds a little bit. We forget that every single person on the face of this earth is made in the image of God, and that makes them worthy of our respect, compassion, and kindness. Does that necessarily make them right? Nope. Does it make it okay to treat them poorly? Nope.

Now. When Jesus tells them to get rid of their greed and wickedness, he tells them how: be generous to the poor. What? Those two things don't quite jive at first. But when you think about it, true generosity can only come from the heart. From the inside. The goal here is to get to the point where we see every single person on the face of this earth as a person, as a soul. To realize that each of them has a story and, quite possibly, a reason why they have the problems and issues that they do. And when we do that, we won't be able to help being generous and kind to them. How wise.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 81: You Put the Light In Me

Luke 11:33-36
The Lamp of the Body
    33 “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy,[g] your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy,[h] your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine..." We sing it from the time we're preschoolers, but what does it mean? For the longest time, I would have said that it means we're supposed to show our Christianity to others, or not be afraid to speak out, or something-or-other like that. And that's true, I suppose, but in reading these passages I realized that is something much, much bigger. 

"Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as..." Whoa. We've gotta put the light in so the light will come out. And we've got to get rid of the darkness so that the light can come in. "See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness." The negativity? Out. The gossip? Out. The sarcasm and the smart remarks? Out. None of those things show the light within me. In fact, that's the light within me that's really darkness. 

I think about the few people I've known in my life who are truly "a light on a hill", and this is true of them. They have gotten rid of the bad so that all that's left is positive. And they shine. 

I want to shine. 

For extra fun, here's an awesome song by Brandon Heath... Light In Me. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Day 80: Who Will Rise In Judgment Against You?

Luke 11:29-32

New International Version (NIV)

The Sign of Jonah
 29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.

The book of Jonah, for me, is one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture. Here's a city, supremely wicked, and so much so that Jonah runs in the opposite direction. He'd heard the rumors. He probably feared for his life. But when the people heard the message, they repented... an awesome display of the power of God.

Here, Jesus points out that we have something greater than the preaching of Jonah. And yet the people refused to listen and repent. This is one of those brilliant points where Scripture weaves perfectly together. The mental image of the men of Ninevah rising against Jesus' generation on judgment day makes the hair stand up on my arms. In the same way, the Queen of the South, a minor and often overlooked figure in the Old Testament, will rise in judgment because she sought wisdom (the implication being that Jesus' generation was not seeking wisdom). 

So the question is, who will rise in judgment against us? Is it fair to say that the men of Ninevah or the Queen of the South will rise in judgment  against us? What about Naaman (II Kings 5), who dipped in the Jordan seven times even though to be healed even though that seemed like a silly thing to do... simply because the Lord had commanded it? Would he condemn our constant questioning of God's laws? 

What about Esther, who risked her life on behalf of God's people? Would she condemn our apathy?

What about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to yield to societal norms (But everyone else is bowing!), even on penalty of being thrown into a fiery furnace? Would they condemn our conformity to the world?

I'll be thinking of all these things as I go to bed tonight, and thinking of ways to thin the list of those who will rise in judgment against me when the time comes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day 79: How To Be Blessed

Luke 11:27-28

New International Version (NIV)

 27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
 28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

It always amazes how focused Jesus is throughout his life. His comments sometimes seem a little... harsh. The natural thing to do when someone compliments your momma is to agree. But instead, he uses the comment to make a point, and that point is focus.

I don't believe he meant any disrespect here. Jesus loved his momma, and that is evident throughout scripture. But he never, ever forgets his purpose, and his purpose was to call people to seek the truth and obey it. So his words are to the purpose: you don't have to be chosen to raise the Son of God in order to be blessed. All you need is to hear the word of God and obey it. And that is truly a blessing!