We know who we are…

 

Matthew 11:1-6 

When Jesus finished placing this charge before his twelve disciples, he went on to teach and preach in their villages. 2 John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples 3 to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?” 4 Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on: 5 The blind see, The lame walk, Lepers are cleansed, The deaf hear, The dead are raised, The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side. 6 “Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!”

All of Chapter 10 from vs. 5 on was a body of instructions to his disciples.  Can we see those as instructions to us?  Yes, since he later told them to go out and make disciples – they were to carry on His work to all the world, not just Israel.  That comes at the end of the story.  After the cross we all were brought into the kingdom — Abraham’s seed had blessed all nations.  So we need to heed those instructions, they tell us who we are, what our assignment is.  When we receive the assignment we then are to carry on the work and make disciples of all nations.  It is good to remember the disciples spent three years receiving the Word, watching the healing, raising of the dead, driving out demons and cleansing the leper.  Then, during that time they were given a practicum session putting what they heard and saw into practice.  They heard, then did; they became doers of the Word.

During the time with Christ and following His crucifixion, the disciples  wrestled with disfavor and favor, they were tested through Christ’s trial and death, their faith was tried by fire; did they really believe what they believed was really real?  They had to deal with grief, doubt, distrust, and returned to their old lives.  We see the same among us today.  But when He was revealed to them, salvation occurred; then Christ  left and the Holy Spirit was given.  Now the complete, final transformation took place.  Peter, no longer a fisherman, no longer doubting, no longer afraid, no longer denying his stand, became a preacher/teacher with a message, became the emissary of Christ, one who stood in His place and continued His work.  He suffered for it, but received a reward as well.  What have we learned? We know who we are;  We are who God says we are. What can we do?  We can do all things through Christ.

Continuing in Chapter 11 we see John the Baptist sending his disciples to Jesus with a question.  He hears what is happening and confirms Jesus’ ministry and position with the question:”Are you the one who is to come or should we expect another?”

Jesus replies: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is preached to the poor.  Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me. Another translation puts it more clearly; ‘God blesses those who are not offended by me.

We know who we are; we are who God says we are.  Can the same be said of us should the question be asked, are you the one?  Are we the one with the message that delivers and brings life and love?  Can the same be said: Go and report what you see and hear… What would be said?  What is heard of us, what is seen of us?

Find yourself…

Matthew 10:29 -42

“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. 30 He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even numbering the hairs on your head! 31 So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries. 32 “Stand up for me against world opinion and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. 33 If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you? 34 “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut – 35 make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law – cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. 36 Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. 37 If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me. 38 “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. 39 If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. 40 “We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. 41 Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. 42 Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”

If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me,Jesus, you’ll find both yourself and me. Focus is everything.  Over and over we are told to keep our eyes on Christ not on our circumstances.  When we finally ‘get it’ we will find all that can come our way to distract us, harm us, inconvenience us, lacks importance.  Remember being little, the right kind of cereal was so important and if it was gone life was terrible?  We need to move beyond that.  Who are we?  Jesus says we are messengers/emissaries, yet more than that..He says when those to whom we offer the message accept a messenger of God, that is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. He says anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me.  We are standing in His place!  We have an awesome task that is not easy, has potential for personal hurt, but resting in Him we do not fear…This task gives life to the receiver and the giver. Who are we? His representatives with His authority, under His protection! I am who God says I am

And I find out who I am.  We are His messengers, protected by Him, sent by Him with a message of love and forgiveness.  We are sent to heal, give life, tell about His kingdom, and kick out the demons…When we accept the task, we stand in His place, touching with His touch, speaking His words.  Awesome responsiblity, and He is right there with us.  I am who God says I am,  We are who God says we are…

Possess Peace, then share it…

“Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10: 11-16

Those who were sent had to possess peace. It is suggested that the use of peace here refers to a condition or state of tranquility, exempt from havoc and rage of war.  They were to leave their peace on the home that received them.

Note here also if they are not received they are to retrieve that peace and leave.  The responsibility given to the messenger is only to share the message.  If it is received, they bless those who receive and it is noted in God’s kingdom.  If it is not received, they are to move on, leave no blessing and again it is noted in God’s kingdom.

They were warned that they would not always be received.  No rose-colored glasses here.  Sheep moving among wolves is a strong warning.  No surprises.  Along with the warning is the statement to be as shrewd, some say cunning, as snakes and as innocent, some say inoffensive, as doves.  What do we know about snakes?  They can get into and out of places with no one noticing what they are doing?…What do we know about doves? They are a symbol of love, they do not force their presence on the other birds at a feeder.  They are symbols of peace.

We, then, if we plan to carry the message of the kingdom should first possess the peace that we speak of.  We should be aware the message will not always be received.  We should realize our responsibility rests in sharing the message, not manipulating others or forcing a personal view on another.  We should possess the cunning of a snake and be as innocent as a dove.  We carry peace, a peace that comes from an assurance we are considered able to do the work of the kingdom.  A peace that does not wage war, manipulating, oppressing a ‘conquered’ foe.  We share… giving something as an outright gift. Giving the peace we possess, giving the life that comes with the message of the kingdom, giving love…

Ready to work?…Think again…

Matthew 10:1-10 

He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9 Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10 take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

At first glance this is what I see:

  1. Go first to Israel
  2. Take nothing with you
    1. No money
    2. No clothes
    3. No food
    4. No staff
    5. No sandals
  3. Share the message
  4. Heal the sick
  5. Raise the dead
  6. Cleanse the leper
  7. Drive out demons

This is a passage I’ve paid little attention to or so it seems.  I noted that the disciples have spent time with Jesus, listening, watching and now they were to put it into practice. Today we would call this a practicum experience.  You take your courses, listen to the professors, take your exams, and do a practicum.  Practice what you’ve been taught.  The first item the disciples were taught was to let go of material goods and dependency on earth bound drives.  Then they were given authority to spread the word, do the deeds of Jesus.

So first leave all material possessions behind.  Take no money, no change of clothes, no staff for protection and assistance with walking, no sandals.  It was expected they would be fed, given a place to rest, given clothes as needed, given a new staff when needed, given new sandals when needed.  Their physical needs were to be met, their place of rest provided, and their transportation taken care of.

Jesus final words in this passage are: The worker is worth his keep.  Do we take that charge seriously?

Questions that come to mind: How well do we keep our workers?  Grumble as the plate is passed?  Do we hear the charge given to the people of God to care for the workers of God? Are we willing to be His vessels to provide as He prompts?  Are we able to let go of material stuff and totally rely on God to provide? 

In this group where do we find ourselves?  Are we given the assignment to go and share the message? Are we given the assignment to provide for those who do?  How well do we carry out that assignment?  Where are we on the continuum of growth?  Are we still sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening.  Still in the classroom?  Have we learned to unload the material possessions we seem to feel we need to have?  Are we learning to turn off the drive to have?  Are we learning to rely totally on God’s provision?  It’s hard to let go of stuff, it’s hard to let go of being strong, earning our keep, our independence…Greater things than these?…will we see them?…if we are still sitting at His feet, listening, watching, and haven’t made it to our ‘practicum’ yet?

Authority to do what?…

 Matthew 9:1-8

Back in the boat, Jesus and the disciples recrossed the sea to Jesus’ hometown. 2 They were hardly out of the boat when some men carried a paraplegic on a stretcher and set him down in front of them. Jesus, impressed by their bold belief, said to the paraplegic, “Cheer up, son. I forgive your sins.” 3 Some religion scholars whispered, “Why, that’s blasphemy!” 4 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why this gossipy whispering? 5 Which do you think is simpler: to say, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both. . . .” At this he turned to the paraplegic and said, “Get up. Take your bed and go home.” 7 And the man did it. 8 The crowd was awestruck, amazed and pleased that God had authorized Jesus to work among them this way.

 

Some religion scholars whispered, “Why, that’s blasphemy!”  Looking up the word blasphemy it states that this is equal to speaking evil of God, or abusing the power of God, claiming it as your own.

 

Which do you think is simpler: to say, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or, ‘Get up and walk’? Jesus is cognizant of their thoughts and responds with a question.  He’s leading to  a revelation of who he is and what he does…

 

Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both. . . .” At this he turned to the paraplegic and said, “Get up. Take your bed and go home.” 7 And the man did it.  A picture of His Messiahship and His modeling of faith in action.

 

When Jesus said I forgive…He was accused of claiming God’s power as His own.  God gave him that authority and he in turn gave it to us.  The one holding the power is able to give it to others.  It cannot just be appropriated, when there is an attempt to appropriate someone else’s power, that is stealing what is not your own. 

 

Jesus was revealing his position as Messiah, He was modeling what he taught. The exercise of faith has power.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Faith sees it done, Faith is real, the hope become real.

 

What do we do with this knowledge?  How does this part of the Word become active and alive in us?  John 17 lets us know Jesus gives us the same assignment that was given Him.  That begs the question,then, is the Word active and alive in me?  Is our faith evident?  Our approach to life and the stuff it hands us should show that we live as if our hope is real.  How do we handle pain, illness, disappointment, difficulties?

 Join me with the breath prayer for today: my trust is in the Lord, my faith is in the Lord.

Are you genuine?…

 

Matthew 9:35-38 

Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. 36 When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. 37 “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! 38 On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”

Jesus saw a harvest.  Where is today’s harvest?  With so much animosity directed at the Christian faith, religion in general, and the current mindset of everyone being a law unto themselves – it is hard to see the harvest.  With the denial of power, denial of a divine being, denial of a Creator – how do you harvest?  The people of today are much like the ones Jesus saw as being like sheep, harassed and helpless.  But it is hard to see a hunger in them for a relationship with one greater, their Creator when so much effort and energy is spent on rejecting everything to do with authority or divine intervention.  There is little to no personal responsibility, so how can there be a hunger for something to be committed to or accountable to?

I see darkness, I see emptiness, I see despair, I see rejection, I see self-glorification, self-love, self importance…I do not see spiritual hunger.  I see spiritual rejection.  See, hear, sense…

Rather I see a hunger for a more genuine knowledge of God’s Word, and a deeper personal relationship among His people.  It may be the hunger, a spiritual hunger will begin here–and spread outward.  If God’s people can begin to show evidence of His power in their lives, perhaps that will draw those outside the kingdom.  They will see something genuine, life transformations. Jesus said “If I be lifted up I will draw all men to me.”  He did not say a new creed, rewrite history, a new religion, a new ritual, a new way of doing things…simply, “If I be lifted up, I-Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, one who desires a genuine love relationship with His creation.  If I be lifted up…

The Christian faith takes hits because it looks like another religion.  Set a creed, state a belief system, list a code of conduct, plan times to meet, state requirements and expectations.. Nothing different here.  But see lives changed, people treat all people as they want to be treated, reach out to the poor, speak healing to the sick…show evidence daily of a different way to live.  That is power, that will create hunger in those who feel empty, despair.  What does our life look like?  Is it filled with joy? Love? Confidence? Peace?  Or do we spend time complaining, depressed, wishing and not getting, focused on physical things rather than spiritual, short-tempered, angry, speaking hatefully to those around us who inconvenience us?  Do we shine the light of genuineness, a real relationship with our Creator? Are we different?

If I, Jesus, be lifted up…there are those who will turn, be drawn.  My Word will not return empty, it will accomplish what it set to do!

Become what you believe…

 Matthew 9:27-34

As Jesus left the house, he was followed by two blind men crying out, “Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us!” 28 When Jesus got home, the blind men went in with him. Jesus said to them, “Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why, yes, Master!” 29 He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” 30 It happened. They saw. Then Jesus became very stern. “Don’t let a soul know how this happened.” 31 But they were hardly out the door before they started blabbing it to everyone they met. 32 Right after that, as the blind men were leaving, a man who had been struck speechless by an evil spirit was brought to Jesus. 33 As soon as Jesus threw the evil tormenting spirit out, the man talked away just as if he’d been talking all his life. The people were up on their feet applauding: “There’s never been anything like this in Israel!” 34 The Pharisees were left sputtering, “Hocus pocus. It’s nothing but hocus pocus. He’s probably made a pact with the Devil.”

First, there is faith, touch, healing – in that order

Second the Pharisees try to discredit Jesus, specifically the power by which he accomplished the healing touch and the ability to throw out the evil spirits. The leadership cannot exercise the same power that Jesus can.  They do not ask how; they try to discredit the one who can.

The Message says Jesus stated become what you believe, or as other translations say it, according to your faith, will it be done to you.  These events begin with faith; the substance of what is hoped for; the evidence of what is not seen.  Again, the essence of what is hoped for, being certain of what we do not see.  There is an essential role that we play in accessing the power available to us.  Belief.  Exercising it; practicing it. Believe God is who He says He is.  Believe He does what He says He does.  Believe you are who God says you are.  Believe you can do all things through Christ Jesus.  Believe the Word is active and alive in you.

Breath prayer –  increase my faith, let me become.  Become what is hoped, become what is not seen.

Putting faith into action

Matthew 9:18-26

 As he finished saying this, a local official appeared, bowed politely, and said, “My daughter has just now died. If you come and touch her, she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, his disciples following along. 20 Just then a woman who had hemorrhaged for twelve years slipped in from behind and lightly touched his robe. 21 She was thinking to herself, “If I can just put a finger on his robe, I’ll get well.” Jesus turned – caught her at it. Then he reassured her: “Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you’re well.” 22 The woman was well from then on. 23 By now they had arrived at the house of the town official, and pushed their way through the gossips looking for a story and the neighbors bringing in casseroles. 24 Jesus was abrupt: “Clear out! This girl isn’t dead. She’s sleeping.” They told him he didn’t know what he was talking about. 25 But when Jesus had gotten rid of the crowd, he went in, took the girl’s hand, and pulled her to her feet – alive. 26 The news was soon out, and traveled throughout the region.
 

Your faith has healed you…

Go away, the girl is not dead but asleep…

Perspective influences our ability to put faith into action – she is not dead but asleep.  If I can touch his cloak, I will be healed then reach out and touch.

The woman was one considered unclean but came into the crowd and touched Him, broke the rules; Jesus reached out and touched the girl, a dead body, considered unclean, broke the rules.

Faith overruled the religious law.  Faith, being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see. Faith placed in the power made available to us if we reach out and touch it needs to be exercised/practiced.

The woman exercised her faith, she reached out an touched.  Jesus honored the faith of the father, reached out and touched.  Both went against the societal laws, religious laws and God’s power was released because the perspective was on God not on the law.

We do not have the law hindering us and yet we have difficulty accessing that power.  We hesitate to take a stand of faith and reach out to touch Him.  Breath prayer for ourselves and others – He is the Lord who heals

Practice mercy…

 

Matthew 9:9 -17

Passing along, Jesus saw a man at his work collecting taxes. His name was Matthew. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” Matthew stood up and followed him. 10 Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. 11 When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?” 12 Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? 13 Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” 14 A little later John’s followers approached, asking, “Why is it that we and the Pharisees rigorously discipline body and spirit by fasting, but your followers don’t?” 15 Jesus told them, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!” 16 He went on, “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. 17 And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.”

Follow me…literally get up and come, but also follow my example.  Matthew, a tax collector, part of a group not well liked, probably shunned.  Called by Christ.  Eating dinner with others like Matthew, a group used to being shunned by religious leaders.  His disciples do not fast like others, again actions not in keeping with the status quo of the religious leaders and practices of the time.  Christ makes several statements that are significant:  Practice mercy, not religion; there is a time for all practices and we are to use wisdom for the correct time.  Don’t put cold water on friendly fire.  As cold as it is, we wouldn’t put out the fire that warms…

Christ is accused of being a bad example, but note that He is the example of putting into practice what the religious leaders teach but do not practice.  Practice mercy…Also, religion is supposedly instructed to reach out to the ‘unlovely.’ In real practice the ‘unlovely’ are shunned by most ‘religious practitioners.’  Has anything changed?  Do you see this today?  Do we avoid those in attendance at our services that are dressed differently, or talk differently or have habits the Spirit hasn’t helped them to remove yet?  Time and place…  Are we good examples of what the Word teaches or bad examples?  And that is not a question about personal conduct or habits; rather a question of mission and purpose.  Do we avoid certain segments of society, it would be different for each individual, are we selective in who we reach out to?  The Pharisee was OK with taking care of those in the synagogue, and currying favor with the wealthy.  They looked down on the poor and ill.  They avoided the unclean, that touch would require a period of cleansing, personal effort and inconvenience.

Practice mercy, heal/reach out to the ‘unlovely,’ what is your mission?  Eat with the sinners?  Sit with the poor? Touch the unclean? Or keep the rules…avoid all else?

Pigs?…or men?..

 

Matthew 8:28-34

They landed in the country of the Gadarenes and were met by two madmen, victims of demons, coming out of the cemetery. The men had terrorized the region for so long that no one considered it safe to walk down that stretch of road anymore. 29 Seeing Jesus, the madmen screamed out, “What business do you have giving us a hard time? You’re the Son of God! You weren’t supposed to show up here yet!” 30 Off in the distance a herd of pigs was browsing and rooting. 31 The evil spirits begged Jesus, “If you kick us out of these men, let us live in the pigs.” 32 Jesus said, “Go ahead, but get out of here!” Crazed, the pigs stampeded over a cliff into the sea and drowned. 33 Scared to death, the swineherds bolted. They told everyone back in town what had happened to the madmen and the pigs. 34 Those who heard about it were angry about the drowned pigs. A mob formed and demanded that Jesus get out and not come back.

This was a struggle.  All the sermons and discussions on this passage blocked my ability to just read it and receive.  With prayer, this is what emerged.  This was a dangerous stretch of road.  So dangerous no one could use it.  Yet here is Jesus and his disciples using it.  Again Jesus displays no fear.  The fear is noted in the demons.  With the loss of the pigs, there is fear in the men herding the pigs.  The town shows fear of Jesus and asks him to leave.  The fear here turns to anger.

No one brought the sick or lame to receive healing.  No one saw the healing…No one said thank you for delivering the two men, giving back safe passage on the road.  They only saw the immediate loss of income; how that would affect their life.  Tunnel-vision, no desire for improvement, no change, stay in the present ‘comfort zone’ even if it hurts or is harmful…  Is this still the case today?  Do we continue to have tunnel vision?  Do we not see change because of our own unwillingness to leave a ‘comfort zone’ just because it is familiar? Even if it is harmful or hurtful?  Do we choose the pigs over the men?