Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How Does Jesus See You?

     A few years ago I heard someone use a very profound illustration.  It went something like this.  Close your eyes and imagine that Jesus and you are sitting in a room together, face to face, knee to knee.  Look at His face.  What expression is on His face?  I had people write down their reactions to that little example and the results were astounding.  Most said He was disappointed or sad.
     I would hate for us to go through life in such a way believing that Jesus has a disappointed look on His face as He looks at us.  You see, we can fix ourselves up, dress nicely, wear make-up (females only please!!), get our hair styled and look really good.  God told us long ago that isn't important to Him.
     The Israelites used that measure once when selecting a king.  Saul was handsome, head and shoulders taller than anyone else.  He looked like a king!  The last straw came when he disobeyed God when it came to the Amalekites.  It was after this that God sent Samuel out to find a new king.  He looked at Jesse's sons and they looked regal.  But God told Samuel, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  I Samuel 16:7b
     With that being said, what did Jesus look for in someone?  In John 4 He met a woman who had had five, count them, five husbands and was living with a guy who wasn't her husband.  Can you imagine if this woman walked into our assembly today?  We certainly wouldn't pick her to lead the women's ministry.  But Jesus saw her heart and He used her.  What about in John 8 when a woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Him.  Caught, which means she probably wasn't wearing much, if anything.  Now, Jesus didn't say, "Oh, you're fine."  He did say that He didn't condemn her.  Then He told her to go and don't sin anymore.
     In Mark 10 a rich young man comes to Jesus and asks what he can do to inherit eternal life.  The Scripture says He looked at the young man and loved him.  Why did He love Him?  I think He was looking at His heart.  The young man had a choice and He chose to stay with his possessions rather than with Jesus.  On the other hand, in Matthew 23, Jesus lays out a lot of "Woe to you's."  It was the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.  It was the ones who had no intention of following Jesus.  They were only in it for the prestige or the political clout they could maintain.  Jesus saw their hearts and condemned them greatly.
     So back to the original question.  How does Jesus see you?  It depends.  It depends on your heart.  And don't think you can pull something on Him.  Psalm 139 tells us that even before a word is on our tongue, God knows it.  He knows our thoughts, our motives, our very being.  My prayer for us to today is found at the end of this great chapter.  Heed and pray these words:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139:23, 24

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Triumphal Entry

     How fickle could they be?  At one point in Jesus' ministry, He fed a crowd of over 5000.  Soon after that, it was a crowd of 4000.  We always hear of multitudes and so many people around Him that He couldn't tell who touched Him.  The number of His followers would rise and fall.  Early in the book of John it tells of a number of them leaving because of His hard teachings.  Evidently enough left that He questioned His apostles if they also were leaving.  It was Peter who said, "Lord, to whom shall we go.  You have the words of eternal life."  
     Then, all four gospels record an event at the end of Jesus' life.  He comes into Jerusalem for His last Passover riding on a donkey.  He's not the conquering hero that many expect riding in on His white steed to lead the armies of Israel to once and for all defeat this occupying force of Romans.  Yet the 2.5 to 2.7 million people (according to William Barclay) are clamoring for a king.

"Hosanna to the Son of David."
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."
"Hosanna in the highest."
"Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David."
"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord."
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest."
"Blessed os the King of Israel."

     Sounds to me as if they were wanting a king.  Jesus was willing, but not the kind of king they wanted.  He wanted to save them from their sins.  They wanted Him to save them from their captives.  Oh, if they only realized they were captives of their sins.  His offer was much more valuable than the one they wanted.  But they misunderstood.  
     Why did Jesus come into Jerusalem the way He did?  First, I think He was trying to tell them they really didn't want a king in the sense they wanted a king.  They were thinking David or Solomon.  One doesn't have to be much of a biblical scholar to realize the utter failure the Israelite kings were.  Those kings were really a concession from God.  Perhaps Jesus rode into town on a donkey to say, "I'm not like the other kings."  
     But I think the second reason why Jesus came the way He did is a little more subtle.  Right after the account in John some Greeks come to Philip and they ask to see Jesus.  Wait a minute.  Jesus' ministry was for the Jews.  Right?  Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell of Jesus cleaning out the temple right after His entry.  In Mark, Jesus makes this statement.  "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations."  Could it be that Jesus was saying to the world, "It is now time for salvation to come to all."?  Neither Jew nor Greek, Slave or Free, Male or Female, but it's open for all!  Jesus ushers in this new age because He knows He has come to die for all.  
     As the disciples meet in Jerusalem after Jesus' resurrection, we find there are only 120 followers.  Wow!  How sad.  Yet, the Bible does say that the road is narrow.  Few will find it.  Not because He restricts it.  But because we are too stubborn to admit our need for a Savior.
    Thank you, Lord, for coming into the city in the way you did.  May you come into our lives the same way.  Humbly.  And I pray that we will be one of those who accepts You for who You are...the Savior of the World.  Our King!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How Can I Even Come Close?

     Preachers struggle (At least I do.  I'm sure others do, too.)  with adequately proclaiming the Message.  My prayer every Sunday is an apology to God that I wasn't able to fully describe what He wanted to be proclaimed.  God is faithful and He can take the weak words of someone and make them into something relevant.  That's what I count on every time I speak.
     Last Sunday's sermon was extremely difficult for me to satisfactorily communicate--it was about God's love.  But I take heart in the fact that even the Scriptures struggle sometimes to describe His love.  Superlatives are almost always used.  "For God so loved the world..."  "See how great a love he has lavished upon us..."  "God has poured out his love into our hearts..."  The Old Testament, especially the Psalms, talk of God's unfailing love.  I was amused the other day when I read something in the Psalms where the psalmist was questioning God.  He said something like, "Has your unfailing love ceased?"  If it's unfailing, how could it cease?
     But why does God love me?  ME?  That's what I have a hard time wrapping my arms around.  In the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye says something to the affect, "Why do we do the things we do?  I'll tell you.  I don't know.  But it's tradition!"  Why does God love me the way He does?  I'll tell you.  I don't know.  But He does!  He demonstrates it by giving His own Son.  Paul tells us in Romans that nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Our problem is we oftentimes refuse to accept His love.  There's the rub.  He never quits.  We often do.  And there comes a time when even He has had enough.  Don't believe me?  Read the stories of the Israelites and see what happened to them.  He'll do the same to us, too.
     O, how He loves you!  Please.  Please.  Let's not let Him down.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-19