Quit Ignoring Jesus!

April 16th, 2014 by , in Wednesday in the Word
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John 5:1-8; 14
1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie–the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

On First Reading: Wait, Jesus Said WHAT?!

Admittedly, this Bible story used to bother me when I was younger and read the Bible more shallowly. First off, Jesus’ final words to the man sound harsh, especially when you think about how long the man had been disabled (38 years). Secondly, it always seemed like Jesus was actually blaming the man for being disabled, because of his sin (mentioned in the second half of verse 14), as well as threatening him with “worse” punishment. As a younger reader, I didn’t understand why Jesus was saying this when the man had obviously had a hard life already.

Reading Again: The Invalid Needed This Wake-Up Call

But as I read over this Bible story again for this post, I realized something: this man had been disabled a long time. In all that time, he had never once reached out to God for help; Jesus even asks him in verse 6, “Do you want to get well?” Jesus didn’t really need to know the answer, but He asked because it would make the man think differently about his problem. For all those years, the disabled man had been focusing on self-pity (“oh, poor me, nobody around me will help me”), and he had forgotten (or ignored) God, Who stands ready to help when we finally quit trying to do it all ourselves.

Now, when Jesus asks, “Do you want to get well?”, the man realizes Jesus is reaching out to him for help, and he finally defines in verse 7 exactly what he needs help with. He has finally asked the right person! He has finally quit ignoring Jesus and quit wallowing in self-pity long enough to actually ask for help.

Ignoring Jesus and choosing to wallow in self-pity are both sins, which Jesus addresses in verse 14. When we sin, we cut ourselves off from God, either consciously or unconsciously, and it makes it much more frustrating for God to try to communicate with us. Jesus’ final words, then, are a firm disciplinary admonishment for the man to keep in better contact with God from here on out. He has been shown, personally and powerfully, what God can do in his life; it’s now up to him to turn to God and stop living in a mental prison of his own making.

We Need This Wake-Up Call, Too!

We often do the same thing to God, especially these days when we think we have our lives completely together and we are perfectly fine without God helping. Fact is, we all need God, and for some of us, God has been waiting a very long time for us to realize that. God even allows struggles to happen to us, to teach us that we do need Him when our own strength fails (and actually, we need Him every hour, as the old hymn goes). It’s not that God is doing evil things to us, but that He uses the bad things in our lives as teachable moments, to show us that we can’t do it all alone, and we don’t have to, because He is there. We just have to stop pridefully ignoring Him first!

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Redo: Don’t Get Desperate, Trust God

April 9th, 2014 by , in Wednesday in the Word
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An extra paragraph, an explanatory link, and better wording overall–that’s what this Bible post received for Redo Week. Much, MUCH better post; click and see for yourself! :)

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Restoration is Coming

April 2nd, 2014 by , in Wednesday in the Word
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Ezekiel 36:8-10
8 “‘But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home. 9 I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, 10 and I will multiply the number of people upon you, even the whole house of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt.’”

These verses promise restoration to the land of Israel and its people, who have seen their fair share of devastation and ruin. Being conquered by other countries, being captured and taken into exile…let’s just say the Israelites have had a very difficult time of it!

But Ezekiel brings words of hope from God, Who has not been idle during all this suffering; in fact, God has brought them through and is planning to return His people to their homeland, newly abundant with plenty. The time of exile and conquest will soon be over, and Israel restored to its proper place, where they may begin to thrive again.

Why Did Israel Have to Be Restored in the First Place?

One might ask, “Well, if God is so faithful and loving, why were the Israelites allowed to suffer?” The simple answer was that Israel had become famously unfaithful and ungrateful to God, worshipping any other deities but Him, acting as if they alone had done the work to deserve all that they had. In earlier Old Testament books (Judges especially), we see this dynamic illustrated over and over again so many times, it’s ridiculous.

Finally God just lets them see what their lives would be like without His blessing; He does not turn away from His people entirely, but He does allow the surrounding countries to do as they will with Israel. Like a parent with a disobedient child, God allows Israel to fall on its proverbial backside for a while, so that they understand how dependent they truly are on Him (and not other deities) for protection. But this punishment is not forever, as these verses promise!

We Can Be Restored, Too!

We can trust in the same restorative power in our own lives. We may not be conquered by other countries and taken into exile, but we can encounter major career setbacks, endure strife and long-term struggles with loved ones, and suffer illness and despair. During hard times, it can be very difficult to see God working, but just as He did for Israel, He can do for us. We, like the Israelites, must learn to be faithful to Him and trust in Him, and know that He will “look on us with favor,” too.

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Redo: Be Ready to Share Your Experience of God

March 26th, 2014 by , in Wednesday in the Word
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Today, we go back to 1 Peter, revisiting an older post on witnessing. (It’s much simpler with less rambling now! YAY!) Click and find out how witnessing ought to be done.

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Support Your Church Leaders

March 19th, 2014 by , in Wednesday in the Word
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17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those who work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”**

In these two verses, Paul emphasizes how a leader’s good work in the church should be rewarded. Whatever duties the person performs, he or she should be treated with respect while fulfilling it (1st quoted verse), and should be compensated for time and effort afterward (2nd quoted verse).

Why does Paul stop and make this point about church elders/leaders? Because often church leaders get critiqued rather than supported, even in our modern church. When too many people start wanting the church to cater specifically to them, pleasing everyone while still serving God can be an impossible task. The truth is, leading even a small ministry is difficult, but often we regular members forget just how hard others are working behind the scenes to make each Sunday morning and Wednesday night happen. Hearing only criticism and getting no support from the church body can thus make ministry service a thankless task.

Paul’s advice here, then, is for church members to consciously remember to praise and reward their leaders, rather than ignore and/or chastise them. It’s not that regular members need to go out and buy their church leaders a new car every month, and for certain the congregation should not start praising and worshipping a human instead of God. But kind words of appreciation and a little monetary support can be more of a blessing to ministry leaders than we’ll ever know.

**(Side note: the first Scripture quote in verse 18 comes from Deuteronomy and the second comes from Luke–by this time, the New Testament writings were as trusted by Christians as the Old Testament.)

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Telling God “No”

February 19th, 2014 by , in Wednesday in the Word
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Exodus 4:10-12
10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Here, we see one of many times in the book of Exodus where Moses doubts whether he can fulfill all that God is asking him to do. Yet in each case, God gives Moses the abilities and knowledge he will need to tackle each new challenge. Even though Moses feels ill-equipped to be all that God asks him to be, God knows better.

As one whose tongue routinely trips all over itself and begins 5 different sentences, only to never finish any of them, I am feeling the truth of these particular verses–I, too, feel “slow of speech and tongue” sometimes. But Moses’ “Pardon your servant” line is about more than just speaking badly; Moses worries that he will fail publicly, which is more a matter of pride than anything.

We often fall into the same trap–I’m currently stuck in it myself! These two verses are stepping ALL over my toes. I, too, have told God “no” because I’m scared I can’t do it. But when we experience God moving in our hearts to do something, a divine “tug” in a particular direction, and then tell God “no, I can’t do that,” what are we actually afraid of? More often, we’re afraid of failing and humiliating ourselves–we fear losing control and looking incompetent, and/or fear that others will judge us harshly for poor performance. (Living example of that sitting right here typing this. :D)

The Lord’s reply to Moses, then, is also a reply to our fears and questions about where God is leading us. He is in control–He gave us our brains and our abilities, and He knows the whole plan where we only perceive a small portion of it. If He leads us to a new task, a new place, new people, then we must trust that He will provide what we need. We just have to allow verse 12 to serve as inspiration–we must go and do, because God will help us and teach us along the way.

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Redo: Do Everything for God’s Glory

February 12th, 2014 by , in Wednesday in the Word
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Today, we’re revisiting 1st Corinthians in my older post Do Everything for God’s Glory. Saying more about these Bible verses in less words, with better flow? Yay!

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God’s Word Needs No Additions from Us

February 5th, 2014 by , in Wednesday in the Word
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John 5:9b-13
9b The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

In this passage, Jesus had just healed a disabled man, and told him to pick up his mat and walk; the Pharisee leaders, following the letter of the Old Testament Law, considered that the man was carrying a “load” and thus was violating Sabbath law. When they question the healed man, they learn of Jesus, “this fellow” who is apparently healing people AND telling them to violate Mosaic Law (at least in their highly legalistic understanding)!

But Jesus, following the spirit of the Law, knows that the formerly-disabled man walking is an important demonstration, not only of Jesus’ divine power but of the old order changing. God is moving among His people again, shaking up the human-created hierarchies and pointing out the useless legalism in their interpretations of His Word. And, as you might expect, the Pharisees are none too happy about that!

We modern Christians, however, are not immune to Pharisee-like beliefs. We, too, like to put human-created pseudo-Christian laws and opinions in God’s mouth, like the following:

* I have actually heard “Christians” say these things

These sentiments may have started out based on wanting to honor God, wanting to be holy, etc., but along the way they got twisted to serve human interests and conveniences instead of God. It’s very easy to do–you might say it’s very tempting to do. That’s why it’s so important for us to do a faith self-exam every so often, to check ourselves against the Word of God so that we don’t start falling into Pharisee traps!

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Redo: We Complain, God Provides

January 29th, 2014 by , in Wednesday in the Word
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The redone post I’m featuring today is the very first post ever on this blog–We Complain, God Provides, with a passage from Jeremiah. Click and read the new and improved-ness!

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We May Feel Powerless, But God Isn’t!

January 22nd, 2014 by , in Wednesday in the Word
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1 Samuel 13:19
19 Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!”

This single verse describes the tyranny with which the Philistines menaced the Israelites in the Old Testament. By this time, the Philistines had grown so powerful in the region that they even kept tight controls over potential weapon-makers (blacksmiths), so that the Israelites could not rise up against them with any serious force. At the time, Saul had been named the first king of Israel, but had already proven himself more self-focused and impulsive in his leadership; needless to say, it was a scary time for the average Israelite!

Yet even then, as chapter 14:1-23 proves, God was still with His people. Though the Israelites were unarmed and seemingly defenseless, caught between internal political strife and external military threats, God was still working, bringing confusion to the Philistines and helping the Israelites to rout them. The overall struggle was not yet over, not by a long shot, but this battle, which had seemed so hopeless at the outset, was utterly changed with God’s help.

The lesson here? Even when we feel powerless, defenseless, completely without what we need, God can and will provide. He will bring a fitting resolution to your problems, one you might never have been able to imagine; it may not come right away, but when it does, it will be perfectly timed to God’s plan.

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