Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Knowing Their Thoughts

“But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “why are you reasoning in your hearts?” Luke 5:22

Several times in scripture we are told that because Jesus knew what those questioning Him were thinking , He was able to answer them – not in a generical way- but in a very personal way that cut to the quick of their own reasoning. His reply at times was understood only by the questioner to whom His answer was directed.

There is a well known story, oft repeated, concerning a young man who came to question Jesus. His story is told in three out of the four gospels. (Mark10:17-22,Matt.19:16-22, Luke 10:25)

We are told that a certain rich young ruler came running to Jesus and knelt before Him.
Those watching would surely have been impressed by his eagerness to worship at the Master’s feet. I’m sure an approving murmur must have rippled through the crowd as many recognized him.
The young man had the right question, “What must I do to be saved?”
How quickly, based on his outward sincerity, we would we have welcomed him into the fold assuring him that Jesus would accept him and grant him eternal life.

But that was not Jesus’ response. He knew the man’s thoughts; He wasn’t influenced by the outward show of humility.
Jesus asked the man, “Why do you call me good… are you saying I am God?”
Jesus knew that this young ruler knew the scriptures, that he had studied them diligently and understood them.
Jesus acknowledged this by chiding the young man for his question replying “If you want to enter in to eternal life, keep the commandments.”

Not knowing yet that his heart was laid bare before Jesus’ penetrating gaze, he answered, “Oh, which ones?”
Jesus named them and the young man confidently replied , “I have kept them all my life!”
He spoke truly and Jesus loved him for it, but Jesus could do no other than speak the words that would touch the core of the young man’s heart.
Though Jesus yearned to draw the young man to Himself, He spoke the words that would drive him away.
“One more thing you need to do .. go sell everything you have and then come follow me.”

Why did Jesus tell him to do that ? Did Jesus mean that no one could follow Him who did not sell everything he had? No where are we told that Jesus ever told Lazarus, Martha, and Mary to do the same, instead He often enjoyed their hospitality.

Can we ever know, beyond speculating, why Jesus gave that answer to the rich young ruler?

I believe that we can.
The rich young ruler was very familiar with the scriptures, as of course was Jesus Himself.

In Duet. 18:5-8 there is an interesting passage.
Here we are told that there were Levites who for some reason had been separated from the Levite tribe. They were living with one of the other tribes, receiving an inheritance with them.
If ever any one of them wanted to take their rightful place and serve with the other Levitical priests in the temple, they could.
However, there were two stipulations…
one – they had to desire it with all their heart,
and two- they had to sell their inheritance and share equally with the other priests the monies received from the sale.

Jesus knew that His answer would bring to the young man’s mind this very passage and the rich young ruler would immediately understand what Jesus was saying, namely “In spite of your outward show of zeal and eagerness you are not seeking Me with your whole heart.”
The young man was left with nothing to say, Jesus spoke the truth.

I love this story. It fills me with the humility that is a natural response of knowing that my heart is laid bare before the Lord when I come to Him with a concern, a request, a troubled mind, or my gift of worship. Jesus does not look on my outward body language or the words on my tongue. He looks deep into my heart and knows my deepest thoughts and intents. I cannot hide before His penetrating gaze.

I also love to know that Jesus will not give me a generic answer. He will answer me in a personal way. Even though He may well point me to the scriptures I say I know, it will be to the passage that directly speaks to my issue or situation. He will reveal my heart to ME and show me what to do.

“Lord, I pray, that we never forget that Your eyes see where man’s cannot. You know the things about us that we do not even know ourselves.
O Lord, grant that we not be like the rich young ruler and walk away from You.
May we seek you with all our mind and heart.
All things come from You, and while you have given them to us richly to enjoy, may we hold them in open hands, and open hearts ready to share them as you give us opportunity. Thank-you, Father for your loving ways with us, may we respond with loving obedience to Your word. Amen.”

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Little Peanut

There once was a lowly Peanut. Though known from ancient times it took a man, named George Washington Carver to discover its versatile and useful purposes. He discovered no less than 300 ways the peanut could ‘serve’ man’s needs.

I looked at the Peanut Butter jar on our breakfast table the other morning and considered the peanut and mused over how it models for us Christians how we are to be.

First the peanut is a ‘nut’ that is not a nut at all but a little recognized member of the legume family. We too are often called a ‘nut’ in a ‘legume’ patch of society. We don’t really know where we fit and pull back into the shadows of insecurity.
Until we find our place in the kingdom of God and know that we are truly a child of the King, we will never feel as though we belong anywhere.

Eph 5:8 "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light "
Col 1:13 "He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love"
Eph 1:5 "having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will"

Second, the peanut grows and matures under ground – out of sight. Not until harvest time are its ‘works’ revealed.
So we too as believers often do our best growing ‘underground’ where no one sees us. It has been said that we are only as good as we are when no one is watching. But there is a harvest coming that will reveal what we have done in secret and our works will be revealed in the light.

1Co 3:13,14
"each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is.
If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward."

Thirdly, though small and insignificant in itself, its usefulness and strength lies in its numbers.
So it is with us .. we are all members of one another – needing each other for help and support and comfort , sharing our joys and sorrows. .
We are part of the ‘body’ of Christ where we are strong because though many we are ONE in Him.

1Co 12:25,26 "that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. "
Joh 17:21 "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me."

Fourth, the outer shell of the peanut must be broken off before it becomes useful - it is the kernel inside that is the ‘good’ part. So we too must put off the outer man, Here on our earthly sojourn we must put off the works of the flesh, and then ultimately - in death- the whole physical body that cannot inherit eternal life. It is the inner man that is renewed and strengthened in the Lord - that is useful to God's kingdom here on earth and will enjoy eternal rewards.
Eph 4:22 ."that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts"
Eph 3:16 "that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man"

Fifth , perhaps the peanut is best known in Peanut Butter. Who does not have a jar in their fridge or cupboard? But the only way the peanut can offer peanut butter is for it to give up its ‘self-rights’. Do we not too become the most useful if we allow ourselves to be ‘crushed’ so that the life of Christ can be evident in and through us? It is the power of the Holy Spirit that guides and moulds us and others become more important than our own wants and desires.

Php 2:21 "For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus."
1Co 10:24 "Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being"

These were my thoughts as I looked at the jar of Peanut Butter on my breakfast table.
As I am inspired by the little peanut, may you too remember the lessons the peanut teaches the next time you spread peanut butter on your toast.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Not What I Asked

Last Saturday we were invited to an 80th birthday party here in our clubhouse . That meant that we could just walk down from our house; perhaps a five minute walk.
It had been raining most of the day and when it was getting close to the time we needed to leave, the rain was still coming down. I didn't really want to walk in the rain and even with an umbrella the humidity would totally flatten my hair.
So I prayed and asked the Lord to let the rain stop while we would be walking. No sooner had I 'thought' the prayer ... the heavens opened and it POURED.
I was somewhat startled at the immediate answer to my prayer, and puzzled at it being the opposite of what I had asked.
But five minutes later, I understood. The downpour stopped just as it was time for us to leave, and we walked all the way to the clubhouse remaining perfectly dry!
I smiled thinking how God in answer to my prayer just dumped the rest of the rain 'all at once' to make sure it was finished by the time I needed it to be.

Isn't it often like that ? We pray and it seems God gives us the opposite of what we asked for. But maybe, like with my request, it is the best way to answer our prayer.

I love the stories of people who were 'hindered' from getting to work on 911. Each one of them, if they were praying people, would have been asking the opposite of what God answered...but the 'delays' in their morning routines saved their lives.

Joseph, I'm sure, asked God to help him be a good son to his father. Instead, his brothers throw him into a pit, he is sold as a slave, then he is falsely accused and sent to prison - all far from his father's house. Yet God WAS answering his prayer. God had an elaborate plan for Joseph to save ,not only his father and family, but also many others.

Mary and Martha couldn't understand why Jesus did not come and heal Lazarus but instead, delayed until he was dead!
The miracle Jesus planned was far greater than the miracle they desired....but, for a time, it looked as though their prayer for 'life' was answered with 'death'.

I'm sure you can think of times in your life where your prayers seemed to be answered contrary to your requests. Looking back can you see God's plan being better than yours? Sometimes we won't see the reasons until eternity. We can, however, know that God hears our prayers and He sends the answers immediately ... we might just not recognize them right away.

How good is our Father... let us rest in our faith in Him, knowing that He does all things well.

Mat 6:8b ".... For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.