And They Laughed at Him

 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district (Matthew 9:23-26).

They laughed at Jesus. The crowd is surrounding this family and the little twelve year old girl that just passed, and they are crying, playing flutes and wailing. That, I believe, was a normal part of how things went when a loved one passed. In comes Jesus and says she is not dead, just sleeping. Can you imagine how you would react if Jesus came into a room with your departed loved one and declare to you that she isn’t really dead?

How would you and I react? We might have had the same reaction. We’d like to think differently that we wouldn’t laugh at Jesus, but I think a lot of us would probably have had the same instantaneous response. You’re nuts, Jesus, that girl is plainly dead. Of course she was dead, and Jesus knew that, but Jesus also knew what he was about to do.

This wasn’t the first time people laughed at something God said. Remember Sarah? When God told Abraham that ninety-year old Sarah would have a baby, she laughed in her tent (see Genesis 18:9-15). God was pretty merciful to her, because then she proceeded to lie that she didn’t laugh! But again, put yourself in Sarah’s sandals, her body was effectively “dead” when it came to childbearing (Romans 4:19), so laughing would be a natural reaction to God’s promise of her bearing a child. Don’t forget that Abraham also laughed at the same promise (Genesis 17:17).

Interesting that God named Abraham and Sarah’s child, “Isaac,” which means laughter.

Here we have two examples in Scripture where God came into a hopeless situation and promised the impossible, and the reaction was the same. The people laughed. God then continued to work the impossible and their sadness and hopelessness led to true rejoicing and a faith that was strengthened.

Maybe we are facing situations in our own lives that we might consider “dead” or “impossible,” but remember that God can bring to life what we consider dead, and he can make possible what we see as impossible. Let’s finish with a question that God asked of Abraham and Sarah after Sarah laughed.

Genesis 18:13-14 – The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

He has not hidden His face

Psalms 22:1 – To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

We studied Psalm 22 last night in our Bible class. This Psalm is about Jesus’ death on the cross and His gospel that is preached afterwards. But in this Psalm we learn about the intimate relationship that Jesus had with His Father. It is a relationship we all can have with God the Father now because of what Jesus endured at the cross.

The Psalm begins with the question, “Why have You forsaken me?” Jesus, during the most horrible and dark time of His life, felt forsaken and abandoned by God. Verse 1 says that God seems so “far” from Him. Jesus’ requests in verse 11 and verse 19 show what He is thinking. He asks the Father not to be far from Him. That tells us again that Jesus feels at this point that God is far from Him.

But was God “far” from Jesus at the cross? Did God “hide His face” from Jesus at the cross? Was Jesus “forsaken” by the Father at the cross?

Read verse 24 of this Psalm, and you will see the answer:

For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.

Read that again. Slowly. God did not hide His face from Jesus, even at the cross. Even at the darkest moment of humanity, even when Jesus the innocent and holy Lamb was taking upon His shoulders the sins of the entire planet, God did not hide from Him. God was very near to Jesus, even at the cross. Jesus, like many other followers of God, felt abandoned, but was never abandoned.

Verse 21 also shows that God answered and rescued Jesus.

So, when Jesus promised you and me that “I will never leave you or forsake you,” can you believe it (Hebrews 13:5-6)? Will God ever abandon you? When you are at the darkest moments you can possibly imagine as a follower of Jesus, will God forsake you? Never.

Psalm 107:21-30

21 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 22 Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing. 23 Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, 24 They see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. 25 For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. 26 They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. 29 He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. 30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven. (Psalm 107:21-30)

This section is specific to those who were tossed in the great open seas.  To be honest, I have never been in this situation before.  I have not been in the open water and come up against a storm that was so fierce there seemed no way to survive.  I have seen movies that have portrayed this, and I am always struck at how huge the waves are and how small they make large vessels look.  I can only imagine how terrifying it would be to have a wave take me all the way up only to drop me all the way down on to the bottom on the other side.  I guess it would be a relief to make it back to the bottom but then it would be short lived because I would be taken back up again and slammed down again and again.  I would have no control.  It would be, I can imagine, a terrifying and completely helpless feeling.

Nope, I have never been in this kind of storm before.  But I can tell you what, I have been in my own boat of life or there with a loved one in theirs…and have felt the same terror and helplessness as a mighty storm of life bashed and battered us.  I have been flung up to the top of a wave and slammed back down to the bottom.  I have felt that momentary relief only to be quickly filled with fear.  It is humbling at its best and it is completely demoralizing and soul crushing at its worst.

Yes, we have all been thrashed about on the raging seas of life…and if we are honest…no matter how experienced or mature we are…we have found those storms that have left us at our wits end.  But again…God is right there to hear our call for help, and He calms the storms and the waves go quiet.  I think about Peter calling out Jesus in Luke 8.  He was doing just fine walking on the water until the waves got a little rough and he got distracted.  He lost focus and he became afraid.  He started to sink and when he did, he called out to Jesus.  And what was the first thing Jesus did?  He reached out to Him and got Him safely back into the boat.  That is our God.

21 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!  …and He brings them out of their distresses. 29 He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. 30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven.

Psalm 107:15-20

15 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 16 For He has broken the gates of bronze, and cut the bars of iron in two. 17 Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted. 18 Their soul abhorred all manner of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. 19 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. 20 He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.  (Psalm 107:15-20)

This section parallels the previous situation in terms of souls who are surrounded by adversity and distress.  Again, God’s children are disobedient and are distressed and are afflicted.  We see the depth of the despair and the urgency of the situation in that those needing deliverance here are at the gates of death.

In Christ Jesus, we can have confidence and assurance in death.  We should not be afraid of death as it has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).  The image we should have is of a door.  It was taught to me that both our birth and our death are doors we have to go through.  We are born through our mother’s womb and we all must one day die in the flesh as the spirit departs and returns to the Father.  That is a door we have to go through.  But in Christ…when that door opens for us, Jesus will be standing on the other side and He will be welcoming us Home.  What a relief and what a source of peace.

Conversely, finding ourselves in a state of rebellion and outside the comfort and security of Jesus, it is no wonder we find distress and fear of death…whether it be afar off or right before us.  Again, our comfort is one word away…if we cry out to our LORD in trouble He will save us…through the power of His word and its healing power.  God, through His word, will deliver us.  This is a fact and one documented in God’s inspired word over and over again.

I would say it is probable we will find ourselves in this distressing situation at one point or another…maybe multiple times.  I can say with absolute confidence that we do not need to stay there because our God will save us.

15 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!  …and He saved them out of their distresses. 20 He sent His word and healed them, andelivered them from their destructions.

Actions Get Results

38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”  41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10: 38-42)

We can all be very busy and often times we are.  I know I am.  I sometimes get so busy and am doing a lot of things that I lose track of time and can get off track of what I really need to be doing.  For me, that manifests itself in fatigue, a short temper, less communication with loved ones/brethren, reduced prayer/bible study, a higher dependence on “tomorrow” instead of “today”, procrastination, etc.  These are the results I get when my focus turns from what I need (Jesus) and either what I want and/or think I need to do.  It is what I call a death spiral…I get so focused on something other than Jesus that I begin to lose altitude and gain speed subtly and before you know it I am about to crash.  I have become distracted with much serving and the fruit/results I am getting are not leaving me at peace.  That is not where our Abba Father and Elder Brother want us to be.

They want us to bear fruit of the spirit which is a result of living a life for Jesus.  22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23).  These don’t all come at once.  It is a sustained life for Jesus…consistent behavior over time…that produces these fruits and gets us the results God (and we) desire.  5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1: 5-8)

We can examine the results we are getting from our actions/behaviors and know if we are on the right path and focused on the one thing we need.  We must do this…it is a continual process and if we are not self aware and/or continually check ourselves against the scriptures, eventually others will and we might lose an opportunity to serve and share Jesus.  I know that is not the result we are looking for.

 

Belief in Jesus

One thing is needed…

Jesus is our one need and allowing Him to fill it shapes everything else in our lives.  Learning about His life, death, burial and resurrection teaches us about our need for Him in order to be saved from our sins.  This knowledge and our reaction of obedience to it shapes our beliefs as disciples of Christ.

What can we believe as Christians who know what our one need is and rely on Jesus to fill it?

12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy (because he set us apart) and beloved,

We know, believe and have confidence in that we are the elect of God and the Holy Spirit wants us to know and believe first and foremost that we are chosen, we are holy, we are beloved.

Why has God chosen us?  Why are we holy?  Why are we beloved?  Why are we forgiven?  We are all those things because He loves us (Eph 2:4-10).

And because we have been saved as a result of our obedience and God’s great love for us, we can be motivated by God’s GRACE (12-15), His PEACE (15), the WORD (16), and Jesus’ Name (17).

Jesus fills our greatest need and when we let Him, we become His special people.  This changes our thinking, our beliefs, and understanding and motivates us so that …whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  (17)

We can believe that what we do and say matters and what Jesus is telling us here is that we need to remember who He is, who we are and if there are thoughts in our minds that Jesus wouldn’t think then we don’t think them and if there are words coming out of our mouths that Jesus would never say…then we need to stop saying.

Our beliefs have to change so that our behavior will change.

It is a high standard that whatever we do in word or deed is done in the context of the person, nature, character, and authority of Jesus.  But because we have experienced and believe in the grace of Christ…we have enjoyed the peace of Christ…. we have been enriched by the word of Christ and we have been ennobled by the name of Christ.  And knowing and believing that will motivate us to honor and glorify Him and that will change our behavior, our life, and the lives of those around us.

Our Need: Jesus

1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Col 3:1-4; NKJV)

As we read in Luke 10:42, Jesus tells Martha (and us) that only one thing is needed…Jesus our Savior.  Jesus lived and died so that we could have what we really need, salvation.

Why do we NEED salvation in Jesus?  Because we are all sinners (Rom 3:23) and in our sins we are dead spiritually and need saving by Jesus.  8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:8-9; NKJV)

We can know that by listening to the gospel.  Having heard the gospel and understanding who Jesus is, who we are, and our need for forgiveness and salvation, what do we NEED to do?  Peter tells us in Acts 2:38 that we must “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

In that act of obedience, having put to death our sinful flesh, …we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:4)

And because we are raised with Christ, Who is our greatest need, our life needs to be different.  We need to strive for and seek daily the things that are above because that is where Jesus is. We need to exercise our mind toward heaven and we need to be thinking about things on the earth from heaven’s perspective.

Life here has to be lived but it needs to be lived in the context of eternity in Heaven.  We have died to our old self and we are raised up with Jesus who is sitting at the right hand of God.  Our life is now hidden in Christ and when He who is our life appears, then if we are faithful to Him whom we need, we will appear with Him in glory.

“I need to…”  When you use that statement, consider what comes next.  Does it look something like “I need Jesus first and foremost and He gets my firsts and I will look at life through His perspective”.  If you are like me, often times it doesn’t.  What it looks like is a bunch of words that describe all the things that have to get done in my daily life or sometimes it is followed by words that are really describing a “want” and not a need.

We have all we need in Jesus.  Jesus should be everything that we want.  Jesus fills all of our needs.  Heaven is all the home we need.  Keeping that at the forefront of our minds will shape our thinking to a heavenly perspective and our needs will be met and our wants will be shaped in a life lived for Jesus.  We are all busy but if we are first busy for Jesus then He will be all we need.

Wants and Needs–A Picture

This is a graph I pulled from a leadership class I took and want to use it for our discussion over the next several days.  The intent is to communicate that our needs and our beliefs are things that people can’t see but our behavior and results are.  The thing to consider is whether or not how we are acting and the results we are getting are consistent to what we need or what we believe.  Further, people can only draw conclusions by what they see so consistency in alignment of our beliefs and our actions over time is important.  It has been said, “be careful how you live; you will be the only Bible some people ever read“.  What kind of feedback are you getting?

Take some time today and read the first 17 verses of Colossians 3 and consider what it teaches us in terms of what we need, what we should believe, how we should act and what kinds of results we should be seeing in our lives as Christians.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatryBecause of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouthDo not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Col 3:1-17 ; NKJV)

Wants and Needs

38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”  41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10: 38-42)

There is a continual battle I have and I think is shared by most if not all of you.  The internal battle deals with what I “WANT” to do versus what I “NEED” to do.  I had a brother once make a statement to me while I shared with him my struggles in wrestling with the direction my professional life was taking.  Without going into the long odyssey of that conversation/struggle, the basic advice was “Shane, there are things we want to do but more importantly there are things we need to do.  Start with what you need to do and be thankful you can get them done”.  I confess that was not what I wanted to hear.  What I wanted was for him to say something more along the lines of “you should do what makes you happy…what you want to do” but that wasn’t what I NEEDED to hear.  I am thankful for my brother and his words have stuck with me as I have encountered other similar dilemmas.

Over the next several articles, I would like to explore this idea of Wants and Needs and what God says in His word for our instruction.  Many if not most of you are familiar with the story that contains Jesus’ admonition that starts “Martha, Martha”.  Take a minute and read it again.  Ask yourself if you really understand what you NEED to do and/or what kinds of things shift your focus to WANTING.  The cares of the world, a busy schedule, selfishness…these or something like it are what promote what we WANT to do to the top of list and cause turmoil in our hearts and minds.  I know I am guilty of being there…WANTING instead of recognizing my NEED.  We all have and that is one of so many reasons why we are blessed to have a loving, merciful, graceful, forgiving and long suffering Savior and Father who continues to give us what we NEED in such a way that He is all that we WANT.  That transformation is what we will look at over the next several articles.  Have a blessed day!

Two Perspectives and Two Processes

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:12-15; NKJV)

This passage provides perspective from which we can confidently serve our God and also from which we can investigate what is going on in our life and determine what the problem is.

Jesus promised a crown of life, that is eternal life, for those that love Him.  Jesus told us if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.  If we are faithful and obedient to Jesus Christ then we will be blessed as we overcome our temptations, will endure in this life, and be found approved by Him as we return to Him in spirit (crown of life). That is the process of God.

In that, we can be confident that God is not and does not tempt.  It says clearly in the verse that “evil” is what tempts and there is no evil in God.  There is no darkness but only light.  There is no bad, only good.  Our God is Holy.

So if God isn’t tempting us, where is it coming from?  Evil.  What is evil?  That which is contrary to God.  Who is contrary to God?  The devil is evil and he is contrary to anything God stands for and he is the one that appeals to us in our flesh and tempts us to act in a way that is contrary.  The devil is selfish.  We are at risk of being selfish.  Satin will appeal to that perspective while Jesus is saying deny yourself and follow Him.

If we give way to the temptation of the devil through responding to the desires of our flesh or our self-centered perspective, then we are in danger.  This desire, if allowed to take hold, will give opportunity for sin and if the sin is born and not taken care of will result in spiritual death.  That is the process of the devil.

So we have two perspectives and two processes.  God’s is heavenly and holy and results in eternal life.  The devil’s is fleshly and results in sin and death.

This provides us opportunity to reflect on our lives and consider what choices we are making, what sorrows we have, what fruit we are bearing and determine which perspective and process we are adhering to.

God loves us and wants us to be safe and secure as any Father does but He wants our heart and that requires our faithful and consistent choosing of Him.  He does not tempt us.  He only loves us.  And He does and will equip us to endure temptation by the devil and to secure an eternal and living crown.