The Culture of Jesus – Safe to Work

But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6).

With Jesus it was safe:

  • Safe to work.
  • Safe to be different.

Mary wasn’t stealing a car or robbing a bank. She didn’t go out and kill 20 people. Nor was she trying to sell crack to school kids. She wasn’t attempting to lead people down some false doctrinal path. All she did was take some extremely valuable fragrant oil and dedicate it to Jesus for His burial. And how did the apostles and others respond? Negativity, criticism and judgment.

“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” That was the advice Jesus gave His disciples. They had criticized Mary sharply, scolding her for wasting the fragrant oil by pouring it out on Jesus. The disciples had better ideas on how she could have used that oil to minister to the poor. But Jesus didn’t see it that way. He also added that wherever the gospel was preached, this woman’s act of sacrifice, honor and love would shared with the whole world (Mark 14; Matthew 26; John 12).

Think of the environment and culture the disciples had created by their judgmentalism. Without Jesus there to help, would it have been safe for Mary to step out and do what she did for Jesus? Not at all. They were “troubling her” instead of encouraging her. Jesus was helping the others learn, grow and change to see that this way of pouncing on people with criticism is not His way. This culture of criticism is alive and well in today’s churches, communities, families and businesses, and Jesus wants to transform us, too.

Was it safe for Mary to work and be different? Not at this point with the disciples. They were going to have to be transformed by Jesus. But with Jesus she was safe. With Jesus it was safe to step out and work for Him, even if it was different than how others would have served. This is not to say it is okay with Jesus to teach different doctrines – we’re talking about living within the realm of God’s word. Mary was clearly living within God’s word; she just did something in a way that others thought was a waste.

How about us? Are we like the disciples? Do we insult people, belittle others and make them feel dumb for having different ideas? Then we need a culture change, and that starts in the heart. Come to Jesus and ask Him to help you change how you approach others around you so that they feel safe to step out and work for Jesus.

The Well From Which You Drink

In John 4, Jesus met with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. I’d encourage you to read through John 4 and meditate upon it. Jesus has a great discussion with her about living water. It started with a discussion about physical water, but led to living water. The woman begged for this living water! And then for some reason, Jesus brings up her marital situation.

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
(John 4:10-19)

From what well had the Samaritan woman been drinking? I’m not talking about Jacob’s well. I’m talking about the relationship well. She had drawn from that well over and over (maybe for no fault of her own), but it had left her dehydrated. Those relationships hadn’t quenched any thirst at all, they had only left her empty and begging to be filled.

We drink things today that make us dehydrated. Pop. Coffee. Alcohol. Our well here at our house is really salty, we can’t drink from it; we had to buy a reverse osmosis system to deal with it. I’m sure you understand that you can drink things that leave you worse than before. Nothing really replaces good water, and nothing really replaces the living water Jesus offers.

Are you thirsty? Dehydrated? Have you become empty because you are drinking from the wrong well? Then Jesus is offering you living water!

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
(Isaiah 55:1-2)

Laodicea: The Church Who Didn’t Need Jesus

Jesus was kicked out of His own church! The church at Laodicea was gathered together, but Jesus was on the outside knocking to get in His own church!

Studying the background of the city of Laodicea brings some valuable insights. I have a few links below of some resources I used to write this article.

Laodicea was known for:

  • Legendary wealth – When the city of Laodicea was destroyed by earthquakes, they did not accept or receive assistance from Rome to rebuild the city.
  • Self-sufficiency and independence – The city was named after the wife of Antiochus III, but the word itself is derived from two words: laos, meaning “people” and dike, meaning “decision” (Strong’s Concordance). This city made their own decisions. They didn’t accept Nero’s help to rebuild Rome, they were going to go it alone.
  • Lukewarm water – According to Expositor’s Bible Commentary, “A six-mile-long aqueduct brought Laodicea its supply of water from the south. The water came either from hot springs and was cooled to lukewarm or came from a cooler source and warmed up in the aqueduct on the way. For all its wealth, the city had poor water” (comments on Revelation 3:14-22).
  • Black wool – Laodicean black wool was world famous.
  • Eye salve – Laodicea had a famous school of medicine. They also were known for a special ointment known as ‘Phrygian powder,’ which was famous for its cure of eye defects. One of the most famous graduates of the medical school was a man who was very influential in the field of ophthalmology.

Considering all of that, listen to how Jesus addresses the congregation in Laodicea.

Revelation 3:14-22 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. (15) “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! (16) So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (17) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (18) I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. (19) Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (20) Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (21) The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (22) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'”

The church in Laodicea in Jesus’ eyes:

  • Wealthy, yet poor.
  • Clothed with designer clothes, yet naked.
  • Great vision, but blind.
  • Self-sufficient, but pitiable and wretched.
  • And just like the lukewarm water of the city, was their heart and character to Jesus. They made Jesus sick to His stomach.

What they needed:

  • Was to “buy” Jesus’ gold which is refined by His fire.
  • Get clothed in white garments from Jesus.
  • And get Jesus’ eye salve so that they could really see!
  • To be “zealous” (hot) to repent to Jesus.
  • To let Jesus in the door of His own church! Stop being self-sufficient.

So, here is food for thought – What does a church look like today that doesn’t need Jesus? If we were like a Laodicean church today what would that look and sound like? And if that was the case in our church, how do we turn things around? On a practical level, how does a church start putting eye salve on its eyes and buying gold from Jesus? What does it look like and sound like when a church starts letting Jesus back in the door?

Here is another contrast to add to yesterday’s article: Ephesus was in danger of Jesus leaving its fellowship, Jesus was trying very hard not to leave Ephesus. Laodicea had already kicked Jesus out and He was trying very hard to get back in!

Resources:

Laodicea – Life, Hope, and Truth Website

Laodicea on the Lycus

Padfield.com – The church at Laodicea in Asia Minor

This calls for…

I noticed something last night in our reading of the book of Revelation. In the English Standard Version, I saw several occasions where it says something to the effect of “This calls for…”

This calls for wisdom (Revelation 13:18;17:9).

This is a call for endurance and faith of the saints (Revelation 13:10; 14:12).

This might be just a simple observation, but this I see that the book of Revelation was written to be understood and obeyed. Which, in fact, coincides with one of the very first verses in the book.

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
(Revelation 1:3)

The book of Revelation was written to suffering, persecuted saints. It is written in symbols, but God expected them to understand what was going on. More importantly, the point of the book was to help them endure the massive spiritual battle in which they were engaged.

It really is no different for us. God gave us His word so that we could understand it, and because of that we stand strong in this world. Revelation was not intended to become an obsession for folks to try to match every symbol to an event in the news. It was intended to give hope to those who are being crushed under the weight of oppression. Jesus is winning…in reality, He has already won. So stand, overcome, conquer, and don’t give up.

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
(Revelation 14:12-13)

It is finished

I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
(Luke 12:50)

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
(John 17:4)

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
(John 19:28-30)

One of the last words Jesus spoke on the cross was a Greek word which means “it is finished or accomplished.” He used that word several times in His ministry, one of note is the passage above in Luke 12. Jesus was “distressed” until this work was accomplished. I just feel a sigh of relief coming from the soul of Jesus as He said that word on the cross. It is finished, I accomplished the work God gave Me to do. He could now go on to the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:2).

Even though we cannot come close to understanding the level of “distress” Jesus felt, we can understand that there are sacrifices we make and crosses we bear as Christians today. And what Jesus said there at the cross is what every Christian should be able to say at the end of his or her own life. Take the apostle Paul for example:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished (same word Jesus used) the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Jesus was “distressed,” Paul was “burdened beyond measure” at times, and the same is for the Christian today. But we also have joy in our hearts knowing that God is always with us through those trials, and we know that one day we will lay down that cross and receive a crown. We will then be able to say, “It is finished.”

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
(Revelation 14:12-13)

One Work

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
(Ephesians 4:11-12)

As I was growing up, I was taught about the 3 works of the church: evangelism, edification, and benevolence. I’m not intending to talk against this, because those are the works the New Testament congregations were involved in doing. As you read about the local churches in the book of Acts and in the letters, you see the churches carrying out those works.

However, today’s thought is to help us remember not to compartmentalize things in our mind, always trying to keep these works in separate boxes. These works are all connected. When you help/visit a widow and minster to her needs, you are doing benevolence, of course. But are you edifying at the same time? Yes, she is edified, you are encouraged and built up by her faith and trust in Jesus, and maybe the person you took with you to visit that person is encouraged as well. Are you doing evangelism in this work, too? What about the widow’s neighbor who notices what you are doing? Is it possible that you are preaching Jesus by your labor of love for the widow? It’s not only possible, it is exactly what you are doing, according to Jesus.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:35)

As a congregation takes care of its own (benevolence), it displays the love of Christ to the world (evangelism), and builds up the brethren (edification).

As you look at the verse at the beginning of this post (Ephesians 4:11-12), you see that elders/shepherds, evangelists and teachers are given by God to “equip” the brethren to serve, so that the body of Christ can be built up.

It’s one work.

Moving in Two Directions

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
(James 4:7-8)

In this passage we see the Lord and the Devil moving in two different directions. The Devil is fleeing and and Lord is drawing near. This explains why the Devil flees, because God is coming!

We see all the Devil is doing in this world, and what he has done in our own lives, and he can be pretty scary. He is described in Scripture as the adversary, the prince of the power of the darkness, the enemy, the accuser of our brethren, a dragon, a serpent, a lion, the god of this age, the evil one, the father of lies, a murderer, the tempter, and the ruler of this world (Matthew 4:3; 13:38-39; John 8:44; 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:9-10).

When I think of a lion, a ruler, a god, and a dragon, the thought of those beings fleeing anything is foreign to me. But when the Lord is coming, that great dragon and roaring lion runs away! The Devil is powerful, he has brought the whole world under his influence (1 John 5:19), but He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

If you submit to God, resist the devil, and draw near to God, the Lord promised two things: He would come near, and the Devil would run away. That’s a promise. God doesn’t lie. Sometimes we get too caught up in the power of the Devil and forget how much more mighty the Lord Jesus is.

He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
(1 John 3:8)

A Little Bit of Jesus’ Spit

Have you ever thought about Jesus’ spit? Crazy question, maybe, but below are three miracles where Jesus used His own spit to perform a miracle. With His spit He healed the blind, the deaf and the mute. After having been touched with Jesus’ spit, they saw clearly, heard clearly and spoke plainly.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
(Mark 7:31-35)

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
(Mark 8:22-25)

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
(John 9:6-7)

Here are a few quick thoughts about Jesus’ spit.

  1. The way Jesus heals you may not be pleasant or desirable. The way God restores you may temporarily make you uncomfortable. The Great Physician has His own medicine cabinet and how He chooses to heal you is the right prescription every time. If you were blind and Jesus’ spit could heal you, wouldn’t you say, “Jesus, spit on me all day long if that’s what I need”?
  2. Everything that comes from Jesus is divine, holy, merciful and powerful, including His own spit. Contrast the way others used their spit as they mocked and shamed Jesus before His crucifixion. Even Jesus’ spit was used with love and with the glory of God on His mind.
  3. The miracle of this blind man being healed in Mark 8 is a gradual miracle and we can learn a lesson from it. Most of Jesus’ miracles were instantaneous, this one Jesus chose to do gradually. Maybe it is a lesson on how Jesus gradually changes the way we see spiritually. As we grow in Jesus, His spit needs to be on our eyes every day, so that we go from blind to seeing the way God sees. But for a while, we see men like trees walking, not exactly clear, but with enough of the spit and grace of Jesus, we will one day see clearly.

In Me You May Have Peace

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

I was thinking about this verse this morning. There are two “in’s” in this passage:

  • In the world you will have tribulation.
  • In Me you may have peace.

How do those two concepts coexist? Tribulation, meaning we are under pressure like grapes being crushed to produced juice. That is what happens to us in the world, according to Jesus. But then he also says that we can while under pressure and anguish have peace.

“In Me you may have peace.” We are physically located in the world, but our hearts and relationships are tied to the eternal Christ. This is how Jesus slept in a boat on the storm. He was physically located in the storm, but His heart was resting safely and quietly in the Father.

I really need this right now. Maybe you do, too. May we come to Christ and to His words (and to His people) for the peace that passes all understanding. The peace that only comes through Jesus Christ.

…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7)

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
(John 14:27)

 

A Lesson From Aaron Feis

Aaron Feis, as many of you may have heard, was an assistant football coach who died this week while shielding students from the gunfire. He ran toward the danger to help save the students. Jesus told us about how great a love it is to lay down your life for others (John 13).

Here is an excerpt from CNN about this incredible man who died saving others.

(CNN)Football coach Aaron Feis threw himself in front of students as bullets hailed down Wednesday at his alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It would become perhaps the final act undertaken by the assistant coach and security guard, who suffered a gunshot wound and died after he was rushed into surgery, according to the school’s football program and its spokeswoman, Denise Lehtio.
“He died the same way he lived — he put himself second,” Lehtio said. “He was a very kind soul, a very nice man. He died a hero.”
Feis was among 17 people killed when a former student armed with a rifle opened fired on campus, unleashing a massacre that stands among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history.
Colton Haab, a 17-year-old junior and football player who was close with Feis, said he heard the coach shielded three girls from gunfire.
“That’s Coach Feis,” Haab said, describing the educator as selfless, approachable and friendly.
“(He) made sure everyone else’s needs were met before his own. He was a hard worker. He worked after school, on the weekends, mowing lawns, just helping as many people as possible,” Haab said.
Haab last saw Feis Tuesday morning in a school hallway, he said. They talked “about normal stuff,” like work and football.
“I’m glad he didn’t suffer that much,” the teenager said. “It’s sad because it’s not going to be the same without him at school anymore, that’s for sure. Football definitely won’t be the same. We’re definitely going to have to band back together as brothers and mourn his loss and pick up the pieces to try to rebuild our football team.”

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/15/us/football-coach-florida-school-shooting-trnd/index.html