Request. Response. Resolution.

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?“  She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”  22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with”  They said to Him, “We are able.”  23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”  24 And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said…   (Matt 20:20-25; NKJV)

Right after Jesus reveals His betrayal and death to the disciples, He is asked that seats of honor would be granted to two of them when Jesus comes into His kingdom.  As I said earlier, I don’t want to be too hard on these guys as we all find ourselves putting our foot in our mouths when we start thinking of ourselves first.  They were asking for the “chief seats” and I think we can get into this trap too.  It is not hard to understand why.  They see what it looks like with Roman and Jewish leadership…what the trappings of power look like.  They have been on the wrong end of things for their entire lives and now they have an opportunity to be on top.  So, through their own selfish lens, they (or should I say their mother) asks for what they want.  It is selfish and it is misguided but it is what they “wanted”.  We can make the same mistake.

Jesus responds by qualifying what they are asking.  Per the previous statement, He asks if they can endure the cup (signifying God’s wrath) and baptism He will have.  Of course, they are certain they can…though they don’t really know what they are saying.  Jesus knows and He tells them what will come to pass in the future as a result of their faithfulness but right now they can’t see past the “chief seats”.  James will drink the cup of martyrdom (Acts 12:2) and we know that many disciples of Jesus suffered a lot (even death) because of their faith.  In the moment, however, the brothers can’t see that and only want to be in a place of honor with the King…even if they don’t yet fully understand it.

The result within the immediate family (of the 12) was the other 10 becoming very displeased with the brothers.  I don’t know if they are upset because they didn’t think to ask first, because they understood what Jesus was saying of betrayal and death and were hurt these two would be so selfish or what exactly got under their skin.  The bottom line is, the brothers’ selfish behavior created division within the group and it is starting to boil over.  This is not uncommon even today.  If there is a brother who is acting selfishly or in a way that is not unifying the group, we can get upset and then we can start talking among ourselves and then we can let it boil over and great division takes place.  What we should do, however, is do what Jesus does.

This is one of my favorite images in the Bible.  As this disagreement begins to take place within the 12, what does Jesus do?  He calls them to Himself.  I picture a huddle and maybe even a group hug eventually.  But here, Jesus calls them together and He teaches for them all to learn.  That is the case with us…we all need to learn from our own and from others shortfalls and mistakes.  None of us are perfect and when another hurts us or wrongs us due to their selfish behavior…call them near and bring Jesus with you.  Talk about it, pray about it, love one another.  We all get off track and take our eye off the ball.  This will hurt when the consequence of this is against us.  But it will hurt a whole lot more if we lose a brother and we have a great example in our Savior of how to call each other close, learn from each other and love one another…God is glorified in that!

There is a lot going on in these verses but the visual in my mind from God’s word of Jesus putting His arms around His disciples, pulling them near and teaching them…redeeming them…loving them is one that brings joy, hope and peace to my heart today.  I hope it does the same for you and if you need to repent and draw someone close that you might have pushed away…do that today.  Ask for someone to help in that.  Jesus is waiting and will go too.

Let This Mind Be In You

This week scratched the surface on our growth towards shepherding and I hope it gave you some things to meditate on and pray about.

We are all a work in progress.  Growing up to being qualified to shepherd God’s flock is a lifetime investment and walk with Jesus.  What a blessing to have that opportunity.  To know Jesus and have Him as our example and to examine ourselves against His standard.

In 2012, South Macomb Church of Christ has a theme titled “Let This Mind Be In You” (Philippians 2:5).  The theme examined different mindsets to include Knowing Christ, Humble Service, Purpose, Like-mindedness, Citizenship, Contentment & Rejoicing, and Influence.  The bottom line in all of this was having a mind for loving and saving souls.

Take what we have talked about this week, what you have thought about and consider Jesus talking about Himself in the context of shepherding:

7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10: 7-16)

Shepherds recognize that sheep are easily scattered when there are not shepherds to watch out for them.  We should have a heart for the souls of others that we do not want to do anything that would cause the sheep to be scattered.  Therefore, our actions will have concern to not harm the faith of the sheep.

To move your life toward being a shepherd means you are going to be a leader and make decisions for the good of the flock. You can and will have to do this now…no matter age.

Shepherding is not a passive work but a difficult work.

But your love for the flock and desire for the flock to not be scattered and injured will lead you to want to do this important work even though it is difficult.  Shepherding is not a title.  It is a work and a very important work.  The work you do today is important and taking time to reflect on your life and on your actions through the lens of Jesus bears fruit today and will bear fruit in the future.  Abide in Jesus and your life will come to reflect Him and you will be found qualified when called for service and shepherding of the flock.

If you are interested in hearing sermons from the 2012 Let This Mind Be In You, please visit this site: https://www.southmacombchurchofchrist.org/sermons/online-lessons?title=&y=2012&se=13&sv=0&sp=0

Hospitality

Hospitality is a word and concept we studied this morning in Bible class.  The Greek word for hospitality is “philoxenos” which means love (philos) strangers (xenos).  We considered many things during class in regards to what hospitality is, what our motivation should be towards hospitality, what prohibits us (or we allow to prohibit us) from being hospitable, who we mean when we say “strangers”, and several other shared thoughts and examples.  To cover all of it in this post would not be possible.  With that said, take time and read Romans 12 and Hebrews 13:2 and meditate on this idea of loving strangers.  Think about who a stranger is in your life…not just those in the world but who do you need to get to know better and show love towards within your church family?

For the remainder of this post, let’s look at 1 Peter 4:9 where we find the word philoxenos.  In chapter four of this book, Peter continues teaching Christians how to live in knowing that the end of all things is near and more specifically how to live “the rest of their time” …not in the flesh but in the will of God.  Peter first commands them to keep their minds clear and alert and be prayerful.  Next Peter tells them to have fervent love for each other noting that “love will cover a multitude of sins” (Proverb 10:12).

In verse nine, Peter directs Christians to demonstrate love by offering hospitality without grumbling, or begrudgingly or in a selfish manner.  In class, we discussed the different ways this might take place and even though we might think it is limited to what we might see as the standard today in terms of having people in our homes, visiting others, serving those in the community, etc.  But God is saying here through Peter is that we should be prepared to love and we should love with the gifts that God has given each individual.  That is the awesome part of the body…that its parts are different but put together are powerful.  Well, in this case, if the individual takes their gift and uses it in finding ways to and then loving a stranger…that is powerful too…and that is hospitality.

In Peter’s day, Christian hospitality in great need of and could be a great burden.  Many Christians were forced to flee in persecution which often meant traveling without much to take care of themselves.  These refugees relied on brothers/sisters in Christ to share their homes, goods, food, etc. while hosting them as they traveled through to their destination.  This kind of hospitality could be risky.  It could have been that those sharing didn’t have much to begin with putting the host’s family at risk of running out themselves.  Those hosting could be taken advantage of if the stranger(s) they were inviting in were not who they thought they were.

Still, Peter reminds his readers—and us—that is how family loves each other. It’s part of our purpose as God’s set-apart people. We should embrace the opportunity to give that kind of sacrificial love, instead of offering such hospitality reluctantly.

We could spend a week or two thinking about all the different ideas we covered today in class and maybe we will in the future.  But for today, take 1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12, and Hebrews 13:2 and read them, pray about them.  Take stock of what you are already doing and more, ask God to help move you out of your comfort zone, identify even more opportunity to love strangers, look within your brethren first, and love.  God loved us first when we were strangers to Him because of sin.  There is our example and motivation.  Loving like Him will encourage, reflect the gospel, and provide opportunity for growth in you and in others.

Stand Still–Stand Firm

David writes in Psalm 18 about the words he sang on the day God delivered him from all his enemies and the hand of Saul.  David writes:

1 I will love You, O Lord, my strength.  2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.  (Psalm 18:1-3; NKJV)

Peter, after being arrested for preaching the gospel and speaking to the Sanhedrin says of Jesus… 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12; NKJV)

I thought of these verses in thinking about what kind of husband and father to my daughter I want to be.  There are a lot of different challenges to being a good Godly husband and father.  One of the most challenging for me is to know what the right thing is to do for my wife or my daughter at any given time.  What I want to do is rescue them from whatever is troubling them.  I want to be the knight in shining armor, the fixer, the “man”.  But I will tell you, this approach often has unforeseen consequences and the disappointment I feel when I get it wrong is crushing at times…and if nothing else confusing and can lower my confidence in myself and what God wants me to do.  In the worst case, I get angry and blame my wife or my daughter for not getting me or appreciating me…me, me, me.

What I think about in this context about these verses is this.  If I believe that God is my rock, my fortress, my stronghold and His Son Jesus is the chief cornerstone of my salvation, then I need to stand upon that Rock and be strong for my wife and my daughter.  If I holdfast to God and receive from Him the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, longsuffering, strength, peace…if I get all these spiritual blessings and more from Him and know that He is with me and will not forsake me…then I am free to just stand there or said another way I am free to just “be there”.  As I stand solidly on my faith and demonstrate the firm ground under my feet in Jesus, my wife and my daughter will take notice.

Standing on solid ground, I can be there for them to lean on when they need me.

Standing on the Rock of Jesus, I can stand firm if they need to climb up, lay down, and rest or just get a hug or a warm touch.

Standing firm in God, I can be an example they can look to or point to in difficult times and be encouraged.

If I am standing with Jesus, I will be what God wants me to be for my wife and my daughter.  It isn’t about what I am getting from my wife or my daughter, but what I get from my Abba Father and Elder Brother that matters.  When I get that spiritual strength through faith and abiding in Jesus, I then can give of myself in a way that is most beneficial to my wife, my daughter and my family.

Sounds crazy, but give it a try.  The next time things are going crazy, the house is hectic, there is more to be done than hands to do it…just stand still with Jesus and holdfast to Him as you hold onto her and that will make an eternal difference.

Friendship

The relationship between David and Jonathan is one of the great friendships in the bible. I Samuel 20 provides some of the clearest insight into the nature and depth of their relationship. Verse 17 says, “Jonathon made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.”

In chapter 20, David fears for his life and is hiding from King Saul. Jonathan sets out to verify that Saul indeed wants to kill David and they establish a code so that David will know whether he needs to run or if he can return to the city. Jonathan goes out for target practice and tells the lad that the arrows are “beyond you” signaling to David that he needs to run and hide.

In order to truly appreciate the next scene, we have to consider David’s life to this point. He was the youngest brother, relegated to watching sheep. He was told he would be the next king of Israel but there was no clear timing to when this would take place. David had a mighty victory over Goliath and was propelled to national fame. He was brought into the King’s court, only to be looked at with suspicion and envy. King Saul jerked David around with marriage proposals, eventually giving him his daughter Michal, with one condition. David had to bring 100 foreskins of the Philistines, a plan designed to get him killed. Saul continued to try and kill David resulting in a nighttime escape, leaving his bride behind him. During all this it seems that David behaved honorably, trying to serve God and trying to serve the king.

This brings us to I Samuel 20 when Jonathan, David’s best friend, confirms that his father wants to kill David. Verse 41 says, “When the lad was gone, David rose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David the more.” The chapter ends with “Then he rose and departed, while Jonathan went into the city.” This scene breaks my heart.

As far as I can tell, the only other interaction we have between Jonathan and David is in chapter 23 when David is hiding in Horesh and Jonathan comes to him and says, “Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.” Tragically, Jonathan never has the opportunity to serve beside King David.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from this friendship but what is on my heart is very simple. What is the significance of a best friend? Do you have a Jonathan or a David in your life? Are you actively pursuing this kind of a relationship? What barriers do we put up to prevent this kind of relationship?

Jess MacArthur

Jason Dukes

Aaron Kemple

I’m blessed to have three men in my life that are developing into Jonathan/David relationships. We have history, we have trust, we have love. They are not afraid to tell me when I’m messing up. They are not afraid to hold me accountable. They are always there to encourage me, strengthen me, and lift me up. And no matter how much time goes by between conversations, we pick right back up where we left off. What is the key to developing these relationships?

It is not a common love of football or movies. It is not similar career interests or family connections. In I Samuel 20 verse 42, Jonathan says to David, “Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.” The Lord is between us. We all share a love for the Lord and have an unspoken oath to help each other in His service. I thank God daily for putting these men in my life.

My encouragement for today is to embrace the relationships around us. We need to let our guard down and let people in. If you have a Jonathan/David, let them know how much you appreciate them. Be brave, reach out to someone and tell them you desire this kind of relationship. Life is hard, Satan is real, and God has designed us to work together.

For an extended study on David please listen to this excellent lesson from Andy Cantrell. He makes a different and powerful application.

https://www.lakeviewchurchofchrist.org/player/509

 

 

Safety and Encouragement in God’s Word and Blessings

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33; NKJV)

1God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.  2 Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the  sea; 3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah…7 The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.  (Psalm 46: 1-3, 7; NKJV)

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’  (Isaiah 41:10; NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7; NKJV)

I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.  (Psalm 16: 8; NKJV)

Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22; NKJV)

He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. (Psalm 62:6; NKJV)

…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  (1 Peter 5:7; NKJV)

The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him. (Nahum 1:7; NKJV)

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3; NKJV)

I hope you find these verses encouraging today and invite you to work them into your prayers and for the prayers of your brethren.

There have been times when I have sent a text, an email or left a voicemail just trying to encourage a brother or sister and they have either texted me back or called me a few days later apologizing that they didn’t acknowledge it or thank me or some other closure to the gesture.   The last time this happened I told my brother that it was not necessary at all…that I look at encouragement as a “heat seeking missile”…something that you target on what you want to hit and then “fire and forget” knowing that it will hit its mark and have the effect you were hoping for.

That is how I see encouragement…as the encourager we can take heart our effort will have a positive effect and if we are the one being encouraged we might just let it…and leave it at that.  Either way, I am “firing” these verses your way and am confident they will bring you comfort and encouragement…that is God’s blessing and work in your life.

Live blessed today and be a blessing to others!

Safety for the Ensnared

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:20-26; NKJV)

I was thinking about standing next to Jesus in our safe house as we discussed earlier in the week and looking at those out in harms way who seem to want to come in but can’t or won’t.  I was thinking about why that is and verse 26 came to mind…about how the devil sets snares for us and how he takes us captive and how hard it can be to believe we can be free again.  How many people have I talked to who are in this situation.

In reading the verses above, Paul describes how we should be as we abide in Jesus, follow Him and share the gospel in the world.  How we should be a vessel of honor, sanctified (set apart for a godly purpose) and be useful to the Master!

In considering this, there are things we should do and things we should avoid.

In terms of our personal conduct, we must cleanse ourselves of false doctrine or what the world wants to teach us; we must flee youthful lusts and mature in the faith past the lust of the flesh or lust of the eyes avoiding wicked associations and wicked conduct.

What we should do is pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace which are qualities we must have if we want to see Jesus and qualities suited for a man of God.  We should call on the Lord out of a pure heart together with those who sincerely love God and remember we are not alone.  In our personal conduct we must seek both holy conduct and holy associations.

In terms of our interpersonal relations, we should avoid foolish and ignorant disputes that generate strife, bring ruin to the hearers, and increase to more ungodliness.  We must not quarrel which is to fight over words (war of words; dispute) avoiding discussions that are little more than word battles.

What we should do is be gentle to all mild or kind, be able to teach (exhort and convict those that contradict), be patient especially in avoiding word battles.  We should correct in humility with gentleness, meekness, and mildness even against those that oppose the truth and are ensnared by the devil…they might be just a step away to coming in to safety.  We must develop and demonstrate a Christ-like character toward the opposition.

In doing so, they will know exactly what to expect when they step inside the safe house.  The same words you have used about Jesus reflect your actions toward Jesus and the actions of those with like-minded faith and they will represent the Savior and who He is in our lives…and will be in theirs.  There are a lot of people trapped by satan who want to take that last step into safety…will we have compassion and reach out…just as Jesus reached out to us?

Safely Abide and Pray

In John 15, Jesus tells us to “Abide in Me.”  Like a branch connected to a vine…be connected and draw nourishment and bear fruit.  Our words will be His words and as we ask of Him it will be granted to us and in that God is glorified.  Love.  The love the Father has for the Son is the love the Son has for us and we love Him by abiding in Him and keeping His commandments.

All of this demonstrates a safe place with Jesus standing at the door calling us in to abide with Him.  When safely in, Jesus wants us to talk like Him and act like Him…obedient and to the glory of God.

So from our safety in Jesus, I invite you to take some time, turn in your bible and read Psalm 91.  Meditate on it and take God’s words given to us by inspiration and pray them on behalf of your home, your children, your grandchildren, and the children of our family in Jesus.

I offer you my version and leave you to yours.

“Dear Heavenly Father, me and my household have made You our dwelling place, the Most High, who is our refuge. I trust that because of this, no evil shall be allowed to befall me and my children, no plague can come near my home. For You will command angels concerning us to minister to my family.  On their hands they will bear me up lest I strike my foot against a stone. I will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent we will trample underfoot. As a father of the children You have blessed me with, I rest upon your promise: “I will rescue those who love Me. I will protect those who trust in My name. When they call on Me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them My salvation.  In name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.”

Safely With Her

In yesterday’s post we painted an image of a safe place in Jesus and how hard it is sometimes for us and others to take that last step towards Him and abide in Him and be safe.  In the passage we considered, Jesus taught that it is good to know what is expected, but what matters is what we do with it.  I want to take both of those thoughts and consider this section of scripture in the context of the relationships we have with the women and/or girls in our lives.

 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.  25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33; NKJV).

I know this is a familiar passage to many of us in terms of studying marriage and roles therein.  There is a lot going on in this section of scripture, but I want to focus on a couple thoughts.  First, consider the word “submit”.  This can seem like a harsh term to some.  It is a military term and has to do with rank and file and in my mind, it has to do with order.  Our God is a God of order and in the marriage, He is calling wives to submit to husbands.  This is the order of things and a woman who is endeavoring to be a Godly wife will submit to her husband.  So, this is all her responsibility…right?  No, of course not because husbands are called to love their wives just as Christ loved the church…giving Himself for it…dying for it…willing even to go to the cross.  There is a great responsibility for husbands and that is where submission begins.  In order for our wives to submit to us, we have to first submit to Jesus.  In order for our wives to be safe in a Godly marriage, husbands must first be safe in their relationship with Jesus.  We have to take those last couple steps first.

So we have to KNOW this and then we have to DO this.  We can’t expect our wives to come to us and take those last steps if we have not first done that with our Savior.  We have to submit to Jesus in order to be the husband He has called us to be so that it is safe for our wife to come to us, to submit, to be fully engaged in a Godly home.  It isn’t a “you shall submit” that we command but an attitude and life lived in Jesus that calls her to us and we abide together in Jesus and His love, His power, and His safety.

In doing so, we also demonstrate to our daughters the kind of man we would want them to look for, a man who loves Jesus more than he loves them.  Many husbands love their wives and it is beautiful.  But how much more beautiful is a husband who first loves Jesus and because of that love truly loves his wife.  And how much more beautiful is a wife who loves her husband because he first loved Jesus.  This is a safe place.  This is what Jesus wants us to know and to do.  When we live in this safety, we can then call our wives and our daughters to us and they will see Jesus in us and come because they first loved Him.

There are a lot of times I am barking at the door “get in here” when I should be silent and stand with Jesus.  Opening the door of my heart to Him who will make room for my wife and for my daughter.  I pray that God will take down the barriers I put up so that I can nestle into the loving arms of Jesus and abide in Him.  I pray my wife and daughter see Jesus in my life and find safety in that.  Jesus will take care of the rest and what a beautiful thing when my wife and my daughter are there with me because we love Jesus and He loves us.

Only Steps Away

28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” 29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:  28-34; NKJV)

Today the sermon at South Macomb was a continuation of our working through the four gospels and focused on lessons in Mark 11 and 12.  There were many points to be made but I wanted to focus on a section found in chapter 12.  I encourage you to read the chapter as I am not going to lay down much background but want to focus on this encounter between Jesus and the scribe.  I want to attempt to paint a picture in your mind that was given today and then keep that image in our mind as we work through this week.

The image I want to paint is of a safe place, a dangerous place, and someone caught in the middle.  You might have your own version of this, but I am going to offer one of my own.  Imagine you are in a building and a battle rages outside with gunfire and explosions all around.  There is a group who is safe in their reinforced concrete bunker, with no windows and made to survive the kind of chaos and destruction going on.  They are safe, but someone cracks the door to see what is going on and notices a young man running down the street…unarmed, confused, scared, looking for shelter…to be safe and live.  The one looking out also notices he is wearing the wrong uniform…the uniform of the enemy.  Even more, the one looking is wearing the wrong uniform in the eyes of the man outside…the clothes of his enemy.  But the one inside calls out to him anyways…beckons him to come and be safe.  He hears the call and he sees the caller and even starts making his way to the door.  He is hesitant and unsure what to do as he gets closer.  What if it is a trap?  Even though the bunker gets him out of the gun battle going on outside and everything he has been taught about fighting tells him this is a secure place…how does he know what is inside is safer than outside?  Still the call goes out to him, encourages him, tells him it will be safe.  Others from inside gather with the one and join and shout this same message of safety…of friendship…of hope.  He comes closer and it is clear he really wants to live and wants to be safe and wants to believe that he can be inside the bunker.  He is right there…just a couple more steps and he will be in and safe and can live.  Everyone calls to him but he stops…he looks at them…they want to grab him but the bullets are flying and they can’t quite reach him…if only he would take one more step…but he stops.  Now he is out in the open and all the danger of the situation is upon him though he is only a step or two from safety…he is unsure, and he hesitates.  Surely he was about to come those two steps…they sure want him to…but a bullet hits its mark and he is gone.  It is too late…he was so close to safety…the caller was there to save him…they had a place for him to be safe…they called out to him…they wanted him with them…but his hesitation…his lack of faith in the caller’s intentions, their actions, and the offer left him just a couple steps too far from being saved.

I know you get the point.  So let me just end today with this.  I want us to look at these kinds of situations from three perspectives this week.  Jesus is the one calling out.  We are the ones who join with hHim to encourage.  Those in the world or those of our brethren who are astray are the man in harms way.  You saw that coming right?  But don’t stop there.  Take another look.  Jesus is still calling out, our brethren are still joining in the call, but are we the man in harms way?  That could be a likely scenario…right?  Could it be that it depends in any given situation or stage of our lives or the lives of others?  Read chapter 12.  Paint this image in your head.  Meditate and pray about what we can do about those 2 last steps…whether we are in harms way or with Jesus calling others to safety.  Take some time and work that over in your head and heart and let’s see what we can learn and apply this week.  I love you all…and thankfully Jesus loves us more.