JESUS AND THE SINNERS: 090216:

A fondue dinner with friend on a beautiful place

In Luke 5:27-32, is the story of when Jesus called Levi (Matthew), a tax collector, to be His disciple, and Levi had a big banquet at his house with Jesus as guest of honor, and invited all his friends (mostly tax collectors and sinners).  The Pharisees asked the disciples, “Why do y’all eat with sinners?”  Jesus heard what they thought, and said, “The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick.  I didn’t come to call those who think they’re righteous, but those who know they’re sinners.” NLT

In Matthew 9:9-13: speaking of the same episode, Matthew (yes the same as Levi), tells the story like this: Jesus said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, sick people do.”  Then He added, “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.  For I have not come to call those who think they’re righteous, but those who know they’re sinners.” NLT

And in Mark 2:13-17: Same story; same comments, except this time it says, “There were many of this kind [tax collectors and sinners] who followed Him.”

‘Course the real revelation in this story comes in Luke 15, where it begins with, “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.  This made the Pharisees complain that he was associating with such sinful people – even eating with them.” Then Jesus told this story (actually 3 stories).  First He told of a man who had 100 sheep, lost one, then left the 99 to go search for that one sheep till he found it; then he had a celebration.  Just like, “There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and turns to God, than in 99 righteous people who haven’t strayed.”

Second, Jesus talks about the woman who lost a coin: she searched high and low till she found it, then she called all the neighbors and had a party to celebrate; just like “there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

Third: Jesus told the story of the “Lost Son”, the one we know as the “Prodigal Son”.  We all know the story, how the younger son takes the father’s money and goes way off and wastes it on wine, women and song.  Then, when he’s feeding pigs and starving because Jews don’t each pork (or pork feed either), he “comes to himself”, and goes home to repent and become a servant in his father’s house.  But the father won’t have it.  He dresses him in velvet; puts a ring on his finger, kills the fatted calf, and has a gigantic party, because his son, who was lost, is found; the one who was dead, is come back to life.”  The story then addresses the older brother, who is unforgiving (he’s the one who is often equated with the Pharisees.

If you look back to the beginning of these episodes, the Pharisees are complaining about the sinners, and Jesus tells these stories, TO THEM.

What ‘moral’ can we draw from these passages about tax collectors and sinners on the one hand, vs the Pharisees on the other?  What does Jesus think?  If we’re disciples (students/followers) of Jesus, if we have Jesus’ Spirit living in our hearts, what are we supposed to think?  Let’s see. Continue reading

BIBLICAL CONNECTIONS (REINFORCEMENTS).080916

Young Boy With DogHave you heard that line, “If you want to teach a dog or a kid, you’ve got to say it over and over.”  I just made that up.  But it’s true.  Whatever it is you want ’em to learn; if you say it enough, if you demonstrate it enough, it will finally soak in. You create those neural links in their heads and their bodies. You can bet on it.  I think God had that same policy in mind when He dictated the Bible to the writers.  One subject I’ve noticed lately (over and over) is about HEARING AND DOING.  I don’t know how many times my momma said it, but I finally got it, “YOU’VE GOT TO DO WHAT I SAY!”  (whether you like it or not; if you want to live long and do good.)

Jesus said it almost that loud and that strong in Matthew 7:24-26, when He said, “If you hear My words and do what I say, I’ll think you’re a wise man . . . but if you hear My words and you don’t do them, you’re a fool. . .” (my paraphrase).  And in James 1:22, God says, through James, “Be a DOER of the Word, and not just a hearer; deceiving yourselves.”  If we don’t do what Jesus says, we’re fools, and we’re lying to ourselves.  In Luke 11:27-28, a woman said, “Blessed is the woman who gave birth to you . . .” and Jesus said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep (guard, defend) it.”

And it’s not just about “don’t do this and don’t do that”.  It’s about what you DO as a positive act, an act of your will.  It’s like in John 5:24, He says, “If you pay attention (heed, do) what I say, and trust Him who sent Me, you have eternal life.”  Trusting in God is not easy; but it’s the only thing that works in this life.  You have to DO IT as an act of your will.  Over and over, until it starts to feel easy (or at least easier.)  That’s the only way you’re ever going to have the peace that passes understanding is when you trust Jesus as an act of your will.

That’s what He’s talking about when He says, “If you follow God’s commands, you will live!”  See Luke 10:28.

“The Gospel is not about making bad people good, it’s about making dead people alive!” David Crowder

TRUSTING GOD FOR OTHERS.080416

JESUS HEALS PARALYTIC.080416The question for today is: Can a believer in Jesus trust God for the healing (inside or outside) of another person?  The answer (or at least one answer) is found in Mark 2:1-12, where it tells the story of four men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus to be healed.  When they got to His house, they couldn’t even get in the door, so they went up on the roof, cut a hole, and lowered the guy down into the room, right beside Jesus.  Then verse 5 says, “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ ”  When the Pharisees condemned Him for forgiving sins, denying His authority, He said, “I’ll prove that I have the authority to forgive sins.” He turned to the man and said, “Stand up, get your mat and go home.”  Miraculous healing.

Where did it come from?  Verse 5 begins with, “Seeing their faith . . .”  Whose faith? Must’ve been the four men.  They had enough faith to go to the trouble to bring the guy to Jesus.  Just regular guys talking about how this Jesus was going around healing people, and their friend had been paralyzed for a long time, and who knows?  What would it hurt?  So they packed him up and took him down there.  And when they got there the place was packed.  They couldn’t possibly get in.  But they didn’t give up.  They kept on pushing the envelope until they reached their goal, to get the guy in front of Jesus.  They didn’t know what would happen.  But it might be worth a try. It’s almost funny.  The passage never said a word about what the paralyzed guy thought about the whole thing.  He apparently never said a word.  All he did was follow instructions.  “He jumped up, grabbed his mat and took off.”

So what does this have to do with us?  Continue reading

OASIS WEEKEND.NEWTON TEXAS.07-31-2016

Oasis_9Last weekend we went to First United Methodist Church in Newton, Texas.  The kids at John Wesley UMC, from grades 6-12, did a weekend mission trip.  We built a wheelchair ramp, and did a good deal of mowing and cleanup for several people in the community.  We had a Vacation Bible School for 49 kids. We worked in the Food Pantry (and Clothing Shop) of Newton, stocking and sorting. We had entertainment: A Youth Rally on Friday night, with live music, games, toys and free tee-shirts; and a movie for all ages on Saturday night, on the lawn in front of the Church, an animated feature called “Inside-Out”.  Popcorn, candy and drinks for all!

May not sound like such a big deal to some; but it was a big deal to us.  It was a memorable event.  We get to develop personal relationships with people in the community.  They love us, and we love them.  Everybody is happy to be nice to each other.  And the SPIRIT  is moving in Newton!  On Sunday morning, members of the church served the team breakfast, then we had church together, with the youth band leading the singing.  At the end we had a few testimonies from people in the community who were touched by the service of our kids.  No doubt, when it was over, everyone was blessed, and God was grinning!

 

BOOKWORM’S BOOK REVIEW: START with WHY, by Simon Sinek

Awhile back I saw an 18 minute TedTalk ‘Youtube’ video by this New Yorker named Simon Sinek, talking about his concept “Start with Why”.  In a way it changed my whole perspective on life.  I was just starting marketing my book, and the guy said, “If you want people to support you and follow you in whatever you do, tell ’em why, and if your why matches their why, then they’ll help you.  They just can’t resist.

And if you tell them why, and your why is central to your life, and your passion, and your cause for action and being, you will just naturally flow into success in your venture, because that’s the way peoples’ hearts work.  All these are my words; his are much better stated; but it works anyway.  It’s because there’s just something going on in your heart that draws people to your idea, your cause, your passion, because you’re connecting with their cause and their passion.

He also talks about how this concept reorganizes your life so that what you DO begins to support your WHY, and it all becomes a unified force for good for you and for your followers.  Read the book and see if it doesn’t have a profound effect on your life too.

CAN PEOPLE CHANGE? 072716

Jesus and the Woman taken in AdulteryIn John 8:3-9 is this story: “Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught[b] in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned.  But what do You say?” . . . He said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  . . . Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.  . . . ” He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?  Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

So here’s my question: Can people change?  And if they can, how do they do it?  How do we stop following the traditions of men and start to follow Jesus?  It is not a choice between truth and love; it is finding the place of truth AND love.  (Sorta like Jesus did in this story.)  We can’t  seek a forever solution (we want one, but people just don’t have it in them).  We can only do what God tells us to do today.  I don’t have the right to cast the first stone.

In the traditions of the Jews the person who witnessed the wrongful act and testified against the wrongdoer had to be willing to cast the first stone when they stoned the person to death.  That’s a pretty hard task, when everyone is going to see.  You had to be sure of what you were accusing someone of; and sure that you weren’t just as guilty as that person, of that crime or some other.  It’s like they had to put their integrity where their mouth was.

We never get clean BEFORE  we turn from our sins, only after, we are converted (changed).  We are changed, we surrender and turn to God, THEN we are cleansed of our sins.  When we’re hooked on drugs or control or sexual sin or pride, no one can help us, ’cause we don’t think we need help. But when we’re injured, damaged and suffering, we suddenly become vulnerable and open to be comforted and changed.  Then we suddenly change from rocky to fertile soil; ready, even willing, to receive the Good Seed of God’s Word.  Praise the Lord!

YOU CAN’T FAKE GOOD KIDS.072316

Bubble kid.jpeg Last night my wife heard a speech she shared with me.  In it the guy said, “You just can’t fake good kids.”  It got me to thinking.   Psalm 127:3-5, says  “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior. So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.” It says something good about the parents, AND something good about the kids.

Good kids end up honoring their mommas and their daddies; they grow up to be self-supporting; they find productive things to do that help others, and themselves.  What’s that line, “They make me proud!”  Good kids are respectful and obedient when they’re little, moderately respectful and obedient even when their teenagers, and they grow up to be friends in your old age. It’s a genuine gift from God to have good kids.

Hopefully good kids say something about the parents.  You know, the parents were good people; they loved their kids and were nice to them and took care of them; that they taught them to be honest, hard-working, responsible people; not just because it was the right thing to do, but because the parents had those qualities they were just passing along. They taught ’em to trust God.  They passed on the gift of God’s love and mercy they learned from their parents. “Freely you have received, freely give.” Matt 10:8.

Good kids even have Godly qualities; they know all about you and they love you anyway.  They put up with you when you get old and cranky; even when you don’t take their advice.  Good kids are people that you can really be thankful for.  It’s like that verse, Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he won’t depart from it.”  (Maybe in the middle he’ll fall off the wagon a little, but when he’s old, he’ll come back to the Way.)  What we’re all looking for is people we can depend on, now and later.  It’s especially nice when those people turn out to be our own kids!