That's Not True!

Wow! Jesus lets it fly in Matthew 12:22-36. He heals a guy who is possessed. Everyone is shocked, as they should be. The religious guys say that Jesus did because He is in league with Satan. And Jesus lets loose on them in a big smack down of painful truth.

He shows them how stupid it is to claim He is casting out demons in Satan's power. It's a definitive sign that God's Kingdom is here. Then He goes on and talks about how anyone who takes God's miraculous work and says it's not God, but Satan, has moved so far from God that they might not come back. And finally, He calls the religious leaders the ones who are following Satan, and that their words prove it.

Sometimes God just has to be honest with us. Bluntly honest. We hear something that we don't like at all, from someone who we know we can trust. And we deny it. We run from it. But God won't let us. The truth can be overpowering sometimes.

Are you running, in denial, from God in some part of your life?

Keep It Quiet

Matthew 12:15-21 is a tough section. In this section Jesus has a lot of people following Him, and He heals everyone in the crowd who was sick. It's one of the few places where it says He heals everyone. Often it is He heals "many", but here it's everyone. It's one of His bigger miracles. But He tells all of them to keep it quiet. This is so NOT how we would think to do it. We'd call for press conferences, and tweet about it, and post pics of everyone on Facebook and start a fan page. He tells them to keep it quiet. Why?

Because God had predicted in Isaiah 42:1-4 that the Messiah would be humble. He wouldn't fight or be obnoxious, he would be gentle and calm, until the day that He conquered. This is the side of God that is so hard for me to understand. Why is God like this? He is SO strong and amazing, but He values humility, peace, and softness. As a guy, this is tough for me to handle. I want to be big and tough. God says be big and humble. Be a peacemaker. Don't cause a scene, just do what is right in quiet and move on.

This whole thing is just who God is. He isn't acting a certain way, it's who He is at His core. And He wants us to be like Him. We can fight this side of Him. We can set ourselves up as impressive, and spread the word about how amazing we are. But everytime we do, we are denying who God is and who we are meant to be.

And when Jesus has lived a life like this, the promise is that "In His name the nations will put their hope". There is justice, but it's for God, not for us. Its tough to trust that sometimes.

Jesus Math

The religious leaders in Matthew 12 get all over Jesus for healing a guy on the Day of Rest. He's not supposed to work on that day. God said so. Healing is work. So, Jesus shouldn't heal. Jesus doesn't care, and He heals the guy, on purpose, in church, on the Day of Rest, in front of them to tick them off. It works, and they decide the best answer to this is to kill the One who Heals.

Dumb story. The religious leaders are so stupid to kill Jesus for healing someone, aren't they?!

So I read this story in verses 1-14 for like the 83rd time in my life, and I ask God, "Where am I in this story." Unfortunately, God takes me seriously, and shows me exactly where I am in this. I wouldn't get mad at Jesus for healing a guy on a Sunday. I think it would be cool. That's not the issue for me. But the question comes to the surface, what would I get mad at Him for? What do I believe about God, that I can't do, that would upset me? You see, the Pharisees never get accused of healing anyone. They know God can do it, but He doesn't seem to do it through them. If they were going to heal someone, they can only assume it must be hard work. I mean, they work harder than anyone to be holy, and they can't heal. It must be CRAZY hard!

So, they take their understanding of God ("don't work on the Day of Rest") + their limits ("I can't heal") = no healing on the Day of Rest. And when God shows up and challenges that, their only solution is to kill off this God in their face. Okay, THAT I do all the time. I take some understanding of God and put my limits on it, and then assume that I have God's truth. But He is constantly challenging me to see the world through His eyes. What if healing isn't hard work, but is actually a joy filled experience? Then it would be something that exactly fits in with the Day of Rest idea. Here is one of my messed up God equations: "God wants to help people in need" + "I don't have enough time to help everyone" = "I can ignore THAT person's needs". But God comes in and tells me to ask for help, to encourage others to get involved, to spend time training other people how to reach out and help. Ohhhh, THAT'S how it works.

Or what about this screwed up Jesus math: "God wants us to tell people the truth" + "If I tell them THAT piece of information, it will hurt them" = "I'll ignore God and keep my mouth shut". That one is really stupid, and that's why I do it alot. I completely kill off God, not giving Him any credit that the honest hurt it brings might be what heals the person.

You get the idea.

But I'm Not Like Them!

At the end of Matthew 11, there is this super famous passage that is a quote of Jesus. He says "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

This comes after Jesus jumps all over three of the towns in which He had done a ton of miracles, and they didn't repent. (verses 20-24). Then He talks about how the wise and educated aren't getting it, but the uneducated people are trusting Him. It seems that Jesus frustration and hurt at people who are self-sufficient leads Him to this statement of compassion for the broken and hurting.

But what is it about the ones who reject Him that puts them at odds with Jesus? They are well educated. This isn't about whether or not you have a college degree. It's about what people rely on to get them through. The folks He is upset with believe they are smart enough to take care of themselves. They have developed a system that protects them, and keeps other people out, giving them power. They designed a religion, based on God's teachings, that gives them control and power.

What I think we all need to realize is that anyone with enough technology to read this can do those things. What do I rely on? My system, my control, my designs, my words, my influence, my .....?

Or am I like the other people in the story. They were so beaten down they had given up. They had no power, and knew it. They had no way out, and didn't deny it. They knew if they had to depend on themselves, they were done.

This is where it hits me hard. It's not about the religious parts of the Pharisees, necessarily. I don't worry about how many extra buttons my coat has when I wear it on Sunday. That doesn't mean I'm off the hook. It's about how independent of God I want to be. That rating can get pretty high sometimes. I begin to realize that if I have to depend on God and not myself, I might not be able to make it. I'm so stubborn, selfish, and prideful. I like things my way, all the time. I'm not sure of how to get out of it. I'm stuck.

And God whispers, "That's where I want you. You can't make it. You need me. So Jason, come to ME with this tiring and heavy load of selfishness, I'll give you a rest. Your pride and self-sufficiency is killing you. Try out my way of living, it's a lot lighter. Be like me, I'm gentle and humble. When you live My way, you soul won't run itself to death. Trust me. It works."

And really, what do I have to lose?
Wordle: SCC

Questioning God

It's interesting reading through Matthew 10 and 11 how Jesus responds to people. He warns His disciples that people are going to turn against their own family because of people questioning who He is. He tells them they need to be ready to abandon everything they rely on in order to faithfully follow Jesus.

Then John the Baptist, Jesus' own cousin, who grew up with Him, and baptized Him, questions Jesus. John hears what Jesus is saying, and he begins to wonder if he has been wrong somehow. Jesus offers John encouraging proof, and tells him to be faithful and not to stumble over what he hears Jesus saying.

Then Jesus gets on the people listening to Him and tells them they are like children who can't be made happy. They complain that John was too serious, and Jesus partied too much. Their questions lead to Jesus' anger.

So, is Jesus okay with us doubting and questioning Him or not?


And no.

He doesn't want our questions when they come from a desire to hold onto our lives, and He is calling us to let them go. When we are asking out of selfish reasons, we're plainly in the wrong.

When we question Him because we want to know God better, and need to understand more of what He is all about, Jesus welcomes those questions.

Now, when we ask selfish or fearful questions, Jesus still stands by us and shows us love. But He wants us to move on. He calls us out of the self-centered thoughts we are in.

What questions do you have for God today?


In Matthew 10:5-25, Jesus sends out His disciples to teach about God's kingdom, and gives them some crazy instructions. Don't take any extra clothes, don't take any money, depend on the kindness of others. If people won't listen, don't stress it but move on. You'll be beat and arrested, and people will betray you. But don't worry.

WHAT??! This is His pep talk before they take on their first mission? Are you serious? What in the world is going on?

Honestly, I'm not completely sure. Jesus is up to something, but it doesn't make sense. Why tell them all of this stuff? Is He trying to scare them to death? To weed out the weaklings? To run off those who are uncommitted? Does it just stink if you obey God? Is obedience this constant drag of pain and suffering, so accept it and move on? It sure reads like that.

But that doesn't fit with how Christ lives. He lived a life that was mixture of joy and pain, rejection and amazing fruit. He calls us to be like Him. So why the words of dread and darkness?

I think He knows how weak we are, how selfish we are, and how we want to use Him to get our own way. He knows that we will go in Jesus name, claim to speak His words, and expect to be loved and rewarded for it. He's burning those thoughts out of our heads. We don't obey God to get power, prestige, or influence. We obey God because He's God. That's enough. Even when no one else may seem to be with us, He is.

I have a hard time with this. I want life to be smooth when I'm obedient. I want things to go well when I'm serving at full speed. But those things are tied together at all.

Will I still serve, regardless of the outcome? That is our calling.

Beer Bottles, Flip Flops, and Jesus

Yeah, I did it. I lost my flip flops off the top of my car. There, I said it. It's out in the open, and I've come clean. I put my flip flops on top of my car to dry, since when I leave them in my car wet they smell like a herd of dying rhinos threw a death party in the back seat of my trooper. And I drove off, completely forgetting they were there, just like I promised myself I wouldn't do.

So this morning, I saw one on the road, and stopped to get it. Walking along the road, cars whizzing by, old farmers on bicycles asking if I lost something and guffawing as they pedaled past, I kept looking for the other flip flop. As I perused the ditch and deep weeds along the road, I kept thinking I saw my shoe. But no, it was a beer bottle, an old glove, a beer bottle, some cardboard, a beer bottle, another old glove, a mountain dew throwback can, a beer bottle, and a trash bag full of something quite scary. Apparently the people driving in and out of our church drink a lot of beer and throw their empties into the ditch along the road.

It really began to hit me how much trash we pitch out in a small space. It was pretty discouraging, cruising the ditch and looking at the leftover unwanted parts of other people's lives laying there. Then I saw a bumble bee, and it was buzzing around this tiny yellow wisp of a flower. In the middle of a couple of beer bottles. For whatever reason, it hit me, that it is just like God to grow a flower in the middle of the trash and weeds. Just like Him....

So, I read in Matthew 9:27-38 about Jesus healing people, and seeing them "harassed and helpless". He wades out into the trash of that day, the people who were tossed aside and pitched for being worthless, and makes flowers of healing and hope grow. He still does, really.

It's just like Him... Oh, and I found my other flip flop.

When He Walks In

I hit Matthew 9 today, and the story of Jesus raising the girl from the dead. It's in verses 18-26. He walks into the house and everyone there is wailing and mourning because the girl is dead. He tells them she isn't.

There it is. The difference in how Jesus views us and how everyone else does. We give up on each other all the time. "They're a failure", "they're a mess", "they have no hope!" We look at other people, and basically classify them as dead. Maybe it's because they disappoint us. Or they've hurt our feelings deeply. Or we are intimidated by them. But we write them off, dismiss them, push them aside.

In walks Jesus and tells us that no, we've got it all wrong. They aren't dead, they're just not awake yet. And we laugh. Oh how we laugh. There is no hope for that one, even God can't change them. So, He clears the room, walks over, and simply touches them, and it all breaks apart. Just His touch, one time, is enough to turn the world upside down.

But even harder sometimes is when we are the ones who are dead. We're the ones who have messed up one too many times, we've screwed up, we've dropped the ball and we've blown things up. We are convinced its over, so we listen to everyone else, and we lay down and die.

Until He walks in. He comes for us when it's all over, when there's no hope, He walks in. And takes us by the hand. And tells us to get up.

I am so glad He never quits, He never gives up on those of us who are dead. Just Him grabbing our hand, and there's life again. Phew... that will keep a person going for a long time.

The Power of Word

So in Matthew 9, Jesus crosses back across the lake (see Matthew 8), and goes to His hometown. The place He had grown up, where He had been a kid and a young man. You gotta think that the people of His town had a lot of different ideas about Him. He had to come off as pretty weird most of the time, in this beautiful, entrancing kind of way that drew people in and worried them at the same time. So, anyway, He's back in His hometown. It never says He was home, cause He didn't really have a home.

These friends carry in a paralyzed guy. This is a different story, it seems, than the crew who lowered their friend through the ceiling down to Jesus. I love how these guys bring this paralyzed friend to Jesus. Jesus sees all of their faith, and tells the kid, "Take heart, your sins are forgiven."

I always am caught by how different from Jesus I am. I want the kid healed physically, because that is what I see in front of me. Jesus worries about what He sees, the kids heart and soul. The more I hang around Jesus, and more like Him I become over time, the more drawn to hurt and brokenness I am. But it still is the physical hurt. Someone who is poor, who finds them self homeless, who has a debilitating disease. I am drawn to them and want to help. Jesus is focused on their hurt too, but He sees past the outside hurt to the inside hurt. He is drawn to their broken soul, the need for forgiveness and hope.

It hits me too that when Jesus pushes back against the pastors in the crowd, He says "Which is easier to SAY..." He goes back to that Genesis 1 and 2 deal where God creates everything by saying it. Here Jesus says "Be whole" and the kid is, both in soul and body. It's the power of God's words. Again, I am so different from Jesus. I believe it's what I do that matters most. Jesus believes it's God's words flowing in and through Him that matter most.

So, I want to help fix someone economically, socially, and physically. Jesus wants to speak healing into their soul. I really need to come around on this understanding, and trust that God can speak healing through me. That's tough.

Matthew 8

Ok, so I'm reading Matthew 8:14-34. These verses track Jesus in the course of one day. Here's the breakdown. He heals Peter's mother in law, drives out demons from many people, gets pushed by a huge crowd, confronts a teacher of the law and a grieving man, crosses the lake in a storm, drives out two massively powerful demons, and is asked to leave by a town. The day continues in chapter 9.

First off, I think I have busy/rough days sometimes. Geez Louise, nothing like this.

Two, what in the world is going on? Is there some unifying theme to these stories, or is it just a day in the life of Jesus kind of thing?

He's definitely talking about committing to following Him. The whole "foxes have holes" and "let the dead bury the dead" comments make that clear. What is in the way for me? Is it stuff and He's telling me the "foxes have holes" answer? Or is it family, and He's giving me the "dead bury the dead" line? Is it doubt, fear, and control like the guys in the boat in the storm?

Honestly, it's all of it. I fall on all three levels. Man, that hurts.

But, I don't want to be like the people of the pig city. I don't want Him to leave my life. I want Him to stay, to have control over it all.

It scares me to have Him in charge, but the thought of not having Him at all is far more terrifying.

I think I can hear the sound of some of my things running downhill towards the ocean, snorting as they go....
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