Do What You Know, Know What You Do

After Jesus' deals with the religious guys in chapter 22 of Matthew, He begins to teach about them in chapter 23.  He tells the people that 1) They need to respect their position, since they have it passed down from Moses. 2) They need to do the things the Pharisees teach 3) They should not act like the Pharisees at all because they are fakes and hypocrites.

Holy cow!  What if God said those things about me?  What if when people prayed about me, God answered them and said, "Well, you need to respect Jason's position, and when He teaches the Bible, it's true so think about it.  But the way he lives?  NO! Don't be like him at all!"  That would destroy me to hear.

So what do we need to do about it?  We need to live what we know is true.  The religious guys knew truth. They spoke truth.  But that wasn't enough.  They needed to live what they knew.  Now, you may not be a religious expert.  You may not have gone to seminary and studied Greek and Hebrew.  Who cares?!  That is not the issue.  Jesus doesn't get on these guys for not knowing everything, even though they didn't know everything.  He got on them for not living out what they did know.

What is an area of your life that you know God is asking for something, and you're not doing it?  What parts of your life are you not living out?  That is the place He is concerned about.  We're all equal.  In verses 8-12, that's the point.  None of us have "arrived" or have it all together.  That's fine.  Be faithful to live out what you know and what you have.

Then you will be obedient and be called great in the Kingdom.

You Really Shouldn't Have Went There.....

Finishing out Matthew 22 makes me laugh.  After the Pharisees and the Herodians try to trap Jesus with His words, the Sadducee's come after Him.  They were the religious leaders who ran the Temple.  They were very strict about how worship should happen, but the rest of their lives outside of the church didn't reflect their faith as well.  They were typically wealthy, and adopted many of the Roman culture's customs.  They believed that only the Torah was God's word.  That's the part of the Old Testament that doesn't include the prophets writings (Isaiah, Daniel, etc.).  They didn't think that Rabbi's should be able to interpret the Bible either, so they really had issues with Jesus.

They ask Him this made up question about marriage in Heaven.  They didn't believe in the resurrection, or in life after death.  So they pose this crazy question about this woman who had been married several times.  Then Jesus uses the parts of the Bible they believe in to answer their question, and prove them wrong.

So, the Pharisees come after Him again, sending one of their best experts to get Him.  Jesus answers brilliantly about what is most important, because it is completely correct according to the Bible, yet it destroys all of the Pharisee's ridiculous laws about how to live.

Then, He asks them a question about the Messiah.  They know He is seen as the Messiah, and they want to disprove it at all costs.  So He stumps them with a question about the Messiah in public, and totally shuts them up.  I laugh so hard every time I read verse 46 "No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask Him any more questions."

He burned them so bad publicly that they ran and hid.

My point here is not to tell us to quit asking Jesus questions.  It's actually the opposite.  Ask away.  And know that He has the true answers.  You see, this is the difference between Jesus and the guys around Him.  He knew these answers first hand.  He had written the Bible Himself.  He had created Heaven and lived there.  He knew all that He needed to know, because He had made it, He had seen it, He had done it.  The other guys?  They had read about it.  That's a big difference.

We are the ones who have read about reality.  Jesus makes reality.  So ask Him your questions.  Then trust Him when He answers.  He knows what He is talking about.  Very, very, very well.  It's truth.  You can bank on it.


Everyone Hates ChrisT

There is so much going on in Matthew 22:15-22!  Here's the deal; the Pharisees decide to trap Jesus.  What I find interesting is how they decide to do it.  They decide to trap Him in His words.  It's intriguing on a couple of levels.  One, they don't seem to think they can get Him to mess up in His actions.  They don't send a prostitute after Him.  They don't try to trap Him in a compromising position at a party.  It's His words they go after.  The other interesting part of this shows their value on what someone says.  They don't care what He actually believes.  They just want to find a way to twist what He says to convince people He's evil.  They've quit listening and looking.  They just want to set Him up.

So, they send some of their disciples and some Herodians to Jesus.  The Pharisees are the ones who are strict about their religious rules.  They hold a hard line on what people can and can't do, and are very legalistic.  The Herodians are the opposite.  They are Jews who have accepted that the Herod's are their rulers, and compromise wherever they need to in order to survive.  They blend all sorts of Roman worship into their faith, and are Jews in name only.  With these two working together, it shows you just how much they hated Jesus.  He is a threat to all of them in one way or another.

So, the two teams go to Jesus and ask a question about Herod and the government.  No matter which way He answers, one of the groups will be offended.  If He answers for the Jewish faith, the Herodians will report Him to the government as a trouble maker.  If He answers in favor of Herod, the Pharisees will use His words to prove He is a compromiser and not a true religious teacher.  He's in big trouble here.  That's why they tell Him "You aren't swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are".  It's a set up.  They are basically saying, "We've got you, bro!  You act like you don't worry what others think, but get out of this one!"  You can just hear the jealousy and insecurities come out of them in this whole scene.

Jesus, though, is the Hero.  He won't be suckered.  He turns the tables on them.  His answer with the coin basically puts the decision back on both groups, and makes both of them look bad.  In essence, He's telling them "Pharisee's, why are you so worried about money?  If you're so spiritual, let Caesar have his little money.  Trust God!  Herodians, why are you playing like you're religious?  God has plans for you, trust Him!"
They're stuck.  They lose.  So they leave.

Nice story, but why does God tell it to us?  So that He can show off and prove how manly Jesus is?  So that we read it and know better than to mess with Jesus?  Or is there a deeper point here for us?

I think there are several.  One, be careful of letting fear, jealousy, and bitterness drive your life.  When we get in a bad spot due to fear, we make bad decisions that leave us exposed for who we are.  We can hide it for a while, but it will always come up to bite us.  Second, are we in a spot where we are more worried about what religious words a person uses than how they live their lives?  Who cares if someone says things the way we do or not?  Are they living a life that points others to God?  When we get consumed with our way of worshipping, our way of teaching, our way of doing church, then we try to trap people with their words.  You can see how well it's worked out before.  The outcome will be the same for us today.  And finally, what about Jesus in this story?  Is this the Jesus you know, One who can easily defend Himself at any time in any situation?  You definitely get the idea that this trap did not worry Him at all.  This is the same Jesus who promises to protect you and defend you.  Do you trust Him to do His job?  Do you believe in His strength?  Or do you worship a weenie version of Him?

Like I said, there is just SO much going on in these few verses.  I love it!

What You Wear Really Matters, I Guess

So Cameron Crenshaw and I are trying to figure out Matthew 22:1-14 today.  It's a story of a king who throws a wedding party, and the guests he invites don't show.  So He invites everyone off the street, and they all come in.  But one guy shows up, and isn't wearing the right wedding clothes, and gets kicked out.  This is where I get stuck.

Some people say it's because the King would have provided fancy clothing for everyone at the party, and this guy had rejected it.  That would work. 

I get the part about the first crew not coming.  Jesus is showing how the Jews, who had been God's chosen people, had rejected Him enough that He was going to invite everyone in.  I don't get the clothing part.  Is it an example of how we need to be "clothed" in faith in Jesus, like a robe of righteousness that He discusses in other places?

I don't know. What do you think it's all about?

Now or Laters

So this dad has two boys.  He tells one of them to go mow the yard. 

The son mouths off to his father, "No!  I hate mowing the yard."  So the dad goes and finds the other boy playing X-Box and tells him to go mow the yard.

"Sure dad, no problem."

The dad walks away and the kid keeps playing Call of Duty.

As the afternoon wears on, the first son feels bad for what he did, and goes out and mows the yard.

Jesus asks, "Which son did what his dad told him to?" (Matthew 21:28-32).  The answer is obviously, the first son with the attitude.  Jesus goes on to talk about how there are a lot of people in the world who turn away from God, but realize they need God and turn around and begin to obey, like the first son.  And there are a lot of people in the world who say the right things about God, but they don't live it out.  They just talk about it, like the X-Box son.

Which will you be today?  This week?  This year?  Will you just talk about Jesus and your faith, and try to convince everyone that you're a good kid, or will you actually turn around on that thing you're telling God "no" on and do what you know is right?

It's never too late.

Jesus, Teach Us How We Can Pray....

One of the things I have found so helpful over the years is reciting the Lord's Prayer.  I was raised to see it as a model for prayer, but not actually as a prayer to say over and over.  As I've spent more time with Jesus, I think it's just that, the prayer we should say over and over.  Maybe it's just me.

Take a few and watch this video, then spend some time thinking through the prayer yourself.

The Lord's Prayer from blaine hogan on Vimeo.


Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes

In John 21:23-27, the religious leaders try to shut Jesus down again.  They want to know what authority He has to teach what He's teaching.  Who was His rabbi, His teacher, and when did He get His degree and license to teach, so to speak.  In Jesus' day, you studied under a rabbi, and when you have proven yourself, you were given permission to go out and teach.  They wanted to know who He had studied under.  He won't answer them.  So, He sets them up.

They could answer this question.  They know that they believe about the issue.  Jesus asks them if John the Baptist was sent by God or not.  They don't think He was.  But if they tell the truth, it's not a popular answer, and they'll face trouble.  They want everyone to like them, and live by that rule, and so they can't answer the question.

How often do I, do we, do that?  We worry about what everyone else will think about us, rather than just telling the truth?  We let others opinions dictate what we say, who we hang out with, what we wear, what we eat, where we go.  And we lose out because of it.

Stand up today and speak truth.  Let God worry about your reputation.  You worry about truth.

Why Jesus Hates Trees

Jesus is hungry in the morning as He heads back into Jerusalem.  He walks up to a fig tree to get something to eat, but it doesn't have any figs on it.  He tells it that it won't bear figs again, and the tree withers.

What?  No, seriously, WHAT?  What is this story all about.  At face value, Jesus is mad at the tree and kills it.  That's what the story says.  Jesus then goes on to talk about faith and prayer.  But really?  John tells us there are more stories about Jesus than there is paper to write them on, and this one gets included?  Jesus gets hacked because He's hungry and kills a tree?

Somehow, there's more to it than this.  I mean, let's go with the story.  Jesus is hungry, can't find the food He wants and loses His cool.  His answer is to curse a tree?  He could have had a storm blow it over. That would have been cool.  He could have made figs grow on it and eaten them.  He could have made a full breakfast appear.  He could have just told His stomach to be full.  If He was going to do a miracle and abuse His powers for selfish reasons, He could have done better than to curse a tree. 

But we are told He never sinned.  To lose His cool and use His power for Himself would have been out of character.  He doesn't do it later, why would He do it now?  And if the tree was supposed to feed Jesus that day, it would have.  God would have made sure of it.

So, the tree wasn't supposed to feed Jesus.  And the cursing wasn't because He lost His cool.

So, what is it?  Seems like a lesson in the works.  When God makes something to produce a certain fruit, He expects His creation to produce.  When it doesn't, it's worthless.

What are we supposed to produce?  Obedience.  When we have faith and don't doubt, we can toss mountains.  But what about when we don't?  We're fruitless.  Like the fig tree.

It's not about Jesus being hungry and mad.  It's about us.  It's always about us somehow, it seems.  When Jesus walks up to you and looks at what your life is producing, what does He see?

Kicking Tables and Taking Names

Matthew 21:12-17 has Jesus tossing tables and taking names.  He sees the deals going down in the Temple and gets ticked.  What's happening is that people have set up shop to sell animals for sacrifice in the Temple.  You are expected to sacrifice a bird, a lamb, a calf, etc. for different sins.  So, some folks set up shop selling animals.  But it's like buying a $29 lunch at Kings Island, they are charging premium prices for the animals and turning a huge profit.  On top of it, the church had created it's own currency that the guys selling the animals required you to pay with.  So, you had to go change your real money for play church money, and then buy the overpriced animals.  When you changed the money, the church charged a handling fee for the transaction.  All of this was being done in the name of God to poor people trying to worship.

Jesus got ticked and let it fly.  But He had seen this His whole life.  Was it that He just now got mad about it?  Did He snap?  No.  It was planned to lead up to His death at the end of the week.  Notice how this story is followed with four groups of people approaching Him.  The blind, the lame, children, and religious teachers all come to Him.  The people who couldn't see knew He was God.  The ones who couldn't walk made their way to Him, often crawling.  Children, who were considered inexperienced and stupid recognized Him as the son of God.  The super-religious, I've-followed-God-my-whole-life guys missed Him completely.  And the whole cleaning the temple was a set up to get every one's attention.

What version of God did the people want?  The industry that made everything clean and simple and robbed them blind, or the risky, homeless, impossible to control Son of David who asked so much from them?  Which would it be?

We face the same option.  We can go to church, read the Bible, and do good things and follow a religion that can rob us blind of our faith.  Or we can chase after Jesus, know Him through every way He offers, and sacrifice it all to be more like Him.  It's our choice as well.

By the end of the week, everyone would vote, not with a check mark in a box, but with a cross.

When a King Isn't a King, or is He?

This picture of Jesus rolling into Jerusalem on a donkey is loaded with images that we may not necessarily get.  The crowd puts their coats on the road, as well as palm branches (this is where we get "Palm Sunday" from the week before Easter).  This whole scene has been done before.  When a nation's king goes out to fight and comes back home with a victory, there is a parade into the capitol.  The king rides in on a his horse, with soldiers behind him, and all of the stuff he has conquered and brought back behind them.  So it goes king on a horse, tons of victorious and happy soldiers, and then the gold, money and slaves.  The city has a HUGE party that everyone is home safe, and they all celebrate what a great king they have.  This had been done around the world for several hundreds of years.

So, in comes Jesus.  On a donkey.  But He is given the royal treatment.  They all shout "Hosanna" which basically translates out "Thank God we're saved!"  This sets the whole town to talking.  Jerusalem is no small country bump in the road.  Over a hundred thousand probably lived there at the time.  The whole city is talking about who this guy is who came in like a king. 

The answer is "It's Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth". 

Lot's of excitement, but the wrong answer.  They get the passion, and they are thrilled He's there.  But they don't get who He really is, or why He has come.

In less than a week, they will kill Him.

It's so easy for me to do this.  I get so excited about Jesus, but miss what He's really up to.  When He doesn't live up to what I want Him to be, I kill Him.  Or at least I try to.  He's kind of hard to keep down.

What about you?  Where do you want Jesus to be something He isn't?  How do you respond when He takes a different direction in your life than you want?  It's worth thinking about.

Jesus is a Donkey Thief!

Jesus is heading into Jerusalem for His death.  In this march to redemption and death, Jesus sends a couple of the guys to procure his transportation.  They go into a village and there is a donkey and a colt tied up.  They are supposed to just take them for Him.  If they are stopped by anyone for stealing the animals, they are supposed to say "the Lord needs them" and they will be okay.

Well, apparently it works, because Jesus rides in on the donkey.  We'll get the rest of that part of the story later.

What about the guy who owned the donkey and the colt?  No, seriously, what about him?  His animals get taken for a plan he knows nothing about.  What kind of guy would have his car stolen and when he's told by the two crooks, "the Lord needs this car", be like, "oh, okay, why didn't you say so?"  This little detail gets me.  Who does this?  What is God doing in his life to make him so open handed with his prize possessions?  And why am I not more like this?

The Bible is full of people who are called to sacrifice with no idea why they are doing it.  There's no grand vision, no big picture, just they are told to do it.  And they do.

I, personally, try to wrestle with God and pry info out of Him.  "WHY do you want me to do that?"  "Tell me what You're up to and I'll LET you borrow my stuff." 

It never works.


He doesn't tell me.  I'm not supposed to know.  I'm just supposed to obey. 

God, keep working on me to be generous and obedient.  Wherever you want my donkey to go, take it.  It's yours.

Seeing Clearly

At the end of Matthew 20 (vs 29-34), there is a story about a couple of guys who were blind.  Jesus comes by, and they cry out to Him to have mercy on them.  The crowd tells them to shut up.  My only guess is Jesus must have been talking as they walked, and people wanted to hear Him.  Otherwise, why tell them to be quiet?  But they don't listen to the crowd, and they get louder. 

Jesus stops and calls to them, so they weren't close by.  "What do you want me to do?", He asks. 

"We want our sight!"

Jesus has compassion, walks over, and touches their eyes.  They can see and they follow Him.

He doesn't forgive them for their sins.

So many times, when someone asks for healing, Jesus commends them for the their faith and forgives their sins.  He doesn't here.  I really wonder why?  That is what is most important.  That is what they need.  They can die with their sight, but it won't save them.  They need forgiveness.

My guess is they weren't ready.  They believed enough to think He could heal them.  They weren't ready to take on forgiveness and mercy yet.  So, He healed them, they followed Him, and they had more chances at forgiveness.  He gave them their sight, and He gave them time.  It's a guess on my part for sure, but it would fit what we know about Jesus.

Sometimes we need to do the same.  We need to give, have compassion, serve, and love others just because it's compassionate.  Our actions might not be the catalyst for God to bring someone to Himself at that time.  It's okay.  God is always working.  When you do what's right, and don't see an automatic result, don't stress it.  Just be faithful, and wait.  Jesus knows what everyone needs.  He also knows when they are ready to receive it.  You can trust Him.
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