May 15, 2010

Matthew 20:20-28

Jesus just finished predicting His death and resurrection to His disciples. It may have been a very somber moment for all of them. We don’t know how much time elapsed, but the next event that Matthew recorded was of the mother of James and John, kneeling down and asking something of Jesus.  She was approaching the only One worthy to be approached in a worshipful posture, and it was the correct way to get what she so longed for from Him. So far, so good! She got the “HOW” right! When we intercede for our children, worshipful prayer is the correct approach!

Unfortunately, the “WHAT” is where her intercession went off-key. Jesus asked what her wish was, and she expressed it: “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” (v.21) That seems like quite a noble desire. She was concerned about their future. What Mom wouldn’t want that honor for her children? Yet Jesus’ reaction was not exactly what she hoped to hear. He didn’t give her any assurance that her plea would even be considered. He even went so far as to say, “You do not know what you ask.” (v.22). She came to the right Source and approached Him in a worshipful posture, yet her heartfelt petition was motivated by pride. We know this by the reaction her petition caused in the other ten disciples. They were understandably upset! They may have been thinking – or even commenting among themselves – thoughts such as: “What makes her think that her sons are any better than the rest of us? Why should they be the privileged ones? Are they more special than we are?”

This mother didn’t get the answer to her “want”. But what she did get were two lessons that Jesus knew she needed to learn:

  1. That true greatness in God’s kingdom is a result of first becoming a true servant.
  2. The real reason Jesus came: “not to be served, but to serve”.

She did not get a “yes” answer to her prayer, but she got something far better, because He saw into the depths of her heart and discerned her needs. Instead of granting her “wants”, He gave her something far more valuable: She learned about true greatness, and more about Jesus!

How about us? We can get the “HOW” right: approach Jesus (The right Source) in the right posture (Worship) and sincerely ask Him for something for our children. (If we don’t plead on their behalf, who will??)…but we can be way off on the “WHAT”, and our prayers for them end up being categorized as “unanswered”. There were times, there are times now, and always will be times, when God chooses not to answer our prayers for our children. Jesus seized the opportunity to teach this concerned mom a lesson instead of answering her selfish prayer, and sometimes He does the same with us. He uses those unanswered prayers to teach us more about Himself….and isn’t that what really matters in the end? Wouldn’t we rather have Him reject our “wants” and give us what He knows we need instead?

Lord, open my ears to what You want to teach me when You choose not to answer my prayers for our children. Forgive me for those selfish petitions for them that don’t line up with Your plan for their lives. Open my heart to allow the Holy Spirit to apply what You want to teach me through unanswered prayer, and let me submit to Your perfect will and purposes for them. Help me to trust You, even when the prayers seem to go unanswered. Be glorified in my life, and in the lives of each of our children. That’s a prayer that You will never say “NO” to, and I praise you for it! Amen!



April 18, 2010

Jehiel and his scooter

Our 3 year old grandson Jehiel ran to the scooter, stood it upright, and looked puzzled. He was obviously trying to figure out what to do with it. So “Lolo” (Jehiel’s version of “Abuelo”, Spanish for “Grandpa”) showed him, then I showed him. We demonstrated how to ride the scooter. We didn’t simply say “That’s a scooter. Ride it.” We said, “Here’s how you do it.” Riding it ourselves first, we then stayed with him and helped him ride it so he could get the hang of it. Isn’t that the way our Father God teaches us? He says “Here’s how you do it…”

LOVE: Christ told His disciples to “love one another; as I have loved you.” He didn’t simply say “love one another”. He said “Here’s how you do it” when He loved them – and us – unconditionally, eternally, no strings attached. THAT’S the way he wants us to love others. We read in Romans 5:5 that He poured that love out “in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given us.” He not only commands us to love one another, He shows us how, and empowers us to do it.

SHOW MERCY: Jesus said that our Father God is “kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:35,36) He doesn’t just command us to be merciful and leave it up to us to figure out how. He says “Here’s how you do it.” Jesus showed us how to be merciful when He poured out the Father’s mercy on the undeserving – and on us – so we can see how it’s done. Think of the mercy He showed the woman caught in adultery, on Zaccheaus, on the lepers, on the Samaritan woman at the well, on Peter, on the demon possessed….the list goes on and on. Yes, He showed us how to be merciful.

FORGIVE: The Apostle Paul said we should forgive one another. He also said “Here’s how you do it” when he added “even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) By forgiving us, God demonstrated the quality of forgiveness with which He expects us to forgive others. He forgave us willingly, completely, unconditionally and forever in Jesus. He forgave us that way, so that we can forgive others even as He forgave us. He shows us how and gives us His grace to forgive others.

Just like we didn’t expect Jehiel to pick up the scooter and know how to ride it, God knows we can never love, show mercy or forgive anyone on our own. We simply don’t know how. That’s why He’s always willing to show us how to do it first, then He sticks right with us as we get the hang of it. Praise God for that!

Head Knowledge – or Reality?

April 5, 2010

Hearing the account of Jesus’ death and resurrection again this past weekend, I thought a lot about the fact the He is THE LIFE. When His friend Lazarus died, Jesus assured Lazarus’ sister Martha “I am the resurrection and THE LIFE. He who believes on Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whosoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25,26) By her reply to Jesus, grieving Martha knew that in her head…until she saw her brother come out of the tomb after 4 days. Then I’m sure that her head knowledge became reality, and she was convinced in her heart that Jesus is THE LIFE!

Later, Jesus declared to His disciples “I am the way, the truth and THE LIFE. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” (John 14:6) John didn’t mention in that passage what their reaction was to that declaration, but even though they had the head knowledge, some of them doubted when they heard that He had risen from the dead. Peter and John finally believed that He is THE LIFE when they entered his empty tomb on resurrection morning. Peter, having seen it, “departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.” (Luke 24:12). John “…went in also; and he saw and believed.” (John 20:8). Jesus’ words became real to them, and they were convinced that He is THE LIFE! Their head knowledge became a reality.

This same Jesus, THE LIFE, gives us LIFE! Unfortunately, like Martha and the disciples, that wonderful truth can be simply head knowledge to us. Maybe in our case, we’ve become so used to His words of LIFE that we’ve become “immune” to their real meaning. I know I have. The apostle Paul assures us in Ephesians 2:4,5 that “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us ALIVE together with Christ. (by grace you have been saved)…”

I  want be reminded often of the reality of this life-giving truth. I’ve written Ephesians 2:4,5 down on a 3×5 card that I intend to keep close by me. I want to meditate on it, and thank God for THE LIFE He gives me every time I read it. Yes, when we were dead in sin, Jesus, THE LIFE made us alive! It’s a reality! Praise God!

He Loved THEM to the End?

April 2, 2010

Reading through the gospels to get a better understanding of Jesus’ life and ministry, one verse stands out: John 13:1: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” This verse seems to be an accurate description of the unfailing love that characterizes Jesus, and digging deeper, I asked myself: “Who is the “THEM” that Jesus loved to the end?”

            We know that Jesus loved the outcasts, sinners and those who society wrote off as unworthy, treating them as such. We read of His unconditional love for them, and see how lavishly He loved them, compassionately interacting with them; yet in this passage, the “THEM” that John is referring to are “His own”: those He called to be His followers, the men who spent the three years of Jesus’ ministry right at His side.

            In spite of being “His own”, and experiencing His compassion and power every day, at times it seemed like they simply didn’t “get it.” This is the same group of men who participated in the miracle of feeding the 5,000 and a few hours later “cried out for fear”.  They are the ones who could not heal the epileptic boy because of their unbelief (Matt. 17:14-20). His closest followers were the very ones who fell asleep on the mountain when Jesus, transformed, was talking with Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:28-36).They were often rebuked by their Master with harsh words such as “How is it that you have no faith?” “How long shall I bear with you?” These same men were arguing about who would be greater in the kingdom when He was predicting His sacrificial death to them, and they were His best friends who later would go with Him to Gethsemane and fall asleep three times (not once!!) while He was agonizing with the weight and ugliness of the sin of the world, struggling to accept His cruel death as God’s plan for their own salvation! They just didn’t get it. Later they would abandon Him, deny Him, and go so far as to be willing to return to their pre-Christ employment and activities. He knew all of that had happened and was yet to happen, yet “He loved THEM to the end.”

            Looking at “His own” who were so “loved to the end” gives me greater awe of Christ’s love for me. I read of their doubts and it shames me to recall the many times in my own life that I didn’t completely trust in His power. I am appalled by their reactions, and realize how often I cling to my own opinions or desires, not understanding His plans. It puzzles me how they could fall asleep in such a crucial moment as when Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, not acknowledging that my reactions to life situations are sometimes all about my comfort and not His glory; that I’m not watchful in prayer, either. How often I just don’t “get it”, either!

            “He loved THEM to the end”? Praise God, He did! His love towards them didn’t depend on their performance, but on who He was: God Himself, full of grace and compassion. Will He love ME to the end? Thank God, His love towards them assures me that He will love me with the same unconditional Father- love… “to the end”! While that truth gives me confidence, and assures me that it will never change, I also have to realize that I have a responsibility to Him who loved me so. Jesus elaborated on His love, and left His disciples instructions as to what to do with that love. He said in John 15:9: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” My desire today is to know that love; to believe it, share it, appreciate it, rejoice in it, let it transform my life, and praise Him for it.

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