Are You Ready to Start Walking?

We’ve been talking about the miracle Jesus performed at the Pool of Bethesda and the lessons God showed me.

If you need to catch up, you can read the first post (Are You Stuck?) and the second post (How Do You See Yourself?).

In today’s post, we’re going to cover the Continue reading “Are You Ready to Start Walking?”

How Do You See Yourself?

Last week we started talking about the Healing at the Pool of Bethesda.

About getting too comfortable in our lack, hanging around people who are also focused on what they need, and waiting for someone else to come to the rescue.

Today’s part of the story shows what happens when Jesus confronts us  Continue reading “How Do You See Yourself?”

Old vs. New

Last week we talked about Jesus’s answer to John the Baptist’s disciples regarding fasting. And about how freeing Jesus’s answer was.

Today I want to look at Jesus’s comments after He answers that question.

Jesus starts talking about something that at first seems totally out of place. But, of course, it’s not.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” – Matthew 9:14-17

Jesus has just answered JTB’s disciples question about fasting. They were following the Jewish customs that had been handed down for centuries. Jesus was a Jew. In fact, He was the Son of God.

So you would think He would be very careful to follow all the Jewish customs.

But He wasn’t.

And what He says here is, I believe, the reason why.

Jesus talks about how you don’t use a piece of unshrunk cloth to patch an old garment (that has already been shrunk). If you do, the first time you wash it, the patch will shrink and pull away from the garment and it will be ruined.

Then He said you don’t put new wine in old wineskins. You put new wine in new wineskins so they can both expand. If you put new wine in an old wineskin, the wine will expand, but the wineskin has already expanded as far as it can go, so it will burst and the wine will be spilled.

I believe Jesus is talking here about the new covenant He’s bringing and how different it is from the old covenant that was still around at that time.

I believe He was saying that making His disciples keep all the Jewish customs (like fasting) at this particular time did not fit in with the new covenant He was ushering in.

In fact, trying to force the old structure around the essence of the new covenant would be disastrous. And combining the two covenants could create two different scenarios.

In one scenario, the new covenant would pull away from the old (like the cloth example), because it didn’t belong, it didn’t ‘fit.’

The other scenario would be like putting new wine in an old wineskin. The old wineskin (the Jewish religion structure of laws and rules and ancient customs) could never contain the new wine (the new covenant of love and mercy and grace). The old covenant had already gone as far as it could go. It couldn’t go any further. It couldn’t do any more than it already had.

Another way to look at it is the old covenant worked from the outside in. In other words, you had a list of things you did and things you didn’t do and that external structure was fairly easy to see—although not always so easy to do.

The new covenant Jesus brought does just the opposite. It works from the inside out. It can’t be seen until it has affected the believer’s behavior. So this requires an entirely different structure, a totally new paradigm.

And Jesus is saying that if you cling to the old structure of rules and regulations—and try to force that structure on people learning to follow the new covenant—you’re going to lose the new wine and the old wineskins. Because they just don’t ‘fit.’

It was time for a transition—the passing of the old and the entering of the new.

It was a total change in the way people relate to God—a change to a personal, intimate, individual relationship between each of us and our Creator.

And Jesus came to earth to show us how it’s done.

And to pay the high cost to make it accessible to us.

Thank you, Lord.

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What old structures are you hanging on to?

What new wine is that preventing you from experiencing?

Focused and Free

There are two major takeaways from the next section of Matthew 9 that I want to share. I’ll share the first one today and the other one next week.

 

The first is from the first two verses:

 

Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. – Matthew 9:14-15

 

 

John’s disciples (as in John the Baptist, JTB) came to Jesus with a question. The question was why they and the Pharisees fasted frequently (for religious purposes) but Jesus and His disciples never fasted.

 

And Jesus’s answer to them is my first takeaway. And it’s something I really needed to hear right now.

 

In my current life situation, I am involved in a project with several incredible Christian believers. These are people I want to be like when I grow up! Seriously. After spending time with them, I feel so honored and so blessed.

 

And sometimes later on I start feeling not so blessed. Because I try to go after the things some of them are doing – and I can’t do it all. I want to be like them in their area of strength, but I can’t. It just doesn’t ‘fit’ right now. And it may never.

 

And that’s why Jesus’s answer gives me freedom. In essence, what I think Jesus is saying is that at the exact same moment in time, it was okay for JTB’s disciples and the Pharisees to be fasting and for Jesus’s disciples to NOT be fasting.

 

How freeing is that?!? We’re all different. And we’re all in different places. And it’s okay. Jesus meets us where we are and we need to trust Him to take us where He wants us to go . . . when He wants us to go there.

 

Whew. So just because my good friend is spending hours a day praying and fasting, I don’t have to feel guilty because that’s not where God has me right now.

 

Notice that Jesus didn’t say His disciples would never fast again. In fact, He said they would. So it doesn’t mean I won’t go after some of the things my friends are so good at—but it’s just not for me right now. I have other things He wants me to focus on.

 

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Whose gifts are you trying to adopt into your life?

 

What does God want you focused on instead?

 

2016 Challenge

We’re back in Matthew 9. Today’s passage is about the calling of Matthew.

 

Jesus saw Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. He told Matthew to follow Him and Matthew did.

 

The next scene shows Jesus and his disciples having dinner with Matthew and his friends at Matthew’s house. Matthew’s friends are fellow tax collectors and “sinners” – or as the Amplified Version calls them: “especially wicked” sinners.

 

I’m not sure what that means exactly, but Jesus apparently didn’t even blink an eye at it. He didn’t have a problem having dinner with sinners—of any description.

 

But the Pharisees sure did! They had a big problem with Jesus having dinner with tax collectors and sinners.

 

But, like most troublemakers, the Pharisees didn’t go to the source with their question. Instead they chose to ask Jesus’s disciples why he was eating with tax collectors and those “especially wicked” sinners.

 

Jesus heard their question and answered it Himself. He said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Which He may have followed up quickly with one more syllable: “DUH!”

 

And then He insulted the Pharisees’ knowledge of the scriptures. He said, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

The Pharisees knew that verse from Hosea 6:6 as well as Jesus did.

 

Well . . . they had read it anyway . . . at some point in time.

 

But apparently they didn’t know what it meant.

 

Let’s take a look at the verse He’s quoting: Hosea 6:6 (AMP).

 

For I desire and delight in dutiful steadfast love and goodness, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of and acquaintance with God more than burnt offerings.”

 

Here’s what I think Jesus is telling these religious leaders (and us by default).

 

I think he was telling them that if they REALLY knew the scriptures, they would know that what God wants is people who are loving and good—not just religious people who are more concerned with following every sacrifice ritual. And that He desires people whose focus is getting to KNOW HIM—not just pious posers fixated on following the letter of the law and not missing one burnt offering.

 

I don’t think God’s wants have changed. I believe He still wants people who do what it takes to get to KNOW HIM and, because of the time they spend with Him, they’ll be more loving and good than the super religious people with their perfect church attendance certificates.

 

 

I challenge all of us to be more concerned with getting to KNOW GOD in 2016 than we are with doing any religious act that will make us APPEAR more pious to other people. And let’s be the loving and good people that God wants rather than people who are known by the world to be church-y or religious.

 

 

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Matthew 9:9-13 (NIV)

9As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

Master Question Asker

Do you know someone who asks great questions? I love spending time with people like that. I think it’s because I believe asking and answering questions are one of the best ways to get to know a person and to share who you are with them.

 

I also think good questions are a great way to determine what you really believe about something and how you can better apply your beliefs to your life. That’s why a lot of my blog posts end with application questions.

 

I think Jesus was/is the Master Question Asker. And the big question in today’s passage is one of my favorites.

 

Jesus has just told the paralyzed man on the mat that his sins are forgiven. And now the Scribes are thinking to themselves that this man is claiming to be God because He says He forgave the man’s sins.

 

And Jesus knows what they’re thinking. So He asks them a couple of questions.

 

I’m sure the first question caught them off guard, because it revealed that He knew what they were thinking and that He considered it evil.

 

The next question comes quickly on the heels of that one and is the big question.

 

Jesus asks the Scribes which is easier to say: (a) your sins are forgiven or (b) get up and walk.

 

Well, duh. It’s much easier to say your sins are forgiven because there’s no physical way to prove that it really happened.

 

But Jesus doesn’t give the Scribes time to answer. He immediately says, “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

 

So, to show them that what He says just happened (the man’s sins were forgiven) really happened, He turns to the paralyzed man and tells him to pick up his mat and walk home.

 

And he does.

 

And the crowds are in awe and praise God—which is always one of Jesus’s goals.

 

This story shows that one of Jesus’s top priorities is our spiritual condition: the first thing He did was forgive the man’s sins.

 

But Jesus didn’t leave the man in the condition He found him: spiritually or physically. Jesus went on to heal the man’s physical condition that had him bound to his mat.

 

Jesus cares about our spiritual condition. He came to earth to redeem us through His death. That was necessary because of the sinful condition of our lives.

 

And Jesus also cares about our physical condition. Today’s passage is just one of many examples of that—in the scriptures and in our world today.

 

But Jesus also wants us to KNOW Him. He wants us to know who He is and the authority He has.

 

And He uses physical expressions of His authority here on earth to prove that He is who He says He is.

 

His ultimate goal of these physical expressions is to help us recognize that He is God, that He cares about our individual situations, that He is the only one who can forgive our sins, and that all our praise belongs to Him.

 

And a lot of times He uses good questions to help us get to that point.

 

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What has Jesus recently done in your life (big or small) that helps prove who He is, how much He cares about you, and how much power and authority He has?

 

What situation in your life or in the life of a loved one has you questioning whether Jesus cares about the situation or can/will do anything about it?

 

What can you do to get to know Him better?

 

 

Matthew 9:3-8 NIV

At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.

 

Friends

It’s Thanksgiving week and this year I plan to spend it in Denver with my daughter. I am so thankful for her and for the close friendship we have and for this opportunity to spend a week with her in her world . . . and also spend a little time with a couple of the friends I made when I lived there.

 

Friends. They’re so important. They’re such a blessing.

 

Or not.

 

It depends on who your friends are.

 

And more importantly, it depends on where your friends take you.

 

Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

 

And John Kuebler said, “You show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

 

The people we choose to spend time with have an effect on our life. And the more time we spend with them, the more effect they have on us.

 

And when we’re hurting and fearful and ‘paralyzed’ by life’s circumstances, it is extremely important to choose the right friends to come around us.

 

Some friends will join you in your pain and stay there. Some will even help you throw a pity party. Some will take you to the local bar to drown your sorrows. Or to the mall for some retail therapy.

 

But those aren’t the friends you need. You need friends like the ones in today’s verse.

 

Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” – Matthew 9:2 (NIV)

 

The man in today’s verse is paralyzed by illness. He’s stuck on his mat. And the friends that surround him are a blessing because they don’t get down on the mat with him and join him in his paralysis. They don’t look at him and whisper to each other, “Guys, this is hopeless.” They don’t say to him, “I’m praying for you, my friend. Let me know what I can do.”

 

No, these friends pick him up and take him where he needs to go. They don’t give up on him. They don’t just help him cope with his current condition.

 

These friends see what he can be. They understand his potential. They believe for the best for him.

 

They have faith that Jesus is the answer to whatever his problem is.

 

And they do something about it.

 

They take him to Jesus.

 

If your friends can’t see your potential, they will accept your current circumstances as final.

 

If your friends aren’t convinced God has bigger plans for you than what’s in your life right now, they’ll just try to help you cope.

 

And if your friends don’t know Jesus, they will do for you what they do for themselves . . . deal with the pain however they can.

 

Let’s face it. There may be times in life when you’ll be ‘paralyzed’ – at least for a while – by what life throws at you.

 

But if you have friends who know Jesus and who see your potential and have faith that God has even bigger plans for you than your current circumstances, then they won’t let you remain ‘paralyzed’ on your mat. They will come and remind you who you are and what you are meant to be doing and of all the great plans God has for you.

 

And then they’ll take you to Jesus. In prayer. In faith. In power.

 

And THEIR FAITH IN GOD FOR YOU will change your life.

 

That’s why surrounding yourself with the right friends is critical if you want to experience God’s best for your life.

 

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Who are you allowing to surround you on your mat? What words are they speaking over you? Where are they taking you?

 

What kind of friend are you? Are you enabling someone to just cope with their circumstances? Or are you carrying them to Jesus . . . believing He has greater plans for them?

 

It’s Done!

 

Well, it took me long enough. But I’m finally a published author. Yay!

 

My book is titled Treasure Seeker Bible Study Workbook. This workbook shares the three-question study method I’ve been using for 15 years, walks you through an example of how to do it, and gives you multiple copies of the worksheet I designed and use for my personal study.

 

This method is simple, but very powerful. It’s the method I typically use for writing my blog posts.

 

MinistryMarketplace111415

The picture is of me with a framed copy of my cover. My graphic designer, and now friend, Sarah Delaney did a fantastic job on the cover. I love it!

And my friend Kimberly Martin, owner of Jera Publishing, did a great job formatting the interior.

The only entity that let me down was CreateSpace. They are running a week behind in their printing and weren’t able to get copies to me in time for a holiday market I was involved with last weekend. But I took orders and will deliver them in the next few days.

 

My workbook is available on Amazon and other online booksellers. Or if you live in the Kennesaw/Marietta area, I can deliver without any shipping charges.

 

And now . . . on to my next book . . . or three.

 

Total Freedom

Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. – Matthew 8:34 – 9:1 NIV

 

 

Jesus was doing what Jesus always does when He delivered the two men who were possessed by demons. He was showing His compassion for people who were suffering, displaying His authority and power over everything in the physical and spiritual realms, and bringing everything back into alignment—like He always desires to do.

 

And when the whole town came out and pleaded with Him to leave their region, Jesus left.

 

He got back in a boat and went somewhere else.

 

It doesn’t say He healed anyone else. It doesn’t say He called out any more demons. It doesn’t even say that He said another word to the townspeople.

 

It just says He left.

 

Jesus knows who He is. And He knows how much every person on earth needs Him.

 

He knows the authority He carries and His ability to do whatever needs to be done so that every person on earth is free—from sin and death and demons.

 

And there is nothing that He wants more than for us to experience total freedom from anything and everything that hinders us from being all He created us to be. He proved that by going to the cross.

 

But He also knows that our “total freedom” includes our freedom to choose Him or reject Him. To accept what He’s offering us or refuse it. To follow His lead or to go our own way.

 

And the reason I think He gives us the freedom to reject Him is because love isn’t really love if it’s coerced or forced. Real love is freely given. We choose to love. Anything less is just a different shade of bondage.

 

So although He could “make” us love Him, “make” us accept Him, and “make” us do what He knows will be the very best for us, I believe He will let us live life our own way before He will take away our freedom.

 

What is Jesus offering you today?

 

Will you accept it or reject it?