Monthly Archives: March 2023
Do not work for food that goes bad; instead, work for the food that lasts for eternal life. This is the food which the Son of Man will give you, because God, the Father, has put his mark of approval on him John 6:27 GNT
We must at least know ourselves well enough to recognize our own illusions, our own limitations, our own weaknesses, enough to be able to tell when it is not the charity of Christ that speaks in our hearts, but only our own self-pity … or ambition, or cowardice, or thirst for domination.
Dry bones. We see sin and judgment on the sin. That is what it looks like. It looked that way to Ezekiel; it looks that way to anyone with eyes to see and brain to think; and it looks that way to us.
“But we believe something else. We believe in the coming together of these bones into connected, sinewed, muscled human beings who speak and sing and laugh and work and believe and bless their God. We believe it happened the way Ezekiel preached it, and we believe it still happens. We believe it happened in Israel and that it happens in church. We believe we are a part of the happening as we sing our praises, listen believingly to God’s Word, receive the new life of Christ in the sacraments. We believe the most significant thing that happens or can happen is that we are no longer dismembered but are remembered into the resurrection body of Christ.
I read the words of Merton in my devotions this morning, and they stung.
As they should!
Perhaps they should have even stung more!
We must regularly examine our thoughts, words and deeds, as Paul tells us to in 1 Corinthians. To walk thorugh the valley of Romans 7 and realize that Paul wasn’t talking about a battle prior to coming to Christ, but the battle within each of us this day. We need to recognize when it is Christ that lives, and when we are struggling not to die to self.
We need to see the dry bones, to see the ravaged wasteland caused by sin in our world, but even more in our lives.
We have to see them, there is no option. It is depressing, it can suck the life out of you. But we need to see the effect of our sin.
For only by doing so, can our knowledge become our plea, and the answer our reality. For just as we had to acknowledge our sin in order to see our need for the cross, so to do we need to see our sin so that the Holy Spirit can create new life in broken lives. We need to know that our cry, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner” is, and always will, be answered!
Peterson’s words come in the midst of a dialogue about the necessity and focal point of pastoral ministry, that of word and sacrament–and the need of people to receive that – even if they don’t presently want it. That’s the message of Jesus’ words this morning as well–to go after what really matters, what really brings us to life– the work of the Holy Spirit as the words and Sacraments serve as the conduit of a grace beyond measure.
This is how life begins… this is how it is nurtured, as the old, sin-burdened man is put to death, and a life transformed in and conformed to Jesus begins anew.
Lord, once again, heal our brokenness by killing off that which is not of You, and bring us to life, in Christ. AMEN!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 138.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 144.
2 Let me see you in the sanctuary; let me see how mighty and glorious you are.
3 Your constant love is better than life itself, and so I will praise you.
4 I will give you thanks as long as I live; I will raise my hands to you in prayer.
5 My soul will feast and be satisfied, and I will sing glad songs of praise to you. Psalm 63:2-5 TEV
We are delivered from ourselves when we finally seek God for Himself alone!
Our union with Him depends on His love for us, which is simply the extension of the Father’s love, through Him, to ourselves. And the charity of Christ, which springs from the Father as from its hidden and infinite source, goes out through us to those who have not yet known Him, and unites them, through Christ in us, to the Father. By our love for other men, we enable them to discover Christ in themselves and to pass through Christ to the Source, the Beginning of all life, the Father, present and hidden in the depths of their own being. Finding Him, they who have long been torn and divided by the disintegrating force of their own illusions are able to discover and integrate themselves in one.
Too often these days, I find myself tired of life… and I know I am not alone.
I want to cry out, “Maranatha!” (which means ‘Come Lord Jesus!) with all I am. I so want Jesus to come back, to bring His people into the presence of perfection in the presence of God the Father.
I want God to return, I really, really want Jesus to return and put an end to all the suffering, all the evil, all the health issues, all that I see people going through…
And as I contemplate how wonderful it will be to be free of all of that, I realize I am praying for His return for the wrong reasons.
I need to grow in this area – perhaps more than any.
I need to want Jesus to return, simply so I can be with Jesus, to be welcomed into His presence, and God our Father. I need to have what Tozer speaks of, to be delivered of everything that is me, and simply seek to be with Him.
Merton is correct as well, that the only way this happens is Jesus. Our union with God depends completely on His work, on the Spirit’s cutting open and circumcising our hearts. It is that love, which spreads through us out into the world, that enables us to praise Him. As the Spirit draws us into Christ, everything the Psalmist says is now real, as God reveals Himself – and we know He is everything.
He is our life, our hope, our joy, our love, and He reveals Himself in us, much as He reveals Himself in and under the Bread and Wine.
Lord Jesus, as we go about our days, help us to recognize your presence. May we see you in the people we speak to, and may they see You as You love them through us! May the Spirit help us to empty ourselves, so that truly our lives are Yours, and may we long for Your return. AMEN!
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 135.
Jesus answered, “All those who drink this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring which will provide him with life-giving water and give him eternal life.” John 4:13-14 GNT
Take the teachings that you heard me proclaim in the presence of many witnesses, and entrust them to reliable people, who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2 GNT
With professions the integrity has to do with the invisibles: for physicians it is health (not merely making people feel good); with lawyers, justice (not helping people get their own way); with professors, learning (not cramming cranial cavities with information on tap for examinations). And with pastors, it is God (not relieving anxiety, or giving comfort, or running a religious establishment)……Most of the people we deal with are dominated by a sense of self, not a sense of God. Insofar as we deal with their primary concern—the counseling, instructing, encouraging—they give us good marks in our jobs as pastors. Whether we deal with God or not, they don’t care over much.
Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given instruction about other false teachings concerning the sacrament.
2 Meanwhile no conspicuous changes have been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that in certain places German hymns are sung in addition to the Latin responses for the instruction and exercise of the people.
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.
It used to be that people would tell me that “that was a good sermon pastor,” as they walked out of church. “Or that was a great Bible study!” They do it less often now because they know I will often ask, “why? what made it good for you?”
Some are quite able to answer, others, – well what else do you say to a pastor after church?
It gets me to think, what do people remember of the services we share in, what is their take away?
I can only pray it is Jesus. That He is present in thier lives, that He is merciful, that He loves them.
Anything else is worthless..
The Augsburg Confession makes that clear – the comfort to anxiety laden consciences is what is found when people is what the Liturgy (aka the Mass or Worship Service) is about. That is what and how we need to leave people. Aware of their relationship to Jesus, and comforted by it. That was Peterson’s goal, and his struggle as well, as people didn’t always respond to that focus. Still it is what we are called to do!
So look for that comfort as you attend church or Bible Studies, prayer meetings or other small groups. Perceive the presence of Jesus, as you sing, as you pray, as you listen to the word read and preached, and as you receive Christ’s body and blood in Communion.
And know, He is with you!
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 139–140.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 56.
If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free. John 8:36 (TEV)
Not that grace somehow adds to an otherwise imperfect creation, but that grace puts a stop to our misguided attempts to usurp God’s place and so allows creation to shine forth in all its glory
The “world” is the body of those who hate, because they are prisoners of their own narrow illusions and petty desires. They cannot recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit because they are not willing to conform their lives to His inspirations. They cannot become free with the freedom Jesus compared to the unpredictable blowing of the wind, for they are rooted in their own attachments and bound down by their own compulsions. They have a fixed way of acting (which may be wild and erratic and possess a spurious “freedom” of its own) and they cannot break away from it. They have rendered themselves incapable of doing anything but their “own will” in the sense of their enslaved will. Only the Spirit Himself can penetrate their hard carapace of resistance, and too often they will not let Him do so. They are unable to love freely because they are afraid of freedom.
The power and effect of faith are especially seen in temptations, when sin, death, devil, and hell are overcome. Nor are these weak enemies; they bring out perspiration, weaken our limbs, and make heaven and earth cramped. When the devil and death come, no one can help except only the person who has said, I am he who shall sustain thee. Under such conditions we learn what faith is.
Yesterday, my son’s high school was locked down, and for several hours I waited for him to be released. First, they were kept secure in a classroom. Then, they were escorted to some fenced in tennis courts where, eventually, they were released to parents. The parents waited in the sunlight for hours, because of miscommunication.
My thoughts upon getting into the car hours after I arrived was the old phrase, “Free at last, Free at Last!” A couple of hours of inconvenience, and yet I treated it like a lifelong trauma. ( A little projection here, as I was also wanting to deal with some other traumatic events)
So I was thinking about freedom as I came across these words this morning. And the illusion of freedom was shredded, again and again.
When we clamor and protest to have freedom, we must contemplate two things:
- What are we wanting freedom from?
- What do we want to do with this freedom?
Answering those questions will help us determine whether what we want is truly freedom, or simply the ability to serve our own preferred slavery –to our lusts and desires, our addictions and other sins that plague us. The problem is, enslaved to those things–we don’t even realize we are enslaved! Or, if we do, the lure of that which we are enslaved to overshadows the life we don’t know we can live.
Luther’s words about faith are clear here. It is not an easy fight to overcome sin. It requires a lot sweat and a lot of tears. It takes prayer, and mostly, it takes dying with Jesus on the cross to break those shackles, and the work of the Holy Spirit to draw us to that cross.
Forde’s words are so clear to that as well, as the Holy Spirit convinces us to set aside our self-idolatry, nailing that sin to the cross as well. That when the Son sets us free- we can begin to see glimpses of the glory of God.
There is freedom from everything we need to be free from – hatred, violence, anxiety, resentment, sin, guilt and shame…
And there is freedom to do one thing… to love.
Upon getting home, just before 6, homework and chores awaited both my son and I. As did dinner. We weren’t free to do whatever we wanted, but we were free to do that which was good, and beneficial. Mostly, my family was free to be together. And so it is with freedom we find in Christ Jesus-we are free to be in the presence of God, to know His love, to be with our brothers and sisters in Christ…
This is accomplished simply by having faith in God, depending on what He’s promised – that He will set you truly free..
Gerhard O. Forde, “Hearing,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 144.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 132.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 102.
No, I’m not drunk, sir,” she answered. “I haven’t been drinking! I am desperate, and I have been praying, pouring out my troubles to the LORD. 16Don’t think I am a worthless woman. I have been praying like this because I’m so miserable.” 1 Sam. 1:15-16 GNT
Are we presently missing important elements of worship in our churches? I speak of the genuine and sacred offering of ourselves as we worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Who can object to pious and righteous talk? Soon the whole enterprise takes off like a magnificent balloon, rising on the strength of its own hot air, with marvelous descriptions of the Christian life, the abundant life, spirituality, and the like. The minister becomes a guru rather than a proclaimer. The balloon rises perhaps until the stratospheric air can no longer support it and so it bursts and falls ignominiously back to earth. Or it is like Andersen’s fairy tale about the emperor’s new clothes? Everyone feels compelled to go along with the game until the naive little boy blurts out the truth: “But he’s naked!” Then all the pretense collapses.
But it is obvious to most that real worship and praise isn’t bursting forth from the average Catholic congregation during the opening hymn or song. We aren’t experiencing the jubilatio of St. Augustine’s communities. But we can! The next time we sing at Mass, let’s dare to really sing. Sing with all your heart and soul. Dare to open your mouth and praise God
I wonder what would happen if Tozer saw today’s church, if he would see the missing parts of worship restored. I can think of people here and there whose sacrifice seems significant, yet, I don’t know it is., or what really lies behind the sacrifice–or if it is really one.
I fear that for many of us, our worship is like Forde’s critique, that we are no more than a spiritual version of the Emperor’s new clothes. I fear that we will find there is nothing there, that my sermons have lifted people into a pious, blind life that seems to soar until it crashes. That the verses and choruses we sing are sung out of a love for music, and not without recognizing the presence of the One our voices praise.
We need to sing with all our heart and soul, and that doesn’t mean loudly, or with great power. It means all of it – much as Hannah does in the reading from 1 Samuel. To pour out the pain, the brokenness, the barrenness, to just let it flow out….
You see, praise comes from meeting God in that place, and letting Him raise you up. It means pouring out everything in our prayers, holding nothing back, to let God minister to us. Then our praises take on an other worldly quality, coming from our healed hearts and souls.
It doesn’t take courage as much as desperation.
But the result is glorious – for we come to depend on God in a way that cannot be created or maipulated by skilled planning, or the most incredible of organists, choirs, praise bands or soloists. Yet each, as they encounter a God who cares, adds their voices together–lifting the God who lifted us up.
And for every Hannah, we can then become be like Eli, who ministered to her, on the Lord’s behal
Tozer, A. W., and Gerald B. Smith. 2008. Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Forde, Gerhard O. 1990. “Hearing.” In Theology Is for Proclamation, 137–38. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Talbot, John Michael. 2023. The Lord’s Supper: A Eucharistic Revival, Berryville, ARK. Troubador For the Lord Publishing.
Jesus is indeed the Savior of the World
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God be so clear in your life that you declare with the Samaritans, “now we know He is indeed the savior of the world!”
- Woman at the well
She was the first person Jesus to whom Jesus confessed He was the Messiah, the Christ.
He simply said to her, “I am He.”
She wasn’t a princess; she didn’t come from a powerful family major metropolitan city. She wasn’t even married, but so desperate she shacked up with someone who used her, but who could provide a roof over her head.
It turns out she was a princess, the daughter of not just any king, but the King of kings.
Because of that relationship, there were no games with Jesus’ answer. He would play with the Pharisees and Sadducees, never answering their questions, as they weren’t ready for them. She didn’t get a convoluted answer, as Jesus gave Herod and Pilate.
“when He comes…he will explain everything to us…” she said, with hope it might be…
Jesus replied, “I AM he!”
A relationship, long dormant, was formed in that moment, as this lady became someone’s daughter, and realized this man who knew all about her, loved her in a way she never knew she could be loved….
But that is only the beginning…
- Are we blind like the disciples?
There is an interesting reaction by the disciples, that sort of proves how naïve they were.
They ask, “What do you want with her”—at least that is what it translates out to in English. But the word is zeteo—the word for pursuing, it is the word for desiring something from someone.
After all, why would Jesus be talking to “one of them?” Why would He be interested in a lady who was one “their” castoffs?
I struggled with that word desire – and I think I understand why translators didn’t translate it more clearly. Why would you use the word desire, with all the potential mis understandings?
But that is where their sin comes in, as in their minds they are seeing this lady as, well, not a lady. I can leave it there.. right?
They bore false witness against their neighbor – they shattered the 8th commandment.
And because of that, they couldn’t understand a good reason for Jesus to want to be found in her presence.
They couldn’t understand his desire to reveal who she really was
She was a daughter of the King of Kings
And she proved it…. She went and gathered others who were meant to be God’s.
Leaving her bucket – the reason she was there behind, she went into the village, and invited others to see.
And this is where the gospel story gets interesting….
- Steps to believing
This lady, revealed to be the daughter of the King of King go and gathers everyone in the town. AND THEY LISTEN TO HER AND COME!!!!!
They are so enamored with Jesus that they ask Him to stay with them, and this Jewish Rabbi breaks every rule in the book and does so. He not only dines with heathers, he stays in their homes.
He invests them the very mysteries of God, for hear what happens.
So he stayed for two days, 41 long enough for many more to hear his message and believe.
They came to trust and depend on Jesus! This crowd of outcasts who weren’t part of the right ethnicity, the right culture, never mind from the right schools of religious thought. Heck – these people wouldn’t even be allowed in the synagogues of Jesus day.
Yet he stayed with them, and they came to trust in Him, for their salvation –for their life, even before the cross!
What’s more – the faith went deep—listen to these incredible words
Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”
That word know there—they understand, they comprehend that He is not just the Saviour of the Jews, and not just that of those who are Abraham’s descendants – He is the Savior of the world—He is the savior of all!
They have begun to love and trust in God the way the Lady does, not just because she told them, but because they experienced His love for them. This is remarkable – this is what it is all about – this relationship that God wants with all people – everywhere.
This is the place where every parent should want their children – to know God is their Savior – not just because they said He is, but because they know Him. This is what every pastor wants of every person, not just in their church but their community—for every person to know Jesus, to experience His love, to be relived by His mercy.
TO experience the love of God, to experience how much He cares and He lifts your burdens off of you, as He cleanses you, as the Spirit dwells within you… this is what you need to know of Jesus.
To have that relationship with God that we encourage each other in, yet which is so intimate and shared with the Father who calls us His children, with Jesus who calls us His brothers and sisters and friends. With the Spirit who ministers to us in a way that is beyond words. TO know Jesus wants to have this relationship with everyone, no matter the depth of their sin – it can happen…
To have you depend on God – not just because I and the elders tell you about Him, but because you know Him… and knowing Him, lets us praise Him… forever! AMEN!
Thoughts driving me to Jesus and to His cross.
Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. 13 Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.” Matthew 9:12-13 (TEV)
If a pastor finds himself resenting his people, getting petulant and haranguing them, that is a sign that he or she has quit thinking of them as sinners who bring “nothing in themselves of worth” and has secretly invested them with divine attributes of love, strength, compassion, and joy. They, of course, do not have these attributes in any mature measure and so will disappoint him or her every time. On the other hand, if the pastor rigorously defines people as fellow sinners, he or she will be prepared to share grief, shortcomings, pain, failure, and have plenty of time left over to watch for the signs of God’s grace operating in this wilderness, and then fill the air with praises for what he discovers.
The presupposition seems to be that God’s intention even originally was to relate to us in terms of law and justice, but that this intention was frustrated by sin. The sin subsequently has to be “paid for.” Jesus is sacrificed to God instead of us to make such payment.
There is a subtle but profound difference, however, when one understands the “for us” to mean that he was sacrificed to do us to death as old beings and raise us up to newness of life in faith, when one assumes that God’s intention all along is to relate to us in terms of love and mercy.
If you are part of the church – you will burnout.
It is not if, it is simply when.
I don’t care if you are a pastor, a lay-leader, or someone who shows up once or twice a month, you will burn out. I guarantee it, based on 25 years of ministry as a pastor and 33 years where I was not a pastor.
We will realize we are the broken, we are the outcast, we feel let down by people, and often the leaders who we look up to, forgetting that they all struggle with sin and temptation. Peterson is absolutely correct in his analysis – we are sinners, and we interact every day with people who are also sinners. As they accidentally or intentionally betray us we contemplate leaving. Frustrated, we wonder why these saints (for certainly they are also that) can’t be trusted, and we find ourselves scheming to counteract their actions. Which frustrates us even more, causing even more burnout.
So the question then is not avoiding, hiding or denying burnout exists, but is embracing it and surviving it, depending on God to do so. Understanding Peterson’s point is crucial – that we need to anticipate that our people are indeed sinners, in need of grace.
Forde takes is deeper, reminding us the cross is more than where our sins were pain for, it is where we die and are raised with Jesus. It is where we realize the law that condemns was a temporary system to drive us to Jesus- not the old plan of how we should live and atone for our sin. The cross is where true fellowship starts, as we share in His death, in order to share in His resurrection.
The new life is not completely revealed yet, it will be on the day of Jesus’ return.
Until then, we strive to know Jesus more, to give Him the sin which burns us out – for He promised to cleanse us from our sin and all unrighteousness. This cleansing leaves us where we are supposed to be – confident in His presence.
Forde, Gerhard O. 1990. “The Preached God.” In Theology Is for Proclamation, 129. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Peterson, Eugene H. 1989. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Vol. 17. The Leadership Library. Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX:
Thoughts that pull me toward Jesus, and to His cross!
Those left in the land were the five Philistine cities, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who lived in the Lebanon Mountains from Mount Baal Hermon as far as Hamath Pass. 4They were to be a test for Israel, to find out whether or not the Israelites would obey the commands that the LORD had given their ancestors through Moses. 5And so the people of Israel settled down among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 6They intermarried with them and worshipped their gods. Judges 3:3-6 GNT
People (and particularly people who come to church and put themselves in touch with pastoral ministry) see themselves in human and moral terms: they have human needs that need fulfilling and moral deficiencies that need correcting. Pastors see people differently. We see them in theological terms: they are sinners—persons separated from God who need to be restored in Christ.
Everything depends on seeing how absolutely God has succeeded in having mercy through the cross. The old being who is bound to its god projects, insistent on controlling its own destiny, is put to death. There is nothing to do but await the actual and living Word of proclamation summoning to life, to faith in the God who does not stop until indeed carrying through concretely in the proclamation on the promise, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” And now it is for you.
Whenever I read the first seven Old Testament books, I wonder about those people whose faith was fickle, who would easily fall away from the God they experienced, the God in whose presence they dwelt. They would abandon Him, and struggle with life.
Such an example is found as they do not complete the process of moving into the promised land. They want all the appearance of being the people of God, but they have a struggle hearing His word and following through on it. They set themselves up for more challenges and trials and tribulations by doing what was right in their own eyes.
The more I read these books, the more I see today’s church. Not the society, the church. We try to behave as if we are ethically and morally pure. Peterson gets to that, in his analysis of how people and their pastor view them.
We can’t justify their actions (or our own), and we know it.
We can only declare them justified by the blood of Christ, which covers their sins.
They need to be restored, we can show them God doing that restoration. As Forde put it, “summoning us to life… ”
Restoring us from immorality, towards the day when our body casts off mortality for immortality, the day when our “conversion” is done. (Phil. 1:6)
This is the goal of Christ, not just the church, or its pastors. It is why the death of Jesus must be proclaimed, so that we have this life!
Peterson, Eugene H. 1989. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Vol. 17. The Leadership Library. Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub.
Forde, Gerhard O. 1990. “The Preached God.” In Theology Is for Proclamation, 126. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Jesus: The Pathway to Peace
Knowing Jesus Means Letting Him Deal
with the Anxieties caused by having relatives
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus strength help you see the blessing of God’s faithfulness even in the midst of family related anxiety.
- Dysfunction Junction
I love when I find in scripture people struggling with issues similar to what you and I do. It is said there is nothing new under the sun, and that includes all the things that stress us out, that cause us anxiety, that cause our minds to overthink and fear how bad reality is….
And that includes the stress and anxiety caused by family!
Look at the family in the gospel! They could stress out anyone! First you have the helicopter mom, who drives her kids insane, wanting them to be successful! She demands that Jesus give them the top two spots in the kingdom of God! Can you imagine how embarrassed they were? I can still hear their muttered whisper echo through time….. “mom… please don’t, mom please stop! Mom!!”
And they could not, could not disappoint her when Jesus asks them if they can suffer the way He will…
Of course, the boys…. Err men weren’t something to write home about either. So argumentative they were that they are recoded for history as “the sons of thunder.
I imagine all three stressed each other out, quite a bit. Maybe that is why dad was always out fishing!
- Serious harm
We all have stories about some crazy uncle, or some cousins who seemed to thrive on being a pain in the neck. There are other relatives that cause real stress, real pain, and therefore real anxiety. The kind of thing of hurt that starts when we are kids, that affects us until we retire.
This is what Joseph dealt with, the fights and betrayals and failures. King David’s children were even worse in how they treated each other, something that destroyed him as he watched them.
The hardest part of addressing the anxiety and stress caused by relatives is not what they say, or do, or do AND say. That hardest part is our sin. Paul talked about that with the church in Ephesus when he wrote, “26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Ephesians 4:26 (NLT2) It’s our reaction to the sin, to the betrayals, to the pain caused by those who should love us more than the rest of the world.
Our kids, our parents, our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces can do things we don’t like, that cause us to worry, that cause us heartache. We can’t control that – but sin can occur when we loose our ability to control our reaction.
And it is often our sin, or our desire to sin, that causes us as much anxiety and stress. Our feeling that we have to do something, anything…that leads to sin in thought, word and deed. I mean how many of us are willing to let those things go for a couple of months, or years, or even a decade without letting it anger us, hurt us, or just frustrate the hell out of us. How do we deal with their sin, without wanting to sin ourselves? And that causes even more anxiety and stress….
- God lifting the burdens
- Gospel Answer
- OT Response
As we go through this Lent, the purpose of this series is not to face our anxieties and things that cause us stress. It is to shed those anxieties off, to let Jesus remove the burdens they cause, to heal the wounds they leave behind.
That is what Jesus means when He says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
That is His response to the disciples’ arguments about who is the greatest. He doesn’t point at this one or that, he points out that He is hear to serve, and to pay off the debt we find we are in to God and each other.
He does away with the sin and its punishment, leaving us free….
This is the work of God that Joseph witnessed, the reason he would weep when his brothers were expecting vengeance.
He knew God would work it out, and His trust in God allowed him to say those incredible words, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”
That is where forgiveness and reconciliation begins, in seeing what God can do with the situations that cause anxiety and pain. Sometimes we need to be patient and faithful waiting to see God’s plan work out – hopefully it won’t be a decade like Joseph and His brothers.
God did what He promised. He always does. That is what the cross is about, healing the broken relationships now, and forever.