Friday, December 21, 2007

The Pharisees Missed Jesus

The Pharisees missed Jesus. They were supposed to know the scriptures, and they should have seen how the scriptures pointed to Jesus. Yet, though there are exceptions like the Pharisee Nicodemus, the Pharisees as a whole let Jesus slip through their bloody hands. Paul wrote about taking hold of that for which Jesus took hold of us (Phil 3:12). The Pharisees could have taken hold of Jesus in faith; instead, the signs and scripture that should have convinced them of his identity went right over their heads.

Why? Why would a group of religious leaders be so clueless about Jesus? I think the answer lies in the first encounters that they had with matters regarding Jesus. I say “matters regarding Jesus” because Jesus’ cousin, and more importantly, his forerunner John the Baptist, confronted the Pharisees (he called them poisonous snakes; Matt 3:7) with the need to repent. It would seem they didn’t appreciate the rebuke. And then, John pointed to Jesus as the one to follow. They were not likely to follow anyone recommended by John.

A subsequent encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees was in the vicinity of Matthew’s house. Jesus was there associating with tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees stood on such high moral ground that they couldn’t believe that Jesus was associating with these people of low moral fiber. “Evil companions…,” they thought.

Maybe there are a lot of us who are a lot like the Pharisees. I don’t deal with rebuke very well. I’m not one who retaliates with cross-rebuke; but some of you do. I have a tendency instead to think that if someone sees something wrong in me, something must be wrong with their eyesight. Others walk out of a room or out of life when they are confronted with wrongdoing. Furthermore, there those of us who have grown up believing that something was right or that something was wrong; and we have seen in the life of Jesus or read in his teaching that he believed just the opposite. Our values actually keep us from the life of greatest value. Jesus really is the Truth.

Don’t miss Jesus due to some Pharisee DNA. If you’ve been rebuked by Jesus, repent and live. If you see something in the life of Jesus that challenges your perception of truth, investigate with an open mind and heart to see the world though his eyes – the eyes of the “one and only who came from the Father full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Giving Gifts Like the Magi

It could have been as many as twenty-four months since Jesus had been born by the time the Magi arrived in Jerusalem to enquire about the birth of the King of the Jews. Jesus was likely at least six months old; yet, he was still in Bethlehem. King Herod had to ask “the peoples chief priests and teachers of the law” where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem,” they told him; and they referred to the prophet Micah to prove their point and included in what they reported some of their own expectation regarding the Christ, that he would be a shepherd to the people. The fact that Matthew included their rendition, “a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel,” probably means that he agreed with their perception of the Christ.

As the Magi approached where Jesus was, they overflowed with joy. As they gazed on him, they bowed and worshipped. As they considered who he was, they opened their treasures and gave him gifts.

Much has happened since that night of rejoicing and gift giving. Jesus grew up and he submitted to God’s will that he should die on the cross. He resurrected through the Spirit of Holiness and was declared with power to be the Son of God. He received the glory that he had before his incarnation, and now he sits at the right hand of God waiting until he comes again in glory.

Our gifts are offered to Jesus in his glory. There are many gifts that we offer, but like the Magi, we have treasure that we call money. For the benefit of the kingdom and of people we open our treasures and offer gifts to Jesus knowing that when we’ve done if for people, we have done it for him. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, asking them to be motivated by the generous spirit of others to complete an intent to give that was yet uncompleted.

As we consider giving for the year 2008, some questions from Matthew 2 and 2 Corinthians 8 come to mind. Answer these questions for yourself:

1. Does It Reflect Belonging to the Lord or Fearing for Our Own Little Kingdom?
2. Does It Reflect the Gifts We’ve Received?
3. Does It Reflect the Love We Have?
4. If It Is Not As Much As We Would Like To Give, It Is It Growing Toward Our Desire?

That’s Life at Work!

Did the Inn Keeper Ever Know?

I wonder if the inn keeper ever knew who was in his stable. He was probably too busy to notice the commotion that came with the arrival of the shepherds. Besides that, they were shepherds – whose going to take notice on a busy night of shepherds in a stable?

Many of us don’t even take time to read something like this at a time when we can digest it. You may be reading this during a bible class or during the song service, communion, or sermon. Reading it that way, might cause us to miss something significant – after all great things happen in bible class and during our assemblies. Reading it while other in setting where concentration is low might cause you to miss something significant in this article.

“Nothing important is happening right now.” Oh, really? I wonder if the inn keeper ever had a break in the census rush, and thought “Nothing important is happening right now.” We don’t know about the important things, big and small; but we are entangled with the everyday, mundane events.

The Son of God was in the womb of Mary, and Mary’s husband Joseph was knocking on this inn keeper’s door. Nothing in the stories of the birth of Jesus give any indication that Mary and Joseph told anyone the Holy Spirit story to try to get some room in the inn. Yet, don’t you know, that if the inn keeper had just taken a moment to look up from his ledge, he would have seen what the shepherds saw; and he would have done what the shepherds did.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen… (Luke 2:20).

The Son of God was born in his stable, and we don’t even know his name. I wonder if he ever knew the name of Jesus.

Don’t let the everyday things keep you from seeing or hearing or reading something that is out of the ordinary and out-of-this-world important! That’s Life at Work!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

We've Been Elfed

It's time I gave this blog a little life. Enjoy the Elfing that we were introduced to by Jason and Phyllis and Matt and Mel.