Category Archives: Jesus

Love, Jesus Style

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22:36-39

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There were constantly people who seeking to trip Jesus up in one fashion or another. Jesus was playing a high stakes game with the Jewish leaders. He was challenging their rules and about to bring a tidal wave of change to their lives. For so long religious life had meandered along just as these leaders had desired but Jesus came with a new revelation, new ideas, and most dangerously, with great power. He was confronted by a teacher of the law with this question. “Which commandment is the greatest?” He answered with two which have three applications.

His first was to love God. That seems like an easy one, especially if it could be done in a vacuum. Think about it, God created us, he gives us life and He sustains us every day. That not a hard one. We would be fools not to love Him. The real challenge is how do we express such love? A simple solution would be to get up every morning and just tell Him we love him and keep Him on our mind all day. That seems like love to me but it only begins there.

Secondly, we are to love our neighbors. Loving our neighbors brings a plethora of unanswered questions. All of these questions are summed up in one. Who is my neighbor? Jesus answers this question many times in His teachings. Similarly, it is answered in Hebrew scripture as well.

• Live generously towards the poor and alien (Lev. 19:9–10).

• Do not steal from anyone (Lev. 19:11).

• Do not be deceptive in dealings with people (Lev. 19:11).

• Do not oppress, rob, or exploit the poor by paying unfair wages (Lev. 19:13).

• Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind (Lev. 19:14).

• Do not be partial to the poor or show favor to the great but judge honestly (Lev. 19:15).

• Do not commit financial fraud. (Lev. 19:16).

• Do not hate your brother (Lev. 19:17).

• Do not seek revenge or hold a grudge but extend forgiveness (Lev. 19:18).

These verses are part of the Levitical law and point toward proper treatment of All people. That leads me to conclude that all of God’s people are my neighbor. There is a third caveat to this teaching of Jesus that may prove to be the most difficult of all.

Love yourself – There is no love without self-love. If we mistrust ourselves and think lowly of ourselves we will be a very dreadful person. Perhaps the real problem with these Jewish leaders was their inability to love themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin.

I share a poem that is credited to the late Robert Schuller that can serve as a good model for self-love.

Love-triangle-mertonI may be young; I may be old, But I am somebody,

For I am God’s child.

I may be educated; I may be unlettered, But I am somebody,

For I am God’s child.

I may be black; I may be white, But I am somebody,

For I am God’s child.

I may be rich; I may be poor, But I am somebody,

For I am God’s child.

I may be a sinner; I may be a saint, But I am somebody,

For Jesus is my Savior. I am God’s child!

When we know to whose family we belong, we learn to esteem ourselves correctly.

Loving God, neighbor, and ourselves is not something that we perfect all at once. A woman once received a valentine card that said on the cover: “I love you terribly.” Inside were the words “But I’ll improve with practice.” It is not an easy task to be a loving person. Life is busy, filled with frustration, disappoints and exhaustion. In the midst of everything, we are often called to love the unlovable. While wading through such confusion we can discover the love triangle that points to loving God, self, and others – thus we find the secret of a fulfilling life on earth and a foretaste of the life to come.

Love-triangle


PRAYER

Lord, is difficult necessary that we learn of love from you. You created us out of love and you sustain us with love. You ask us to complete the triangle of love that will make us whole. This day, help me to love you, my neighbor and myself with a love that can only come from you. I cherish that love and seek it from you.

Amen


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A Sad Story

Matthew 2

The Visit of the Wise Men

1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The Escape to Egypt

13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream Flight to Egyptand said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

The Massacre of the Infants

16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 ‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

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Having a Prayer

Some years ago, when Leonard Griffith was pastor of the famous City Temple in London, he wrote a fascinating book entitled Barriers to Christian Belief. In that book he dealt with some problems that have over the years been real obstacles and stumbling blocks for people in their faith pilgrimage… specific problems that hinder people, that burden people, that disturb people… and keep them away from the Christian faith. One of the barriers he listed was…”unanswered prayer.” It does seem to be a fact of our experience that many people do get discouraged and they do give up and drop out on the faith because they feel a sense of failure in their prayer life.

This leads us to ask then… “How do you pray?” “Why pray at all?” “When do you pray?” “Is there a special formula or a sacred language that should be used?” One thing is clear. There are many questions and there is much misunderstanding about how you pray and why. In a Peanuts cartoon Charlie Brown is kneeling beside his bed for prayer. Suddenly he stops and says to Lucy, “I think I’ve made a new theological discovery, a real breakthrough. If you hold your hands upside down, you get the opposite of what you pray for.”

Prayer must be more than an emergency magical lamp rubbed in a crisis. The truth is that many people give up on prayer because they never understand what prayer is. Much that passes for prayer is irrational, superstitious, and self-centered, and is therefore unworthy of the pattern of the prayer that Jesus offered to us his disciples.

How do you pray and why? We are not the first to ask. The disciples of Jesusyoungmanpraying w quote

came to Him one day and said, “Lord, teach us. Teach us to pray!” Notice something here. When did the disciples ask for this? When did they make this request? Was it after Jesus gave a lecture on prayer? No! Was it after Jesus led a seminar on prayer? No! Was it after Jesus preached a powerful sermon on prayer? No! None of these. Remember how it is recorded in Luke 11… “Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he finished, they said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.'” They saw the power of prayer in Him. They saw how important prayer was to Him. See the point. Harry Emerson Fosdick stresses it in his book, The Secret of Victorious Living. “Note that this awakened interest in prayer came not at all from new arguments about it, but from a new exhibition of its power. Here, before their very eyes, they saw a personality in whom prayer was vital and influential! The more they lived with him, the more they saw that they could never explain him or understand him unless they understood his praying and so not at all because of new arguments, but because of amazing spiritual power released in him by prayer. They wanted him to tell them how to pray.”

The disciples sometimes were slow to learn, but at this point they were quickly and precisely on target. They saw in Jesus the answer to this question: how do we pray and why do we pray? And they learned from Him what the elements are that lead to a meaningful prayer life.

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Humility

The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

 — Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus Teaching 1Those of us who call ourselves Christians sometimes neglect the instructions that came directly from Jesus. In the scriptures Jesus had many things to say. Because we live in this fast paced competitive American society, we find it difficult to image that we can be exulted by humble behavior. We have been taught from a very early age to put our “best foot” forward. The words of Jesus cut against that concept. The real task of humility is to be genuine and authentic in all that you do. The person who exalts himself is, in many instances, just lying. We have a time for self-exalted people. We call them hypocrites because can never live up to their talk.

In the Kingdom of God leadership is marked by servant hood and not self exultation. If you want to rid your life of hypocritical self agrandizement ,become a humble servant to all. A servant’s word will carry far more weight in the end than the word of a great teacher who does not follow through. The American Poet Edgar A. Guest wrote:

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one, any day;

I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way;

The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear.

Fine counsel is confusing, but examples always clear,

And the best of all preachers are the men who live their creeds,

For to see good put in action is what everybody need.

We are all (clergy and laity)walking sermons weather we like it or not.

Prayer

Grant us, O God, a mind to meditate on you; eyes to behold you; ears to listen for your word; a heart to love you; and a life to proclaim you. Amen.

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Self-Denial

“To reach the supernatural bounds a person must depart from his natural bounds and leave self far off in respect to his interior and exterior limits in order to mount from a low state to the highest.”

—–John of the Cross

Jesus and the BasinThe medieval mystic John of the Cross gives us advice to move towards “supernatural bounds.” Self-denial is a big step in that journey with Christ. This concept (self-denial) is at odds with our culture of more. As with all disciplines, true self-denial is developed slowly and with care. Begin with living more simply, caring for the small things of life, living a life of thanks and seeking to touch someone in need.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

—Jesus

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Give Me Your Sins

Jerome was a hermit, priest, and father of the church who guided the church as it translated the Bible from Greek to Latin, the language of the people. Jerome wanted the people to read and know the Bible. He lived in Bethlehem for a time to get a feel of how Jesus lived during his earthly journey. Oral tradition tells us that while living in Bethlehem, Jerome had a dream that Jesus visited him. TheJesus Quote 7-15.14 - 1 dream was so real that he rounded up all his material blessings and offered them to Jesus. He heard the Lord declare, “I do not want your possessions.” So being a good church leader, he offered all his money to Jesus. Jesus once again declared, “I do not want your money.” Finally, in desperation, Jerome cried out, “Jesus, what do you want from me?” Jesus simply replied, “Give me your sins. That is what I came for–I came to take away your sin. Give me your sin.”

That’s really what it’s is all about. Jesus wants our sins! He asks us to love and trust Him enough to be able to give all to Him. Our Lord asks us to confess the unforgivable and feel the warmth of His grace. Many of us are far too busy trying to impress God when all He wants is for us to trust in His promise. That promise is: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” As we bring our sins, He offers His rest. Jerome had it right, all Jesus wants is our sins.

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Not As It Should Be

ascensionRight after World War II, a U.S. Army officer and his wife were stationed in Japan. That country had been devastated by the war. The post-war economy was in shambles. Unemployment approached 60%. People came to the Army wife’s door daily looking for work.

One man said that he could do wonders for her garden if she would only give him a chance. So, for the first time in her life, this young Army wife hired a gardener. He spoke no English, but the wife, through sign language and pencil and paper gave him instructions about where to plant, prune, and pamper her garden. He listened politely and followed her instructions exactly. The garden emerged as the finest in the neighborhood. When she finally realized that her new gardener knew far more about the matter than she, the wife stopped giving him directions and let him freely care for the garden. It was magnificent.

Then one day the gardener came with an interpreter who expressed the appreciation but the regrets of the gardener. “He will no longer be able to care for your garden. He must leave.”

The wife expressed her regrets and thanked him through the interpreter for making hers such a fine garden. Out of politeness, she asked the interpreter, “Where is he going?” The interpreter replied that the gardener was returning to his old job as the Professor of Horticulture at the University of Tokyo. I can imagine, can’t you, the look that must have been on that Army wife’s face when she discovered, upon his leaving, that her gardener was a university professor.

Things are not always as we expect. The disciples experienced this at the time of the ascension of Jesus. This whole event, death, burial resurrection and now ascension, wasn’t what they thought it would be. Here’s a little glimpse into the confusion.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

—–Acts 1:10-11

Things are not always as they should be.

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THE CHANGER

I saw a sign recently that read, “God is a Changer.” How true! The best picture we have of God is Jesus. Jesus – “God with us!” From His first miracle at the wedding in Cana, Jesus was a changer. That day, at His mother’s request, He changed some jugs of water into the best of wines. That of no value became that of great value. Beginning at Cana, Jesus went about making positive changes.

He changed the black world of blindness into the colorful world of sight for a man blind from birth. He changed rotten flesh into spotless, smooth skin for ten outcasts with leprosy. He changed twisted, atrophied legs into strong legs, leaping and running through the streets of Jerusalem for a little girl. He changed a tortured, deranged mind into a pure, clear-thinking mind for a possessed man. He changed unbearable grief into boundless joy for the parents of a dead child brought back to life.

loaves and fishesJesus took a little boy’s school lunch and changed it into a feast for five thousand people. He changed the turbulent waves of the Sea of Galilee and made the water as smooth as glass. He took a hard-headed, rough talking fisherman named Peter and changed him into His greatest disciple. He took the most tormented woman in Jerusalem and changed Mary Magdalene into a woman of great faith.

Jesus changed history. We date our calendar by His birth. He changed our approach to God, our worship, how we pray, and how we relate to others.

Jesus, the great changer, will change you, too. Ask Him! He will change your attitude, your motivation, your priorities, your desires, and your goals. He will change your life from one of no hope to one of everlasting joy!


PRAYER: Father – Make me willing to make changes so that my journey will be one of joy as I grow closer to you.

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4 Things Jesus Never Said

This is a reprint of an article by Michael Hidalgo in the current issue of Relevant Magazine. I hope you can gain some insight from it. Irvin


Here are a few things I hear frequently hear that we may need to rethink …

If You Had More Faith God Would Answer Your Prayer.

There was a man who had a son who suffered from convulsions, and was unable to speak. The father brought his son to Jesus for healing and said, “If you can do anything … help!” Jesus replied to the father, “If you can? Everything is possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23).

The father then said to Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

What happens next is interesting. Jesus does not say, “I’m sorry, I’d love to help you out, but you need more faith before I can do anything” – not at all. Rather, he heals the boy in the midst of the father’s struggle to believe.

In fact, if we read through the Bible we see God at work in the lives of people in the midst of their doubt and unbelief. We see this with Sarah in Genesis 18, the people of Israel in Exodus 14, Naaman in 2 Kings 5, and Zechariah in Luke 1—to name a few.

We cannot forget the Bible is the story of God’s work, renewal, faithfulness and redemption in the midst of the unfaithfulness of humanity. He does not demand we believe and trust so he can work. He works, and invites us to believe and trust.

Doubting Is Dangerous.

Did Jesus say “Stop Doubting?” Yes. Is there more to the story? Yes.

Of all the disciples, the only one who was has an enduring nickname is Thomas, a.k.a. “Doubting Thomas.” We have traditionally thrown him under the bus for doubting Jesus rose from the dead, and condescendingly shake our heads at his resistance to believe.

But let’s not forget, he is not the only one who did not believe. When the disciples first hear of Jesus’ resurrection from the women who went to Jesus’ tomb, “they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:11).

All the disciples doubted, but Thomas was the only one with the courage to admit he needed proof. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). And when Jesus finally encountered Thomas, he did not rebuke him. Rather he gave Thomas what he needed. He invited Thomas to touch his wounds, and only then did Jesus tell him he could stop doubting.

The beauty of this is Thomas had an encounter with Jesus none of the other disciples did. He is the only one who touched the wounds of Jesus, because he had the faith to doubt. Nowhere does Jesus condemn doubt; rather he meets people right where they are in it.

Here is How You Can Get To Heaven.

What’s remarkable about Jesus is how little he talked about what happens to us when we die. He was far more concerned with what happens to us while we live here and now. I say this, because Jesus commented very little on heaven as a place somewhere out there we can go when we die.

However, Jesus talked nonstop about our life here and now. Make no mistake Jesus proclaimed the gospel, and the good news about the Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Heaven). But his desire was to see this Kingdom come to earth. By comparison we speak about the gospel being how we can leave earth to get to heaven and have eternal life after we die.

Which raises a question: Why does our gospel get us ready to die while the gospel of Jesus gets us ready to live?

Perhaps we should listen closely to the words of Jesus, and move from being consumed with where we will go when we die to being consumed with how we live here and now. How would that change, not only us, but also our world?

There Will Always Be Poor People Among You. Period.

I have a t-shirt that has the words “End Poverty” on the back. Several times when I have worn the shirt I’ve had people say dismissively, “Jesus said, ‘The poor you will have with you always …’” True, he did say that. But that is not all he said.

According to the gospel of Mark Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want” (Mark 14:7). Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 15 where God told his people, “There need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you … he will richly bless you” (Deuteronomy 15:4). God told his people there is no good reason for poverty to exist.

But God seemed to know how we operate, so he said, “If anyone is poor among your people in any of the towns … be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need …” And “There will always be poor people in the land … be openhanded toward those of your people who are poor and needy in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).

If anything, Jesus’ quote about the poor is a challenge to be generous, lending freely and openhanded toward them.

Jesus certainly had a lot to say; it’s no wonder he is often misquoted. However, when we take the time to truly hear what he has to say to us we will be both comforted and challenged by his words. And when we truly hear him, we will have much more to rethink.

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United Methodists on Jesus

As a United Methodist Elder I am asked what do Methodist believe from time to time. Below you will see the official answer to two questions. I thought it was a good place to start. Next Friday we will go to the Holy Spirit.


Who is Jesus

In trying to find words to express their faith in Jesus, the New Testament writers gave him various names. Jesus was Master, Rabbi, Teacher. He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He was the Doorway to the sheepfold, the Light of the world, the Prince of Peace, and more. In the church’s long tradition, scores of other names or titles have been given. Let’s look at five of the most central biblical names for Jesus:

Son of God

We believe in Jesus as God’s special child. We call this the Incarnation, meaning that God was in the world in the actual person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospel writers explain this in different ways. In Mark, Jesus seems to be adopted as God’s Son at his baptism. In Matthew and Luke, Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit. In John, Jesus is God’s pre-existing Word who “became flesh and lived among us” (1:14). However this mystery occurred, we affirm that God is wholly present in Jesus Christ.

Paradoxically, we also believe that Jesus was fully human. One of the church’s first heresies claimed that Jesus only seemed to be human, that he was really a divine figure in disguise. But the early church rejected this. It affirmed that Jesus was a person in every sense that we are. He was tempted. He grew weary. He wept. He expressed his anger. In fact, Jesus is God’s picture of what it means to be a mature human being.

Christ

We say “Jesus Christ” easily, almost as if “Christ” were Jesus’ surname. Yet this name is another way of expressing who we believe Jesus to be. Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, which means God’s Anointed One. For years before Jesus’ time the Jews had been expecting a new king, a descendant of the revered King David, who would restore the nation of Israel to glory. Like kings of old, this one would be anointed on the head with oil, signifying God’s election; hence, the Chosen One = the Anointed One = the Messiah = the Christ. The early Jewish Christians proclaimed that Jesus was, indeed, this Chosen One. Thus, in calling him our Christ today, we affirm that he was and is the fulfillment of the ancient hope and God’s Chosen One to bring salvation to all peoples, for all time.

Lord

 

We also proclaim Jesus as our Lord, the one to whom we give our devoted allegiance. The word Lord had a more powerful meaning for people of medieval times, because they actually lived under the authority of lords and monarchs. Today some of us may find it difficult to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of our lives. We’re used to being independent and self-sufficient. We have not bowed down to authority. To claim Jesus as Lord is to freely submit our will to his, to humbly profess that it is he who is in charge of this world.

Savior

 

Perhaps best of all, we believe in Jesus as Savior, as the one through whom God has freed us of our sin and has given us the gift of whole life, eternal life, and salvation. We speak of this gift as the atonement, our “at-oneness” or reconciliation with God. We believe that in ways we cannot fully explain, God has done this through the mystery of Jesus’ self-giving sacrifice on the cross and his victory over sin and death in the Resurrection.

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