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nChrist
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« on: January 11, 2006, 08:28:17 AM »

January 11

The Samaritan Woman
Joh_4:5-26

Theology is found in strange places.  Who would think that a woman with such a history would know, or care, about the right place to worship?  Even those of us with the worst records of sin may wonder, "Just what does God want from me?"  Some may wonder from a desire to please;  others just from a desire to get God off their backs.  But it seems that mankind is insatiably curious about, "What does God want from me?"

We usually picture it in some form of bargain.  God wants me to perform some ritual—pray three times a day, give ten percent, go to church every Sunday—in return for which he will look with favor upon me.  But if you want the right answers, you must ask the right questions!  Perhaps the right question is, "What does God want to give to me?"

Consider:  what could he want from you?  The woman assumed that she had what Jesus wanted.  It seemed simple enough until He began to speak about "living water."  But God is spirit;  whatever it is He wants, it must be pleasing in a spiritual way.  Things material, therefore, are of use only as they represent the spirit within the man.  God seeks after the heart.

Christ gently reminds her of her condition.  She has had five husbands.  The rabbis of this time would perform no more than five marriages for a divorced woman.  So she is unable to have a legal wedding with the man she is living with.  It's wrong;  she knows it—and is surprised that Jesus does too.  But she gets the point.  She's a sinner;  He is something special.  At first she thinks he might be a prophet, but he tells her plainly that he is the long promised Messiah—the Christ.

This is the gift that God wants to give us—Christ Himself.  Out of him flow the streams of living water, giving us eternal life, the free gift of God.  It is this salvation that God wants to give us, his very own Son.  The gift is a very expensive one, for it cost Jesus his life upon the Cross.

What does he desire in return?  Worship.  Not worship in ritual, not worship in empty form, but real worship.  Real worship is worship in "spirit and in truth."  It comes from deep in the soul, and flows up in truth; there is no hypocrisy in it.  As the fountain of Living Water flows from our Lord, so we too must become fountains of worship in spirit and truth.

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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2006, 09:51:32 AM »

All I can say brother, is AMEN!
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2006, 11:43:13 AM »

January 12

Spiritual Harvest
Joh_4:27-38

There is a limit to worldly reformers:  their lifetime.

It is not so in the kingdom of God.  The Messiah had been prophesied for over a thousand years.  The prophets of the Old Testament period had laid the foundation of knowledge about God which enables us today to see the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  All those whose activities are recorded in the Old Testament went without seeing the culmination of their labors—the coming of the Messiah, and his kingdom.

Christ selects a dozen men, and then provides them the opportunity to reap what the prophets have sown.  They will build on the work of all who have gone before them, but did not see the fruit of their labors.  It is a grand feeling to be the one who sees the harvest coming in.

But turn the situation around.  How many of us have looked at our church, our town, our situation and declared it hopeless because we can see no way to remedy the situation?  With God all things are possible, even those which will take beyond our own lifetimes.  The curse of abortion runs through my land, and someday God will lift that curse.  It may not be in my lifetime, but in my lifetime I must do what I can to further God's cause.

Why, then, do so many become discouraged?  See if you see yourself in any of these pictures:

There are those who see only what can be done in their own strength.  They do not really trust God.  "Oh Lord, where will we get the money, the people, ."

There are those who see only their own timing.  If God's army is on the march they will follow along, but if the war is in the trenches they want no part of it.  They lack perseverance.

There are those who look only at the strength of the enemy, and say, "What can we do against so many?"  They forget that those who are for us are more than those against us.

There are those who see only their own problems, and think no more of the church than a place to complain.  The church is not a mob, but a body.

But some see with the eyes of faith—beyond time, beyond their own strength or troubles.  Of these God fashions those who serve.  Are you willing to be one of these?

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« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2006, 09:56:46 AM »

January 13

Signs and Wonders
Joh_4:46-54

One of the most annoying things in times of trouble is the glib Christian who tells you, "Have faith—everything will work out all right."  It sounds pious enough, but you know that it's just a trite little phrase that "sounds like the right thing to say."

The reason this sounds so hollow is that there is no commitment in it.  Advising someone to have faith costs me very little indeed.  But consider this father in our passage.  He comes in desperation to a man who has done a few miracles—down in Jerusalem.  One miracle in the home town.  Before that, he was the local carpenter's kid.  Can you picture the desperate longing?

The man is a royal official;  perhaps he felt himself high enough to command.  But he does not;  he begs.  In such circumstance Jesus' reply seems strange—a condemnation of sorts.  But the original makes it clear that he was addressing the crowd.  They were looking for the side show of the circus.  The father had something much more important in mind.

So it is that he approaches Jesus in humility.  Indeed, we may imagine that Christ may have had a lot more to say to the crowd, but the father interrupts him.  The matter is urgent.  His son is dying.  We can see this humility in action in Christ's reply.

He dismisses the father.  "You may go.  Your son will live."  It is as simple as that.  It is not even worth the time of the Christ to come with the man and touch the boy.  It can be done with a word.

Would you like a practical, working definition of the faith your friends so glibly tell you to have?  You can see it here:  "The man took Jesus at his word, and departed."

There it is.  Nothing deep, nothing mystic.  The man took Jesus at his word—and acted upon it.  Many of us are quick to say that we trust the Lord, but few of us are quick to act like it.  This man, without a further word, trusts.  The Lord of Life has spoken;  no disease, no power, no demon—nothing– can change what has been spoken.  He who spoke and the worlds began has pronounced.  It is sufficient for this man.  It should be sufficient for us as well.

Faith without commitment is idle chatter.  Faith with commitment is life eternal.  Most of us dither about the commitment—as if we could mount the diving platform, leap and only go half way into the water.  God has so ordered the universe that we cannot.  Trust him—and make the commitment.  Make it with all your heart, and you will never need to look back.

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« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2006, 02:18:56 AM »

January 14

Home Town Boy
Luk_4:16-31

George Bernard Shaw once remarked that the only sensible man he knew was his tailor—because he always took his measurements each time he came in.

So it is with the home town boy from Nazareth.  They have heard of the miracles, they are expecting something, but they also know him to be "just one of us."  They are infuriated to find out that things are not what they thought they were.  We are often enraged when the world does not live up to our expectations.  We don't like to keep taking measurements.

What, then, is this man going to do?  He gives us four things:

To bind up the broken hearted.  It is a curious phrasing, "bind up."  It as if Christ is going to take the pieces of a broken heart and put them together again.  But that is just what he wants to do!  He came to reconcile us to God –to restore us to the right relationship with God.

Free the captive.  How many of us are prisoners—prisoners of our habits, prisoners of our lives.  We may know what we need to do, but lack the ability to do it.  Jesus can provide that, for in him all things are possible.

Release from darkness. Some of us are worse than captive.  The captive at least knows where to find the door to the jail cell.  Those in darkness don't even see that.  But have no fear!  Our Lord is the Lord of Light, and in him there is no darkness.  Seek him, and see.

To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.  This was the year of Jubilee—every fifty years in ancient Israel, all debts were cancelled, and each man returned to his inheritance.  It is a picture of our salvation—we obtain again what God originally gave to us.

One thing is missing.  If you will turn to the original verse from which Christ is quoting, you will see another phrase—"the day of vengeance of our God."  The Day of Wrath, the day in which God will judge the living and the dead, is omitted.  In this time, our Lord does not come for judgment.  The matter is not forgotten, just postponed.  In his first coming our Lord graciously proclaims his salvation and mercy.  Accept it now, and all is well.  But the day will come—perhaps very soon—in which this kindness will no longer be available.  Hear what the Lord says—and listen to what he leaves out.  The time is short.

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« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2006, 05:39:44 AM »

January 15

Fishers of Men
Mat_4:18-22

What is the purpose of your life?

Do you go to work each day, longing for the weekend, and spend the weekend being bored until Monday brings meaning again?  There is no profit in this.  Yet it is the way of life, and eventually death, for most of us.

In that boredom we admire those who have a real purpose in their lives.  We think highly of Mother Theresa—with no wish to follow in her steps.  We want the call to high and holy things, but not the work that attends it.

Christ makes the opposite call to his innermost disciples here.  It is significant here what Christ does not offer:

He shows them no miracles—nothing to dazzle their minds with the promise of magic.

He offers them no promise of reward—nothing to tempt their wallets or their pride.

He offers them only the work—the high, holy calling of hard work, being the fishers of men.

Nothing high, nothing holy, nothing adventurous or glamorous—just the hard work of the kingdom.  He knew his workmen, did Jesus.  Look at their reaction:

They left everything—nets (the tools of the trade), boats (the repository of their wealth) and even their families.

The left all this—at once.  Immediately.  There was no debate, no looking back.
There is the measure of the men whom Christ called.  Were they really capable of bearing the load?  Not without the Holy Spirit—but they were capable of trying.  The dangers ahead might have chilled their enthusiasm, but their response is one that says that danger does not matter.  All that matters is the call, and their response to it.

There it is.  There are no half measures in the kingdom of God.  You are in, or you are not.  If you are, there is no debate with your Lord and Master over the terms of service.  The terms of service are simple, expressed in two words:  "Follow Me."  Brains, wealth, education, talent, ability—these mean nothing to the Creator of all things.  All that matters is your response to two simple words:  "Follow Me."

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« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2006, 05:41:34 AM »

January 16

The Holy One
Mar_1:21-28

We see here the confrontation of good and evil—and we see that evil flees.  So it is that we are taught to resist the devil, and he will flee even from us.  Perhaps we can learn from this passage a little more about this.

"What do you want with us?"  From this question alone it is apparent that the demon wants nothing to do with Jesus.  This is logical.  Evil's only effect on righteousness is to corrupt it, and this man cannot be corrupted.  Therefore, evil runs.

Like the insects running from the light, the demon is exposed.  No longer overpowering, he flees in terror from the eternal light of God.  When a real Christian walks into the room, have you ever noticed the change in language?

"Have you come to destroy us?"  From this question we can see that the demon knows two things:  first, that destruction is his ultimate end—the fires of hell are set for Satan and his angels.  Second, that Christ has the power to destroy these demons, and they fear it.  Do you fear evil, or does it fear you?

The Holy One.  This is a title that goes back into the Old Testament, and deeply.  It is the title of the Messiah, the Anointed One, the one set apart by God himself.  In this name, we see prophecy fulfilled, righteousness displayed and God's coming into the affairs of man.

"Be Silent".  The Holy One neither wants nor needs any witness from the legions of Satan.  It's somewhat like getting a character reference to your honesty from a man convicted of perjury.  It may be a grudging form of respect, but you probably wouldn't list it on your resume.  The one who is pure righteousness can have no alliance with anything evil.

"Come out of him."  The word is one of command.  The authority is there, and there is no question about it.  It is shown by the results, and the people are amazed.

Many of us view evil and good as equal and opposite.  It is not so.  Evil is the twisting or corruption of what is good.  When evil sees what it was meant to be before the twisting, it is a painful experience.  Those who are evil do not like to be reminded of what they should be.  For that reason the world wishes to silence the righteous, so that evil may be serene.

But the power of God is infinitely greater than that of Satan.  The victory is assured;  it was won on Calvary.  The only real question now is, will you march with the Victor?

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« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2006, 05:43:46 AM »

January 17

Choosing Your Witnesses
Mar_1:29-34

There is a curious phrasing in this passage.  Jesus would not let the demons speak—because they knew who he was.

Part of his motivation was that he wanted no witness from anything evil, for pure righteousness can have nothing to do with the corruption of evil  But perhaps there is more to it.  Is it just possible that our Lord wanted to concentrate on the work at hand?  He is at the very beginning of his ministry, and perhaps the word that the Messiah had come would be premature.  God often reveals things in stages, carefully laying the groundwork so that hearts will be ready to receive him.

In a sense, Jesus is choosing his witnesses.  He wants no testimony from the demons, and needs none from us—but gladly accepts the testimony of the sinner turned to God.  Why?  Not for his own sake, but for ours.  Things that are high and holy may be difficult to understand, but each of us has been sick.  We understand healing.

There is a touching moment here.  Peter's mother is ill, and the brothers bring this fact to Jesus.  No record is made of the plea, but it seems that Jesus wanted to establish his ability to heal one and all, and this was a good start.  Peter's mother then sets an example herself.  She rises from the sick bed to serve.

There is a tender humility to this from which we may learn much.

She does not picture herself as especially favored by God in this, and therefore "above" menial service.  Rather, her gratitude is shown in service.

There is nothing extraordinary about what she does.  How many of us think that if we were to be healed miraculously that we would immediately become evangelists!  It is not so.  She gets up, and serves, as she has always done.  Our response to the love of God should be to do the work he has given us.

Interestingly, she does this on the Sabbath.  The Lord of the Sabbath is with her, and in his presence the lesser rules of the law are set aside.  How often we make a rule for ourselves, and then let it keep us from serving our Lord.

We don't know her name;  she is known only by her sons.  Her service seems ordinary to us.  But it is in the ordinary service of the extraordinary Savior that the kingdom is revealed to most of us.  Are we too special to serve?  She wasn't.

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« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2006, 06:44:31 PM »

January 18

A Sinful Man
Luk_5:1-11

Fish, it would seem, are where you find them.  Anyone who has worked with rod and reel will tell you that sometimes they are just not biting.   Each year the marketplace brings us new gadgets which promise miraculous results when fishing, and the next year finds them rusting in the bottom of the tackle box.

So often in our work for the kingdom of God we wonder:  just why am I not more successful?  Whether it is in our personal lives or in reaching out to others, it is common to wonder.  We ask ourselves, "What's wrong?"

The disciples could have asked themselves that on this particular night.  It certainly wasn't a lack of experience.   They were born and raised as commercial fishermen.  They knew the lake well.  It wasn't a lack of hard work.  They'd been at it all night.  Then the Carpenter tells them to let down the net one more time.  Was Peter being sarcastic when he agreed to do it?

If he was, it didn't last long.  He pulls in a record catch, swamping the boats.  Suddenly the professional fisherman sees the master of earth and sky, and realizes just exactly who he's been speaking to.  The revelation is a shock.  Peter does what many in the Old Testament did:  he wants this man far away from him, for he knows what a sinner he is.

It also means he knows that sin cannot exist in the presence of true righteousness.  His very life is at stake.  But Christ has a different purpose in mind.  He is teaching Peter a most important lesson.  In the work of the kingdom, hard work and diligence are necessary—but not sufficient.  The presence of the living Christ is required as well.

But with the living Christ, the catch is overwhelming.  Peter must call to his partners for help, and even then the boats almost sink.  So it is with us.  If we labor hard at "being a good Christian," and omit the presence of the living Christ in our lives, we will spend the night in fruitless labor.  But once we open up our hearts and genuinely invite him in, all is changed.   The long night of the soul's dreary toil gives way to a morning so full of his blessings that we cannot contain them.  We must then call to our friends and share such things with them.  Have you ever noticed that the most blessed Christians are those who are most willing to share the blessings?

The matter is one of the heart.  Invite the Living Lord into yours, completely—and experience the Lord's bounty.

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« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2006, 07:16:51 AM »

January 19

As Moses Commanded
Luk_5:12-16

Do you wonder why your life in Christ is weak?  Perhaps you should take a lesson from this man.

Note his attitude towards Christ.  He treats him as he would a king.  Does your prayer life show such respect?

He does not bargain;  he does not even ask for healing.  He begs.  He understands that he has no standing, no favors owed.  How often do we assume that God should bless us because we have done what he commanded?

He approaches Jesus with confidence.  He knows that Jesus can heal him;  the only question is, will he?  This is faith, not doubt, not debate.
Jesus reply gives us insight into him as well.

"I am willing."  Do you ever accuse your Lord of being uninterested, uncaring about your problems?  Remember he is willing;  he desires all that is best for you.

He displays here his very nature:  Lord of the universe.  He does not put on a display of magic;  rather, he commands the man to be clean—and the universe obeys its master.

Then, in what puzzles modern readers, he tells him to show himself to the priest and make the appropriate sacrifices under the Mosaic law.  It seems superfluous, but with Christ even the smallest details are worked out by the Master's plan.
The time of the Old Testament is drawing to a close, but is not yet over.  These sacrifices are commanded.

More than that, the ritual is a "testimony."  It is the way by which this man can bear witness to Christ in a most powerful way.  When we want to say deep and powerful things, we reach for ritual.

As parallel passages make clear, the man not only made the sacrifices—he talked!  To the point that the sick flocked to Jesus for healing, even to the hindrance of his teaching.

Consider well your life of prayer.  Do you tell Jesus what he must do—or do you treat him as King of the universe?  Do you bargain or beg?  Do you approach him in faith, or wishful thinking?  When he grants your desire, do you bear witness to it, telling others what your Lord has done?

We don't know this man's name.  But we should become more acquainted with his faith.

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« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2006, 09:42:34 AM »

January 20

Proof of Authority
Mar_2:1-12

Authority, in the wrong hands, can be a terror.  But in the right hands it is a blessing.  The paramedics coming with sirens blaring have the right of way—so that someone's life might be saved.

Here we have the demonstration of authority of an ultimate kind.  Look at it this way:  suppose that I have insulted you.  You then have the opportunity to forgive.  (Some might insist you have the duty to forgive, but we'll pass on that point for the moment).  It would make no sense for someone else to forgive me for the insult, for you are the one who is offended.  You have, in effect, been given the authority to forgive in this instance because you are the one who is offended.

Now, in every sin, God is the one who is offended.  He may not be the only one, but he is always offended, for sin is an offense against his pure righteousness.  Therefore, God always has the authority to forgive.  Suppose, however, that someone comes along saying that God has given him that authority.  That would be very convenient for us, but the skeptical among us might just say, "Prove it."

That's exactly what Jesus does here.  By telling the man his sins are forgiven—and confirming it by having him rise up and walk—he shows one and all that God has indeed given him such authority.  The Pharisees quickly see the point.

Interestingly, the man's friends understand it too.  After all, they have gone to the trouble of hauling this man up on to the roof, digging through the thatch and lowering him down.  That's proof that they think Jesus can heal the man.  They're willing to risk the wrath of the homeowner to see their friend healed.  They wouldn't do that without a lot of confidence in Jesus.

Note, please, this confidence is shown in two things:

They are quick to think of a different way to reach Jesus.  The conventional methods don't work, so they go through the roof.  How often are we stymied in our walk of faith by our respect for the way we've always done things?

Not only quick to think; they are bold to act.  They tear through the roof, an action which cannot be done by halves.  Their belief results in action.  Have you ever come to the edge of action in faith, and then hesitated?

Christ has the authority;  your sins can be forgiven.  But you must act, not just think about it.

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« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2006, 02:42:01 PM »

January 21

Calling the Sinner
Mar_2:13-17

It is joked that sharks will not eat lawyers—out of professional courtesy.  I wonder what they would do with tax men.

In this time, tax collectors were a particularly vile lot.  Israel was under Roman rule, and the Romans appointed local citizens to collect their taxes.  Indeed, it was common for the tax collector to purchase the position—expecting to recoup the price from the possibilities of extortion of the taxpayers.  This did not lend them an air of popularity.

Levi, also known as Matthew, was such a man.  In following Christ he risked everything, for the "righteous" of his day would not accept him; his job would be sold to another; and he would be completely dependent upon Jesus.  Perhaps it was just that which appealed to him.  For the first time in his life, there was something greater than money and the sleaze that surrounded it.  It was his one chance to escape from his sins.

But he did not leave alone.  He called all his friends—who would no doubt be as socially acceptable as he was—to a party to meet this Jesus.  That he would throw such a party may surprise you.  That Jesus went certainly surprised the Pharisees, the "righteous" of his day.  They were greatly offended.

Their point sounds logical.  Here is a man who is calling the world to repentance.  How then can he go to a party with such men?  What would we think if our District Attorney attended a party given by the Mafia?  It just wouldn't look right!

Jesus is not concerned with appearances, but with the salvation of the lost.  One does not dispatch an ambulance to the healthy.

"Yes, but surely we shouldn't consort with evil people.  We might be corrupted ourselves."  Then let us so strengthen our faith that we can consort with them without being corrupted.  Otherwise they will be lost because of our lack of faith and courage.

For two thousand years the world has attempted to keep Christ in the confines of polite, dignified society.  Time and again he breaks out, reaching out to the derelict, the drunk and the defiant.  Polite society is shocked each time;  we dare not get our hands dirty.  But the love of God for his lost children will not be contained in our social customs.

But suppose we tried to reach them?  Visit those in prison?  Care for those with AIDS?  It sounds radical, and it is.  It is also the imitation of the Lord who loves us—and them.

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« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2006, 02:44:16 PM »

January 22

A Reason Ignored
Joh_5:1-9

Some background is necessary to understand the story.  The more modern translations leave out the explanations which do not occur in the oldest manuscripts.  While this is proper handling of the Scriptures, it does leave out something which helps us understand.  The man was waiting for the "stirring of the water."  It was believed, evidently with good cause, that an angel stirred the water.  When this happened, the first person in the pool was healed of whatever diseases he had.

The man is a sweet commentary on the subject of faith.  First, consider how long he has been coming to the pool—thirty eight years.  That is persistence!  It is also evidence of faith in God, and faith in as much action as he can manage.  So we see the value of keeping the faith.

Evidently the man who is healed has no real idea just who Jesus might be.  It is clear that he does not completely understand the one to whom he is speaking.  It is also clear that he doesn't need to, for the power is in Jesus, not in man.  This is a comfort to those who struggle with issues of doctrine.  We should make our doctrine as sound as we can—but the ultimate authority is not our understanding but his holy power.

The man also shows a common characteristic of Christians at prayer today:  he tells God how to solve the problem.  The Great Healer asks him a question—and he doesn't answer it.  He explains instead that the problem is a lack of a porter, or at least a swift one.  How often we tell God just how to solve our problems, instead of  leaving the solution to the one who knows best!

God's response to such is often like this instance.  He does not explain anything;  he commands.  Explanation may come after obedience, but not before.  God is not accountable to us.  He need not negotiate.  But when he commands, the issue becomes entirely clear.  We can obey, or we can refuse.  If we obey, we acknowledge God as the one who knows best and has all power to accomplish his plan.  If we refuse, we tell him that we have a better idea.

This man hears the voice of command.  Note that our Lord gives him a positive action to perform—so that he will know for certain that the matter is settled.  The lame man's response is a model for us.  With no further discussion he picked up his mat and walked.  Perhaps the reason our prayers seem to be unanswered is that we are not willing to pick up the mat—trusting our Lord to deliver what he promises as we do.

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« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2006, 03:05:02 PM »

January 27

Lord of the Sabbath
Mat_12:1-8

One of the most annoying things in life is discovering a hole in your theory.  The temptation is to patch the hole—or shoot the one who found the leak.

The Pharisees have that problem.  They have built up, over time, an elaborate set of rules of conduct.  Their theory—that the rules are everything—is full of holes, and Christ takes no effort to avoid pointing them out.  Indeed, the Pharisees practically hand him the opportunity here.

Christ points out two inherent problems of legalism:

First, sometimes the rules just don't cover all situations.  That's the point of his reference to David.

Next, even when they cover a specific situation, the exception clauses actually point out the principles behind the rules.  The priests had to work hard on the Sabbath, with all those sacrifices.  The principle—a day of rest for man, looking to God—is shown clearly by what they are allowed to do.

In Mark's parallel account, he tells us that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  What does that mean?  It means that the rules God has given are for our benefit, not for our annoyance.  Traffic rules prevent accidents, which is why you obey them.  And just as the traffic rules are set aside at the sound of the fire engine's siren, so the rules of life are set aside when the Lord of Life is present.

That must have shocked the Pharisees.  Perhaps they understood the argument about the rules, but the statement about the person can be interpreted only one way—here is a man who speaks with God's authority, who is God in the flesh.
Which brings us to the questions:

Have you tied yourself up in your own set of rules?  Don't associate with "that"
kind of person—even to the exclusion of love and mercy?

Do the rules you have in your life bind you—or bless you?

Do you follow the rules—or follow the Ruler?

Some view the Christian life as one in which we drag a sled loaded with rules, uphill.  But Christ said his burden was easy, his yoke is light.  Take him as Lord, abandon all else, and you will see that his way is the one of blessing.

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« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2006, 06:54:02 AM »

January 28

Counsel With the Herodians

Mar_3:1-6

Often Jesus performs his miracles quietly, out of a desire that healing should not become a circus.  But sometimes he does the opposite.  He makes a show of his work—for a purpose.  Not for the purpose of ostentation, but that those around may see and learn.  The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.

We can imagine that the man with the withered hand was a member of the synagogue.  Likely enough he had been coming there for years, and the Pharisees may have come because they knew he would be there.  It would be easy for Jesus to be elsewhere.  Note the first requirement of righteousness:  courage.  Jesus does not hide his work in the corner, but confronts the hypocrites directly.

His question—"Is it lawful" - may be taken in two ways:

It can certainly be argued that if you are able to do good for someone, and fail to do it, that this is sin.  The circumstances may admit some excuse, but in this instance the circumstances were contrived to prevent any such.  Jesus could heal;  would it not have been sinful for him to refuse?  If you went to the emergency room of a hospital, what would you think of a doctor who refused to treat you—because your accident happened on a Sunday?

It can also be argued that having the ability to do good imposes an obligation to use it.  Remember the parable of the Talents?  The master gave no specific instructions, just the trust given with the money.  But he condemned the servant who failed to use the money in any way.  Jesus is the Great Physician;  how could he not heal?

There is a certain sadness in this little story.  We see Jesus grieved—not at their doctrine, nor at their regulations, but at their hard hearts.  Their actions showed this.  Their next move was to meet with the Herodians, a political party which would normally have been a stench in their nostrils.  The poverty of their doctrine is shown in how much they must compromise it to get rid of the one who showed it to be false.

The Gospel is like that.  If your heart is open and accepting, it is indeed Good News.  If your heart is hard and unyielding, the Gospel will drive you into opposition.  When it does, you grieve the very heart of God Himself.  This is true when we first hear it, and when it is brought to mind by hearing it again.  May your heart always be open to hear the Good News.

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