The whispering crowd…


“Whisperings of the crowd.” Before school started, I heard many saying Mr. Porter had left the school. Mr. Porter is, in fact, still teaching at school. Somehow we humans very often get our facts mixed up, and not just mixed up, but sometimes completely wrong. Especially when it comes to information that is being passed through a “crowd”..or “squad”…or group of friends.

This has not changed with time despite the invention of the mail system, telephones and now, even technological up-to-the-minute communication via text or otherwise. It can still be bad information or “fake news” to use today’s terms. Look at the verse today in John. As I read this, at first I thought how could a crowd of people listening to the exact same person come up with such a different conclusion, such “fake news”. A “good man” and a “deceiver” do NOT look the same. How could anyone have looked at Jesus and thought he was a deceiver? What was the deceit? The Pharisees claimed Jesus was deceiving others by saying he was the Christ or God’s son, but the people themselves could have adequately judged without the help of the Pharisees. These people had seen miracles. They had heard Jesus teaching with their own ears.

Reading these narratives about Jesus life is a reminder to be VERY wary of what the “crowd” is saying. In today’s case, both conclusions were wrong. Jesus was not a “good man” and he was not “deceiving” people. He was the Christ. They should have just gone to the source. They should have considered their own eyes and what they saw and believed the truth. He was exactly who He claimed to be. We should make sure to do the same. Be very cautious when a large group of people claim something about Christ or christianity. Seek the truth ourselves in Christ, in His Word, and in what we have seen Him do in our own lives. (You are recording those things, right?) Do not take the crowds word for it. Crowds, squads, and friends can be wrong. We must always seek the primary source ourselves. Christ claims are as true today as they were this day, when the entire crowd got it all wrong.

Dangers of “people-pleasing”


The Bible talks about man-pleasers and God-pleasers. Surely we have all heard the term “people-pleaser” as well. I would go so far as to say some of us are more prone to being “people-pleasers” than others. I know this from personal experience because I am one of those “people”. I know that deep down I want others to “like” me or I want to please them, and often both consciously or subconsciously my actions can be determined by this.

Interestingly enough, today in John, Jesus goes deeper than just labeling someone as a “people-pleaser”. Jesus speaks to the Pharisees, and tells them that they are so wrapped up in gaining one another’s “approval” or to accept praise from one another they clearly have no time and make no effort to please God whatsoever. They are so intent on “people-pleasing” with each other and those around them, it was a barrier to believing and pleasing God.

The fact that Pharisees are trying to impress and please those around them is no surprise to me. I doubt it is to you either. What strikes me today in Scripture is the phrase in the verse about “accepting” praise from others…and yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from God.” I have often considered and prayed that I would be a “God-pleaser” more than a “man-pleaser”. But, the wording in this verse seemed to bring to light in a different way what it means to be a God-pleaser. A true God-pleaser would make the effort to obtain praise from God. Think about this. This would determine my actions. If I actually considered each step I took-whether God would be pleased or rejoice in it, how much in my life would change? Perhaps I would be less apt to complain about the construction that slows me down when I am driving on Route 7. Complaining is NOT pleasing to God. I think I might look for ways when I was in Walgreens to share a smile with one more person or let someone go out the door first before me. I might let someone pull out in front of me who is waiting to go somewhere. These are little ways I could surely please God.

Spiritually, as God sees us through Christ, He is already pleased with us because of what Christ did. But, as we become more like Christ, our actions will line up with those of Christ and we know God already said to Him “This is my son in whom I am well-pleased.” Today is a good day to consider if we are so busy seeking approval or praise from those around us, that our belief in God is hindered. Is it possible we could care less about whether HE approves and is pleased by our choices, actions and words? May He continue to transform us into people in “whom He is well-pleased”.

Introductions


Have you ever wanted one of  your friends to meet another? I would guess Miriam was anxious to have Ellie get to meet Claire or Liz while she was visiting at Liberty. Jordan has had fun introducing Flynn and Connor to one another and they clearly have struck up their own friendship. I have been talking with my friend Jona, whose daughter recently got married and I would LOVE if she could meet Mrs. K. someday. They have so much in common and I know would enjoy getting to know each other.

Today, we see brothers interacting like this in the book of John. Andrew meets Jesus, and immediately goes to get his brother so he could meet Jesus too. Of course, Andrew’s reason for bringing Simon (Peter) was a little bigger than “having something in common”. Jesus was a person every Jew and their forefathers had been waiting for for centuries. Andrew did not want his brother to miss it. He knew this person was life-changing for him, his brother, and every other human being on earth.

If Jesus were to physically plan to come to our house tonight, is there any friend or family member you would text right now and say “You HAVE to come over tonight! You won’t believe this, but Jesus is going to be here!” Who comes to mind? What extent would you and I go to get them here? Would it really be important enough to us that they  meet Jesus?

I am asking myself these questions as I write, because in this Scripture, God has reminded me that introducing Jesus to others should be a natural part of me. I should be wanting to “bring” my friends to Jesus too. Of course, it is a little different because He is not standing here as a flesh and blood person, but that doesn’t mean I can’t “bring” someone to Christ. I can still introduce them to Him or tell them all about Him.  This also begs the question of whether I honestly desire to tell others about Jesus? Is He important enough in my own life that I don’t want Mr. D. or Adrienne or the Harris’ to miss out on meeting Him? I have to wonder why I don’t seem in a rush to go “grab” them and introduce them to Him. Why am I not doing that today? How can some of them have lived next door for over 10 years, and have not really heard the gospel from me? I think as believers these are actually good questions to ask. We can pray God would help us to be the next Andrew who runs to grab our sibling or friend or neighbor so they too, can meet and know the Savior, the Messiah-the Christ that we, too, have found.

 

On Guard and Alert…


Sean D. will be coming back to Delaware for Kate and Nick’s wedding. The first thing that always pops into my mind with Sean when I think of him is senior assassins his senior year. The fact that he was hiding in our basement for hours and I didn’t even know it! It was my introduction into the game of “senior assassins”. If there was ever a game that teaches a person to “be on guard” all the time, that is the game! Even I have to be on guard, thinking about who is at the door to our house, whether I can open the garage door or not, if a senior is in my car, how to get them “safely” in or out of the house. In truth, it makes me a nervous wreck that I might mess it up!

Jesus tells his disciples today in Mark to “be on guard.” In fact, he says it 3 times in this chapter. The disciples have asked when these “things” will happen. Jesus had been talking about things that would be happening in the future. He told them that during this time there would be many deceivers, and many claiming to be Christ. His advice to the disciples..and in turn, to us: “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”

We still do not know the time. But we do know to “be on guard” and to “be alert”. Being on guard and alert means as we face things in our lives, look through the lens of God’s truth. People will be out to deceive us. Know truth so that we can discern who is faithfully teaching God’s truths and who is not. Don’t believe every book in the Christian book store holds true to Scripture. Don’t assume any sermon posted on social media faithfully expounds God’s Word. Don’t trust that every person who calls themselves a Christian is serving and following the Lord. Compare everything to Scripture yourself.

I have a little break right now before the game of senior assassins is up and running in our
from being on guard and alert at what is going on in our world today and how I need to respond according to God’s Word. Neither can you. Be discerning. Be wise. Be on guard and alert at all times.

Love it!


Aaron loves lacrosse. Part of his love for lacrosse includes preparing to be the best player he can possibly be. He works out. He watches college games to learn more about the sport. He will join a winter league to improve and will play on the team in the spring. His love will spur him on to action. I love Apple “stuff”. I plan to watch their announcement today at 1:00. I will be making a conscious choice of how to spend my time and my focus. When I am done watching, I will have gained “understanding” in terms of Apple products. Aaron does not go to practice because he “has” to-he goes because he loves lacrosse. I don’t “have” to watch the Apple announcement, I want to. We do these things because of what we love, not the other way around.

Today’s verse in Mark is a challenge regarding a whole hearted love for God.  A man is responding to Jesus. Jesus told him that loving God and loving your neighbor are the most important commandments. It takes all our heart, understanding and strength. The man reiterating this, realizes it is a shift in priorities. The love determines our actions. The love comes first, and the actions follow out of love. We do and don’t do certain things because we love God. If we wonder what that really means at this moment today, we need only think about Aaron’s love for lacrosse or my love for all things Apple. We are not “forced” or “dreading” taking part in what we love. Whatever we love, we are more than willing to spend our time, money, energy and focus on. It consumes us. We think about it daily and given the opportunity, engage with it in some form or another. We have apps related to it and shows to watch about it. We can’t help but talk about it!

So, do we love God with all our heart, understanding and strength and do we love our neighbors? Will we watch “shows” about Him? Will God come into our conversation naturally today? Will we open a Bible app or message a friend something new we found out about God today? Will we sense God showing us a way to help a friend or neighbor today and act on that urging? Will we spend time or money today to learn more about our God? If we answer yes to any of these things, it will be evidence of a heart felt love for God. If we do not, than that so-called “love” can rightfully be questioned. Saying we love someone or something is one thing. Seeing time, actions, focus and money invested in someone or something is a much clearer indication of where our love truly lies.

Who is the leader?

Do you remember playing the game “Follow the leader” as a child? It is a simple game; One person is the leader, and everyone behind them is to “follow”. This often included marching, patting your head, hopping in line or whatever else the “leader” chose to do. Everyone always wants to be the leader, but there could only be one. If you were not the leader, you had to “follow”  (imitate the leader) or be disqualified.

Being a disciple of Christ is a grown up game of  “follow the leader”, with eternal consequences. We see Christ’s call to his disciples, and thereby to us, to “follow me” in today’s verse from Mark. This verse is surely familiar, so let’s take a look at it in a less common translation, to help us “rethink” our way through it. Here it is in the Amplified Bible translation: “Jesus called the crowd together with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me].

Jesus asks 3 things of us. He asks us to deny ourselves, to set aside selfish interests. Have you or I ever had to say no to something we actually wanted to do? We said no because we knew it would be displeasing to God or that it was sin. That is “denying yourself”. He asks us to take up our cross, or be willing to endure the path he puts before us-no matter how hard that path may get.  Sometimes, this may be an enjoyable path but other times, it may require endurance. Think of the apologist Nabeel Qureshi, who it appears will not be healed of his cancer, but is praying to have a strong faith to the very end. That will be true endurance. Have you or I ever had to “endure” something for Christ? He asks us to follow him, conform to His example-even if that requires suffering or death. Of course, for some people as we see in the middle East, being a disciple and following Christ has required their death. For us though, in the times and place we currently live, I believe we will mostly struggle with conforming to Christ’s image instead of the world’s, if we truly want to follow Him. We will be asked to be different, to choose to prioritize our lives differently from friends, like not staying out late Saturday night so we are awake and ready to worship on Sunday in church. Perhaps it might mean making a serious commitment to Bible reading daily that our friends would never choose to do. This is true following.

The fact of the matter is, we actually never stopped playing “follow the leader”, even though we are no longer children. Our everyday life is a real-life version of “Follow the leader.” The question is, are we our own leader, or instead, are we a follower, with Jesus as our leader, to whom we are committed no matter the cost?

Make disciples and BE disciples…

We are all familiar with the UD college ministry called BSM or Baptist Student Ministry. The fruits of this ministry are evident to us through people like Kate, Nick, Dinaker, Tarik, the Walters and more. They are not perfect people-but they are clearly sinners seeking to love Jesus with their whole heart.. We see many of the BSM students now serving in the church as youth leaders, deacons and Bible study teachers. They have been well-discipled and understand that becoming a believer brings you into the family of God, serving and learning along side other believers. I would recommend BSM to anyone. Why? Because I see it as a ministry that understands the term “discipleship”. Those students are challenged during college to memorize scripture, study the Word and to develop relationships that hold them accountable to “live a life worthy of God” as a believer. It is clear, by what God has done through the ministry, that they are not out to just have college students say a little prayer and “accept Jesus into their heart”-but they desire to be a part of the great commission as found in Matthew today. It is their desire and aim to share the gospel with non-believers, and once they have received salvation, to disciple them.

This ministry takes Matt. 28:19-20 to heart. So many times we can see efforts to follow vs. 19, but to forget about verse 20. Jesus words of instruction to his disciples and all those who follow in their footsteps were to “make disciples of all nations” and to “baptize” them-this is a public profession of faith in Christ. Then, Jesus gives the instruction to teach them to obey what He has commanded. His disciples were not to just share the gospel-but they were to share and make additional disciples who were versed in and living out the truth, so they could continue to spread the good news.

Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? Am I? Right now, I believe God’s call for me in terms of making ‘disciples’ is you “children”-but as you are now young adults, this role for me is fading to some degree. I trust God will put others in my life that He might be able to use me to disciple. At the same time, I am a disciple myself. I need to be “being” discipled by someone. God has placed dad in my life to “disciple” me along with some others. I should be desiring to obey Jesus commands and intentionally seeking to be shown where I am not obeying. How about you? Are you currently discipling anyone? It does not need to be formal-but are you helping and encouraging anyone in their faith, to obey what they know to be right, and to turn from sin? Are you being discipled? Is there anyone in your life who is a close friend AND willing to spur you on to good works in your walk of faith, calling you out for those areas that need to be addressed and encouraging you in your walk? These are always good things to consider and examine no matter how old we are and no matter where in our walk with Christ we find ourselves.

 

Check those stakes!


Every year it is a battle for me on how to stake my tomatoes. Granted, I am no grand gardener, but I have tried it all- from gardening stakes to tomato cages. No matter what I try, I have difficulty getting the stake to stand firm. If they are not firm, the result is that they are not much help once the tomatoes grow and the plant gets bigger. The tomatoes don’t make it to the end of the season because the stand is not firm enough. The plant bends to the ground, eventually rotting.

Our faith is the same. Jesus, in a discussion with his disciples about the end times, discusses the very fact that as the end nears, those who are not standing firm, will fall. I didn’t have room above to put all the verses in context, but in between verses 10 and 13, Jesus talks about how the turning away from the faith will be due to persecution, false prophets deceiving people, increased wickedness in the world, and the love for him growing cold. Does any of this sound familiar? Can we look around our world and see Christians persecuted for their faith? (bakers, perhaps?) Can we see false prophets deceiving people? (Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer?) Is wickedness increasing? (transgender acceptance now being taught to kindergarteners?) Love for Christ growing cold? (empty churches around the world that used to be packed full?)

It seems apparent that at least some signs of the end times are surely here. Are we ready to stand firm? Standing firm will require persevering in our faith while it is challenged and maybe even through persecution. We must stand firm against false prophets and wickedness regardless of what is “politically correct”. We must check our own hearts and see what “temperature” we are running daily for Christ. Is He still our love? Does our time and money prove this fact true?

Standing firm will require that our stakes be very deeply rooted in Christ daily. This is the only way that we will recognize false teachers. God’s Word will teach us regularly to recognize and hate wickedness instead of being drawn to its empty promises. Being an integral member of a local church body will keep our love for Christ burning. These are some of the ways we can stand firm as time continues to draw near to the end. May we continue to produce healthy, abundant spiritual fruit until the very end, instead of having our faith slowly die due to no firm stakes to keep it strong and growing.

More than a “religious experience”…


The solar eclipse a few weeks back sure made big news. When I read people’s responses, particularly non-believers, they often described it as “a religious experience.” That was the best they could do. They couldn’t move beyond “religious experience” because they didn’t know the God of Israel, the Creator behind it all.  They did not know who to praise and glorify given what they had seen.

Some people do know and others do not. In Matthew today, the people near the sea of Galilee also see something amazing. They see mute people speaking, crippled made well,  the lame walking and the blind seeing. They made the connection between the thing they had seen-and the PERSON responsible for all of it. That is the difference. They knew it was the God of Israel who had done all this. The non-believers viewing the spectacular eclipse do not know the God of Israel, they do not know our God. They do not recognize God as creator and therefore, they literally have no object upon which to lavish their praise and glory.

God is amazing. Yesterday I wrote about needing to see God as Lord daily, and this follows right along. When we are daily reminded of who God is, we will see His works more clearly and praise him more with every passing day. Our natural response to his amazing acts in our lives will draw our attention back to Him and cause us to give Him the glory.

I am praising God right now for the dr. appt. we had yesterday with Aaron and dad. It may not have been  a “solar eclipse”, but Dr. H. was encouraging, helpful and hopeful, which were all answers to my prayers. God reminded me at that moment that she isn’t the only wonderful doctor He has graciously given our family. He has given us many others, including  Dr. Jackovic-who discovered dad’s one genetic disease that if she had not pursued it, could have destroyed his vital organs and M. Waldron-who was willing to prescribe medicine for Miriam even though she was in Va and she couldn’t really see her. This is just naming a few.  I don’t count them as small gifts-to have so MANY good doctors is really amazing. They are gifts from the giver of all good things-and I praise God for these gifts.

Have you been amazed recently? If so, why and did it cause you to praise God? May our praise reach Him daily. I also pray and hope that we use these opportunities to share God with those who do not know Him so that they too can have far more than just a “religious experience”, and instead, through the amazing, can see God.

Our daily memory loss…


“Sum R Fun” pool company is coming today to look at the stains in the pool and a few other items. Dad and I made a list so I can remember what to ask them about. If I did not write it down, I would be certain to forget all of them. I forget things all too easily.

It is not just pool things I forget though. I also forget things God does for me. I forget how He protected me when I lived in Austria. I forget how He sovereignly orchestrated my life so I would marry dad. I forget all the specific times he healed you kids of sicknesses or helped you through difficult times I prayed about. I forget all the times He protected you and I in what could have been dangerous situations. When I forget these things, it makes it harder for me to trust him in the current trials and tribulations. I begin to “sink” myself.

I thought about all of this as I read Matthew today. Matthew 14 Peter walking on the water and losing faith. When this happens, the disciples who are shockingly surprised by Jesus calming the storm, all of the sudden realize Jesus is the Son of God,  as seen in today’s verse.

What I don’t understand is why they just realized that at this point. The verse says, “then…” Really? That was the point they realized it?  They had not already realized Jesus was the Son of God after witnessing countless miracles that you and I will never see in our lives? Seeing the feeding of the five thousand, lepers healed, blind given sight, and the lame walking had not been enough proof? How is it they are just now realizing Jesus was Son of God?

I wonder if they “forgot”. I wonder if they had to keep realizing on a continual basis who Jesus and God were. It seems that all humans, even given miracles on a daily basis, STILL “forget” who Jesus is. The Lord’s prayer starts by having us ask for our daily bread. One of the reasons I need to read God’s Word and ask him to show me His glory daily is to remind me He is God. He is the God who makes people walk on water, who makes the blind to see, who calms seas, who heals my children, and who has faithfully walked with me through difficult times. He is truly God and Jesus is truly the Son of God-and I need daily reminders because I forget. I bet you forget too. We all need reminders. What reminders will you hear or read today so that you too, will again see Jesus as the Son of God and Lord of your life today?