Why? Yes, why?

why

The followers came to Jesus and asked, “Why do you use stories to teach the people?” (Matthew 13:10)

Why, indeed? Jesus spoke in parables often, connecting something people would know to something they do not understand, so they could learn. His teaching style met them where they were to take them somewhere better, closer to him.

Jesus’ explanation reveals his desire for people to know him. Those who have understanding will be given more, and they will have all they need. But those who do not have understanding, even what they have will be taken away from them. This is why I use stories to teach the people: They see, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really hear or understand. (Matthew 13:12-13)

We have to put on our thinking caps for this one…which is often the case with Jesus’ teachings. He wants us to understand, but he doesn’t want to give it to us in such an easy way that we don’t have to engage and commit to understanding. He wants our desire. But I can hear the disciples now. They ask, “Why?” Jesus explains, and his explanation could easily prompt another “Why?” It becomes a conversation of “whys,” because isn’t that how Jesus often communicates his answers? He often answers questions with questions, and even when he uses statements, they are full of question-prompting mysteries, connections, and illustrations.

Having a conversation with Jesus is like being an inquisitive 3-year-old who experiences the world and wants to know it better. Jesus isn’t offended by our questions, as long as our motives are as pure as a child’s. He wants us to be inquisitive. He wants us to seek him. He wants to reveal himself to us.

Why should you seek Jesus?

Why, indeed.

Questions That Teach

questionsThe Pharisees knew the law well. Throughout the gospels, they seem to try to catch anyone and everyone, including Jesus, in the act of disobeying any aspect of the law. Such as when the disciples picked grain on the Sabbath. Because picking grain was considered work, and no work was allowed on the Sabbath according to the law, the Pharisees swooped in to make certain no one was getting away with something that could be punished.

They basically tattled to Jesus. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to Jesus, “Look! Your followers are doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath day.” (Matthew 12:2) As if Jesus didn’t know what was going on!

Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and the people with him were hungry?He went into God’s house, and he and those with him ate the holy bread, which was lawful only for priests to eat. And have you not read in the law of Moses that on every Sabbath day the priests in the Temple break this law about the Sabbath day? But the priests are not wrong for doing that. I tell you that there is something here that is greater than the Temple.The Scripture says, ‘I want kindness more than I want animal sacrifices.’ You don’t really know what those words mean. If you understood them, you would not judge those who have done nothing wrong.

So the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath day.” (Matthew 12:3-8)

Jesus includes statements within his teaching, but he also often asks questions, and this situation is no different. If the Pharisees are as intimate with the Scriptures as they say they are, they would know some of the situations in which grace overrides law. The covenant God made with his people must be taken in its entirety, so to become legalistic about a small detail that does not span across the entire covenant and the character of God is a misapplication of God’s will. Jesus challenged the Pharisees on this repeatedly throughout the gospels.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we can likely find parts of our lives that resemble the Pharisees’ attitudes. We can cling to something that might have at one time been rooted in solid teaching, but we create a structure around it that gives it more weight than God ever intended. In the meantime, the attention and time we give it robs us of other areas in which God wants to teach and reveal himself to us.

Are you willing to invite Jesus to teach you through his questions?

Get started right now!

  • Jesus answered, “Why are you afraid?” (Matthew 8:26)
  • After Jesus went inside, the blind men went with him. He asked the men, “Do you believe that I can make you see again?” (Matthew 9:28)
  • Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter. Jesus said, “Your faith is small. Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)
  • Jesus answered, “And why do you refuse to obey God’s command so that you can follow your own teachings?” (Matthew 15:3)
  • Then Jesus asked them, “And who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
  • But knowing that these leaders were trying to trick him, Jesus said, “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap me?” (Matthew 22:18)
  • Then Jesus went back to his followers and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “You men could not stay awake with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40)

I imagine you know the “correct” Sunday School answers, but let God grow you through authentically considering how you would answer when faced with these questions by Jesus, the Son of God, who knows all things.

Impressive Faith

faithWhen Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” (Matthew 8:10)

Wow! This is quite a statement from Jesus. It’s either a huge compliment or a sad commentary on the lack of faith he’s seen up to this point.

Let’s keep it in context.

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.”

Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”

But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:5-8)

After commending the officer for his great faith, Jesus said, “Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.” And the young servant was healed that same hour. (Matthew 8:13)

God meets us where we are. He doesn’t wait until we get to a certain point in order to reach out to us. He’s willing to pursue and provide. But he loves when we declare faith in a big way like the Roman officer. Let’s not try to box God in, assuming him to only work in the ways we prefer or expect. God can work in any way he wants! Of course, he will always move in ways consistent with his will. Because of his passion for you, you can certainly trust him to work all things together for your good…and his glory!

Ask, Seek, Knock

askJesus’ words in Matthew 7:7-8 are familiar to many:

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

It seems like a simple premise to understand: If we ask, we’ll get what we want. If we seek something, we’ll find it. If we’re persistent, we’ll be rewarded. Yet like so many other biblical concepts, we can easily twist what God intends by what our limited understanding is. We think we know what asking, seeking, and knocking entails, and we certainly believe we know what we want. We can deal with being persistent, especially when we’re assured a reward at the end.

But we need to keep this teaching in the context of the one who is teaching. Jesus teaches nothing that’s contrary to his character, and he certainly doesn’t encourage our spoiled child prayers. He doesn’t tell us we’ll get what we want. He teaches that God’s will is for us to desire God and only God, inviting his will to consume our will, yielding completely to him, trusting him to determine and meet our needs.

When you ask, seek, and knock, consider…

How are you asking?

Who are you seeking?

Where are you knocking?

If you’re asking to receive self-centered needs instead of God-centered needs, you’re not asking within Jesus’ definition of “ask.” If you’re seeking anyone’s will other than God’s, you’re not seeking within Jesus’ definition of “seek.” If you’re knocking on any door not purposed and planned by God, you’re not knocking within Jesus’ definition of “knock.”

Sometimes you won’t be certain how or why you’re asking, seeking, or knocking. Don’t get too stressed about it. God wants to hear from you, so even if you’re unsure about your motivation or direction, go ahead and talk with God. Trust him to sift through your motives. He knows what he’s doing, and he is completely trustworthy. Avoid the tug-of-war of control. He will always win, so it’s best to be on his side.

A Cure for Anxiety

anxietyThat is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life…(Matthew 6:25, NLT)

Easier said than done.

Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 6 provide confirmation that we’re not supposed to anxious about earthly things, such as what we wear, what we eat, and other day-to-day needs.

What do you worry about on a regular basis?

The “how” of not worrying is difficult to grasp. We know the Sunday School solutions of praying more, staying in God’s Word, keeping in contact with other believers, and so on, but sometimes those approaches just don’t seem to do the trick. The pressures of daily life, worrying about our families, finances, and even our faith seem to override the application of worry-free life of believing God. Yet if we believe what Jesus says in these verses – really believe them – his words change us. Even if we don’t feel an immediate, overwhelming peace, we experience the consistent chipping away of our own shells of earthly anxiety, yielding to reliance on God’s provision and peace.

Jesus directs us to look at the birds and lilies, which seems odd. We can quickly rationalize that comparing ourselves to birds and lilies is unfair, because our lives aren’t like their lives. They don’t have all the pressures and responsibilities we have. But that’s not the point. God created the birds and the lilies just as he created people. He knows every cell of the birds and lilies just as he knows people. He cares for all of his creation, including birds, lilies, and people. Of course, he has varying purposes for varying aspects of his creation, but the basic message of Jesus’ teaching is “God cares, and he’s taking care of you, so don’t worry about what God has covered.”

As I write this, I’m waiting on an update on a change of plans. Weather wreaked havoc on my plans, and I don’t have any control over the changes, because weather impacts airline changes, and they don’t ask me if it’s okay that they change schedules. I simply have to be patient and respond with as the grace that God extends to me. I pray in trust to God who knows all the details and has known them for as long as he’s known me. He knows every moment of my life…and he cares. He sees how everything fits together, even the insignificant things I can’t imagine having any impact on my faith.

These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:32-34)

Jesus doesn’t want me to worry, because he knows the impact it has on my faith and my relationships with those who are looking to me as a woman of faith. Jesus doesn’t want me to worry, because he knows the impact it has on my relationship with him. Jesus doesn’t want me to worry, because he knows I don’t need to.

Jesus is the cure to anxiety. Will you fully trust the cure?

What Have You Heard?

dogListening is essential to learning and growing. We learn in layers if we’re inquisitive and receptive enough to consistently seek and process. What we thought we understood at one point leads into a deeper familiarity. Sometimes we right misunderstandings in the process but, other times, we move from a glimpse of the truth to a wider perspective of the truth.

When Jesus began to teach, he often addressed people who had been steeped in Jewish teachings. What had been promised and revealed through such men as Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Jeremiah, David, and Isaiah had been passed along. People clung to the teachings of rules, carefully applying them into their lives and trying to assure others applied them as well. Legalism easily followed, because the rules could quickly become more important than the relationship God desired and intended through the standards.

Jesus began to uproot legalism of rules and reveal the truth of God’s grace. He weeded through what people thought to reveal the truth of God’s will. He replaced what people had heard with what is true.

“You have heard that it was said to our people long ago, ‘You must not murder anyone. Anyone who murders another will be judged.’” becomesBut I tell you, if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be judged. If you say bad things to a brother or sister, you will be judged by the council. And if you call someone a fool, you will be in danger of the fire of hell.So when you offer your gift to God at the altar, and you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there at the altar. Go and make peace with that person, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21-24)

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You must not be guilty of adultery.'” becomes “But I tell you that if anyone looks at a woman and wants to sin sexually with her, in his mind he has already done that sin with the woman. If your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-29)

 

“It was also said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a written divorce paper.’” becomes “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife forces her to be guilty of adultery. The only reason for a man to divorce his wife is if she has sexual relations with another man. And anyone who marries that divorced woman is guilty of adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32)

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'” becomesBut I tell you, don’t stand up against an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also. If someone wants to sue you in court and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.If someone forces you to go with him one mile, go with him two miles.If a person asks you for something, give it to him. Don’t refuse to give to someone who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42)

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’” becomes “But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you.If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong.If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that. And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends.” (Matthew 5:43-47)

You might wrestle with some of Jesus’ instructions. It’s okay to wrestle, as long as you are trusting God through the process, remaining close to him and trusting him to reveal what he wants you to know. Consider what you know now that you didn’t know five, ten, or twenty-five years ago.

What understanding are you seeking?

Are you growing in your intimacy with God, or are you thinking your way away from him?

Are you satisfied where you are, trusting what you’ve learned in the past, and closing your ears to the possibility or need of continually hearing refreshing and revealing words from God?

Invite God to replace your past understandings with wisdom for today. God’s truth doesn’t change, but it will change you every time you encounter him.

Are You Blessed?

blessedLike so many other things in life, we often assume what God must mean by something. We take our own experiences and project what God must mean when we find similar words and concepts in his Word.

We know we are blessed, but when we don’t feel blessed, we have difficulty accepting the possibility God might be blessing us amidst the struggles and difficulties. We consider the situations that seem good to us to be blessings and those which don’t seem good to us to not be blessings. Surely, God wouldn’t consider blessings to be uncomfortable!

What does Jesus say about blessings?

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a hill and sat down. His followers came to him,and he began to teach them, saying:

“They are blessed who realize their spiritual poverty,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
They are blessed who grieve,
for God will comfort them.
They are blessed who are humble,
for the whole earth will be theirs.
They are blessed who hunger and thirst after justice,
for they will be satisfied.
They are blessed who show mercy to others,
for God will show mercy to them.
They are blessed whose thoughts are pure,
for they will see God.
They are blessed who work for peace,
for they will be called God’s children.
They are blessed who are persecuted for doing good,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

People will insult you and hurt you. They will lie and say all kinds of evil things about you because you follow me. But when they do, you will be blessed.Rejoice and be glad, because you have a great reward waiting for you in heaven. People did the same evil things to the prophets who lived before you.” (Matthew 5:1-12)

So among other things, blessings are involved in poverty, mourning, hunger, persecution, and false attacks.

We don’t define blessings; God does. Perhaps you can recall a situation in which you wouldn’t have recognized a hint of blessing when you were in the middle of the chaos but, looking back, you see God’s hand providing and guiding through the mess. God meets us and blesses us where we are.

Getting what we want isn’t the blessing. Getting what God wants is.