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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Emails to God – Mob Mentality, Part 2 (Matthew 21:12-17)

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

Dear God, is it bad to say that I can sympathize with the chief priests here? I talked a couple of days ago about getting caught up in a mob mentality and a situation that overwhelms your ability to process it and cope. Well, the chief priests were sitting there, geared up for the Passover, probably a little stressed, and then here comes Jesus. He turns over tables and rebukes a lot of people who are changing money and selling doves. He creates a ruckus by healing people. Children start not only singing to him, but basically saying that they believe he is the Messiah by calling him the Son of David. Things were getting out of control and they were indignant. They lost it in a way that was tragic, and their responses that day set them on a path that would continue beyond Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The path would dictate how they responded to the Christian church for decades and centuries. I can’t imagine what would have happened if they had embraced Jesus as the Messiah that day. What would Jesus have done then?

I hit my mental and emotional overload yesterday. Every time I turned around at work someone was coming to me with another problem. Some of them are just hard, but one, in particular, is vexing, and, now that I think about it, it is important that I handle it correctly now because I can see that my response will have ramifications on the Center, a patient, and even some of our staff for a long time to come. I found myself, yesterday, disagreeing with some of my staff that wanted to take a harder line in a certain situation, but I was able to show them that a more tender and merciful path would be better. I don’t know where it will end, but I think I was able to avoid the peer pressure and make a wise decision.

Father, while the decision MIGHT have been the right one, I still need you in this particular situation. I need you to love the patient in question. This person needs your healing. We need you to heal her. Please do so with your mercy and your power, if you are willing. I need you to reveal yourself to all of us as we move through difficult situations like this. It applies to parenting too, as well as my marriage. We all make decisions every day that have the potential to reverberate for years and years. Please help me to be wise when these situations come up, avoid what tradition says I should do, and embrace what you call me to do. Love through me, even at my own expense. Pride accomplishes nothing for me. It only hinders your Spirit and what you try to do through me. So help me to be humble as I seek your path.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – Mob Mentality (Matthew 21:6-11)

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Dear God, what did they think they were doing? As they were laying their cloaks on the road, what did they think was going on? Did they understand who they were seeing? Was it just a mob mentality that had taken over? It says they said, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” which makes me think they understood that he was the Messiah, but there was no way they could know what that meant. Did they think they were on the brink of revolution? Were they ready to go to war? Were they surprised by him riding on the foal of a donkey?

There are so many times when I respond to a situation without understanding it fully. Sometimes my actions are driven by those around me and how they are responding. Sometimes I just go on instinct. And sometimes I am actually able to slow the process down enough to think through my actions a little. Our building issue is an example. We have to perform some major repairs on our building. There are a lot of issues to resolve. Who should pay for it? How will we fix the building? How will we continue to run our programs we offer the public throughout the repair process? There are times when I have to make an instant decision. There are times when people around me tell me how to respond and I have to discern whether or not it is the right thing to do. Then there are times when I am able to slow it down, think about it, sometimes pray about it, and then choose a course of action. Those last times are the ones that usually work out the best.

Father, help me to not follow an instinctive, mob mentality, but to follow the still small voice inside of me that you use to speak to me. Help me to understand that you are there to help me. You are there to take over the process. You are there to carry this burden for me if only I will let you. Love others through me. Glorify yourself through me. Draw others to yourself through me so that they might have your peace and spread your glory too.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – Lowly and Gentle, Riding the Foal of a Donkey (Matthew 21:1-5)

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

Dear God, forget the miracle of finding a donkey with her colt for a while. I want to focus on the idea that you wanted this to play out in a humble way. You wanted to paint a picture. Matthew just finished telling us in the previous chapter that the last shall be first. Now, we see that you wanted to give us the image of our God and our king coming to us gently, riding on the foal of a donkey. Where’s the God of the Old Testament that shows and reveals his power and his might? Where is the vengeful God of whom David asks the favor of cursing his enemies in the Psalms? I looked up Zechariah 9:9 (the passage from verse 5), and, even though this is the same translation (NIV), it uses the word “lowly” instead of “gentle” to describe our king. Our king is gentle/lowly, riding on the foal of a donkey. Incredible.

I am having a board meeting today for our organization. My 15 bosses will gather around the table and hear committee reports and a report from me regarding how our organization is doing. I have to admit that one of the things I do on board meeting day I choose my clothes a little more carefully. I want to project an image of confidence and power. I also have to fight the urge to toot my own horn and brag about our accomplishments while I simultaneously minimize our shortcomings. Frankly, I think I am pretty good about deflecting praise to you and to the staff, and I try to never hide the problems about which they need to know, but I feel that temptation.

Father, I’m not saying that I am the king that is coming, but surely my king is my example. You want me, too, to be gentle and lowly. You want me to be a servant. You want me to be loving and nurturing. You want me to not esteem myself, but esteem you through my life and in my words. I hope that I am able to do that to at least some extent. When people think of me, I want them to think of you and your grace.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – The Courage to be Bold (Matthew 20:29-34)

29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

32 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”

34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

Dear God, I’ve never understood why the crowd rebuked the two men. Were they embarrassed by them? Isn’t that why they were there—to have Jesus do something special for them too? Why try to shut these men up?

What these men realized is that they had hit the lottery and they were going to cash in their tickets. Of all the blind people born in all of the world in all of history, these two were in the right place at the right time. They are part of a select group that actually saw you, incarnate, walk by. They had a chance to talk to you and ask for your mercy in person. They were not going to let it pass.

Sometimes life takes courage. There are opportunities that come up that I am too often too intimidated or reluctant to take advantage of. One of my biggest weaknesses as a manager is that I avoid confrontation when an employee is doing something wrong. I try to coax and maneuver them into the behavior I desire, but sometimes there is a place for bluntness. I almost fired someone yesterday because something got to the point with them where their behavior was crossing a line. I had talked to them about it before, and they said they understood, but yesterday I was in a position where I was able to leave no doubt  about what I expect. My regret is that I let it fester as long as I did. Frankly, it wasn’t fair to this employee that I hadn’t.

Father, there is an old hymn, “Spirit of the Living God, Fall Fresh on Me,” that ask you to, “Break me, mold me, fill me, use me…” I think I am good at breaking myself through my mistakes and failures. I pray that you will take the broken parts, mold me into your image, fill me with your Spirit, and use me however you will.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – The Last Shall Be First (Matthew 20:17-28)

17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

A Mother’s Request

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

21 “What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

“We can,” they answered.

23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Dear God, I wonder how much the story of Jesus telling the disciples about his death and this story of James’ and John’s mother coming to Jesus go together. I tend to forget that this was all written as one document—without chapter breaks, verses, and even subheadings like “A Mother’s Request”. But if I imagine reading this without the subheadings, then I see that verse 20 starts with the word “Then”. It implies that this happened right after Jesus stopped speaking. I think Matthew wanted us to get that these things were related.

So, if this is true, what were James and John thinking at this point? What was their mother thinking? Did they go and tell their mom what Jesus had said? Did they or she figure their time was running out to make this request so they had better hurry?

Of course, the overall lesson here is about leadership. What do you expect of me as a leader? What do you want me to do to support those who lead me? Also, what is the difference between leadership at work and out in the world and leadership with my children? How much more responsibility do I have to not only serve my children, but to expect more of them too? Where do I draw that line?

Father, I suppose I am grateful for the impertinence of James’ and John’s mother because it gave Jesus a chance to say that words he spoke here. Help me to lead at work and at home. Help me to understand what leadership, especially at home, should look like and to follow it. I need you as my leader and I submit myself to your leadership. Be glorified through me in all areas of my life and watch over my children. Watch over my wife. Watch over me as well. Please bind us all together and help us to recognize Satan’s attacks and respond to them with your cleansing power.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Emails to God – God’s Wonderful Injustice (Matthew 20:1-16)

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Dear God, I just saw something in this that I’ve never seen before. The workers who worked all day did, indeed, get something that the others didn’t get. They got an extra measure of peace in knowing that they had a job that day and money coming in. The others, while they sat around without work for at least part of the day, had those moments of wondering how they would earn money.

I was unemployed for six months in 2003 and again in 2005. It was really hard. Frankly, you ended up providing for us almost as well as if I had had a job the whole time, but there was a stress that we experienced that I would gladly have traded away for a full day’s work.

Now, this parable is really supposed to be about those who come to faith and are loyal to you early in life versus those who come to you later. We all get the same reward and you love us all the same. While that’s true, there is a distinct advantage of coming to you earlier in my life—you help me to avoid a lot of the bad decisions that could otherwise wreck my life, and your presence fills me with peace while those who have not yet submitted to you don’t have the pleasure of your presence.

Father, I really don’t begrudge the idea that you love the deathbed confession person as much as you love me. As Rich Mullins said one time, “We all have it better than we deserve.” Your wages are too high, and your requirements are too low. You are too good and I am grateful for all that you do.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2012 in Matthew

 

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