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Mark 12:38-44

Mark 12:38-44
Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.” Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

Dear God, I think one of the biggest obstacles for people as we try to read the Bible is the same obstacle we have when we read a text from a friend–tone of voice can be everything. This story about the widow is a great example. I’ve read it countless times. Most Christians are familiar with it. If I say the words “The Widow’s Mite” to a group of Christians, they immediately know what I mean. But how much do we miss in this story?

Several years ago, I had a revelation from you that this widow likely never knew that Jesus saw her faithfulness that day, and she likely went home that day as poor as she was when the day started. She likely died however many years later as poor as she was when she dropped in those coins. There was no monetary reward for her faithfulness. There was provision from you. There was peace. And there was the immortality of me even knowing about her 2,000 years later. But here were no earthly riches for her.

So that’s a pretty good revelation. But then I read Fred Smith’s blog post this morning, and he pointed out another aspect of this story. Because of story headings, chapter breaks, and verses that translators of the Bible have given us so that we can more easily find things, we often make the mistake of separating stories in the middle. This one is an example.

Fred pointed out that Mark tells us two stories back to back. Jesus has just finished a rant about the Pharisees taking from widows (among others) and then he goes over to the offerings and seems to wait for a widow to come by to make his point. Fred mentioned that this widow was giving to the very group that Jesus said had held her down and even taken from her. This add even another layer to this story. How do I keep myself from being a Pharisee that 1.) takes advantage of widows and 2.) doesn’t squander the offerings the give to you?

I’m in a unique position as the director of a nonprofit that takes donations from hundreds of people each year, including some widows. This story is not just a reminder for me to be a giver of my personal resources, but also reminds me to make sure I am being fair to and loving each donor and then using their donations to reach out and help everyone we can.

Father, help me to hear your voice when I read my Bible. Help me to hear your tone of voice in the words. Reveal to me the things I’ve missed over the years. Help me to break away from the erroneous teaching that has been accidentally (or perhaps intentionally) passed down from each preceding generation. Love through me, and help me to decrease so that you will increase. Of course, the ultimate goal for my life is that you will use it however you need to so that you kingdom will come and your will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Mark

 

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Nicodemus Part 3 — John 19:38-42

John 19:38-42
Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Dear God, this is the story that made me love and appreciate Nicodemus. John seems to have a soft spot in his heart for Nicodemus (and Pilate for that matter, but that is a subject for another prayer journal). John 3 never references anyone being with Jesus and Nicodemus but Jesus, although it’s feasible that John and some other disciples could have been there. But the story in chapter 7 about Nicodemus trying to passively defend Jesus must have been relayed to John by someone else. Perhaps Nicodemus himself after Jesus’s death and resurrection. I assume John and Nicodemus had a personal relationship. Otherwise, why would John be the only Gospel writer to mention him? And why did he go to great pains in chapters 7 and 19 to not only call Nicodemus by name, but intentionally reference his conversation with Jesus in chapter 3?

So now for this story. Why do I like it so much? Mainly because It is Nicodemus at his lowest point, and yet he shows so much love for Jesus. His anger and anguish drives him into action. He loves this man he believed to be your Messiah, and he is going to show it to the world regardless of the consequences. And although we never read his name again after this story, I’m sure this act cost him his place in the temple and in the community. I would bet that this was his last Passover as a Pharisee.

Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away.

First, however, let’s talk about Joseph of Arimathea. Luke and Mark tell us that Joseph was a prominent member of the council, but he did not consent to the death sentence Jesus had received. He was a secret disciple of Jesus. Did he and Nicodemus know this about each other all along, or was this something they figured out over the previous 12 hours?

With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes.

John is careful to tell us that Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of perfumed ointment with him. I don’t know how this worked, but I would imagine they did the work right there at the foot of the cross. I would think that they would want to put the ointment on the body and wrap it up before they transported it to the tomb. I have this image in my mind of Nicodemus, grief stricken, disillusioned, and angry carrying this ointment in silence. Then he and Joseph take the body and start to handle the bloody mess. Where would you start? Blood would have to be everywhere. Did they clean the body with the ointment? But they did it.

Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth.

This is where I want to spend some time with the other Pharisees. This scene is amazing to me. I picture it completely silent except for hushed murmurs between the Pharisees, wondering what Joseph and Nicodemus were doing. And why were they doing it. Then I imagine no words between Joseph and Nicodemus themselves. Just looks. Glances. Tears. Confusion. I would imagine that the Pharisees were furious and there was hell to pay on Sunday–especially after the resurrection. Joseph was highly respected. Did his exhibited love for Jesus make any of them doubt? How about Nicodemus? Did his demonstration of discipleship and belief make them second guess their own beliefs, if only for a moment? Joseph and Nicodemus said more through their actions than they could ever have said through words.

The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

I wonder what it was like that night and the rest of the Sabbath and Passover for both Nicodemus and Joseph. Were they afraid? If not for their lives, for their careers and standing in the community? Did they talk to their wives? Their children? Were their families mad at them, or had they already told them how they felt about Jesus? And what about after the resurrection? Did the two men who had lost their standing in the community as well as, likely, their livelihoods join “The Way?” Did Nicodemus and John become friends. Did Joseph get to know all of the apostles? So many unanswerable questions. But I am certain that they both had to pay a price. The questions is, how big?

Father, I have followed you in the past and been disappointed. Even now, part of my soul is comforted by you through these prayer journals. I find camaraderie with characters like Nicodemus. We are all sojourners on this road. We are community, even though 2,000 years separates our earthly lives. Thank you for that. Thank you for loving me even when I question you and half-heartedly acknowledge my love for you. Thank you for forgiving me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

Nicodemus Part 1
Nicodemus Part 2

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2019 in John, Nicodemus

 

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Nicodemus Part 2 — John 7:32, 45-52

John 7:32, 45-52
32 When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were whispering such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus.

45 When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
46 “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded.
47 “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. 48 “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? 49 This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”
50 Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. 51 “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked.
52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”

Dear God, I kind of missed something in yesterday’s journal that I want to touch on before I get into this passage today. What was the context within which Nicodemus talked to Jesus at night back in chapter 3? Well, according to John, Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover, and he had just cleared the temple of the money changers and such and had told the “Jews” who asked for a miracle that if they destroyed “this temple” he would raise it again in three days. Nicodemus was just trying to make sense of what he was seeing and hearing.

32 When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were whispering such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus.

Now, for this part of the story, we find Nicodemus again. Jesus goes back to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles and he upsets the Pharisees. So much so that by the time we get to verse 32 they decide to send temple guards to arrest him.

45 When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
46 “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded.
47 “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. 48 “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? 49 This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”

It wasn’t that the guards couldn’t arrest Jesus. They intentionally chose not to. And they admitted as much to the Pharisees. And the Pharisees’ response? They basically tell the guards that God’s curse is on them and John tells us they ask an interesting question: “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him?” In showing their intellectual and spiritual superiority while shaming the guards, they push Nicodemus to a moral dilemma that pushes him just a little out of hiding.

50 Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. 51 “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked.

No, it’s not the strongest defense in the world, but it’s enough of an admission of sympathy to reveal some of his inner feelings to his fellow Pharisees. He’s been completely in the closet up until now. He met with Jesus in chapter 3 at night, when no one knew about it. But now he couldn’t keep silent any longer. He was trying to do it in a way that wouldn’t completely reveal his hand. He brought in “the law.” But just saying even the slightest thing in Jesus’s defense provoked their wrath.

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”

The Pharisees are so flabbergasted by Nicodemus’s defense of Jesus that they accuse him of being a “homer.” They see that he has sympathy for Jesus and their only explanation is to accuse him not of believing in Jesus, but of hoping for the best for him for other emotional reasons.

So in looking back on this story, Nicodemus is on a journey of faith. He is working it out with literal fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). He tested the waters in this story, and he got smacked down. Did he fail Jesus? Perhaps? Did he ultimately decided on this day to save his own skin rather than argue with his colleagues? Yes. But he definitely progressed on his journey. He hadn’t arrived yet. He hadn’t entered into a stage of worship that would cause him to risk it all out of his love for you and belief in Jesus. He did, however, grow and prepare himself for a day that would ask more from him.

Father, help me to be a little better today than I was yesterday. Help me to have eyes to see my own weaknesses and address them. Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

Nicodemus Part 1
Nicodemus Part 3

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2019 in John, Nicodemus

 

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Mark 10:1-12

Mark 10:1-12 (NLT)

 Then Jesus left Capernaum and went down to the region of Judea and into the area east of the Jordan River. Once again crowds gathered around him, and as usual he was teaching them.

Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?”

Jesus answered them with a question: “What did Moses say in the law about divorce?”

“Well, he permitted it,” they replied. “He said a man can give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away.”

But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts. But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

10 Later, when he was alone with his disciples in the house, they brought up the subject again. 11 He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.”

Dear God, I wonder why the Pharisees picked this topic to trap Jesus. There were a lot of things they could have asked him about. Why divorce? What were they hoping he would say? Were they trying to get him to say that divorce was okay so they could pounce on him? Was one of them wanting a divorce? It seems like a weird thing to ask him.

“He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts.” When I think about it, this is a surprising line. Why would Moses (or you through Moses) have made this concession in the first place? Is there a point that my hard heart/stubbornness can change your law?

Then I have to ask myself where my own heart is hard? Are there beliefs that I have that I stubbornly hold onto for selfish/self-indulgent reasons? Just because Jesus mentions in verse six that “God made them male and female,” I wonder about the gay marriage thing and if the belief that is spreading in our generation that gay marriage is biblically okay is an example of this hard-heartedness. I have certainly evolved on this issue over the course of the last 20 years. Is that me finding truth, or is it the hard hearts winning?

Well, I probably just touched the third rail of theological topics there, so I’m going to move on and wonder what other areas in my own life might be driven by a hard heart. The scary thing is that I can’t immediately think of any. That scares me because it makes me think I am likely blind to my own stubbornness.

Father, help me to hear your voice. Help me to know your truth. Help me to accept your will and submit to it. Help me to stand up for your Kingdom.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2019 in Mark

 

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Peter and John — Matthew 15:10-20

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Matthew 15:10-20

Dear God, it takes a special kind of humility to be the one to ask what everyone else is thinking but too scared to say. Notice how the NIV puts it. Peter asks the question, but Jesus tells “them.” They were all thinking it. It was just probably silently, not wanting to appear foolish.

That reminds me of a Mark Twain quote that I’ve always gravitated towards: “Better to remain silent and appear foolish than open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Now, I still think this is right when it comes to trying to show people how smart you are, but it’s okay to appear foolish when it comes to humbly asking questions and admitting I don’t know.

Peter blew into a lot of situations that made him look foolish, that’s true. But that part of his personality also led him into being willing to ask the potentially embarrassing question. He wanted to know and he thought it was foolish to be unsure. It might cost him some pride, but, to him, it was worth it.

Father, I know I need to let my ego go more. I’m in a couple of roles in my life now where I don’t want to appear foolish. But it’s also important that I really understand what’s going on. I’m thinking about a board on which I currently serve. I don’t need the impetuous part of Peter’s character in the boardroom, but I need his humility and his desire to be the best he can be. Help me to get there so that you can use me as much as possible.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John

 

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Emails to God – Overwhelming Situations (Matthew 27:62-66)

62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Dear God, I have two things here. First, the Pharisees seem to remember Jesus’ words about rising from the dead better than the disciples. Perhaps the disciples were just distraught out of grief and just couldn’t must the faith. It’s not like the Pharisees had faith. They just didn’t want the disciples to deceive people.

Second, I notice here that Pilate was willing to play along with the Pharisees and indulge them. Perhaps he was afraid of Jesus’ disciples deceiving people. Or maybe he just wanted to get rid of the Pharisees and giving them a couple of guards and a seal was a small price to pay for that.

I guess there’s a third thing I am noticing now that I think about it. I’m not sure if this is right, but the Pharisees were doing all of this on the Sabbath. That sure seems like a lot of work and effort for them to be doing on the Sabbath.

This must have been an overwhelming and confusing time for all of them, including the disciples. Events were happening so fast and they were trying to do as much damage control as possible. I’m sure it was something that everyone involved was only able to sort out after it was all over and they could look back on it.

Father, I have things going on in my life that are confusing to me. From things and situations at work to things and situations at home. My first inclination is to ask you to help me figure all of these things out, but my real request is that you will help me to respond to each thing that comes in front of me today with your power. Help me to hear your still small voice at each moment. Help me to “see the whole board” as much as possible. Even when I don’t realize you are doing it, guide me in each decision I make and save me from bad decisions that might negatively impact me later in life.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – Making the Big Mistake (Matthew 26:14-16)

14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Dear God, Matthew does a really nice job of letting this narrative flow together. Because we rarely read these passages as a whole we don’t usually see how one story leads to another. In the run-up to this betrayal Jesus had spent a couple of chapters insulting the Pharisees and chief priests and told the disciples that he was about to be crucified. Then Matthew wants to let us know that after the incident with the woman with the perfume Judas had had enough and was ready to betray Jesus. He probably thought, If he wants to be crucified I can help make that happen.

Of course, Judas had so much regret for his actions later that he killed himself. He was an angry guy who made a really bad, impulsive decision that he couldn’t take back.

Right now, I have some friends whose daughter is in a difficult spot. The girl lives with her mother in another town, and is about to graduate high school next month. I don’t know what happened, but the mother kicked her out of the house, so this friend is going to his daughter to figure out how best to take care of her. I have seen something like this happen before, and I know how anger can drive a parent to do something foolish. Then the moment of regret comes, but they have gone too far down the road. Pride, principle, or both gets in the way. Now, much like Judas, the parent and everyone else involved is left to deal with the fallout from a bad decision.

Father, I first want to pray for my friend who is going to his daughter. Be with each of them. Love them and encourage them. Be with his wife. Be with the girl’s mother and step-father. Reveal yourself to them and use this awful circumstance as an opportunity to draw them each closer to you. I also want to pray for myself. There are times when I make impulsive decisions that need to be more prayed through. I have a situation at work right now that I am facing. I don’t know how to respond, and I can see where my decision will knock over a lot of dominos in a lot of people’s lives so I need to tread carefully. Help me to do that so that your wisdom, love and mercy might completely show through this place and your glory might be magnified in ever life that comes to us.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – The Interconnectedness of our Lives (Matthew 26:6-13)

6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Dear God, I wonder how much of the disciples’ response was indignation and how much was them responding out of the stress they were feeling over what Jesus had just told them about being crucified and all of the conflict He was stirring up with the Pharisees. That’s the interesting thing about reading this stories in order. I start to get a context for each one, and this story takes on a different view when I see that it comes immediately after Jesus tells them about being crucified.

The things going on in my life often impact other areas. Troubles with parenting can bleed over into work. Trouble at work can bleed over into my home life. I have a coworker whose husband is sick. They were supposed to hear yesterday about his prognosis. I am sure that whatever she learned yesterday will have an impact on her day today. How can it not?

Father, help me to be at peace, and help me to administer your peace to those around me. I am especially thinking about my coworkers who are facing personal trials. Love and encourage them. Give them your peace. Help everyone at work to rise up around them and be your hands and feet to them. Show us how you would have us serve them.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – Hypocrisy (Matthew 23:13-39)

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14]

15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Dear God, wow, this is really something to read. I think it really picks up for me in verse 33. The first part of this is convicting because, as I see all of the areas in which Jesus is calling the Pharisees hypocrites, it makes me start to wonder about the areas where I am a hypocrite. Some of my most convicting moments have been when my son, in anger, has called me a hypocrite and I realized he was right.

But in verse 33 Jesus starts talking about the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and how they reject the idea of rejecting and murdering God’s prophets. But then Jesus, in verse 34, tells them that they are about to do the same thing, and I am pretty sure that verse 34 is about the apostles who will follow after him. I wonder how they felt in hearing this.

Finally, Jesus shows His love for all of us. He shows his longing for us. He shows His longing for me, a hypocrite. Well, Father, I am willing to be gathered. I am willing to repent. I am willing to rest under your wing. Forgive me for my hypocrisy. Forgive me for failing you. Forgive me for my sin and my failures. Be glorified in me and love others through me.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – Beware the Yeast of the Pharisees (Matthew 23:1-12)

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Dear God, I find the first words of verse three to be a little contradictory to the rest of this passage: “So you must be careful to do everything they tell you.” It makes me think that the teachings were good, but the execution and follow through was bad. I think the thing that frustrated Jesus the most about the Pharisees, from reading this passage, was how much they loved the attention of their position. They were addicted to the respect.

I happen to have a fairly visible position in a small town. I work for an organization that has a noble mission and was started by one of the Godliest people I have ever known. In some ways, I have inherited her mantle, although I have also developed my own over the last six years. The hard thing is that I know that you are the reason behind so many of the good things that happen to us here, and yet people are constantly wanting to give me the credit. Frankly, I get a lot of love from people I hardly know, and it sometimes overwhelms me.

Father, I know you call me to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. I know that you want me to be the least among the people with whom I live and work. I know you want me to decrease as you increase. So help me to do that today. Especially today. Help me to deny the ideas of self-pity, entitlement, and deservedness. Instead, help me to offer myself to others regardless of what it costs me. Help me to love our patients and give of myself to them, serve our staff and volunteers and help them draw closer to you, parent my children and offer myself for their good, and adore and nurture my wife as she begins an exciting and possibly overwhelming trip.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Matthew

 

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