Sassy Jesus

I like Sassy Jesus. When Jesus was confronted by the ever-irritating Pharisees, he often returned a sassy response. I think he had just so much patience to give to these conversations and preferred to be out doing important things like healing blind folks and feeding the 5,000. Yet to his credit, he gave them his attention anyway.

Do you suppose his compassion for them made him want to respond in the hope that one or two of them would see him for who he was? Did he look at them as lost sheep in need of his shepherding? I can say that in times that I have been attacked, I did not look so graciously upon my attackers. There is a lesson in this.

In any case, every time they came at him thinking that they could trip him up, their efforts fell flat each time. You can’t trick the Son of God, boys.

Matthew 22 (The Message)

34-36 When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

37-40 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

When Jesus takes the Ten Commandments and consolidates them into two overriding commands, he effectively puts the Pharisees in their place yet again. Notice the care he takes to explain that these two great commands are the pegs upon which all ten hang…and not only all the commandments, but EVERYTHING in God’s law AND the Prophets hangs from these two statements. Remember that eventually the priests and scribes developed a system of 613 laws. Sassy Jesus was making a statement about what was really important in contrast with what was minutiae.

These two rules for living are as relevant for us today as they were 2,000 years ago. Think of your life and your actions and ask yourself:

Do you love God with all your passion, prayer and intelligence?

Do you love others as much as you love yourself?

Is your life a reflection of these two things?

We need to own the fact that there is a little Pharisee in all of us. If the things we say, post, share, and think are different than what God intends for us, we are just as flawed as the Pharisees.

Today is a new day. Hold these commandments close to your heart and do everything you can to reflect them in your behavior. You are the only Jesus someone may see today. Act like it.

New Day by Michelle Robertson

Standard of Giving

TAXES. The old joke goes that there are only two things guaranteed in life: death and taxes. It is no wonder that a politician’s campaign and career can be made or broken by the promises he or she makes about taxes. We all understand the necessity of paying them but that doesn’t mean we have to like it!

Taxes are the subject in this passage in the book of Matthew. The Pharisees (it’s ALWAYS the Pharisees!) were trying to trap Jesus into speaking out against the Roman government. They hoped to be able to make a case for sedition and treason and so they asked him about paying taxes. Notice how they buttered him up first with false flattery:

Matthew 22 (Common English Bible)

15 Then the Pharisees met together to find a way to trap Jesus in his words. 16 They sent their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are genuine and that you teach God’s way as it really is. We know that you are not swayed by people’s opinions, because you don’t show favoritism. 17 So tell us what you think: Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

Silly Pharisees. Jesus can read your hearts and minds, so of course he is wise to what you are trying to do. His response is epic:

18 Knowing their evil motives, Jesus replied, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” And they brought him a denarion. 20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked.

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”22 When they heard this they were astonished, and they departed.

All Pharisees (including us) should take this to heart. When Jesus reminds them that we should give unto God what belongs to God, he is referring to a very well known standard of giving set forth in Malachi that refers to tithing:

Malachi 3 (New International Version)

10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

Perhaps the better question is about tithing. God’s word instructs us to bring the whole tithe of ten percent into his storehouse. How are you doing with that? If you’re not there yet are you working toward it?

God throws open the floodgates of heaven to those who read and heed his word in all things. He loves to pour out blessings on his people. This is something you can absolutely count on! Taxes, death, and blessings…all of life’s guarantees.

Floodgates of Blessings by Becca Ziegler

RSVP

Have you ever thrown a party and nobody came? Imagine the frustration of that. You send the invitations, bake the cake, buy the decorations, and put together the little party favors for every guest. The day of the party you clean the house, set the table, sweep the front steps, change your clothes, and….nada. Nobody comes. Nobody calls. Nobody even has the manners to at least try to come up with a reason not to attend.

This is the story Jesus told when asked about the Kingdom of God. His listeners were the chief priests and the leaders of the temple. They had questioned Jesus’ authority to speak as the Son of God. They had allowed money lenders to defile the steps of the temple on the holy days. They had been listening to Jesus for three years, but they weren’t picking up what he was laying down.

Now they were out to get him.

Matthew 22 (The Message)

22 1-3 Jesus responded by telling still more stories. “God’s kingdom,” he said, “is like a king who threw a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out servants to call in all the invited guests. And they wouldn’t come!

“He sent out another round of servants, instructing them to tell the guests, ‘Look, everything is on the table, the prime rib is ready for carving. Come to the feast!’

5-7 “They only shrugged their shoulders and went off, one to weed his garden, another to work in his shop. The rest, with nothing better to do, beat up on the messengers and then killed them. The king was outraged and sent his soldiers to destroy those thugs and level their city.

Jesus throws down the authority gauntlet. He warns the Jewish leadership that their continued refusal to receive the Son of God was not going to end well. They may succeed in ensnaring Jesus for a time, but the ultimate victory was going to be his at the resurrection. God would destroy not only their hierarchy but their precious temple and the city it stood in.

He warns them that God wasn’t playing.

8-10 “Then he told his servants, ‘We have a wedding banquet all prepared but no guests. The ones I invited weren’t up to it. Go out into the busiest intersections in town and invite anyone you find to the banquet.’ The servants went out on the streets and rounded up everyone they laid eyes on, good and bad, regardless. And so the banquet was on—every place filled.

And so the doors of the kingdom were flung wide open to the gentiles, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the poor, the blind, the marginal….suddenly the invitation was sent out to everyone. The banquet was on and everybody had a seat. The Bread of Life welcomed everyone to come and feast at HIS table.

You are invited as well. Maybe this is your moment to accept Christ into your heart. Jesus invites you to come inside and put your feet under his table. The food has been laid out on beautiful platters and the glasses are filled with Living Water. The meal has been bought for you with the precious blood of the lamb. In Christ, you will never hunger or thirst again. You can come and eat and stay as long as you like…even for the rest of your life. Will you come and partake?

RSVP.

Come and You Will Never Thirst Again by Kathy Schumacher

Top Ten

Some people consider the Ten Commandments to be an outdated model for lawful living. Some people would be wrong. When Jesus said that there was a “greatest commandment” he was in no way trying to say that the rest no longer applied. Indeed, he remarked that the commandments to love God and neighbors were the foundation for all the other commandments:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22 New International Version)

Yet we somehow overlook teaching and learning all ten. We have removed them from our courthouses as though the mandate of separation of church and state is a good reason to deny the fact that our judicial system was built on the commandments. So today we will dive into them again.

As you read through these, use them as a mirror. Do they reflect your life? Are you living out each one with your words, actions, thoughts, and deeds?

Exodus 20 (New International Version)

And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

I use a “ten finger way” of teaching the commandments to children. It is an easy way for kids to remember all ten by holding up the corresponding number of fingers and making an association with it. For example, if you hold up three fingers on one hand it looks like a W. The third commandment tells us to “watch your words.” You get the idea.

It got a little tricky when I landed on the 7th commandment on adultery. That one is challenging to teach to five-year-olds! Suddenly I realized that to make a seven with your fingers, you have five on one hand and two on the other. AH HA! I explained that the two separated fingers were two people who were married to each other, and the five on the other hand were all the other pretty people WHO THEY WEREN’T ALLOWED TO DATE. Problem solved.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Scripture records that when the first people received the Ten Commandments they trembled with fear. How much better off would society be if we had the same respect for God’s law today?

18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

Moses assured them that they had nothing to fear. God’s law is given as a safety net that was delivered to save us and keep us from sinning.

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Even in this, we are reminded of God’s saving grace and his activity in our deliverance. Thanks be to God!

Nothing to Fear by Michelle Robertson

Truth

Truth. What an elusive word. Truth is very much on trial these days. The twisting and manipulating of facts to fit political agendas is so rampant that we don’t trust anything, and we question everything…as we should. What is the truth? Can we ever know anymore?

God’s word is the last remaining truth, and yet we see even scripture being used to forward agendas. Clever people can argue a scripture “both ways” in order to push a personal perspective. It happens at all levels of ecclesiastical structures, the government, and even from your local pulpit and Sunday School class.

I think we have forgotten that God has sent us an advocate who is the only one capable of speaking truth into a situation. The Holy Spirit, referred to as a Companion in this translation, was given to us by Jesus upon his departure from this earth so that we might know the truth. But notice how this passage starts:

John 14 (Common English Bible)

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever. 17 This Companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you.

Jesus is making a direct connection between keeping the commandments and knowing the truth. The commandments are something else we have forgotten. In a world that doesn’t know or follow God’s rule of living, truth becomes muddled and unobtainable. And while the Ten Commandments still stand as foundational to our society and even our laws, let us not forget what Jesus said are the greatest ones:

Matthew 22 (New International Version)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The TRUTH of the matter is, if we were to do just these two things, truth would be revealed. If we were actually capable of loving God with ALL our heart, soul, and mind, we would contain the truth within ourselves. Loving God with all our minds would mean there is no room for hate-talk, vitriol, prejudice, bias, or ostracizing the “other.” The truth would render us incapable of doing and saying much of what we do and say today. The truth would enable us to truly love our neighbor, and in so loving, all political and personal agendas would cease.

Notice how Jesus refers again to keeping the commandments:

John 14 continued

18 “I won’t leave you as orphans. I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Want to know the truth? Try being the truth. Try filtering all of your thinking through the commandments. And where your thinking doesn’t measure up to loving God and loving what he loves, change your mind. If your words and deeds don’t measure up to loving your neighbor, change your behavior. The Holy Spirit enables us to love as God loves. That’s the truth.

The Truth Will Set Us Free by Barbara Hudson