Getting the Question Right

Matthew 22:15-17 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.  They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

Matthew 22:23-28 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him.  Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother.  The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh.  Finally, the woman died.  Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

That day was a day full of questions for Jesus. Let there be no mistake, Jesus is open to questions. I know this because I have asked my fair share of questions and, so far at least, there have been no lightning bolts from heaven. While he walked on earth and as he reigns from heaven, Jesus was, and still is, open to honest, question-asking seekers. But the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians weren’t looking for answers. They were looking for a way to get rid of Jesus. His influence with the Jewish people was a threat to their own authority and power, so they needed a case against him. They needed him to slip-up, to make a mistake. But God in the flesh doesn’t make mistakes.

The Pharisees and others asked their questions and Jesus silenced each group with his wisdom and insight. Matthew 22 tells us they walked away from their experiences with Jesus astonished and amazed. Unfortunately, they didn’t walk away changed.

After all of these exchanges, Jesus posed to the Pharisees a question of his own. It was the only question that really mattered.  And it still is.

Get this question right and your life will be forever changed. More importantly, get this question right and your forever will be changed.

Matthew 22: 41-45 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.  He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘ If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”  No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

The Pharisees answered Jesus’ question incorrectly. Let’s be sure we don’t do the same.

What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he? At the end of our days, God will ask all of us to give an answer to this question. It’s my privilege to answer it here.

I believe Jesus is the only Son of my Holy God. I believe he willingly left the glory of heaven and became a baby placed in a virgin’s womb. I believe that while he wore our fragile flesh he was fully man and at the same time fully God. I believe he experienced everything on this earth that we experience. I believe he experienced frustration, grief, pain and every temptation, and yet he never once sinned. I believe he suffered on a cruel Roman cross in my place, for my sins. I believe he died on that cross and was placed in a borrowed tomb. I believe he arose from the dead on the third day just as he promised. I believe he reigns in Heaven and that one glorious day he is coming back to this earth. I believe I will spend all of eternity in his presence. I long for that day and I praise him for what his presence in my life means to me. I praise him for his mercy, forgiveness and grace because I could never deserve all that he gives.

He is my dearest friend, my hope, my love, my peace, and my joy. I would not want to live one day without him. And I thank him that I will never have to.

Now it’s your turn. Ask yourself the question Jesus asked the Pharisees. What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?

Take a moment today to write down your answer.  It will bless you and your Savior at the same time.

If you don’t know who he is, pray and ask God to reveal himself to you. Then find some Christ followers and ask them to help you grow in your faith and knowledge of Him.

“What we believe about God is the most important truth we believe, and it’s the one truth that does the most to shape us. God is the Sun too bright for us to see. Jesus is the Prism who makes the colors beautiful and comprehensible.” ~ Michael Spencer

Cyndi Word

Rejoicing in Suffering

 …  when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:40-41)

When I read this, I wondered to myself whether or not I would walk away from a beating, rejoicing that I was counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus.  I had to confess to the Lord, that in all honesty, I could not imagine myself feeling that way. With God’s grace I might be able to endure such treatment, but I hardly think I would be rejoicing.

I found it more likely that I would be perplexed and wonder if I had done something wrong. Did I displease the Lord? Was I presumptuous? Should I be doing some serious spiritual warfare? It grieved me that the notion of rejoicing under these circumstances seemed a remote and unattainable emotional reaction.  The Lord had exposed yet another hiding place where “self” was tucked safely out of sight. I’m grateful for such discoveries, as much as I am grieved because it may be to me a revelation, but the Lord has always known this about me.

I always feel so powerless when I learn these kinds of things about myself because I want to care so little about myself, and so much for Jesus, that I would find rejoicing to be my response to persecution and humiliation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  I wanted to know what it would take for me to be transformed into the sort of Christian who took great delight in suffering for the name of Jesus Christ. I fall so far short of this benchmark and hang all of my hope on the assurance that what is impossible with man is possible with God.

We are living in such days, that Christian Persecution is increasing world-wide and likely to make landfall in America in our lifetime. So many of our brothers and sisters in far-away places are now experiencing tribulation with persecution, martyrdom and imprisonment, and as I pray for them, I wonder how we would fare in this country. I stumbled upon this comment in a 1933 Christian publication called “The Dawn” … It is comparatively easy to say, while we have a comfortable home and three meals a day, that we “rejoice to suffer” with Christ. But were we compelled, because of our devotion to God and His truth, to live in dens and caves of the earth , being tormented, destitute and afflicted ; would we  be just as thankful for our privilege to “fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ” ? Surely we cannot hope to find our way into the heavenly phase of the Kingdom “on flowery beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize, and sailed through bloody seas.”(April 1933 The Dawn)

I do believe that while American Christians are perceived by the rest of the world to have an easy life, if they were to sit at our kitchen tables, they would learn of a plethora of afflictions and trials that try our faith and bring us to our knees.  Sometimes we must remind ourselves that such trying seasons are to build our faith for the increasingly perilous times we appear to be entering. Paul reminds us that we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22) so it behooves us to reorient our thinking to the narrow difficult road that Jesus spoke of, and trust our Good Shepherd to lead us through the valley of death that surrounds us.  We trust Him today, so we can trust Him tomorrow. Perhaps it is our confidence in His unfailing faithfulness that primes our heart to rejoice in suffering.

Deborah J Claypool

Work in Progress

I was in the middle of Bible study homework, and I got up to get some tea. I put the tea into the microwave to heat the water and opened the door.  It hit me that my microwave was not dirty – it was filthy! As my tea was steeping, I thought I would clean the microwave and be on my way back to the table to continue in my studies.

First, I started wiping away the grease and grime on the inside lower tray. That cleaned up quickly. Then, I began scrubbing the sides. That was more of a stubborn area and took me somewhat longer. Next, I leaned up to see the top …loud sigh…tons of dirt up there too. In order to wipe all of it off, I had to turn myself left and right in a stooped, upside down kind of way. This was NOT comfortable at all! Plus it took what seemed like forever.

Ok…so I thought I was finished. I looked and MOST of the microwave looked pretty decent. However, the areas that were still dirty stood out more now that the rest of it was shining. One example was the door that I hadn’t touched. I started to wipe it up, and there was this ONE piece of nasty food that would not come off where the door and the panel meet.

I tried a different tool to get it to budge, but to no avail. I started to think to myself “It looks way better than before… it’s good enough.”

That is when I heard God ask, “Is it? Can you find something to use to reach this stain?”

I ended up going back and looking for something to take this mysterious crud away.  I found a toothpick, of all things, that finally worked.

Then God asked, “What about that dirt there? See it?”

The more I looked, the more I saw that there was something else to clean, all in this little microwave!

God was showing me that I could refine the work I set out to do and that there was more to be done.

Hebrews 9:14 says “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”.

Just like with me. God is refining me and molding me to be more like Him while gently encouraging me to keep going.

”But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”  Psalm 86:15

May we never be complacent in our spiritual walk.  May we let the Lord stretch and clean our hearts. May we let him mold and shape us into who He has created us to be.

Psalm 51:10-12 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

May we allow God’s grace to shine into us because we all are a wonderful work in progress.

-Coleen Trainor

Listen, Learn, and Lead the Way

These are the words a local principal uses to inspire her staff and students.  She places the words at the bottom of her weekly staff newsletter as a reminder of the goal she set for her school at the beginning of the school year.  She also spends time with each grade level and “fires them up” as she reminds them of her expectation of them, both in their school and in life.  I have had these words on my desk since the beginning of the school year and it is now March.  They are not only great goals for a school, but for you and me as well.

Listen:  To pay attention to someone or something in order to hear what is being said.

Sometimes, I confess, as I am preparing to lead a Bible study, I am so focused on the lesson and completing it, I think I often miss what God has to say to me personally.  I am paying attention to the words on the paper as I read, but I am only staying in one place long enough to fill in my answer, and then I’m off!  There are also times when I am listening (sort of) to a teaching, and my mind has moved on to the next thing.  Am I the only one?  Anonymous says, “Before you can lead, you must first learn to listen.”

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27

Learn:  To gain knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something.

The learning part for me is to really know and believe God, not just to believe in Him, and the only way to do this is to study His Word and to be teachable.  I have constant access to Almighty God, the all powerful, living God, who sent Jesus to be my Savior and Redeemer.  Because I know Jesus, the Holy Spirit is always with me and promises to bring to remembrance what I have learned, but I have to learn it first.

“The Lord God helps me learn.” Isaiah 50:5a

Lead the way:  To guide on a way especially by going in advance.

Sometimes it’s astounding to me that the Lord has called me to lead His girls.  I often tell people that if they had known me when I was younger, they’d really get what a work God has done in me.  You may have known me… I was the fringe girl in high school, the “invisible” one who watched the “fun” from outside the circle, and the one who looked down when the teacher was looking for someone to call on.  But God…

There are many ways the Lord has allowed me to go “in advance” of others, some painful and others not so much.  I have continued to trust God all the while.  As a result, I can give evidence of His presence, faithfulness, provision, comfort, and trustworthiness, and that’s just the beginning.  The only place I want to lead anyone is to Him.  Won’t you join me on this journey?

Consider the following… Who or what are you listening to instead of God?  Are you practicing and being taught by only what comes from Him?  Who is following you and where are you taking them?  Are you always pointing them to God?

Pray this prayer with me…

“Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23, 24.  Let’s actively engage in giving our attention to God’s constant presence.  Listen, learn, and lead the way to Him.

Donna Bowles