Breaking Religious Taboos

Did you know that Jesus didn’t follow all the religious rules of His day? His methods weren’t welcomed in the established places of worship.  He hung out with the wrong crowd.  He overcame social and cultural barriers to reach people.  Jesus had to break many religions taboos to make a way to the Father for all of us.

In John 4:1-30, there is a story of the brief interaction between Jesus and a Samaritan Woman at the town well.

Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”  He was alone at the time because His disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. (v7-9)

Samaria was conquered Assyria 722 BC. The Samaritans intermarried with the foreigners. Therefore they were not regarded as fully Jewish. At the time of Jesus there was a lot of hatred between them. Jesus’ dealings with this woman illustrates His ministry breaking down barriers between Jews and Samaritans.

Jesus broke several taboos with this meeting.  He broke the racial prejudice that Jews had against Samaritans.  He broke the religious bias towards the Samaritans as being inferior Jews or ‘unclean’.  Last Jesus tackled the chauvinist view of women that was prominent in His culture.  Jesus often broke taboo as to how women should be treated.

Mary Magdalene; Joanna, the wife Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and other women traveled with Jesus contributing their own resources to support Him and His disciples. (Luke 8:1-3) This was scandalous for a woman to leave her homes and travel with a rabbi.  Unheard of!  Unthinkable!  Yet Jesus had several woman travel with Him throughout His ministry time.  In the orthodox, first century temples women and men were separated by a screen.  Jesus was one of the world’s first feminists treating woman as ‘joint-heirs’ of salvation.

Why is this important to us today?  Because to truly follow Jesus we must break down the social, cultural and even religious taboos we have been taught.  These things keep people from following God.  More next blog.

30 Days to Live – Day 24: Reality

Today the reality of 30 Days to Live hit us in a very personal way.  My wife (Pastor Joanne) found out that her mom (Fran) has terminal cancer.  As Joanne sat in the hospital room with her mom and other family members, the doctor told Fran to “get her affairs in order.”  Her response was, “So this is a death sentence.”  It is one thing to be writing about facing your final days on this earth it’s another when death actually is right in front of you with someone you care about.

While we are praying and asking for God to do a miracle, first responsibility is to make sure your loved one is ready for life after death.  Fran has believed in God and has been attended church regularly so there was no need to convince her of her need for God’s forgiveness.  Instead Joanne focused on forgiving others.

The truth is we are all under a death sentence.  Maybe not as brutal and short as the one my mother-in-law just received, but this life is short and we are not promised tomorrow.  We must all “get our affairs in order” to make sure we are ready to meet our Savior.  One place people usually overlook is forgiving those who have hurt you.

As we prepare for the next life we want our sins to be forgiven and if we want to be forgiven for our sins we must forgive others. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray He gave us an example that has become called The Lord’s Prayer.  In it Jesus prays this:

Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. – Matthew 6:12

As Jesus was teaching His disciples to pray effectively He knew that our prayers are useless if we refuse to forgive others.

Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6:37

Why is this such a big deal to God?  Because HE is the Righteous Judge.  If we decide to judge others we are in effect saying we want to sit on God’s throne and do His job.  He has never tolerated that, just ask an angel named Lucifer.

Prayer

Pray this 3 Step Forgiveness Process:

  1. I take back any authority I gave the devil in my life through unforgiveness, especially towards ______ for what they did to me.
  2. I choose to forgive this person for what they did to me.
  3. I ask you God to help me to forgive this person, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thoughts

  • Who has hurt me?
  • Have I chosen to forgiven them?

Action

  • Forgive all the people who have hurt you, now.

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Written May 2010: prayers for Fran and our family gratefully accepted.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 10: Why Should I Love?

As a person approaches death, facing their final 30 days, they usually turn towards those they love.  Most people don’t ask to work extra hours, or even take one more trip.  They certainly don’t wish for more TV or screen time.  They ask to see their loved ones.  They even reach out to relatives and friends they haven’t talked to in years.  Dying people try to mend broken relationships with their last breaths. Look at this verse:

Let love be your highest goal! – 1 Corinthians 14:1

As people face their last thirty days it all suddenly becomes crystal clear.  Like the morning sun breaking through a cloud bank, they see for the maybe the first time, what’s most important…LOVE.  Why wait?  If love is the highest goal, the most important thing, we should love now.

Another reason we should we love like we’re dying is because love is one of the few things in this world that actually is eternal.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13

Of these few eternal things, love is the greatest. Faith in the living God will be carried into the next life.  Hope in the eternal bliss of heaven carries us through our last 30 days to live but the one thing we can aspire to that is the greatest is love.  Poets have mused about it, song-writers have sang its praises but how many people truly understand love.  To begin to understand why we should love, we must start by understanding that love is eternal.

Jesus thought it was so important to love that He made it a commandment.

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. – John 15:12

Jesus commands us to give that same kind of unchanging, self-sacrificing love He gave us to others.  We CAN love like Him or He wouldn’t command us to.  He’s not a cruel prankster, giving His followers a command that He won’t give them the ability to carry out.  No.  We can love like Jesus because He lives in us by His Spirit.

Today, love someone the way Christ loved you.  Looking past the sin, their harshness, even their rejection of the gospel to love them.  If you do, you’ll be a little close to Christ then when you started the day.

Prayer:

Lord help me to love as you have loved me, not looking at people’s faults and sins but at their potential.  Father I choose to forgive them for how they have hurt me because you forgave me all the times I’ve hurt you.  Fill me with your love right now that I my love as you do.

Thoughts for Today:

  • Do I show the love of Christ on a daily basis to people I’m around?
  • if love were the only measurement of Christianity would my neighbors know I’m a Christian?

Action List:

  • Do a random act of kindness to someone today to show God’s love.

Who is my neighbor?

The Bible has a lot to say about neighbors.  In the Ten Commandments alone we are told:  not testify falsely against your neighbor;  not covet your neighbor’s house; not covet your neighbor’s wife; or their maid or pool boy; or their mode of transportation; or anything else that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16-17)

Jesus said, loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself is as important as loving God and the summation of the whole Old Testament law! (Matthew 22:35-40)

What does that mean to us today?  It means that we need to understand how to treat our neighbors right if we want to be right with God.

So, with this being such an important concept in scripture and the teachings of Jesus Himself, it seems reasonable that someone would ask, “Who is my neighbor?”  A Pharisee (a teacher of the Jewish law) asked that question in Luke 10:25-37.  Jesus responded with a story that we call the Good Samaritan.

A Jewish man was beaten and left for dead on the side of the road.  A priest walks buy and does nothing.  A church Deacon (Levite) looks at him but doesn’t help.  Finally a despised Samaritan stops and helps the Jewish man.

The Jews truly despised the half-breed Samaritans, they were unclean to them.  Damned by birth.  It would be like a 1960s African American man stopping to help a Klu Klux Klan man and the Pharisee knew this bigotry.  Jesus asked him a question:

Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?”

The Pharisee couldn’t help but replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus responded, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

His command to us today is the same. Be like the Good Samaritan.  If you are in a position to help someone, do it.  God will put people in your path, maybe even people you don’t relate to, maybe even people you have a prejudice towards…be Jesus to them.

Facing Forever

We brought my mother home from the hospital, home to face forever.  The doctors say that she will leave this earth soon, leave it forever.  Nothing more they can do they say.  I know my God is a healer but somehow I know that’s not part of His plan here.  As we mournfully, painfully, watch her breathing slow we begrudgingly acknowledge that she will soon be facing forever.  Was she ready?

I prayed a week ago, “Lord either heal her or wake her to give me a chance to talk with her about forever.”  I know my mom had asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior, to forgive her sins.  she had attended church for almost two years with me while she was well enough and we would pray, talk scripture and take communion together at home when she could no longer go to church.  I had only one concern really, unforgiveness.  Had she forgiven all sins against her?

The Lord gave me my petition and she awoke, clear minded and able to talk for over a day.  She spoke that she had forgiven all who had hurt her.  Then I had the honor of leading her to pray asking God to forgive her sins again.

Mom told me she love me and that she was ready to face forever, knowing she would spend it with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Now I’m ready too.

Love Matters Most

If you want your life to count, you have to focus it.  You can’t try to do 50 different things – you don’t have time for all of them.  Also, not everything is of equal value. Spend time and energy on what matters most.  God says there are two things that matter the most.

Matthew 22:37-39  Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus, what’s the most important things in life?  Love for God and love for people.

To read your bible, attend church, and avoid the “big” sins…
Is this wholehearted passionate love for God?
The Seeking Heart by Francois Fenelon

We must be passionately, whole-heartedly in love with Jesus.  Our whole heart, soul and mind…everything we are!  Is doing the minimums of Christianity whole-hearted love?

Do you know what I’ve noticed? People who’s love for God has never truly been awakened or who have grown cold over the years, ask the same question…”How far can I go before it’s considered sin?”  There is a desire to walk as close to the line as possible.  To live in the dull grays of twilight, never fully embracing the darkness nor jumping into the brilliance of the bright light.

If love matters most, we must be passionately pursuing God like a courting, love sick teen AND pass that love onto others in need of God’s love.

If we don’t have love, then we really don’t know God.

40 Days of Love

We’ve started the 40 Days of Love at the House of Praise and I couldn’t be more excited.  For the next 6 weeks the Sunday services, the children’s church, the youth group and the church Connect Groups (home bible studies/small groups) will all be learning what Jesus taught about relationships.  What could be more important than that?

One of the main points last Sunday was “the best expression of love is time.”  Giving someone focused attention is one of the most important ways to communicate love.

Kids are crying, look at me daddy.  Turn the TV off.  Look at me mommy, stop cleaning for a minute.  Get off the computer and take a walk with your spouse.  All our relationships are damaged by hurry.  Eat fast, gotta run. Busyness feeds the ego but starves the family.

We shouldn’t be looking for more time to spend with family.  We should make spending the most time with loved ones the priority and try to fit other things into the schedule around your family and friends.

As Rick Warren says, “Stop watching reruns of friends and go make friends!”

Galatians 6:10 – Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity,  (NOW) we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Don ‘t put off love.  Right now, think of one person you could tell that you love them today.  Who should YOU call and encourage?  Who should YOU visit?

Bloggin Again

Hey, well it’s good to be back. After taking a month off to focus on changing some things in the church and organizing our schedule for the year, let’s blog some more.

40 Days of Love

Matthew 22:37-39  Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

All of Christianity can be reduced down to one word, LOVE.  Love God, love people.  The very best use of our life is to love.

Love also is how the world knows we really are followers of Jesus.  Anyone can be “holy”!  Buddhists are self-disciplined, Hindus are sincere, Muslims will lay down their life for their faith. What’s the difference between us and them?  LOVE.

John 13:34-35 – So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

People are watching you.  Do you know the question they are asking?  Is God real?  How will they know?  LOVE.  Wow, those Christians really treat people better than other people do.  Wow those Christians forgive people who mistreat them.  Wow, they really love God.  Wow, maybe they really do know God.

Does Religion Leave You Feeling Lost?

Religion leaves you feeling lost but relationship connects you to God. Religion is man’s attempt to reach God or to earn His favor.  Real relationship with the Lord may begin with a hunger for God but even that hunger comes from Him because no one comes to repentance unless the Spirit draws them. 

Religion knows about God but through Relationship we can KNOW God.

Before I was born-again, I went to church almost weekly as a child.  I could tell you Jesus died for me, I could even quote some scripture but never knew the savior personally.  I was religious, I trusted in my church, my confirmation, even the cross on my neck but had never even met the Savior!

Religion is a list of Dos and Don’ts but relationship causes you to alter your behavior because of love.

Matthew 22:35-40 – One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Love causes us to fulfill the laws of the one we love.  In the absence of love the law is needed.