“For apart from me you can do nothing.”
– John 15:5 –
In the prolonged search …
for “client next” over the past many, many weeks . . an experience that has pushed familiarity with brokenness and vulnerability to daily personal headline status . . I have looked for a number of ways to somehow cope with and manage the kind of stress that sometimes has you wondering if you will ever “breathe” again.
One of the best outlets has been a daily hike around the rich pasture lands of southern Oregon. While early morning is my preferred time, I have also ventured out too many times to count anywhere between mid-morning and early evening, while there is still plenty of light.
One short section of the hike overlaps a narrow two-lane country road known for speeding. Room for pedestrians/hikers/walkers/joggers is extremely minimal; nonetheless, I do my best to be visible by walking towards oncoming traffic, but the cumulative experience is, to say the least, more than a little unnerving.
You see, while a very small percentage of all-too-hurried drivers actually do make a little extra room by sliding part way over the center line . . AND, an even smaller percentage also actually slow down for precaution and my personal safety, the vast majority stick right to “their lane” and most actually speed up!
So I wonder what is going through their minds. Are most Oregonians really that mindless and insensitive? Those who have lived there for any length of time might answer “yes”. Do drivers in general label roadside pedestrians as insignificant “get a life” losers? After all, if “they” had a life, they wouldn’t be on the side of a road on foot, right?
Whatever the thought process, the net result is all-too-frequent driving behavior that is anything but gracious and merciful.
I wonder if Jesus had this in mind …
when he rolled out the parable of the Good Samaritan. While all of Jesus’ parables were fictitious narratives, they were also deeply rooted in the culture, customs and spiritual poverty of His day. Perhaps the greatest indictment of this parable and much of Jesus’ other teaching was the selfish preoccupation and callous indifference of the religious crowd, including supposed spiritual leaders.
It is no shock to Jesus that much of modern-day Christianity in western culture gravitates towards a “comfortable” and over-stuffed lifestyle that leaves little margin for Divine-inspired interruption and spontaneous missions of compassion.
Jesus is not, in the least, surprised that we easily lose focus of His call to authentic “take up your cross” followership which is nothing more than an invitation to be broken of self so we can be His blessing to others.
Somehow in all of this we lose sight that Jesus first and foremost was and is ALL about love and mercy . . not so much in our theology, but in our walk . . in the everyday moment – in the time of greatest need . . NOT the kind of love that loves because we were so lovable but because we were so completely broken . . and NOT the kind of mercy that is merciful because we rarely “missed-the-mark” but because apart from Him we are helpless – unable to do anything that remotely resembles righteous God-honoring living.
Like the Priest and the Levite as portrayed in Luke 10, our natural drift is towards religious posturing on Sunday while offering little if any regard for the roadside sojourner on Monday, which is why Jesus stated “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13) and is also why James, the half-brother of Jesus, stated that “pure religion is caring for orphans and widows” (James 1:27).
Only those, who not only know they are in desperate need of God’s mercy,
but realize they would be nothing apart from His mercy . . well,
it is only those lives who are rightly prepared to be an extension of mercy.
– David “JB” Miller –
If we church-goers were all just a little more honest, genuine, authentic, we would freely admit we need a detox from lifeless religion, for it is most often lifeless religion that fixates on our “do” and loses sight of what He is willing “to do” . . first for us . . and secondly. through us.
At the core – we all, sooner or later, will have to account for our answer to this one question: Which is the object of our highest trust? His word . . or . . our work? His power . . or . . our privation? His “do” . . or . . our restless and insecure “do more”?
We find ourselves in a world where a growing number believe there are no true answers, no absolutes . . while many others believe there are many answers, none better than the other. Unfortunately, much of the exhibited “practice” of Christianity resembles the latter, choosing to live like practical atheists on most days while turning to “cotton-candy” feel-good prosperity Jesus when the chips are down.
What Jesus is looking for …
are those who are prepared to stand on a faith that asserts He is our only answer . . He is our only way, our only truth, our only life . . our only trustworthy authority for any and every thing, great and small, in both the present and the forever future.
Only when we come to “that place” of humility and spiritual hunger are we prepared to squash the Devil’s temptations to live in a state of spiritual anarchy defined by power-infatuated self-reliance and instead confess, “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. (Matthew 4:4)
The Roman Centurion in Matthew chapter 8 was such a man, and as an accomplished military leader who was both under authority and given much authority, he recognized the unique authority of Jesus Christ and humbly yet confidently entrusted the life or death needs of his critically ill servant to Him.
Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home.
Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed ..
– Matthew 8:8 –
Have you paused and allowed your soul to hear the words of Jesus . . especially, like the Centurion, smack in the middle of those life-altering pregnant pause “just say the word” moments?
To the Centurion he said,
“’Go! As you have believed, so will it be done for you.’
And his servant was healed at that very hour .. ” Matthew 8:13
To the sermon-stopping demoniac,
“Jesus reprimanded him. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered.
At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion,
and then came out of him .. ” Mark 1:25-26
To the widow who just lost her only son,
“When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion.
“Don’t cry!” he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped.
“Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk!
And Jesus gave him back to his mother .. ” Luke 7:13-15
To the angry and turbulent Sea of Galilee
(and very much in the middle of a pack of desperate disciples),
“When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!”
Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm .. Mark 4:39
To the desperate Galilean government official
who’s son’s life hung in the balance,
“Then Jesus told him, ‘Go back home. Your son will live!’,
and the man believed what Jesus said and started home.
While the man was on his way, some of his servants met him with the news
that his son was alive and well .. “John 4:50-51
To the four-day-old corpse formerly known as Lazarus,
“Then Jesus shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’, and the dead man came out .. ” John 11:43-44
To add a punctuation mark to His just concluded Sermon on the Mount …
overlooking Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee, and having been approached by a man
horribly inflicted with leprosy, which was both a physical and social curse in that day,
and upon hearing this unfinching statement of faith
“Lord if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean”,
“Jesus reached out and touched him. ‘I am willing, he said. “Be healed!”
And instantly the leprosy disappeared .. Matthew 8:3
After a Spirit-led 40 day fast …
in the wilderness, Jesus was well past the point where most, if not all of us, would become easily overwhelmed . . and most vulnerable to Satanic lies and temptation . . all of which could be summed up by: “You have been hung out to dry by your Father in heaven – why not “be the boss of you” and take matters into your own hands?”
Jesus didn’t yield . . nor did He stop there . . He provided a way of escape for us in our seasons of greatest exposure and fear through a prayer that was and is designed to be the blueprint for daily victory in the life of authentic Christ-followers .
“Father in heaven .. may your Kingdom come. may your will be done,
on earth as it is heaven .. give us this day our daily bread ..”
– Matthew 6:9-11 –
. . a prayer, that when prayed in faith, rejects human independence and invites The Authority in Heaven to be The Trustworthy Authority in every aspect of our everyday life AND The Sustainer of our everyday life. The latter is never possible without first the former.
The beauty of this prayer is that behind it stands a Savior who is not only resourced to cure our “broken” and fill our “empty” . . but, just as He was with the paralyzed servant, the grief-stricken widow, the demon-possessed man, the storm-panicked disciples, the desperate government official, the lifeless Lazarus and the left-behind leper . . He is willing to be our “whole” and our “full”.
The danger of this prayer is when we carelessly dismiss it and settle for pressing our way through in our own strength. We not only miss our bread from the hand of the Father in heaven, but we are too preoccupied with self-preservation to have any time or strength left over for those who have been beaten up, bruised, battered and robbed by life.
But once we humble ourselves . . and taste the bread that only comes from heaven, we discover that it is simply too satisfying not to share . . and we begin to look at our days this side of heaven through the eyes of Jesus . . and humbly declare “Where you go, I will follow . . just say the word.”
For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command ..
– Psalm 33:9 –
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,
sustaining all things by his powerful word ..
– Hebrews 1:3 –
How is God encouraging you today?