Maintaining Situational Awareness

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away. Matthew 16:1-4

Why would the religious leaders feel the need to always test Jesus?

What would they do if they had trapped Him? They were obviously afraid of the people because He was popular with them.

Jesus left the leaders with the mystery of the sign of Jonah. He planted the seed and left. He knew they would be thinking about that story and trying to decipher it. They would invariably be trying to figure out how it applied to them.

We know of course that Jesus was referring to His own death and being in the grave for three days just as Jonah was in the fish for three days.

Jesus was the sign from heaven they were seeking but they couldn’t put the pieces together.

The answer to their question was right in front of them but they didn’t have spiritual eyes to see.

As we approach some murky days ahead in this country, we need to be maintain “situational awareness” about our surroundings. Spiritual forces of evil would like nothing better than this country to descend into chaos and we’re seeing the beginnings of that right now.

Pray against those forces of evil as Ephesians 5 instructs us to.

Pray that God’s will will be done in this land and around the world.

It is my prayer that each of you reading this will go deeper with Christ in the days ahead.

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Trusting God in the Age of Covid-19

29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”

34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”

35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan. Matthew 15:29-39

Once again, we see Jesus wanting to feed the crowds, and His disciples not knowing what they should do. It wasn’t that long ago that they fed another crowd with fish and bread. His disciples were even asking the same questions about where they should get the food.

If they had done the same thing Jesus did by holding out the fish and bread up to God, thanking Him for it, and starting to distribute it, would it have been enough to feed the masses? We’ll never know because they didn’t do it.

Others have done it throughout history. George Mueller comes to mind when he ran an orphanage. They had no idea how they would feed the children, and God would miraculously provide time and time again. Was George and people like him super spiritual? Did they have a special kind of faith?

Simply put, they had to trust God. They had no other choice.

What does that kind of faith look like in our culture? I’m certain many more people need to trust God due to unexpected unemployment and the dire need for food and housing than they did last year at this time.

Again I ask, how do you trust God when life is so easy and food is so plentiful? Are there things we can do to trust Him more?

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Prejudices Abound

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. Matthew 15:21-28

We see in this story the disciples’ initial prejudice against this Canaanite woman, a non-Jew. Jesus was healing people all day every day but she should be sent away?

I believe Jesus was ultimately proving a point when He sis that He was ‘sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’ They would have agreed and cheered on this comment.

He took the point further by referring to her as a dog, something the Jews believed about the Gentiles. Again, they would have applauded His words because they felt the same way.

Then the twist came, “Woman, you have great faith!”

It’s like being in a cafeteria and hearing a glass fall to the ground, bounce around a bit, and then break. At the first hit of the glass to the floor, the room quiets and listens. People actually cheer when the glass doesn’t break.

Much of that is speculation on my part but it certainly fits the text.

The important part of the story is when He told her that her daughter was healed and they she had great faith in a Jewish man she had never met before.

American society is experiencing upheaval in the area of prejudices based on skin color and beliefs. In fact, elements within society are misusing protests as a means of destroying businesses and cultural memorials. They hate, hurt, and hunt down those who disagree with them. They are not protesters in any true sense of the word but thugs, rioters, and cowards who hide behind slogans and guns.

Unfortunately, they have willing accomplices in the media (who ignore their actions).

Politicians abet their atrocities by saying they’re peaceful and exhibit no violence whatsoever, that is, until polls were finally showing it was hurting their chances in the upcoming November elections.

Today as you go into prayer, pray for peace.

Pray for wisdom for those in leadership.

Pray also for justice for those businesses and lives that have been destroyed as a result of this armed movement.

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Flawed Input, Corrupt Output

10 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.” Matthew 15:10-11

In computer terms, Jesus is describing GIGO, Garbage In – Garbage Out. The output of processed data is only as good as the data that goes in.

If you input faulty and flawed data, the computer will output equally flawed results. 

The religious leaders were highly concerned about the outward appearances of what a person ate or drank. It didn’t seem to bother them that a person was peace-loving, generous, and loving. What mattered was the physical external input.

Jesus was making a spiritual point about some of the nonsense that goes into us and processed by our “systems”: false teaching, secular thoughts and ideas, bitterness, anger, doubt, and the like. Add to that the stresses and rigors of daily life. Eventually, that bad “data” will manifest itself outwardly in one form or another.

You’ve probably experienced this phenomena yourself. You’re having a conversation and all of a sudden you blurt out something out of nowhere that is just out of character. You then recall an incident – probably earlier in the day – that was totally unrelated to the outburst but was probably linked. What was inside manifested itself for others to see and hear.

It’s also why it’s important to input positive, uplifting “content” prior to falling asleep.

What goes into our minds and hearts throughout the day is as important as the healthy food we eat (or should eat).

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God is On Our Side

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.'” Matthew 14:1-9

Once again we see the religious leaders confront Jesus in what they consider a sin.

Jesus pushed back harder with two examples of their own hypocrisy and godlessness. He quoted Isaiah to bolster His words.

Throughout the Gospels Jesus came down hard on the religious leaders because they should have known better. They elevated their own traditions over the Word of God. They wrote laws around the original laws so that no one would come close to breaking the original laws. They then elevated their laws to have the same authority as the original laws and commandments.

The phrases “their hearts are far from me” and “their teachings are merely human rules” must have stung. He called them out, told them why they were hypocrites, and backed it up with Scripture they would have accepted as authority.

‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.”

We’ve seen this behavior in many of our churches. In fact Pastors joke about the phenomena in the pulpit, “worship God on Sunday, and live like the devil the rest of the week.”

The commitment to honor God in word and deed must come daily, hourly even.

It’s not an easy task, this Christian life we live.

We face many obstacles and hurdles and battles just to live decent lives and provide for our families.

But God the Father is on our side. Jesus is cheering us on. And the Holy Spirit lives in us to help enable us to live a godly life in Christ.

Daily, hourly, minute-by-minute commitment. If God, therefore, is for us, who can be against us?

The God of the universe is on our side.

How I long to have that concept etched in the forefront of my soul!

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