The Heart Of The Matter

0416_heart_euro_1140x400

By Jaime Luce

Life happens!  It happens to all of us.  If you have a pulse and don’t live in a 6×3 foot box then life still happens.  You can be cruising along just fine when like something out of a Batman and Robin episode “wham” you hit a speed bump or worse you can “splat” right into a wall.  As the scripture says, “It rains on the just and the unjust”.   There is no discrimination in the process of life.  We all will experience it.  Some for shorter periods of time and for others longer.  These are the seasons.  But as I was reading Jesus’ words today in Matthew 9 I was struck by the understanding that so many times we don’t understand why or what we really need.

I’m not going to attempt to answer your why today but maybe open your heart to hear a little bit better.  The setting of the story is this.  Jesus has just delivered men from demons in quite a display.  Not because Jesus was making a show but the demons caused a whole herd of pigs to run of a cliff!  Sadly though there was a great deliverance yet the people who witnessed it wanted nothing to do with the deliverer.  They asked him to leave.  Now I’m not saying that you would say out loud anything like that but I do think sometimes our actions ask for the same result.  Jesus shows up and does a great work but maybe we don’t like the way he chose to do it.  Ouch.  That’s not part of my this muse today but it was free in case you needed it.  That’s a hurdle for another day. Now back to the point.  Jesus being the gentleman that he is left at their request.  He decided to go back to his home town.  He got in a boat and crossed over.

Now this is where we pick up for today.  The scripture says in Verse 2 that a paralytic man was brought to Jesus and he saw their faith.  I know sometimes we are so swallowed up by our circumstance that we not only can’t get to Jesus on our own but it’s their faith, those believing for you that carry us to the answer.  No condemnation here.  I’ve been there more times than I want to admit.  Thank God for those who pray for us and encourage us along the way.  Jesus is always moved by faith no matter if it was theirs or his.  Here’s where is gets really interesting.  Jesus say’s to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you.”  Now there is a whole exchange between Jesus and the scribes but that isn’t what struck me.  You would think that Jesus would straight away tell the man what he most wanted to hear.  You’re healed!  But he didn’t.  Was Jesus just wanting to spar with the scribes?  Did he think the man was only lying down because he was tired?  Didn’t he see what the real problem was?

That’s the point my friends.  He did see what the real problem was.  The scribes missed it.  The friends missed it.  Even the paralytic missed it.  What really was wrong with the man?  It wasn’t that his legs didn’t move.  Jesus never spoke without thought.  Every word was what he heard the Father say.  He only did what he saw the Father do.  So this was very strategic.  Sometimes we have problems in our lives and we are praying for the seemingly obvious answer to those problems but are asking for the wrong things.  If Jesus would have simply said your healed first and never said “Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you” then this man would never have truly been healed.  He would have just fell into the next thing.  His legs may have worked but his heart wouldn’t have.

Let me unpack this a little for you.  Sometimes the battles we are facing are just symptoms of the bigger problem.  Jesus’ words explained what was going on.  First he called him Son.  This man needed to know he had a loving Father who claimed him as his own.  No matter what he had ever thought or had done he was not forgotten.  He wasn’t disqualified or written off because he had a handicap.  He was still a Son.  He was still loved and valued.  Second, Jesus said “be of good cheer”.  The man needed to know there was something worth having joy about, something that lasts longer than a passing laugh or something funny or a fleeting moment of happiness.  To have good cheer is something you have on the inside that makes it’s way to the outside.  It becomes contagious.  Good cheer affects more than just you and Jesus was saying be of good cheer.  It’s okay to be happy.  Sometimes we believe the lie that we can’t be happy.  Or that people will judge us for being happy.  They think that because of our circumstance we should be walking around in sackcloth and ashes.  Well it just isn’t the truth.  Jesus has given us the permission to be happy.  He commanded it.  He didn’t say “hey man, you really should try to be happy”.  It wasn’t a suggestion.  Jesus knew what he was about to do.  He knew the truth that was going to pierce that man’s heart and truly set him free.  Here it is!  This man needed to know that he was forgiven.  Jesus went straight to the heart of the matter.  It wasn’t his healing he needed most.  Yes, he needed healing but above that he needed to know that he was forgiven.  Many times we accept our ailments or troubles because we feel we deserve them.  I have been there.  We don’t realize the enemy has got us fooled.  We are locked in a prison and we are holding the keys.  Jesus always has the answer you need.  I don’t know what you are facing today.  It may or may not be physical but it can be debilitating none the less.  How about trying something different today.  Instead of praying for that thing to go away or be fixed or healed try asking him what you need.  The scripture says in Matthew 6:8 not to be like the others.  That he knows what we have need of before we ask.  You can trust him.  He doesn’t just want your circumstance to change.  He wants to give you true joy.  He came to give us life and that more abundantly.  Don’t settle for the crumbs when you can have the bread.  Don’t accept a life without joy.  Let his light shine in your darkness today.

Today is your day.  Be of good cheer!

Don’t be like the scribes who didn’t like what Jesus said.  He can be trusted with everything that concerns you.  You’re his child.  He loves you!  You’re not unworthy or disqualified.  Son, Daughter, be of good cheer!  Your sins are forgiven you.  You don’t ever have to go back.  And if you have never asked him to forgive you it’s just that simple.  You just ask him and the scripture says that he is faithful an just to forgive us of all unrighteousness.  Once we have this understanding we are then able to hear those words that that man was waiting to hear.  Jesus then told him “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house”.  And the man did just that and so can you.  Walk out of that prison and find your joy!

Perspective

By Jaime Luce

Perspective, it’s what governs every action we act on.  Whether our actions are in thought, word or deed they are all first rung through the place of perspective.  Think about it.  There isn’t one thing you will do today that wasn’t based off of what you perceive to bring about a particular outcome even if it’s just your routine.  You perform daily tasks because in some form or fashion it will bring about results that from your perspective will give you a desired end.  If you use a coupon it’s because you believe it to be the best way to save money where as someone else would say that taking the time to look for and cut a coupon was a waste of their time, that their time was more valuable therefore not worth the possible gain in finances.  Whether we realize it or not we are all in a race to a finish line.  Like a swimmer we are either focused on our stroke, form and even our breath making strides with every reach or we are just treading water.  Perspective is everything.  It was this understanding that really struck me while reading Jesus’ words in Matthew 5.

This passage contains the famed Beatitudes.  Don’t you love it.  These are to “be our attitudes”.  This chapter is an in your face confrontation of what we are supposed to be as followers of Christ.  That our actions are not the final say on whether we’re hitting the mark or not.  It’s what’s in our heart and in our thoughts.  Jesus doesn’t give it to them nice and sweet.  You know we would all prefer the Mary Poppins version.   You know, “a teaspoon of sugar helps the medicine go down”.  Well I don’t ever see where Jesus ever wasted any time making nice nice.  He was a King and our Savior and when your saving a person drowning you don’t waste time making introductions and hoping they like you enough to save you.  There’s that perspective again.

We live in a culture of offense.  If we don’t like what someone says or the way they say it we think we are right to dismiss what is being said.  We have no desire to grow or be made better by the character of God we are supposed to be emulating.  My favorite example of this is the 10 Commandments vs. Grace, the Old Testaments Big Bad Law.  We say don’t tell me that law.  I’m under grace.  Well Ma’am, sir, yes you now have the wonderful unmerited favor and amazing grace that said you no longer have to pay the penalty of your sin.  It’s truly fantastic and we are no longer under any condemnation.  We are made new!  But would you want to put on your freshly clean showered body a dirty stinky old piece of clothes.  Who does that?  God’s precious grace is so powerful it is the tool we use to live a new life, not the old.

Let’s look at the 10 commandments from a fresh perspective.  Have you ever thought about what our world would be like if everyone Loved the Lord with all their heart?  It would be a world where everyone served him first above all other things in the order he designed.  A place where there was no murder, no theft, no lying, no greed and where every family had whole healthy relationships between parents and children.  Honor was the standard and everyone enjoyed long life full of blessing.  My friends that is paradise!  A God given utopia.  God’s design for us from the beginning was the Garden of Eden.  If your perspective of God is that he’s a mad mean God who is looking how to make life hard and without fun then you have the wrong image of God.  He’s a wonderful loving father who wants to provide for our every need in order to live a blessed life.  I’ll prove it to you.  In Genesis 2 God provides for a perfect environment from giving man a helper in Eve to feeding perfectly the plants with an exact temperature and mist to grow them everyday.  A place where he came everyday in the cool of the day to just walk and talk with them. The land had flowing water streams, hills filled with gold and precious stones and complete peace among everything that had breath.  But the real showing of God’s merciful and caring character is after Adam and Eve sinned.  He didn’t call them out and embarrass them.  He asked what happened and then made clothes for them to properly cover their shame.  He loved them.  Then to protect them from a worse fate of eternal damnation with no hope of salvation he made them leave the garden.  This was God loving us as well.  We needed salvation from our sin and Jesus was our reconciliation to God and his plan.

His plan was and is still to meet our needs.  That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “I didn’t come to destroy the law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill”.  His sacrifice and perfect grace that was imparted to us was a gift to help us live a life that was intended for us, a life like that reflected in the 10 commandments.  In our fallen state we could never measure up but with Jesus all things are possible.  God said of himself to Paul that his strength is made perfect in our weakness.  He knows how to make perfect in us whatever needs help.  When we see correctly his plan, we can more easily receive his grace to live a holy and righteous life free from the evil that destroys us.  I know this is a challenge but I do challenge you to look at God through a new perspective.  To see his laws as a blessing not a list of do’s and don’ts that are made to restrict.  That’s not the God I serve.  That’s not the character of the one who gave his only son to save a world.  The scripture says that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That’s the character of our God.  Now like Paul let’s live a life worthy of the calling.  We press toward the price of the high calling.  It’s time to step up and live a redeemed life.  His grace is sufficient for you.  Life is good with the right perspective.

Disqualified? I think not!

Little man holds a red Question Mark

By Jaime Luce

 

Have you ever had one of those times where you have read a passage in the Bible many times but see something for the first time?  Well I do, quite often really, and today was no different.  I was reading Matthew 1 and right there in verse 5, the genealogy mind you, something just jumped off the page and stuck to my eyeballs.  Okay well not quite, but it did feel that way.  Anyway, since I was blessed to be born into a Christian home with knowledge of the Bible and those mentioned in it I was taken aback to see this as if I never read it before.  I was very familiar with the person Boaz since my mother loved the story of Boaz and Ruth which I heard often.  But today, and why it took so long to see I don’t know, but right there in Verse 5 we see who his mother was.  Are you ready?  Wait for it…   I couldn’t believe it.  Rahab!  Rahab the Harlot!  How would you like it if every time your name was mentioned it was followed by the title “Harlot”?  Talk about never outrunning your past.  I mean I can’t think of her any other way.  Well, that was until today.

Now maybe you aren’t familiar with either of these people so let me help clarify.  While the children of Israel had been delivered out of Egypt they had not yet possessed the “Promised Land”.  In order to prepare to go and possess it Joshua their fearless leader, trained under Moses, was sending in spies to see what they were up against for this first city Jericho.  While doing all this spying word gets out that they are there and they are famously hid by Rahab on the top of her roof. Now Rahab was not an Israelite but a harlot (see how I did that again)  and in the midst of the fear that all Jericho was feeling she made a decision to believe what she had heard about their God.  How he had opened the Red Sea and they made it through on dry ground, how their enemies were annihilated and now he was coming for them.  She responded like most red blooded fearful humans would.  She promised to hide and save the spies and in return they would spare her and anyone in her house when they came to destroy the city.  All she had to do was hang a scarlet cord out her window and all of Israel would know they were not to touch them.  Sounds like a pretty good deal.  Sometimes the best choice is your only choice. Huh hum, well sometimes, not all the time.  But in this case it was.

I always knew that her name was mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus.  And that her act of hiding them was a memorial to her but I have to admit that I never saw anything else that said she wasn’t just making a shrewd move to save her life.  I mean really, we might all do the same if we thought we were going to die.  So I never gave her credit for truly turning her life around.  Then I go and see verse 5 “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse and Jesse begot David the king.”  It’s right there in black and white.

So let me tell you why this is so amazing.  The proof of her life change was seen in two specific things.  One that she married an Israelite.  She stopped with the harlotry and married an Israelite and then gave birth to Boaz.  How do I know that she changed?  Because Boaz was an honorable man.  He was a man of great wealth and renown who had compassion and wisdom and a heart of generosity.  He valued the law and the ways of God.  He loved the one who was a foreigner, not an Israelite and she was destitute.  This is the proof of a mother who raised her son to know the God whom she came to know who rescued her from certain damnation.  This God she came to know gave her beauty for ashes.  Her past was nothing anymore.  She gained a whole new life free from who she was and living among new people with a new future.  She had a complete overhaul.

I don’t know what you may have gone through or what you may be going through but you are not disqualified from the life God has planned for you.  According to Romans 2:11 God does not show favoritism.  He’s no respecter of persons.  Jeremiah 29:11 Says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  This is exactly what he did for Rahab and it’s exactly what he will do for you.  Not to mention the hope we should gain by seeing our potential as mothers.  God will be faithful to lead us and guide us in raising our children into men and women of honor.  We don’t have to fear the dishonor of our past but we can hold fast to the honor set before us.  Rahab’s lineage continued to the birth of Jesus all because she believed in the God of her salvation and let him change her life.  So consequently all we have to do is follow her example.  Today you can choose Him.  Today you can hold your head up high and call on your redeemer Jesus.  I like how King David said it in Psalm 121:1-2, who by the way was Rahab’s Great Grandson, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come?  My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.…”  Disqualified?  I think not!

God’s got this!  Do you have him?