Just give me Jesus

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Just give me Jesus

Psalm 143

Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

A Psalm of David.

Hear my prayer, O Lord;

give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness;

answer me in your righteousness.

Do not enter into judgment with your servant,

for no one living is righteous before you.

For the enemy has pursued me,

crushing my life to the ground,

making me sit in darkness like those long dead.

Therefore my spirit faints within me;

my heart within me is appalled.

I remember the days of old,

I think about all your deeds,

I meditate on the works of your hands.

I stretch out my hands to you;

my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

Answer me quickly, O Lord;

my spirit fails.

Do not hide your face from me,

or I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.

Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,

for in you I put my trust.

Teach me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

Save me, O Lord, from my enemies;

I have fled to you for refuge.

Teach me to do your will,

for you are my God.

Let your good spirit lead me

on a level path.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life.

In your righteousness bring me out of trouble.

In your steadfast love cut off my enemies,

and destroy all my adversaries,

for I am your servant.

Most days, I really do not know what I want. That may seem silly or stupid to you, but it is true. I’m exactly the type of person who stands in line at McDonald’s for hours trying to decide what kind of burger to order… no I have a coping mechanism of either getting the same thing every time or defaulting to whatever seems new. In either case, I am usually not incredibly excited about what I get. Sometimes I feel like one of the purposes of my life is to figure out what I really want. I hope I find out before the end.

I have enemies. Some of them I have loved into friendships. Others have been washed away by time and circumstance. The worst of my enemies wear my own face, sleep in my bed, eat my food, and pull me down from a place that few can see. I cannot run from them. I cannot hide. I can only endure and lift up my soul when the tide rises too high.

Where the Spirit of God swoops down to catch me up…

My problems are nothing compared to King David’s. My enemies are few and powerless by comparison… but I can relate to the call for help. Notice though that David asks for more than just salvation from trouble. He asks for guidance and refuge. He ends declaring himself as God’s servant. David’s prayer was to be saved to serve.

How do you pray?

Do your prayers for help connect with a desire to serve God?

Giving your all

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Giving your all

2Kings 4:18-37

“When the child was older, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. He complained to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” The father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” He carried him and brought him to his mother; the child sat on her lap until noon, and he died. She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, closed the door on him, and left. Then she called to her husband, and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, so that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.” He said, “Why go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath.” She said, “It will be all right.” Then she saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Urge the animal on; do not hold back for me unless I tell you.” So she set out, and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite woman; run at once to meet her, and say to her, Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is the child all right?” She answered, “It is all right.” When she came to the man of God at the mountain, she caught hold of his feet. Gehazi approached to push her away. But the man of God said, “Let her alone, for she is in bitter distress; the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.” Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, Do not mislead me?” He said to Gehazi, “Gird up your loins, and take my staff in your hand, and go. If you meet anyone, give no greeting, and if anyone greets you, do not answer; and lay my staff on the face of the child.” Then the mother of the child said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave without you.” So he rose up and followed her. Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. He came back to meet him and told him, “The child has not awakened.”

When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. So he went in and closed the door on the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. Then he got up on the bed and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and while he lay bent over him, the flesh of the child became warm. He got down, walked once to and fro in the room, then got up again and bent over him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite woman.” So he called her. When she came to him, he said, “Take your son.” She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left. ”

This story is not about a normal family. This is a story about gratitude, blessing, and trust.

This foreign woman gave shelter to the aging prophet Elisha and asked nothing in return. When he asked how he could bless her, she said she needed nothing. She was provided for by an aging husband and well thought of in the community. Elisha was relentless in his desire to bless her though, and noting that they were childless, he told her she would bear a son soon. I don’t know how old she was, but between her and her husband, they had given up hope for children. It sounded like false hope to her and she asked him not to taunt her with such foolish promises. Yet she did indeed bear a son.

This passage picks up the story several years later, when that miracle child suffered an unusual headache. His father brought him in to his mother and he laid there with her until he died. Many people would have been furious with grief, cursed Elisha and his God for being cruel in providing them with the blessing of a child and then taking them away so soon. That kind of reaction would be understandable. Not right, but understandable.

The Shunammite woman did not respond that way though. Instead she put the child on the bed that the prophet had slept in, packed her bags, and headed off to find Elisha. Elisha saw her coming from a distance and prepared to meet her. He intended to send his servant with his staff to go back to the boy and restore him to life. The woman was relentless though and refused to leave without Elisha himself. (In some ways this is a counter example of the faith of the centurion and also similar to the faith of this gentile woman)

The kind of faith exemplified here is not blind faith, but persistent faith. It is inspirational as well because even as the mother would not give up:
1. when her son died
2. when Elisha did not want to come back with her
3. when the boy did not awaken at the touch of the staff

So also Elisha did not give up and eventually crawled on top of the boy to warm his body and breath life into him anew. I don’t know how this worked any more than I know how any of the other biblical miracles worked. What strikes me about this passage though is the persistence of everyone in bringing this boy back to life, and the grateful trust that God would provide. There are few things that make you unclean by Old Testament Law more than crawling into bed with a corpse – which ma be why Elisha did not even want to come back into the house to begin with… but in the end, he was willing to give up his own state of spiritual cleanliness for the sake of this faimly and bringing new life to them again.

How far would you be willing to go to bless someone in need?

Who are the grateful foreign families around you that do not know God but may be waiting for you to share your life and your faith with them?

Bad Figs

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Bad Figs

Jeremiah 24:1–10 (NRSV)

The LORD showed me two baskets of figs placed before the temple of the LORD. This was after King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon had taken into exile from Jerusalem King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, together with the officials of Judah, the artisans, and the smiths, and had brought them to Babylon. One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, but the other basket had very bad figs, so bad that they could not be eaten. And the LORD said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” I said, “Figs, the good figs very good, and the bad figs very bad, so bad that they cannot be eaten.”

Then the word of the LORD came to me: Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I have sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans. I will set my eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

But thus says the LORD: Like the bad figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten, so will I treat King Zedekiah of Judah, his officials, the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who live in the land of Egypt. I will make them a horror, an evil thing, to all the kingdoms of the earth—a disgrace, a byword, a taunt, and a curse in all the places where I shall drive them. And I will send sword, famine, and pestilence upon them, until they are utterly destroyed from the land that I gave to them and their ancestors.

While volunteering at our local food pantry, I got a little more insight into how wasteful we can be in our
American culture. Especially regarding food. We fortunately have a decent amount of food that is either given away or sold at a very discounted rate once it passes the “sell by” date. I just finished a bowl of melon and mixed fruit yesterday that had a sell by date of about 2 weeks ago and it was still good.

We are wasteful because we give up on things too easily, do not have the skill to fix them or adapt them to good use. So we end up throwing things away and buying new all the time. It has grown bad enough with home appliances that most of the time it is actually cheaper to buy new than to buy parts to fix something that is not working right. Sometimes we do that with our relationships – something breaks so we throw it away and go looking for a new one. Some of us have done that with God as well. Someday, someone may do it to us.

Israel was broken, many of them were taken away to Babylon, and only a few were left in the land. Those who were left may have seen themselves as the faithful, fortunate ones… but God apparently thought otherwise. He compared them to two baskets of fruit and said that the good fruit represented the future of those in exile, and the bad fruit – spoiled beyond use, represented those left behind.

You see, there is a flip side to this culture of wastefulness. We are also a culture of health. While we may throw out a lot of food, you are far less likely to catch food poisoning from our grocery stores than in other countries with little food regulation. In fact, the majority of our food issues tend to either come from a bad batch, which may have been shipped in from another country, or from mishandling of the food – not from the food itself. We are not perfect, but we set high standards for the quality of food we choose to sell.

So does God. Rather, He has high standards for the type of people He chooses to work with. We may come from bad seeds, and God will continue to work in us to redeem us, but He will not tolerate bad fruit, bad deeds among His people for long before making and intervention – either pruning us and nurturing our roots, or by cutting us down and forcing us to start over again.

What kind of fruit are you today?

How can you encourage those around you to bear good fruit as well?

Alive

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Alive

John 11:1–44 (NRSV)

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

There, but for the grace of God…

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There, but for the grace of God…

John 6:60–71 (NRSV)

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

As we get closer to Holy Week and Easter, in our journey through Lent, it is important for us to not think too highly of ourselves, especially since the main purpose of this journey is learning humility. That may seem ridiculous, but our feelings do not always follow logic. I can remember several occasions when the thought popped into my head, Wow! Look how humble I am today!. That kinda defeats the purpose. If you struggle with those kind of thoughts, humility can seem like an unattainable task. Pride gets you when you are proud and when you are humble.

Do not lose hope though. Getting this far in life has been dependent upon God’s mercy and grace from the beginning and it is only by His mercy and grace that we will make it anywhere in life. When the challenges ahead of us seem to big, sometimes it is because they are too big. We were never meant to get through this life on our own, without God and without the help of our brothers and sisters around us. This business about eating and drinking the flesh and blood of Jesus was one way Jesus taught what Paul spoke of in his letter to the Philippians where he wrote:

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13 (NRSV)

We only get this strength from Jesus. We only get Jesus because He found us.

(Pause for a brief moment while the theologians pull out their 18th and 19th century theology books to prepare for a fight.)

I’m not making an argument for or against free will here. I’m just saying we are all playing hide and seek and Jesus is ‘it’. We do the hiding, and have done it since Genesis 3 and God has been in the business of finding us ever since then.

Our problem is not figuring out how to make Jesus find us. He is pretty good at finding people, even the ones who will fall away and/or betray Him. He is not incredibly picky about who He chooses. No, our problem is that once we are found, we like to wander. 60% Divorce rate in our country among Christians. We like to wander. Getting lost and found has become a game to many of us. Once saved, always saved, and baptized 13 times just to make sure… Tried out 28 different churches too while I was at it. These are just symptoms of a heart that won’t stay fixed on the one and only love that can fulfill it. Left to our own devices, we would hide from life forever until what little we had was taken from us. We may only need salvation from our sin once, but we need to be saved from ourselves every day.

What temptations is God keeping you from today?

What do you need to seek His help in?

Flesh and Blood

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Flesh and Blood

John 6:52–59 (NRSV)

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

The Jews in the days of Jesus probably choked when He told them they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood, and rightly so. Eating other people, and their blood in particular was just about the epitome of what it meant to be unclean according to the OT Law. If you take a close look at most of the OT food laws in particular, they forbid the eating of any animal that is either (a) a predator that eats raw flesh or (b) a scavenger that eats dead things. 1 It is forbidden to cook anything with the blood still in it. I believe, along with Jacob Milgrom that this was related to a abhorrence for all things related to death. When you set the food laws alongside the laws regarding funeral practices (i.e. disposal of dead human bodies) a theme begins to arise that to be clean is to be fully alive, while to be unclean is to be tainted by the presence of death in one form or another. Blood, illness, infection, all made a person unclean until they were healed.

Yes, the Jews had plenty of reasons to be freaked out by this comment by Jesus.

But I don’t think we do as Christians today.

I don’t know of a single religious person or group who has ever taken this passage literally. Even the most fundamentalist and literal readers of scripture have to deal with the fact that the body of Jesus is gone to heaven now, meaning, we cannot eat of it here. It is literally impossible to follow this teaching. Everyone starts from a place of symbolism.

Our struggle with this teaching is not about the flesh and blood, as Paul eludes. Instead we struggle with the spiritual implications. I thought Christianity was either learning about, or learning from Jesus! What is this business about eating Him?

I think there are two levels that act in concert with one another, albeit in somewhat disturbing ways. The first is just the idea of the intimacy of eating. I don’t know if the Jews had a scientific notion about how digestion actually worked, particularly to the point of understanding that we are what we eat. I’m confident though that they understood we get our strength from what we eat. What Jesus was proposing was a kind of intimacy – literally giving himself for our strength and sustenance that was unheard of then and is not much more understood today.

The second level goes back to the laws again. Along with avoiding death – especially human death, one of the most forbidden things was human sacrifice. Yet that is exactly what Jesus was. He did not offer anyone else up, He offered Himself up. How can it be ok for Jesus to do it, but not ourselves? Maybe because He was without sin. Maybe He did ask us to follow His example, laying our lives down for the sake of others. I don’t understand all of it. I just know Jesus offered up His all for me and for you, and we cannot live without Him.

What is the most intimate you have ever felt with Jesus?

Where do you need Him most today?


  1. Fish are a possible exception to this rule. 

Bread of Life

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Bread of Life

John 6:41–51 (NRSV)

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Thousands of years before the gluten-free diets, bread was seen as perhaps the most basic of food groups. Simple. Common. Nearly universal across all cultures. Where there is ground to grow vegetation, and water enough to support grain, there bread can be found.

Bread was also one of the smallest offerings acceptable to God. In this, there is an important distinction. The grain allowed as offerings was to be baked, but not with leaven. It was to be untainted, flat bread cakes, sometimes mixed with spices or incense, but never the taller, sweeter, risen loaves to which many of us are more accustomed.

Jesus is our bread of life and unlike many of the other things we live for – calories and carbs, praise and power, dollars and dopamine… unlike each of these things, Jesus is untainted and will only bring us life. Everything else that pretends to be bread carries the yeast of death within it, giving us a sense of life, yet cannot truly bestow it. At best, they can only by us time.

Like the heavenly manna, Jesus came from heaven as a gift from God, and not just any gift, but one that brought provision for life as a symbol of God’s faithfulness. Jesus did not come to make bread, but to be bread Himself. This bread, as He explained, was His flesh. (There is another huge question right there!)

Bypassing the whole notion of eating flesh for the moment, consider this: Jesus doesn’t hold back. If you need it, He is offering it to you. If He has it, it is your’s. You need a new arm or a new leg? Have one of Jesus’s. Do you need restored eyes or lungs? Jesus has some to offer. This isn’t Frankenstein here, it is God showing us how much He is willing to give to love, redeem, and provide for us. This bread from heaven is not just any old flesh – it is God Himself, so we can rest assured that if we get our new body from God, it will be built to last.

Stay tuned for more…

Where are you seeking your provision from today?

Which would be hardest to live without: money, your relationships, position and power?

Which of those areas in your life is Jesus least present in, and how can you invite Him to be more present in them?