Jesus Sees

Jesus . . . watched the crowd
Mark 12:41

These words are found within the account often referred to as “The Widow’s Offering.” Jesus watched a multitude of people putting their money into the temple treasury, but His attention was drawn to the widow who offered only two small copper coins. Why?

Jesus saw from two different perspectives as He watched this scene play out. Visually He saw a crowd of people giving what was required out of their material wealth and a lowly woman giving as much as possible out of her lack. While spiritually seeing the hardened hearts of men who gave out of pride, Jesus’ spiritual eyes were keenly attracted to the heart of one lonely, humble woman. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Jesus saw with physical eyes but He also saw with spiritual understanding. Many within the crowd wanted their actions to be seen while in actuality, they only gave out of necessity with a hardened heart. The widow did not want her small contribution to be noticed because she was embarrassed by how little she could give. However, Jesus saw her generous heart and was pleased. Paul gives us some guidance in II Corinthians 9:7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

One of the names of God is El Roi, translated “the God who sees.” God’s eyes are never shut. He is awake and aware of everything and everyone He has created. He not only has visual perception but He also discerns our thoughts and intentions. His spiritual vision includes spiritual knowledge allowing Him to see with divine understanding. God is omniscient – He knows everything. We cannot hide anything from Him. He knows and sees everything about us – our thoughts, intentions, feelings, and desires as well as our actions. It has been said that we can fool some of the people some of the time but we cannot fool all the people all of the time. When it comes to our relationship with God, we cannot fool Him any time! I John 3:20 says, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.”

One additional definition of “to see” refers to meeting with someone. For example, I will see you at a specific location. With this perspective in mind, how can we see and meet with the Lord personally? James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

I ask myself the question, what does God see when He watches me? Does He see agreement between my actions and the desires of my heart or does He discover some discrepancy? These are sobering questions. Too often I may be more of a Pharisee while sincerely desiring to be like the widow. Jeremiah 17:10 says, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”

In conclusion, we can say that Jesus not only sees our actions visually but He also sees spiritually the intents our hearts. The amazing thing is that He is still willing to see and meet with us. May we be willing to fulfill Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Jesus watched the crowd, and He is still watching us.


 

 

Advertisements

Leftovers Left in God’s Hands (Part 1)

I have accumulated a stash of leftover fabric from numerous sewing projects over the years. No piece is big enough to make a new skirt or a pair of curtains, yet I have kept the leftovers because I never know when I might need such a piece as this. Often when a granddaughter and I are having a sleepover, we search through my fabric resources for a craft project. Small pieces have value. Recently while sorting through my sewing stash, I was reminded of Jesus feeding the 5000 and the leftovers from that meal.

When they were filled, He said to His disciples,
“Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.”
So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.
John 6: 12-13

Join me as I look at these two verses of scripture phrase by phrase. Our focus will be upon the leftovers.

When they were filled”

Leftovers are what is left over after the use of the original intent of whatever commodity we have. These pieces have value beyond there first use. For me it was fabric, while for Jesus it was food. The bag lunch of one young boy placed in Jesus’ hands not only provided the meal for 5000 people but resulted in leftovers as well. I wonder how this boy felt when there were scraps of bread and morsels of fish left after everyone had lunch. Was he happy with the overabundance of food Jesus produced with what he gave or was he disappointed because not all of his offering was consumed in the way he thought it would be? Jesus did the math. He did not just add up what the boy gave, He multiplied it! We may feel disappointed if what we offer to the Lord is not totally used in the way we intended but God has much bigger plans than for us to just be satisfied with what we give to Him.

He said to His disciples . . .”

Jesus asked His disciples to pick up the leftovers. He did not do it Himself. Jesus asked His disciples to gather up the remainder of the meal because He knew the existing crumbs were important. We are not told what the disciples did with the leftovers but I think they gave the baskets of broken bread to Jesus. Maybe this was a prophetic picture of the Last Supper Jesus would share with these same disciples before His crucifixion. I want the obedience of the disciples to be an example of what I am to do with the broken pieces that are leftover from my attempts to serve the Lord.

Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.”

John describes the leftovers as fragments. In Luke 9:17, the phrase “broken pieces” is used to describe the leftovers. Jesus did not want to throw away any part of the boy’s offering that had not been consumed. He did not want to see any small morsels left on the ground because they had value to Him. Like my pieces of fabric, the leftovers were just scraps that were not used for the original purpose. However, just as I may have a future use for swatches of fabric, Jesus had a use for the leftovers of the bread and fish. We do not know what Jesus did with the bread crumbs – maybe He fed them to the birds. It is not important for us to know what Jesus will do with our leftovers but it is necessary for us to give them to Him. Whatever we choose to do for the Lord may be used in ways beyond our original intents.

So they . . . filled twelve baskets with fragments”

Is there any significance that the disciples filled twelves baskets with leftovers? Possibly each basket represented the life of one disciple. Maybe each disciple had brokenness in his life that he needed to bring to Jesus so He could use their brokenness for His plans and purposes. The fragile fragments of each disciple were so important to Jesus that He wanted to deal with each one individually. The same is true for us today. We cannot lump all the shortcomings and brokenness of all people into one basket for Jesus to forgive. We must each meet Him personally.

“left over by those who had eaten” 

Leftovers provide for abundance. If I had not kept the odds and ends of various materials, I would miss out on many fun craft creations to be fashioned with my granddaughters. Today, most likely, crusts of bread and bones of fish are simply discarded. However, we never know what the Lord will do with the leftovers of our lives. Jesus still promises us that nothing will be wasted just as He revealed to the young boy with a small lunch over 2000 years ago. He will use everything, including the leftovers, according to His plans and purposes.

(Click on image to find the credit for the appropriate image.)

Jesus, Chickens and Mothers

mother-and-child-2chickens-1Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
Proverbs 31:28

With this coming Sunday being designated as Mother’s Day, I want to take time to honor our mothers and fulfill Proverbs 31:28. However, I am pondering what qualifies a female to be a mother. I believe any woman who reflects a lifestyle of nurturing and caring for others is a mother. Motherly characteristics are exhibited not only by human beings, buy also by animals and birds. Jesus described His love for Jerusalem (a symbolic representation of all believers) as being like that of a mother hen. I am not saying Jesus or mothers are chickens! However, I think there is a revelation of Jesus’ love and a mother’s love when we look at the life of a chicken. I grew up on a farm and we had chickens, so maybe that is why I am attracted to this image today. Let’s see how we can tie together the hearts of Jesus, chickens, and all women who function in a mother role.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you,
how often I have longed to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,
and you were not willing.
Matthew 23:37

When I read this verse from Matthew, I not only see a mother hen drawing her little chicks close to her body but I also picture Jesus doing the same with each of us as His children. I am reminded of the refrain of the old hymn Safe in the Arms of Jesus by Frances Crosby, “Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast; There by His love o’ershaded, Sweetly my soul shall rest.” Psalm 91:4 NLT says, “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” This image is similar to a picture of an earthly mother holding a baby in her loving, caring arms. There is a feeling of warmth and security as well as love when a baby chick, a believer in Christ, or a young child is snuggled near to the body of the one emanating love. 

As a young girl, I remember seeing the chickens running around in their open space while I was swinging on my tree swing. One of my recollections is of a mother hen leading her newborn chicks out for a walk. With the mother hen in the lead, five or six fluffy little chicks followed in a parade. The new hatchlings followed their mother wherever she went. They trusted her to lead them along the right path. Mothers of young children also lead and instruct their children. Proverbs 22:6 instructs moms (and everyone else) to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” David says in Psalm 25:4, “Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.”

While living on the farm, there were occasions when I remember hearing a lot of squawking from the chickens. Usually it meant that some predatory animal, or even another chicken, was trying to attack a brood of young chicks. The one making the most noise was the mother hen who was trying to protect her defenseless chicks. If the attack was instigated by another chicken and her squawking was not enough of a deterrent, she would ruffle her feathers and attack. Psalm 121:7 says, The LORD will keep you from all harm– He will watch over your life.” The Lord watches over our lives, a mother hen watches over the lives of her chicks, and mothers watch over the lives of the children entrusted to them.

Jesus, chickens and mothers are not synonymous words, but it has been fun to search for similarities. While exhibiting love and compassion, mothers are also protective and defensive of their children. Their goal is to help their children grow and mature to be who God created them to be. Any woman who finds herself in the role of a mother is worthy of honor on Mother’s Day and every day.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

  • Left click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.

IF…

bible-studyAnd a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees
before Him, and saying, “
If You are willing
, You can make me clean.”
Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him,
and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”
Immediately the leprosy
left him and he was cleansed.
Mark 1:40-42

Today, I want to consider two different interpretations of the phrase “If You are willing” found in the verses of scripture I have quoted from the gospel of Mark.

I usually have interpreted this phrase to reveal a lack of faith by the leper. He does believe because he seeks Jesus for healing and he shows a reverence for Jesus by coming humbly to Him. I have perceived the leper as possibly being a relatively new believer who was not extremely confident in his faith. Jesus is touched by the honesty of the leper and reaches out to touch him. While the leper was healed by the touch of Jesus, I also believe he developed a deeper relationship with Jesus because of this personal encounter. Jesus assured the leper that He was willing and able to do what the leper asked. Previously, I have pictured the leper as one who was wanting to know more about who Jesus was and what He could do. This man had faith, yet he lacked faith.

Recently while reading these verses, I thought about the possibility of the leper expressing this phrase for a different reason. I wondered if the words, “If You are willing,” revealed a more profound faith and understanding of who Jesus was. In John 5:19, Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” Then in John 8:28 Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own.” I have to wonder if this leper had a greater understanding of who Jesus was than I had originally accredited to him. He may have been respecting the fact that Jesus was only able to do what was in agreement with His Heavenly Father.

Regarding both interpretations, there are three points I want to highlight.

First of all, I want to note that although leprosy is a physical disease, it is also spiritually symbolic of sin. I may not have the disease of leprosy in my body but I do admit that sinfulness can be found within me. So, I ask the question, Do I sincerely believe that Jesus can forgive my sins? I John 1:9 assures me, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

My next focal point is related to the fact that the leper came to Jesus in person and asked to be healed. To put it into other terms, I can say that he prayed. Do I take time to pray and specifically ask the Lord for what I desire? Jesus says in Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” However, in addition, I need to remember to surrender to God’s will when interceding in prayer. I must follow the example Jesus gave to His disciples as to how to pray. In Matthew 6:10 Jesus told His disciples to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Pastor Bob Reeves of Calvary Assembly of God has said that we need to recognize both the power of God to do something and His right to do something. We do not dictate our terms when praying. We follow Jesus, not ask Him to follow us.

Finally, I must examine my level of faith. Does the phrase “If You are willing” reflect a lack of in my faith that would benefit from being deepened? I may need to cry out to Jesus the words of Mark 9:24, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Or, am I exhibiting a faith in God that surrenders to the will of God when I verbalize the words, “If You are willing”? Maybe I should heed the words of Hebrews 10:36, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” The truth I must remember from our scripture for today is found in Mark 1:41 when Jesus says, “I am willing.” Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Jesus will meet me and touch me no matter what level of faith I am experiencing as long as I call out to Him.

My Reader, how deep is your faith today? How do you interpret the leper’s words? You can receive a touch from Jesus no matter which interpretation is currently most appropriate for you as long as you cry out to Him.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Left click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.

Donkey, Horse, or Mule?

jesus-on-donkeyThe disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them,
and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them;
and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road,
and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road.
The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
B
LESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD
;
Hosanna in the highest!”
Matthew 21:9-10

As I read the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before His crucifixion, I am thinking about what Jesus symbolized for us when He chose to ride upon a donkey. The first thing I think about is the parallel of Mary riding on a donkey on her way to Bethlehem before Jesus was born and now Jesus riding on a donkey on His way to Jerusalem before He is crucified. There must be some significance with this repetition of images. (However, I acknowledge that many scholars believe Mary was walking with Joseph rather than riding on a donkey.)

By riding upon a donkey, Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 NLT, “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey–riding on a donkey’s colt.” Jesus did not come as a warring king on a horse, but as a gentle and peaceable king upon a donkey. Let’s elaborate about the symbolic images of a horse and a donkey.

A horse is described as a strong animal with solid hoofs and a flowing mane and tail. In early historical times, leaders of wars often rode horses. Still today, there is a sense of authority and pride for the rider of a horse. In Revelation 19:11, John describes his vision of Jesus riding a horse when He returns to earth by saying, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.” However, this is not the image Jesus is portraying on Palm Sunday.

A donkey is a lowly animal. It is described as a domesticated member of the horse family with long ears and a braying call. A donkey is often used as a beast of burden. Jesus was the burden the donkey was carrying into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. However, Jesus was also carrying a heavy burden within His heart for all mankind at this time. I wonder if the donkey realized how heavy a load it was carrying physically, emotionally and spiritually. I also wonder if the long ears of the donkey epitomized how well attuned Jesus was to hearing the voice of His Heavenly Father on this day and throughout the coming days.

With the pictorial image of prideful horses and humble donkeys in my mind, I think of James 4:6 that says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” I wonder which animal I represent. I desire to be humble like Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. However, I have to admit that I can become prideful. Most likely I represent another animal – a mule. A mule is defined as the offspring of a donkey and a horse. It is a pack animal and has the tendency to have an obstinate temperament. Apparently, my personality is a symbolic hybrid of a horse and a donkey. There are times when I can be stubborn like a mule. Also as I consider the mule being a pack animal, I realize that I can pack away a lot of negative thoughts that have the capability of becoming a heavy load to carry.

Jesus was seated upon a humble donkey when He rode into Jerusalem. He chose to reveal Himself as a lowly king rather than a prideful king who would have ridden upon a horse. When entering the city, Jesus was as close to the donkey as He could possibly be physically. I am reminded of James 4:8, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” For myself, if I want to experience a close spiritual intimacy with Jesus, I cannot allow myself to be double-minded with both prideful and humble thoughts. I yearn to portray a donkey rather than a horse or a mule.

In just a few days, we will celebrate Palm Sunday 2017. We will join in the shouts of “Hosanna – Jesus saves!” However, may we also take time to give attention to the humble donkey upon which Jesus rides. May the humility of Jesus and the donkey be reflected in our lives as well.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

The Denial

cross-for-denialHe (Peter) began to call down curses, and he swore to them,
“I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
Mark 14:71

Peter denied Jesus he denied Him three times! Mark 14:71 records Peter’s third denial. A synonym for deny is refuse. In this case, Peter refused to admit that he was one of Jesus’ disciples. I think Peter may have refused to admit that he knew Jesus because he felt confused. Making a slightly different interpretation of the word deny, I suggest that to deny can mean to forget. Did Peter have spiritual amnesia causing him to forget what Jesus had explained to the disciples about His upcoming death? When Peter witnessed what was happening to Jesus, he may have become worried about what might happen to himself. For his own safety, he may have have felt the need to deny any association with Jesus. Anxiety can cause us to not think clearly and to do strange things.

A short time after denying Jesus, Peter heard a rooster crow two times. Oh, oh! Peter then remembered the words Jesus had spoken to him as recorded in the beginning of Mark 14:72, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”

And he broke down and wept.
Mark 14:72b

The crow of the rooster may have cured Peter’s amnesia and caused him to reconsider who Jesus truly was. Peter wept with remorse when he realized he had denied Jesus.

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
John 21:15

Fast forward to a few days after Jesus’ resurrection and we find Jesus having breakfast with His disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. Although Peter denied (or forgot) Jesus three times as recorded in Mark 14:68-70, Jesus does not deny (or forget) Peter. Jesus knew Peter and He knew his strengths and weaknesses of character. While Peter forgot Jesus three times, Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to remember who He was. I wonder if Peter needed to be asked this question three times because it took him that long to remember who Jesus truly was. Peter had to have his mind remade – he had to be re-minded.

It is worth noting that the first two times Jesus questioned Peter about his love, He used the Greek word agape for love while the third time He used the term phileo. Agape love is God’s love, a spiritual, selfless love while phileo love expresses love on a friendship level. In His first two inquiries, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him with God’s kind of love. The last time, Jesus lowered his type of love to friendship. It is also interesting to note that each time after Peter assured Jesus that he loved Him, Jesus gave him a command of something to do, such as “Feed my lambs.”

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me.
Matthew 16:24

These words of Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 16:24 are also words being spoken to me. I want to consider what Jesus has to say to me by applying Peter’s experiences with denial to what denial entails for me today.

It was not OK for Peter to deny Jesus but it is OK for me to deny myself. In fact, for me to be a disciple of Jesus, I must deny myself – I must forget about my selfish desires. Numerous times I have denied Christ by focusing upon my own accomplishments rather than His accomplishments upon the cross. If I do not deny myself, I may deny Jesus.

Peter denied Jesus only a few hours before He was crucified upon the cross. The Matthew scripture tells me to take up my cross. What does my cross look like? Most likely I will not have to die upon the beam of a cross like Jesus, but I still need to die to myself. I need to crucify my own plans and purposes to fulfill God’s plans and purposes. When the rooster crowed, Peter remembered Jesus and what Jesus had said to him. He was
re-minded. The cross has been described as a memorial, or a reminder, of who Jesus is and of what He has done for us. For me, to take up my cross allows me to be re-minded.

Although Peter denied Jesus, Jesus still had a job for him to do. Jesus told Peter to “feed His sheep.” Jesus tells me to follow Him. Only then will I know where He wants me to go and what He wants me to do.

For Peter to deny Jesus was a bad thing but for me to deny myself is a good thing.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Mocking Jesus and Bullying People

cross-for-mockingWe are in the middle of the Christian season of Lent, the forty days before Easter when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. During the next couple of weeks, I want to concentrate upon what Jesus experienced emotionally as well as physically in the days leading up to His crucifixion. Today, I ask you to join me in focusing upon the mockery Jesus endured while on the cross. Jesus suffered verbal pain as well as physical pain.

Jesus was mocked by ordinary people who were passing by the place of crucifixion and by the religious priests and teachers. There were two different groups of people hurling similar words of scorn and contempt upon Jesus. Listen to the words recorded in Mark 15:29-30 NLT, “The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery.  ‘Ha! Look at you now! Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!’ they yelled at him. ‘You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.’” Mark 15:31 NLT goes on to say, “The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. ‘He saved others,’ they scoffed, ‘but he can’t save himself!’”

When we first read these mocking words spoken to Jesus, our response may be that these verbal assaults were spoken over 2000 years ago and do not apply to us today. However, in his book entitled The Wounded Spirit  Frank Peretti defines the term bullying as being synonymous with mocking. We tend to label these verbal abuses with other names such as teasing, taunting, and harassing because they may sound less offensive. Peretti says, “The message a bully sends is a mockery of God’s handiwork, a lie that slanders God’s nature and negates His love for us.” According to Peretti, a question that is often hidden from the conscious mind of one being mocked is “Do you care for me, God?” I find this question similar to the one Jesus asked while hanging on the cross found in Matthew 27:46, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Bullying causes word wounds that leave secret scars upon the lives of those who have been tormented. These wounded individuals and Jesus can relate to each other because they share scars of scorn. For Jesus, there were physical scars on His hands where nails punctured His hands and feet. The thorns of the crown placed upon His head left scars. There is still evidence of where the sword pierced His side. In John 20, Jesus showed His scars to His disciples two times. In John 20:20, Jesus showed the disciples his hands and side. And then in John 20:27 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.” How many emotional mockery scars does Jesus have that we are not aware of? How many emotional bullying scars are upon those around us? Peretti also says, “The message a bully sends is a mockery of God’s handiwork, a lie that slanders God’s nature and negates His love for us.” Unfortunately, society is very quiet about the mocking and bullying that occurs today. However, the day is coming when we will be held accountable for our words and actions. Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Peretti points out that ultimately bullying is related to our beliefs about the worth of individuals and the way everyone should be treated. God says that it is right to respect and love others by caring for and protecting them. In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus gives the two greatest commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Peretti writes, “It is wrong to abuse, tease, taunt, intimidate, hurt, harass, or violate anyone. Taking it a step further, to demean another person is sin.” Sin is why Jesus died on the cross. I Peter 2:24 states, “‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.’”

There is one more point I want to make. Peretti explains that one of the most important steps toward healing a wounded spirit is to forgive those who caused the wounds. Once again, we must look to Jesus and listen to His words from the cross. Jesus says in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Whether it be for those mocking Jesus on the cross or those bullying individuals today, forgiveness will lead to healing even though some scars may remain.

My Reader, think on these thoughts as we approach our commemoration of Jesus crucifixion, death and resurrection.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new