Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Offenses of Jesus: A Strange and Difficult Message

(This is Enjoying the View's 100th post!)


When I started this series, I gave an introduction that explained the premise.  I said that Jesus used the tactic of offense to reveal the hearts of His listeners.  Jesus often used it to reveal the motives of the Pharisees.  But I've found an offense that Jesus used to reveal the reason why He came to Earth.  He was not engaging the Pharisees, but his own followers.  This conversation was not merely a tactic of Jesus to reveal and adjust perception of Him, but in my opinion, the most foundational principle that defines the relationship that each follower will have with Christ.  Jesus revealed the very meaning behind His death on the cross.  A meaning that his disciples could never have anticipated.

The passage is found in John 6 (This link takes you to BibleGateway.com. The Amplified Bible and New Living Translation are parallel.)  It's a long chapter, but all parts of the story are so important to the meaning of Jesus' words. There is a reason that the scholars lumped all these stories into one chapter!

In verse 1-15, we read the familiar story of Jesus feeding the 5000+ people.  They are so impressed with their free meal, they get the idea to seize Jesus and make Him their king. That is not in Jesus' plan so He "withdraws" to the hillside alone.  He stays away until after dark.  The disciples (the Twelve) decided to put off in the boat and head for Capernaum.  A storm kicks up.  Working as hard as they can, they only get about 3 or 4 miles off shore.   Then they see Jesus walking on the water toward them.  They are understandably terrified.  Once Jesus speaks, "I AM; stop being frightened," they gladly let Him in the boat.  Verse 21 says that immediately they arrived at their destination.  (Ponder that for a moment...)

The next day, many of the followers (disciples, but not the Twelve) caught up with Jesus at the synagogue.  Jesus knew their hearts and minds.  They followed because they wanted more free food! (vs. 26)  Jesus admonishes them to stop striving for food that perishes but work for the food which lasts for eternity.

Okay...how do we do that?  Jesus gives them the good news - "This is the work that God asks of you:  that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger]."  (vs. 29)

But they still were not satisfied.  They came for the free food.  Show us more, Jesus...  Moses gave our ancestors manna.  What can you give us?

So Jesus brings them back to the real lesson of the bread multiplied on the hillside.  He reminds them that Moses didn't give them manna, God did.  And God has living bread to give them, and it is Jesus Himself.  "I am the Bread of Life." 

At this, the Jews began to grumble against Jesus, after all, this is just Joseph's kid.  How can Jesus be the one that came down from heaven.  He grew up around here.  We know his folks...  (Be careful of your assumptions of Jesus... Jesus was not Joseph's son.) 

But instead of backing off His message, Jesus continued, "I [Myself] and the Living Bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this Bread, he will live forever; and also the Bread that I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh (body)." (vs. 51)

At this point, I'm sure that the Twelve are beside themselves.  This is not the way to build followers.  Jesus is going to drive off all the new people!

Despite the negative reaction, Jesus keeps pressing the point, "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood dwells continually in Me, and I [in like manner dwell continually] in him." (vs. 56)

Now the Jews are truly offended.  Everything they new about holy living told them to avoid consuming blood.  This was too much for them to accept.  The Amplified Bible puts it this way, "This is a hard and difficult and strange saying (an offensive and unbearable message).  Who can stand to hear it? [Who can be expected to listen to such a teaching?] (vs. 60)

Yes, this was a radical message, like nothing they had every heard before.  The offense to the mind was now to reveal what was in their hearts.  Jesus knew their intellectual struggle.  So He challenged them one step further and said, "Is this a stumbling block and an offense to you?  What then [will be your reaction] if you should see the Son of Man ascending to [the place] where He was before?"

Jesus assures them that the words He speaks are spirit and life.  And no one can come to Him unless it is granted by the Father.  Now they must choose.  Following Jesus was not going to be a free picnic.  Jesus' followers must come to Him in the manner that only the Father designed.

In verse 66, we see that some of the disciples (not the Twelve) turned away.  They gave up following Jesus and went back to their old lives.  So Jesus turns to the Twelve who have been watching and listening.  He asks them, "Will you also leave?"

Simon Peter speaks up, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words (message) of eternal life.  And we have learned to believe...that You are the Holy One of God, the Christ."   Yes, Jesus words where hard to understand.  But one thing Peter knew.  His words contained life.  There was no one else who could speak that way.  They had seen the bread multiplied and picked up the leftovers.  They had seen Him walk on water.  They had learned to believe.

When Jesus' words are hard to understand, we would do well to learn to believe them.  It is a process.  Believing involves an intentional cleaving to, trusting, relying on.  Remember what Jesus said was the real work of following God?  It was to believe in His Messenger!  When I trust the One who says the words, I know I can trust the understanding to come in time. 

Jesus was giving them the secret to eternal life.  A life that brought us back from spiritual exile and into a life where Jesus dwells within us.  A life reconciled with our Heavenly Father.  The very reason He came.

In time, the Twelve understood the meaning of these hard and offensive words.  They just had to stick around long enough to fine out!

Are you wrestling with words of Jesus that are hard to understand?  Is He asking you to do something that doesn't make sense?  Maybe it's your assumptions of Jesus that are throwing you off.  Get back to the basics of His word.  Trust Him.  Keep seeking Him.  Don't miss the greater understanding that you will receive in time!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you knew you were at a crossroads?  A moment that you knew things in your life would never be the same?  I remember a time when I was 18.  My parents had decided to move away from Hawaii and go to the mainland.  I was a sophomore in college in San Diego.  They brought me home during the Christmas break to pack my room and say goodbye to my Hawaii friends.   

I remember sitting on my bed in the midst of the boxes.  I felt devastated. Everything I knew about home was about to change.  Always one to have music playing, the song that filled the room at that moment was, "Because He Lives."  It was like the light broke through my darkness and I felt a peace like never before.  A peace I desperately needed.  Whatever lay ahead, I knew that Jesus was with me.  I could face all the uncertain days with Him at my side.

Fast-forward 28 years down the line.  Here I am.  When I look back at all that's happened during those years I am amazed.  There have been plenty of joys and sorrows.   I graduated from college, married my sweetheart, and have had four beautiful children.  But I've lost both my parents, and all my grandparents.  I've been up and down financially.  I've felt many victories and defeats.  But through it all, Jesus has been my rock.  His resurrection power and grace in my life have given me the strength to face every day.

At our recent women's retreat, we sang that song.  It struck me that the truth of that song still rings true in my life.  Because Jesus lives, I can face tomorrow.   Because He lives, all fear is gone.  Life IS worth the living.  Sitting on my bed those many years ago, I never could have imagined what would come my way.  But faith in a faithful God makes it possible to face everyday without fear.   Oh, fear does come, but I have somewhere to take that fear - to the feet of Jesus. 

  Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
  Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
now and always.
Psalm 131 (NLT)

I am grateful for the time a slower schedule brings. Time to look back and what Jesus has done in my life, and time to look forward knowing He holds the future.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Camping at Kualoa - now I know it's really summer!

"Chinaman's Hat" off of Kualoa Beach Park in Kaneohe Bay

Our summer hit full swing this weekend as we're out at Kualoa Beach Park for camp.  Spending time with biological family and our faith family is what summer is all about.

Whatever you're doing this weekend, I pray you'll find a bit of rest and relaxation.  God's creation is all around and speaks of His glory.  Get outside, find a shady spot and enjoy His presence!


 The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
  The Lord is good to everyone.
He showers compassion on all his creation.
  All of your works will thank you, Lord,
and your faithful followers will praise you.
Psalm 145:8-10 (NLT)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Source

There is a lot of talk these days about getting back the the source.  A trend to simplicity is in fashion now.  And that's a good thing.  We're learning the value of buying local, supporting local farmers, and keeping fuel consumption down by buying products that are produced within 100 miles of our homes.  Living on an island in the middle of the Pacific, that's not an easy task for me.  They say that Hawaii is the most remote location on the planet.  While standing in the grocery store, I fully believe it.

But it's not just in food that finding the source is important.  Finding the source of information is critical to knowing the worth of that information. We live in the information age, where we have an abundance of knowledge right at our finger tips.  But as you well know, just because it's available, doesn't mean it's credible.  Finding the source is always the place to start when looking for authentic, un-edited, and un-spun information.

Our journey of faith is no different.  Thanks to our information age, we have an abundance of information that aids us in our relationship with Jesus.
  • Christian music:  There is no doubt that music speaks to my soul and brings me into the Lord's presence.  But if I'm just listening to my music without connecting to the Source, I'm not really getting the full benefit of this resource.  (Wow, just that word "resource" shows me I'm off the mark.)
  • Christian books:  I am a voracious reader.  I have trouble reading fiction, but love to read what other's have written on following Jesus and living this faith.  But mostly, I'm reading about other people's experience.  It's helpful in my own walk, but the Lord wants to show me things first hand, too.
  • Christian speakers:  I love to listen to sermons by people who truly know the Lord and teach of His truths.  But in a court of law, when they tell me what Jesus said, it would be hearsay.
  • The Bible:  I'm sure we can all agree that this is a crucial source material.  Jesus' words are given to us in black and white (and maybe even red).  We learn of His character, how He lived His life among us in flesh.  We learn the history of God in dealing with His people.  We hear the stories of the faithful and unfaithful.  It is the source for building our faith and gives of the parameters we need to follow Jesus with all we have.  I must daily read the words of Jesus to connect with Him.  There is only one more source that trumps it...
  • Time in the presence of Jesus:  There is no better way to connect with the heart of God than to sit at His feet.  Time with my Bible is vital to understand God's ways but I have had seasons of my life where I read the Bible and left there unchanged.   The give and take of prayer and listening builds relationship.  When I am parched an dry, time in His presence restores my soul.  How can I get to know Him without spending time with Him?  That is my personal responsibility to this relationship.  No one can do it for me.  It is a privilege I cherish and frankly what sets Christianity apart from any other religion that I know.  Our God is personal, alive and active in our lives. 

Jesus is the Source.  A great example of this is found in John 1:36-40.  John the Baptist has just declared that Jesus is the Messiah that all have been waiting for.  He tells two of his own disciples that Jesus is the one.  One of these disciples is Andrew.  Without hesitation, he leaves the one whom Jesus said, "Of all who ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist." (Matt. 11:11)  Andrew had found the Source.  He left the great to follow Jesus, the Greatest! 

I regularly use the resources above.   I'm so grateful for them!  But there is no substitute for getting to the Source.  

This morning I was listening to a podcast that was talking about fresh maple syrup.  She said that once you taste the straight-from-the-forest syrup, you can never be satisfied with the rest.  That is so true with Jesus.  Once you taste of His goodness firsthand, you can never settle for anything less.

Enjoy His presence today, for in it there is fullness of JOY!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Offenses of Jesus: The Women, Part 2

The sisters, Mary and Martha, are two more women that we read about in Jesus' life.  John 11, tells about a time when their brother, Lazarus is very sick and eventually dies.  Jesus is a two-day journey away and yet when He hears the news, He doesn't just pick up and go.  He waits. 

The disciples may have thought that Jesus stayed where He was because the Jews in Judea were trying to stone Jesus (v. 8).  But Jesus had a much bigger reason than that, something that would bring more glory to His Father.  Jesus said, "This will help you believe..." (v. 15).

 I don't know about you, but I would be offended by Jesus' delay. My good friend, Jesus, has the power to heal and He doesn't come running to help when I call Him.  It seems that the sisters felt a bit offended as well and may have had a few conversations about it because when they see Jesus, they say exactly the same thing to Him, "If you had been here my brother would not have died."  I've had a few conversations like that myself, "If only Jesus would ________!"  Just fill in the blank.

But let's get back to the sisters.  First Martha (of course) comes out to meet Jesus while He's still on the way.  She still can't wait.  I love her.  In the midst of her offense, she still believes He can do anything.  It's as if to say, "I know plan A didn't happen, but You must have a plan B in mind, right?"  Jesus assures Martha that Lazarus will rise again.  But Martha wants specifics (you go girl!), and replies with her belief that her brother will be raised with everyone else "in the resurrection at the last day (v. 24)."

So what did Jesus' offense reveal about Martha?  I see a heart that longs to understand.  Even in her confusion about what Jesus is doing, she comes to him, honestly confronts Him, and states her belief in who He is.  Jesus reveals Himself to her in plain language, "I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying....Do you believe this, Martha?"  Her reply is a proclamation and is just as profound as the one Peter makes in Luke 9:18-20.  She says, "Yes, Lord, I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God." 

And where is Mary?  She is grieving.  She must be told that Jesus is here.  Her first impulse is to return to the place she loves, she falls at Jesus' feet.  She is desperate for Him, and yet the same words flow, "If only..."  Even in her offense, Mary is steadfast.  She holds to Jesus.  Her heart is revealed by her actions.

Seeing His friends grieve, even with the knowledge that a miracle is just minutes away, Jesus takes time to feel.  He joins in their weeping.  He reveals His own heart. 

Could it be that our hard lessons in faith are hard on the Savior as well?

You know the rest of the story.  Martha is unsure about moving the stone - the stink will be awful.  But Jesus is not deterred.  The One who is Life brings life.  Jesus' way of handling this situation bestows salvation not only to a family but also to the community.  His ways are always higher than our ways. 

Some of my lingering questions: 
  • Since the stone was rolled away, could they see life return to a rotting body?
  • Did the smell disappear when life came?
  • What did Lazarus say?
Sometimes I wish there was a gospel written by one of the women.  We love details and she wouldn't have let us down!  I guess I'll wait to ask Jesus when I see Him face to face.

So what can I learn from Mary and Martha?  There will be times in my life when I don't understand the timing of Jesus.  Will I run to Him and sit at His feet?  Will I remind myself of who Jesus is and stand on what I know to be true?  Will I wait for His solutions and get the greater blessing for it? 

I hope so. That is my hearts desire.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer is Here! Housekeeping on the blog.

I love summer!  The change of pace is always something I look forward to as much as my kids.  My project list gets long and with it expectations of how the days will go.  As you probably know, that is a recipe for disaster.  You'd think I'd learn by now.  But every year about this time, I have to look at my lists and prioritize them.  What do I REALLY want and need to get done. 

One of the things on my list is to better organize this blog.  I hope to be working on some format changes.  I also want to do a better job at planning my posts.  Case in point, I really should have titled my Offenses of Jesus posts better.  I wrote one week about the Faith of a Gentile woman and then the next about the Women in Jesus' Life, Part 1.  Well, technically the Gentile woman should have been Part 1 and the story of Simon and the "notorious sinner" woman should have been Part 2.  I 'm almost finished with  "Part 3" on Mary and Martha at Lazarus' tomb.  I'm not sure how to fix that...   I'll probably just have to leave it as is - lessons learned.  Thanks for your grace!

I have a new goal for the fall.  I'm planning on running in the Windward Half Marathon in September.  Lord willing, I'd like to blog about my journey to that race.  The Lord speaks to me so much while I run.  I'd hate to keep it all to myself.

But with all my planning, there are some things happening that I just couldn't have foreseen.  For instance, I thought I'd have my oldest home for the summer.  But she has decided to stay in California and work before school starts again for her in the fall.  I also didn't expect to be applying for substitute teaching positions at two Christian schools but the Lord seems to be giving me an alternative to bookkeeping for work.  Thirdly, I didn't expect that we'd be selling our beloved sailboat.  But God is good and I am loved.  Those facts keep me centered and peace is within reach. 

My verse for this summer:

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
  Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.
Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT)

The seasons may change, but our God never changes.  HE is good.  He IS good.  He is GOOD.