Truth or dare?

What matters more to you, truth or tradition? As we arrive at the 15th chapel of Matthew’s gospel, we are met by that very question. Do we revere truth over tradition (15:1-9). The people pressed to touch the tassel, but the Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem came to confront. When you come to Christ Jesus, why do you come? Is it for truth or tradition? Many have just celebrated some of the deepest traditions of our family or our in-laws. Perhaps one tradition is dry turkey. Why do we celebrate with dry turkey? Because they, do you have a “they” in your family? They cook it every year, it is tradition. Maybe the current cook would serve better as a wrapper? But alas it is tradition. 

Matthew 15:1-2~Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they don’t wash their hands…(ESV) I mean come on, sounds like a perfectly fine tradition. Anyone here today against washing hands? Yeah, a good 30 seconds of sudsing and rinsing. So, what is the big problem? Scribes and Pharisees aren’t talking hand washing, but hand washing. Ceremonial hand washing wasn’t a hygienic need or even part of Ole Mo’s Law. No, it’s a man-made tradition. Good men who loved God, develop a new process that became a cumbersome part of daily law. Where one was required to have water be poured on both hands with the fingers pointing up. A symbol of recognition that we need cleansing from above. Then the whole process got repeated with fingers pointing down, signifying humility.

In the New Testament, Paul writes about such traditions saying I was an up and comer. Galatians 1:14~I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for tradition (NIV). Not the Father who is our Heavenly Father, but those who taught him as fatherly figures in the faith. The Pharisees and scribes had more reverence for man-made traditions and give them precedence over God’s Word. Therefore, Christ Jesus responds by asking, why do you break Ole # 5? 

Matthew 15:5~He answered them, And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? (ESV) Well, what is the 5th command? You have: 1) No other before God, 2) No idols, 3) No name using or calling, 4) Keep my day holy, 5) is found in Exodus 20:12~Honor (כָּבַד kabad) your father and mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (NIV) Christ continues in Matthew 15:4-5~…Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die. But you say, If anyone tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, (ESV) This command does not just apply to young children, but also to anyone whose parents are still living. The Hebrew (כָּבַד kabad) translated honor includes speaking respectfully to parents and showing care for them as long as they live. 

Is there anything that you need to say to your parents. For those of us who have lost one or both, we have lots of things we would like to say or hear them say. The Bible not only teaches us to respect them, but it also teaches us that we are not to leave things undone. Take time to pray today and ask God if there is something you need to say to someone or if you need to ask for forgiveness. Today is a great day to do just that, do you know why? It is the last day of 2019 and you can leave it and the whole situation behind you in the last year (2019), just by doing it today and starting truly fresh tomorrow, in a brand new year. Happy New Year to you.



Can you carry your weight

I still am awed each Christmas that Christ has come to save us. Then challenged to know that our hearts will remain restless until we embrace the crucified life, where we begin our journey through life and faith moving ever and always towards the cross. Where hearts burn with the passion of Jesus Christ who launches us like arrows, ceaselessly seeking the target God has set before us. Yes, Christ is enough for me, the cross before and the world behind. 

Our story begins where Jesus has brought the disciples to a safe landing, north of Tiberius, in the land of Gennesaret, another name for the Sea of Galilee. He calmed the stormy seas of great waves rising and falling in a battery of tests, Christ Jesus has crossed over the gunnel, to enter the boat. It could only be exclaimed as a miraculous and marvelous moment. As the disciples immediately… John 6:21~Then they were willing to take him into the boat and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (NIV) Miles from where they need to be strained and tested yet Jesus Christ found them and immediately they arrived. Coming out of a test often causes us to rethink and reassess.

Consider the disciples who disembarked the skiff leaving the battery of test in their wake, they arrive at their Galilean seaside destination with Jesus Christ. Most certainly their minds were spinning trying to process the unfolding events, like a mystery this seaside caper unfurls. Perhaps they titled it The Lost Art of Rowing. It is not often the abridged version is no shorter or longer than the unabridged, for Christ Jesus navigated them 3.5 miles in what is only described as, immediately. Allow the Good Dr. Luke to set the stage for us. Luke 5:1~One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.

When the people of the region recognize this as Jesus, they bring Him all their sick. Picked up in Matthew 14:35-36~…they sent around to all that region and brought him all who were sick and implored him they might only touch the fringe of his garment and as many as touched it were made well. (ESV) When was the last time you pressed Jesus, reaching out to just touch the fringe? These were people in need and they touched His (צִיצִת tsiytsith) (Numbers 15:38) the tassels at the corner of His garment with a blue thread, which reminded them of God and His commands. All of the promises of salvation, healing, deliverance there in plain sight, O to touch Jesus Christ. In our pericope today, we find a question. Can you carry your weight? Life, it is so cumbersome, revealing our need of a Savior who can help carry. 

How heavy is your life? Is there a care you need to cast on the Lord who will help you shoulder life’s many burdens? Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:7~Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (NLT) As our year draws to a close, I want to remind you that Jesus is here with you in the old and will lead you and guide you in the new. Why not take time to consider what the Lord wants you to adjust as you enter into a new year with Him.



Cleansing

When we read the scripture, it reveals the lives of men and women who face some of the same storms of life that we do. Moreover, it appears Jesus will test us over and over again until we pass the test. Here, in the middle, the disciples who have witnessed the immensity of God’s great Son, the Word is spoken and blessing flowing has led them to another test of faith. Where over the gunnels of the ship lay a vast sea violent in its tumult, a storm comes ashore to each heart of Jesus’ disciples and riding atop the big blue, where worry sprays, and this moment could cost them their lives. Into the tossed room, washed, longing for a ringer’s relief. Twelve soaked to the core men have been rinsed and are now spinning out the cycle. When they raise a rye eye to seem that someone, something is approaching them, out walking on the water. 

Miles from shore on a raging sea Matthew 14:25-26~And in the fourth watch of the night…when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. (ESV) Immediately. Nothing could or can be any faster. Matthew 14:27~But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid. (ESV) Matt now records something Mark and John do not. If you have ever prayed a prayer concerning what the Lord’s will is, then you are more like that Salty Sea Dog Pete than you think. Matthew 14:28~ …Lord, if it is you, command me…(ESV) Well, Jesus simply says, Come.

This is not a moment to be wishy-washy and so Pete gets out of the boat. When faith is focused on Jesus Christ we can do as Paul writes in Philippians 4:13~I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (NIV) You might say to me, Pastor, strength isn’t the issue when standing on water. and I’d say to you, that is where you are wrong. Standing on the water is not about hydrodynamics, displacement, gravity, even buoyancy, it is solely faith. Notice how Pete is fine when he is focused on the object of his faith, Jesus. However, when he loses focus, even for a moment, the sea of problems soak him, sinking him in its shifting stormy seas. (Matthew 14:28-29)

Do you know the shortest prayer prayed in the Bible? It is only 3 words long. Perhaps you have prayed it quoting the scripture without even realizing it. When we are in severe trouble, we don’t mince words or lay hold of long eloquence. We get to the brass tax of our great need quick, fast and in a hurry, just like Pete did when he was drifting downward in his problems. Pete cried out in what I can only imagine was a loud voice with great supplication. Matthew 14:30~…Lord, save me. (ESV) In response to this powerful prayer of 3 mere words, again, Jesus Christ immediately reaches out and takes Peter’s hand. 

God always reaches out to us to save us. John 6:44 says the Father 

must draw us, that is His divine hand extended. Why would He do this? Because of His great love for us. I know we like to be hard on Pete, but he showed more faith, then all of the other disciples, who just stayed in the boat. Mark tells us the disciples are astounded and amazed beyond measure. Mark 6:51~Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, (NIV) What I love is how Jesus Christ gets into the boat and everything dies down. That’s the power of Jesus. 

John, who is taking copious notes for his subsequent Gospel will later write in John 6:21~Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (NIV) Jesus never promises smooth sailing, but He does promise us a safe landing. Like He did for Ole Mo and the Israelites at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-31). When we get out of God’s will. He may send a storm to get us back on His course, as He did in Jonah’s life. (Jonah 1:4-2:10) Jesus came to rescue us from our sins, our problems, and even life’s storms. 

Listen, there will be some very frightening storms in our lives. But, the same hand that reached out to Pete will reach out to you and me in the midst of the most violent storms. Jesus will come, out walking atop the waves afflicting us. Therefore, we can have peace in the midst of life’s storms. Just by knowing that we are the object of His great love. Today, I remind us, of the words that God shared with Joshua. Ole Mo has died and Joshua is facing some pretty rough looking seas. 7 times in 2 chapter, God says these words Joshua 1:9~…Only be strong and very courageous…(ESV) Understand, God does not change (Malachi 3:6). 

Today, only be strong and courageous. With eyes fixed on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith and knowing the same God who was with Ole Mo, Joshua, and Pete, will be with you, to see you through every life problem. God is Bigger than all we face. Job 26:14~these are but the outer fringe of his works…Who then can understand the thunder of his power? (NIV) Prevailing over problems means we must bathe problems in prayer as we believe in the presence and power of Jesus.