Tag Archive | Jesus

Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves

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Inspired by Matthew 9

I never thought “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves”, a 1971 hit song by Cher would pop up in my mind while reading the Bible, but here I am writing about it!  The song describes the singer’s colorful family and how they earn a living…and how they are judged by it.

Matthew chapter 9 takes us to an intimate dinner at Matthew the Tax Collector’s house.  You could say these are the “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” of the Jesus Era.  The guest list baffled the Pharisees:

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:10-11)

Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12)  Jesus knew His followers, “the healthy”, bought into his message and would go wherever He was preaching.  He wanted to reach the “spiritually sick”.  He met them where they were.  By doing this, He was able to show love, share His message of hope, and encourage them to transform their lives.  If He sent them a dinner invitation, do you think they would consider themselves worthy to dine with Him?  He had to go out there and actively pursuit them.

We, too, as followers of Christ, must go reach the hopeless, right where they are.  There could be church on every corner and yet there could be a junkie or a call girl right across the street from each one.  Just because there is a building doesn’t mean they will enter it…even if they know it would be good for them.  As my friend, Christian author and blogger Rivera Douthit recently taught at a speaking engagement I went to, we must “Take the church to the people.”  We need to stop worrying what other people will think.  Hurting people–whether behind bars at jail, in a strip club dressing room, or on a street corner covered in newspaper–need Jesus.

I am a huge fan of helping people where they are.  When we do this, every time we leave them, we lower the drawbridge to get out.  They might not be ready to leave their situation, but they are ready to hear more about Jesus’ love and redemption and hope for the future.  We must return to them, crossing the drawbridge we left down.  In time, they could be ready to leave their shelter of hopelessness and cross over the drawbridge to freedom.  Without leaving a bridge for them to cross, their only options are a.) stay in their sinful, hopeless life; or, b.) plummet to their demise.

Jesus is life.  We can be the bridge.  We mustn’t avoid the gypsies, tramps, and thieves around us.  We must embrace them with the same love Jesus gives us.

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
Leviticus 19:18 (NKJV)

satan is Smiling

black and white person feeling smiling

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Inspired by Matthew 8

Two girls
from Bartow, Florida,
11 and 12 years young,
conspired to kill innocent schoolmates
in the bathroom,
drink their blood,
and then, 
kill themselves.
To school they brought kitchen knives,
a knife sharpener,
a pizza cutter,
scissors,
a goblet.
A robocall from school alerted a parent her child was not at school.
She was.
Thus began the search for the girl.
She and her friend were in the bathroom…
waiting.
Ready to carry out their plot.
Ready to kill.
Ready to die.
For satan.

 

This is not the plot of a teen horror flick.  Sadly, on Tuesday, this narrative was carried out in live action.  Praise the Lord, the police found the girls before they could harm anyone or themselves.  How could something as sinister as this even come about?  When I was their age, I was sitting by the radio, waiting for my favorite Duran Duran song to come on the radio so I could hit “Play” and “Record” simultaneously on my stereo!  I was playing Mad Libs with friends.  Cheerleading and practicing back walkovers on my grassy front yard.  Riding bikes to friends’ houses.  Fighting with my older sisters to use our shared phone.  Today’s children do not share such a wholesome youth.

Were these girls demon-possessed?  It is very possible.  Media accounts detail some interesting facts in their story:

  • They devised their plan after watching horror films;
  • They searched the internet for ways to kill with a knife, while blood-letting quickly;
  • They believed their murders (sins) would get them into hell;
  • They scrawled violent song lyrics on their murder map;
  • They Snapchatted clues about the planned murdering spree.

I believe there are dark forces in this world.  They want your blood, but they want your childrens’ even more.  The hook comes from music, movies, and social media.  Oh, and you know the über-cool teen store Hot Topic?  They now sell Blackcraft brand clothing.  Dress your darlings in Baphomet, pentagrams, and “Lucipurr”!  If my child came home with a hoodie that read “Unholy”, I would have to perform my own unholy ritual of burning it!

All teens and pre-teens will say, “I don’t get affected by this stuff.”  I pray they don’t.  Maybe the parents of these young murder plotters heard that line, too.  We need to be proactive as parents and know what they are listening to, watching, and buying.  We need to teach them the Word.  And we 100% need to FROG–Fully Rely On God.  We must pray to Him specifically that our children will not get involved with the dark arts.  Innocent colored stones to create a certain feeling can quickly become a hex on someone.  Pray without ceasing for your children’s protection from possession.

Scared yet?  Never fear.  In Jesus, there is always hope.  Evil can still be cast out.  Spiritual scars can be healed by the Lord.  Matthew chapter 8 contains a lot of healing of the people:  physical and spiritual.  Jesus drove out demons–on more than one occasion.  “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” (Matthew 8:16)  Jesus even healed possessed men and put their demons into swine. (Matthew 28-34)

If you don’t believe Matthew, you can read what Mark had to report about Jesus casting out demons.   Here’s Mark 1:25.  “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.”

There’s also Mark 32-34:  “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.”

The Gospel of Luke also contains references to Jesus’ healing of the demonically-possessed, and there are many examples of this in the Old Testament, as well. But what about the modern age, today?  Does this still happen?  Yes.  The Catholic Church continues to train priests in exorcism.  That alone tells you satan is still seeking souls to snatch; and, demons are being driven out.

Fight him.  Pray.  Read the Bible.  Fill your eyes and ears with good things and discard the bad things.  Grow your faith and cultivate it in your kids.  Speak life over your children, so death cannot take root.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
(1 Peter 5:8-9)

 

Judge Judy, Judge Kavanaugh, and Jesus

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Inspired by Matthew 7

Look.  I know this sounds like the opening line of a really bad joke:  “Judge Judy, Judge Kavanaugh, and Jesus walk into a bar…”  Okay.  I’ll stop!

Matthew 7 begins with a verse a lot of people on social media like to throw around in their cyber-debates:

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

When I read this verse, I must admit, I let out a slight, “Ugh!”  I hear this all the time, always with the addition of, “Don’t judge me!”  So, how do we interpret these famous words of Jesus that everyone likes to throw around liberally?

First, let’s go back to Moses in the Old Testament book of Exodus.  Moses just explained to his father-in-law Jethro he became a judge. “Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.  Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” (Exodus 18:15-16) 

Jethro advised him, “Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him.  Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.” (Exodus 18:19-20)  That sounds a lot like what Judge Judy does in her small claims court show..without calling the people dummies!

Going back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1, we shouldn’t judge others unless we are willing to be judged in the same way.  He further adds if we have a plank in our eye, we shouldn’t tell someone of the speck in theirs. (Matthew 7:4)  Exodus 18 tells us how to be a judge–remind people of God’s instructions.  The Bible, then, is where we find the basis of of righteous living.  When people say, “Don’t judge me,” don’t–on trivial matters.  However, when we Christians see that someone is committing sin, shouldn’t we be like Moses and remind them of God’s decrees?  Yes!  It is our duty to help other Christians stay on the correct path.  Now, if someone is not Christian, perhaps we should “hold the scold” and first lead by example.  In other words, try to live the holy (plank-less) life you think they should be living.

So, when do we get to the Judge Kavanaugh part?  Oh, I just threw that in for a laugh!  Well, since you asked, I will say when people pass judgement on others, they need to judge people fairly and by the same standards.  Judge K was guilty of sexual assault before he could ever try to prove innocence in the court of public opinion.  His accuser fueled the #MeToo movement as it was starting to fade to mere embers.  The mainstream media demonized the man prior to the Senate confirmation hearings.  Likewise, some people refused to listen to the accuser’s side of the story.  Now, less than a month later, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has been accused, also, of sexual assault.  This time, the accuser is a gay man.  There is no #MeToo or #HeToo movement.  In fact, there is nothing.  Crickets.  The mainstream media has decided to completely ignore this accusation.  Judgement in these two cases is different, and that is not just.

Friends, we are living in volatile times.  Let’s try to fix our eyes squarely on Jesus.  Then, we will be less likely to judge.  But when we see our brothers in Christ falling from grace, let’s fix their eyes on Jesus, too.


Judging is such a difficult topic to interpret and deal with.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!  Please comment below.  Thanks!

The Progression of Prayer

man praying

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Inspired by Matthew 6

God is great,
God is good.
Let us thank Him
for our food. Amen.

Remember this little prayer?  Maybe you recited it as a child or you are teaching it to your toddler now.  It’s a simple prayer with good bones.  Let’s examine:

God is great,
God is good.
(Give praise to God)
Let us thank Him
for our food.  Amen.
(Give thanks to God)

This is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.  This is how all prayers should begin.  We tell God what we think of Him and then we thank Him for being the provider of everything:  food, family, freedom, anything!  Being a child’s prayer, it is adequate.

As we become more mature in the faith, our simple prayer must also evolve to something with a little more meat and meaning.  Jesus helps us to expand on our prayer in Matthew chapter 6.  This is the perfect model of prayer, the “Our Father”.  People of all Christian denominations learn this prayer when they are young.  We recite it, but do we ever think about the meaning of it all?  Let’s break this down, too.

Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
(Praise Him)
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
(Recognize His power)
Give us today our daily bread.
(Thank Him for what we have and ask Him for what we need)
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
(Ask Him to forgive us of sin and help us be forgiving to others)
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
(Ask Him to help us avoid future sin)

We can recite the “Our Father” prayer, placing emphasis on key words; but what if we used it as a blueprint?  We have a customized prayer to God!  We all have different qualities we admire about God.  He has manifested Himself in different ways to each of us.  Certainly, we have unique requests and distinct reasons for thanking Him.  Shouldn’t each of our prayers to Him be original?  I would imagine God Our Father would relish prayers that are as diverse as His children.

Once we become comfortable praying the way Jesus modeled, we can progress to praying with other people and journaling our prayers.  God wants us to grow and not remain stagnant in our relationship with Him.  Prayer is the way we can speak with Him.  The more we do it, the closer we will be with Him.

 

Build the Wall

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Inspired by Matthew 4

We are under attack.

Our walls are porous.  The enemy is trying to get in where we’ve let our guard down and have no border patrol.  How can we stop the flow?

Build the wall.

I am an unapologetic, card-carrying, conservative Republican and defender of our 45th President, Donald Trump; so, you probably think I am writing about our nation’s southern border.  I am not!  The wall I’m referring to surrounds our hearts and is constantly under attack by the real enemy:  satan, the devil, the dragon, the serpent, the prince of darkness.  Whatever you call him, he is constantly seeking to destroy all that is good (and you can’t spell ‘good’ without ‘G-O-D’)!

We first see satan’s wicked plan revealed in the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis.  The Garden of Eden had no border patrol.  It was just Adam and Eve.  There was no other person to invade paradise!  There was, however, a supernatural being who wasn’t happy that the first man and woman were living in obedience to God.  So, the serpent slithered towards Eve and tempted her with a delicious looking apple. She ate it.  She shared it with Adam.  They both committed the Bible’s first recorded sin.  As Genesis is a book of firsts, the enemy’s initial lie was recorded in the Bible, as well:  “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)  Their eyes were opened alright–opened to the nakedness and shame of sin.  Satan 1, Man 0.

Moving from the first book of the Old Testament to the first of the New, in Matthew chapter 4, the devil comes to Jesus.  He does this right after we read of Jesus’ full-immersion baptism in chapter 3.  When things are going well and we feel the Spirit within us, the enemy strikes.  He is just hoping we have taken our guard away from the wall built to protect us.  He tries to tempt Jesus three times.  I think he underestimated how strong our Lord was on Earth.  Of course, Jesus resists each time.

How can we meager people resist the wiles of the devil?  Thankfully, the Bible is our Life Instruction Manual!  Jesus lays it all out in Matthew 4 very nicely for us.  Just see His responses to satan for each temptation:

Temptation #1:  “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)  We need to have the Word of God, the Bible, read and remembered.  This is the first line of defense.  Knowing its truths will help us recognize satan’s lies.

Temptation #2:  “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Matthew 4:7)  Jesus is fighting the enemy’s weak attempts at quoting scripture with scripture.  This also reminds us to believe God, believe His Word, and have a child-like faith.  The Bible tells us, “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 30:17). That doesn’t mean we should party it up with drugs and alcohol and expect that our health will be OK because God said he will heal us.  Don’t test.  Just believe.

Temptation #3:  “Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” (Matthew 4:10)  Worshiping God is essential to avoiding sin.  How is it possible to defy Him when we’re singing about Him, or going to church, or recognizing and admiring His beautiful creations surrounding us?  Worship helps mend the broken fences surrounding our hearts.

Continuing in Matthew chapter 4, Jesus goes onward to preach to the masses, gather His disciples, and heal the sick.

We can follow Jesus’ lead by spreading God’s Word.  We can share it with others by talking, writing, or Tweeting.  My sweet mother Joan always used to put inspirational quotes on our refrigerator.  I told her the other day that was her mission field!  We can passively preach through bumper stickers and t-shirts.  My wonderful husband Paulo created an Xbox user name with ‘Jesus’ in it so all will see His name as they’re playing.  He plays with people all over the world.  That’s a pretty big mission territory!

We can gather disciples by seeking out godly friends.  We can join a Bible study in person or online.  Create ways to surround yourself with good Christian people, and you will have quite the border patrol to combat satan!

Finally, Jesus healed the sick.  None of us can do this of ourselves, and those are given the ministry gift of healing can do it only through the Spirit.  For those of us gifted in other ways, we can pray for the health of the Body of Christ, especially those with demons.  Healthy people make strong soldiers of Christ who can fight what the devil dishes out.

So, there you have it, six general ways we can “build the wall” protecting our hearts from the temptations of the enemy as outlined in Matthew 4:

Know the Bible
Believe God
Worship God
Preach the Word
Gather with Believers
Heal or Pray for Healing

Stay the course.  Be ever watchful.  Make hearts great again!