We are family… really?

Jesus taught a hard lesson in Matthew 12:46-50 that I’m wrestling with today.  In that passage it appears the immediate members of Jesus’ family, his mother and brothers, are learning about Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God right along with the rest of the world.  They hear he’s teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons and making all kinds of outrageous claims to divinity and so they travel 20 miles to “seize him” (That means take his butt back home to Nazareth).  His family thinks he’s out of his mind (Mark 3:20-21).  I guess back then you couldn’t call the guys in white uniforms when your relative goes coo-coo on you.  Upon arriving at a packed residence and waiting crowd outside, they send word inside they’d like to see him, but his response is the reason for this post today.  He said,

Who are my mother and my brothers? 34 And slooking about at those who sat around him, he said, Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 tFor whoever udoes the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.

Huh?  Did Jesus just elevate what would become the Church over his own flesh and blood?  Even his mother and brothers and sisters?  If so, what are the implications of that for us today?  For me?  How can I follow His lead on this?

I’m wrestling with this today because of what happened yesterday at church.  A new Christian (I’ll call her Mary) I’ve been discipling was there with me in small group Bible study, I guess maybe there were about 20 of us in the room.  Mary is 31 years old, has 8 biological children that have ALL been taken away from her due to terrible worldly decisions.  The list of those decisions is long and tragic, and they all began when her father left her mother for another woman when Mary was 14 years old – that’s when Mary’s life began to completely unravel emotionally.  Within a short time, her mother had kicked her to the street.  Neither Christianity nor the church were ever a priority in this home.  Fast forward to 2018 – Mary currently is married to a dangerous man who enjoys controlling her.  Both have spent time behind bars.

Anyway, it was that time in the class for prayer requests and praises.  You’ve been in that same situation, I’m sure.  Much of the time that 20 minutes is spent on discussing who’s sick or who just had a baby or some other tragedy in the world.  Don’t even get me started on how we’ve twisted and distorted the content of that 20 minutes from what it seems we should be discussing (you know – spiritual things.  How are we advancing the gospel in our daily lives?  What are our obstacles?  How are we growing spiritually?).  Anyway, my friend didn’t know about the “mask” most of us wear in this setting and she proceeded to request prayer because just this week a judge had terminated all of her parental rights for 3 of her kids.  Forever.  The room went silent.  Hearts were filled with compassion and maybe confusion.

Our teacher was very tenderhearted and loving in that moment… forsaking all other prayer requests he turned the prayer totally to Mary.

At some point thereafter, I spoke up.  I explained how I’d “sold” Mary on the church on a couple of months earlier.  I had told her she would be getting a forever family (in place of not having the unconditional love of a mother, father, and siblings that most of us enjoy).  I then begged the group to help me be that family she needs so desperately because I can’t do it alone.

This is the part I’m wrestling with because frankly, somewhere along the line, we have dropped the ball on being a family.  Our own families take up all our time and we shuttle off the orphans like Mary to professional or charitable or governmental organizations for care.  But Mary is a new Christian, she needs warmth and milky discipleship.  She needs to be held.  She needs us.  When we shuttle off baby believers like her it feels to me like adopting a child and then turning them over to a cold, drafty orphanage.  What happened to FAMILY – THE CHURCH – GOD’S FAMILY?  What happened to WE?  Is caring for Mary the job for just one person?  How can we gather around and make a plan to help her?  Who has the time for that anyway?  We’re busy, important people with mortgages and careers and kids’ sporting events and dinner tonight.

At this exact moment, I can hear Jesus say to his disciples regarding throngs of hungry people trying to follow Him,

“YOU feed them.”  Mark 14:16.

 

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Fall Down

This morning I found a common theme as I was studying my Bible.  Studying the letter from Jude, I chased a rabbit back to Mark 6 where Jude is named as one of Jesus’ earthly brothers.  I saw where, at some point in the past, I wrote in the margin on that page, “Fell down”.  (Look at my highlights in hot pink below)  On the opposite page I had written it again.  Twice.  The first instance, in Mark 5:6, when Legion begs Jesus not to torment them.  Then, Mark 6:22, Jairus, a leader in the Jewish synagogue comes to ask Jesus to heal his sick daughter.  Lastly, Mark 6:33, the bleeding woman dares to go into the crowd around Jesus just so she can touch the hem of his clothes.  (Interesting side note:  The woman had been bleeding for 12 years and Jairus’ daughter was 12 years old).

Three stories in a row where those encountering Jesus fell down when they came into his very presence and under his gaze.  But they’re not alone… a little romp through the old and new testaments will reveal this repeated response as men came into the presence of a holy God.  Their response – to fall down.  I’m unsure if their knees go out from under them… but for that moment, the ONLY appropriate response is to fall down and prostrate themselves as they encounter THE one and only GOD.

In thinking of the bleeding woman falling down… I found myself.  I was her.  I had a disease that was impossible to cure.  I wasn’t in God’s family, either.  I was a Gentile, an outcast.  “But God, because of the great love with which He loved me, made me alive together with Christ…”  Ephesians 2:1-10.  Beautiful truth.  No longer does my sickness define me but my new identity in Christ defines me.  “For if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, behold, the old is gone and the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Our holy God has saved me.

I fell down and I will always fall down before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  Join me.

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Be Berean

Paul and Silas in Berea

10 vThe brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they wwent into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noblethan those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, xexamining theScriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 yMany of them therefore believed, withnot a few Greek zwomen of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews fromThessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, theycame there too, aagitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers bimmediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and cTimothy remained there. 15 dThose who conducted Paul brought him as far as eAthens, and after receiving a command ffor Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.  Acts 17:10-15

“Be Berean.”  What does that mean?

If you’re new to Christianity, this will not be a phrase you’ve heard.  But if you’re like me, this is a phrase you’ve heard for many, many years.  Maybe you get it, maybe you don’t, but here’s what it means.  It means DO YOUR HOMEWORK.  DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR WITHOUT CHECKING IT OUT FOR YOURSELF.  EVEN IN THE CHURCH.

After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, he left his followers to spread the good news of salvation from sin throughout the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20).  One of those followers was Paul and as he went into new territories with this truth about Jesus, he would always go to the Jews first, teaching in their village and town synagogues.  After all, the Jews were God’s chosen people, to whom He had given the original covenant of his love and special care, with the understanding that one day He would send a final Deliverer (similar to Moses) to rescue them and all people from their sin.  Well, that day had come and Jesus was that Deliverer.  So it was now time to let all Jews everywhere know that what they had long awaited had come.  There was no media like we have now so the news had to be delivered in person.

So Paul and his good friend, Silas, having just escaped an angry religious mob who didn’t want to hear this good news, came into an area called Berea in northern Greece. But rather than an angry mob, Paul and Silas found these Jews “much more noble” than in the last town.  Why?  Because rather than operate on their feelings, traditions and customs, they went to the Scriptures to see if Paul and Silas were telling them the truth.  For them, that would mean the Old Testament because that’s all they had at that time.  The New Testament was being lived and written and had not yet been gathered into a collection.

After “searching the Scriptures to see if these things were so”, the Bereans believed what they were being told.

We would do well to be just like them.  Don’t accept or reject anything without first consulting the Scriptures.  Some truths and lies can be weeded out immediately because of our firm knowledge of the Scriptures, but some things must be researched before coming to a conclusion.

What about you?

So what about you?  What have you been considering lately?  We’re living in a culture that is throwing out absolute truth the way you discard a banana peel.  This mentality has crept into our churches, too.  We major on ‘What do you think this means to you?’  and ‘How does this make you feel?’ more than ‘What is God saying and how should you respond?’

Feelings do NOT dictate truth.  Truth is truth no matter if you believe it or not.  So if your feelings don’t line up with God’s Truth, a decision-making moment is coming.  Somebody is wrong; it’s either you or God’s Word.  Will you bring your feelings in line with God’s Truth and authority or will you behave like the angry, petulant mob back in Greece?

My encouragement to you:  BE BEREAN.

UPDATE:  I found this absolutely astounding just now in reading an article on memorizing scripture by John Piper.  I think you will be surprised too.

“One of the reasons Martin Luther came to his great discovery in the Bible of justification by faith alone was that in his early years in the Augustinian monastery he was influenced to love Scripture by Johann Staupitz. Luther devoured the Bible in a day when people earned doctorates in theology without even reading the Bible. Luther said that his fellow professor, Andreas Karlstadt, did not even own a Bible when he earned his doctor of theology degree, nor did he until many years later (Richard Bucher, Martin Luther’s Love for the Bible). Luther knew so much of the Bible from memory that when the Lord opened his eyes to see the truth of justification in Romans 1:17, he said, “Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory,” in order to confirm what he had found.”

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