Be Perfect?

Jesus commands us to do what He knows is impossile for us: “Since you are children of a perfect Father in heaven, you are to be perfect like him.” Matthew 5:48, TPT.  But it’s not the result He’s after so much as the process. The command is for us to seek to know Him. The more we know Him, the more we will love Him and all of the people He has connected us to.

In 1 John 3:10-15, we learn about the imperative of love. How it works is seen in the contrast. When we fail or refuse to love even our brothers, other Christians that live and work and attend church and school with us, our immediate family of God, then we die spiritually. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love” our brothers and sisters in Christ. But if we can’t or won’t love them, we abide in death. 1 John 3:14, NKJV.

Now if we allow our feelings and emotions to run rampant, indulging in hate, then we are guilty of murder. “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:15, NKJV.

Jesus doesn’t stop there though. If we want to follow Him, we can’t limit our love to our friends and those who act and think and believe like us. We must love our enemies. Jesus unambiguously commands us: “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Matthew 5:44, NKJV.

This is the work of our lifetime, to seek to be perfect, whole, balanced, not doing those things we know are wrong, but quick to recognize our faults and ask forgiveness; allowing the Spirit of the One who sacrificed His life for each of us, while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), essentially still His enemies, to guide and direct our lives.

Each choice to love someone, especially those who hate and mistreat us, makes us more like God, who is perfect. We won’t fully attain this goal this side of heaven, but we will have joy for the journey. Practice makes perfect.

Amen and amen.

The Multitude

In Luke 5:15, as in several other places in the New Testament, we learn about the “great multitudes” that came out to hear Jesus so they would be healed of their infirmities. Most of us then and now just want God in our lives so He can fix something for us, often something we’ve broken ourselves. Even those of us who have been saved and want a deep relationship with God too easily choose to live separated from Him.

If we want God to be nothing more than a repairman, if we speak to Him only as a 9-1-1 call, then at best we forfeit His most delightful, satisfying blessings. What we want is to get what we want from Him and then move on to live our lives without interference. Mostly, if we claim to be Christian, we have to admit, if we’re honest, that we treat God like an elderly parent who we hope to inherit lots of money from but rarely visit, and when we do, it’s only because we have to.

God allows that kind of shallow connection, but it is an exceedingly dangerous way to live. Not only do we miss out on the deepest joy and most sustaining peace, we risk all of eternity separated from God. On many occasions, Jesus warned His followers about the danger of not loving Him enough to want to know and do God’s will. His most terrifying statement is, “I never knew you; depart from Me…” Matthew 7:23.

Thank God, though, there’s hope for rebels and fools like me. When we realize that we’re standing in the mob, wanting only what God can do for us like spoiled, selfish children, we don’t have to stand with them, yelling, “Crucify Him!” Instead, in that moment, we can ask Him to forgive us and turn our hearts back toward Him. His mercies are new every morning: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:23.

Amen and amen.

 

Fully Human

Jesus was fully human and fully God

all at once throughout His lifetime

until His death on the cross.

And then, His human body was fully dead,

but His Spirit lived on,

even before we were able to see Him

outside of the tomb.

 

The Scriptures tell us

He did battle with Satan and won

while we still thought Him dead, entombed.

 

Before the cross

came Gethsemane,

where Jesus fought with His humanity.

His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.

He longed for friends to watch and pray and stay with Him.

But even that smallest request

was too much for even His closest friends

who could not stay awake, even for an hour.

 

In that garden, in both His humanity and diety,

Jesus saw both the torture and the victory;

He knew the earthly pain and heavenly glory to come.

His earthly humanity rose up against that unbearable pain

of flesh and Spirit;

the nails piercing flesh and crushing bones

was nothing compared to

the seering torment of His Father turning away,

His heart ripping hatefully from His chest

and our sins marching in with sickness and wicked evil

and hate and pride and selfishness and everything

unholy poisoning and ripping Him to shreds.

 

He saw it all

alone, with no friends to comfort

or even sit by His side.

Knowing all too well,

He asked for what His humanity

and ours always desires,

“Take this cup from me.”

None of us, even Jesus in His humanity,

want our part in the kingdom

to include suffering.

 

Like Jesus, we know,

if He’s graced us to know,

that all things are possible

for our Father in heaven.

But here in our humanity

we rarely if ever

truly say and mean what Jesus said and meant:

“Not what I will,

but what You will.”

That is the process of life,

the work of our decades,

the ultimate going-home goal.

Amen and amen

(from Mark 14:32-42 NKJV)

For my Grandchildren

May the love of our Father God,

who has infused us with love for our children,

pass unbroken from all those who loved

my Grandma, Anna Lupeny Jenkins,

down the line to my parents,

MaMa Betty and Elmo Jenky,

to me and the father of our children,

and be strengthened as it flows through my sons,

Josh and Jake,

and on to their children and children’s children,

from everlasting to everlasting.

“But Lord, Your endless love

stretches from one eternity to the other,

unbroken and unrelenting

toward those who fear you

and those who bow facedown in awe before You.

Your faithfulness to keep every gracious promise You’ve made

passes from parents, to children, to grandchildren,

and beyond.” Psalm 103:17 (TPT)

Amen and amen.


	

Water of Life

In the mornings when I wake up
I often have pervasive, eager hope,
not for anything in particular
but for something I cannot see
bubbling under the surface,
charging the air with electricity.
This hope comes from the Holy Spirit;
I could not feel it until Jesus baptized me with Him.
This hope has nothing to do with the circumstances of life;
it comes as it may without reason or rhyme.
It is the hope that springs 
from the river of living water
flowing through me;
water for others
but also for me,
water to cleanse
and carry us along,
water of life
so our souls may live and not die,
water to swim and play in as the otters
and water to swim upstream against as the salmon.
Water of hope, carry me along
to my appointed destiny.

“Only Believe”

In the 5th chapter of Mark, we learn about three people with different problems. Each one had a personal encounter with Jesus. Each one’s life was forever transformed by that encounter.

Whether we struggle with demonic strongholds so fierce that no earthly power can bind them to keep us from self-destruction, whether disease has ruined our lives and livelihood, whether the one we love most has died despite our most urgent, specific prayers, Jesus’ answer is the same: “Do not be afraid; only believe.” Mark 5:36.

The demonized man of the Gadarenes (verses 1-20) was shunned by society. All who had tried to help him had failed, as the demons who ruled him broke off all the restraints anyone used to keep him from harm. His screams for help did him no good because he had taken up residence among the dead. His whole life was reduced to “cutting himself with stones.” (verse 5) He had no life except his addiction to the destruction of his life.

But Jesus came to him, from across the sea. The demons that had infiltrated and taken over his life immediately recognized Jesus as the Son of the Most High God and wanted nothing to do with Him, but the man, through his suffering, worshipped Jesus. And Jesus commanded every one of the demons to leave this tormented man. Because Jesus had such great compassion, the man regained his life and his “right mind.” (verse 15) Once Jesus had delivered the man from the demons’ stronghold over him, he was able to go back to his home town to proclaim all that Jesus had done for him. Because Jesus had set him free, all who saw and heard him now marveled instead of turning away in horror.

After Jesus delivered that man from the demons, He went back across the sea, where crowds of people followed and surrounded Him. A woman with a disease that had ruined her life and made her an outcast, a woman who had spent all of her money on doctors trying to find a cure, only to have the disease made even worse, came out into the crowd, where she was not permitted to be. She fought through the people who called her unclean, unfit to be near them because she knew, if only she could touch Jesus’ clothes, she would be made well. Jesus recognized her faith and pronounced to all that her faith had made her well. He told her, “Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” Her unrelenting faith secured not only a moment of relief but peace and healing that lasted for her life.

Before Jesus encountered that woman, a leader of the church sought out Jesus through that same crowd for healing for his dying daughter. This man had to break through not only the crowd but also the politics of the church to reach Jesus on behalf of his loved one. While Jesus was ministering to the woman, the church official learned that his daughter had died. All seemed lost, and his friends told him to give up, but Jesus told him, “Do not be afraid, only believe.” (verse 36) Then Jesus went to the little girl, took her hand, and told her to arise. She did, and Jesus told the astonished family to get her something to eat. Jesus wanted the girl to get back to her regular life right then and there.

Whether we are killing ourselves because Satan and his demons have taken over our lives, whether disease has ruined our lives and robbed us of our livelihood, whether all seems lost because our prayers for the one we love most have not yet been answered, the solution remains simple: only believe.

Amen and amen.

 

Don’t Be Petrified

When we were kids, many of our moms told us, “If you make that face long enough, it’ll get stuck that way.” I certainly heard that warning many times as I stuck out my tongue at my sisters.  And we all know how bad habits form a rut that makes it harder and harder over time to pull out of.

Turns out our moms were on to something. When Jesus came into a synagogue to preach, the religious leaders “watched Him closely,” hoping that He would break one of their man-made rules “so thay they might accuse Him.” Mark 3:2. Jesus knew that they were plotting against Him, wanting to accuse Him of breaking their rules for healing someone on the Sabbath. Jesus healed the man despite the Pharisees’ condemnation, but He was “grieved by the hardnes of their hearts.” Mark 3:5.

The word for hardness in Greek, as used in this passage, is “porosis,” which refers to blindness caused by hardening or callousness. It is also a medical term that describes the process of a fractured bone’s extremity being petrified.

When we continually choose not to see the love of God, when we choose only to see how Jesus breaks the rules we’ve erected to give us a sense of control over our world, we fracture our relationship with our creator, just like breaking a bone in our arm. If we leave that bone broken, it will eventually set in that crooked, broken position. The end of the bone, broken off from its source of life, will harden, become useless, petrified. It will get stuck that way just like Mom warned.

But the great news is (and there’s always great news to be found in God’s kingdom), with one cry of a hardened heart, Jesus can turn our heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26. So Moms need not worry when their kids make faces at each other. They’re not really gonna get stuck that way. But anyone who sets his face against God and continues to scowl at Him, refusing to accept His love, will too soon get stuck that way.

If your face is stuck in a permanent scowl, just look up! Turn your eyes to look for God. If you choose to begin the journey back to Him, He will return to you. Zechariah 1:3. You might even find yourself smiling.

Amen and amen.