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Spare Change - March 2021

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Standing at a Crossroads

If you have not had the pleasure of watching The Chosen yet, do yourself a favor and watch it immediately!  You can watch for free at: https://studios.vidangel.com/the-chosen.  The first season is eight episodes covering the beginning of Jesus' ministry.  There is a second season being filmed right now!  This is a well done, true to the text, series.  Of course like any show about Jesus they had to use their sanctified imagination but I think they stick as close as possible to the biblical text.  I like this because when I read the stories of the Bible I try to make them come alive in my mind.  I try to imagine settings, people, and places.  This series helps to do that for us.

(Spoilers for The Chosen follow)

One story line follows Nicodemus, a celebrated Pharisee Rabbi.  He is called the teacher of teachers in the series.  He is shaken to the core when he is confronted with a demon possessed woman.  He begins searching for answers after she is miraculously healed by Jesus.  This leads to the famous passage in John 3 where Nicodemus approached Jesus at night so as not to be seen.  Jesus confronts Nicodemus' presuppositions about faith, really He is confronting him with the gospel.  Nicodemus needs time to consider this truth.  A little bit later there is a heart breaking scene when Jesus is about to set out with followers and is waiting to see if anyone else would join.  We presume He is waiting for Nicodemus, who is hiding around the corner struggling to leave behind his life and follow Jesus, ultimately he does not follow Him.  This is the part that is not in the scriptures but is added for drama.

However, it got me to thinking about so many people that are standing at crossroads.  I remember in my own walk this was a huge challenge for me.  I became a believer my sophomore year of high school.  I confessed to being a believer but struggled for another year trying desperately to keep a hold of my old life.  It finally came to a point where I was miserable.  Everything I tried to do that was out of God’s will brought me pain and hurt.  It was only when I finally surrendered my will to Jesus that I found peace.  The amazing thing was I did not miss my old life when I gave it up.  Jesus gave me that abundant life that He speaks about in John 10:10.  All it took was me finally trusting the Lord enough to say I will follow you anywhere you want to take me.

I have seen so many people at a crossroads like this.  I imagine they are like Nicodemus, full of fear and angst.  They are afraid if they step out in faith they will fall.  However, when we think like this we miss one important fact, Jesus is there waiting to catch us.  Much the same way He caught Peter as he sank in the water (Matthew 14).  Jesus was not going to let Peter drown, He simply wanted Peter to trust Him.

Jesus is calling out to all of us at different times and in different circumstances.  Maybe it is to leave behind a besetting sin or a call to ministry or to something outside our comfort zone like sharing our faith.  Whatever it is we must respond with faith.  Following our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will not always be easy but will result in a fulfilled and abundant life.  Are you standing at a crossroads now?  I would challenge you to follow Jesus.  Whatever He is calling you to do or wherever He is calling you to go - do it!  You will never regret faithfully following Jesus.

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Spare Change - February 2021

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THAT’S NOT FAIR! How many times have you heard that?  I am sure we have all heard this phrase uttered many times before, especially those of us that have kids.  How many times have you said it yourself or, even more convicting, how many times have you just thought it?  The problem is when we camp out with the “not fair” kind of thinking it affects how we act.  It can lead to pride, hatred, unforgiveness, idolatry and a host of other sins.  While we will tell our kids, “Tough, life’s not fair!” to their cries about imbalances in life; do we as adult Christians live that way as well?

The problem is the world is full of unfairness.  It has been a part of the fabric of our universe ever since the fall.  Even the fairest system of justice is tainted by sin.  It affects us on the playground, on the ballfield, in our homes, in our jobs, and every other aspect of life.  It is something the Christian must come to grips with.  True fairness or justice will not be achieved until we live in the New Heavens and New Earth under God’s direct rule.

However, in one respect I am thankful that things are not fair.  If fairness was God’s primary way of dealing with us, then there would be no grace.  I am overjoyed that God does not give me what I deserve.  Rather, through the blood of Jesus, I get what I do not deserve--mercy!  So, in that respect we can be grateful for the unfairness of God; but that does not make the unfairness of the world any easier to swallow.

The difficult thing is if Christians want to live according to the scriptures then we do not have the luxury of beating the drum of unfairness.  We must respond with grace and humility and that is easier said than done.  The wonderful thing is we have a great example in our Savior, Jesus Christ, of how to handle unfairness.  He taught us how to respond to it in His teaching and then lived it out in His life.  The greatest example we can see is how He was treated when He was arrested and sentenced to death.  Even as deplorable as His death by crucifixion was, He asked the Father to forgive those that hung Him on the cross!  What an example of grace and humility in the face of vicious cruelty.  That is the attitude with which we are to live every day.

To do this we look to Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:38-43, You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

There is so much here, more than we have time to unpack, but the long and short is this verse is pointing us to show extreme grace in the face of unfairness.  The examples given in the passage show us we should be able to see an injustice done to us and give grace.  We need to read these verses carefully and understand the illustrations Jesus is using.  He is not saying that sinners are not guilty or that people that break the law should not be punished.  He is keying in on how we react to injustices done to us specifically.  Instead of getting angry and lashing out we must be reserved and have a gospel mindset.  One that serves, loves, and prays for the offending party.  That is how Jesus handled things in his life and that is how we are expected to act.

I know...I know...I know...this seems impossible, right?  I believe with the power of the Holy Spirit we can live like this.  We must make Jesus number one and do away with our proclivity to get offended easily.  If we do that, we can live out the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22) which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  That is the only way we can live as Jesus prescribed. And, yes, we will have to give more grace than we want to give and receive much less than we think we deserve.  But isn’t that what Jesus did His whole life?  I am thankful I have a Lord and Savior that does not treat me fairly!  I pray I can do the same for those around me.

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