Friday, December 9, 2016

When Christians are Betrayed.

“When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. ‘’I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ ‘What is that to us’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’”[Matthew 27:3-4]

Knowing and applying theology in the real world is hard. For years, I have struggled with betrayals, and I have tried to understand what Jesus would have us to do when we are betrayed by our brothers and sisters. Have you ever been betrayed by a friend or coworker? Have you ever wanted to really go after someone and give him or her payback for the pain, embarrassment, and damage he or she caused you? Is there anything that Jesus teaches us about how Christians should respond when others betray us?

Scripture reveals that both Judas and Peter betrayed Jesus Christ. These were both men whom Jesus had called and discipled for more than three years. Therefore, we must understand that believers, who betray us, are our brothers and sisters with whom we have invested ourselves. Scripture also gives us two key reasons for Christians betraying other Christians. It appears that Peter betrayed Christ out of fear. Jesus’ reign was ending and he was fearful for his life. While there are varying views, it appears that Judas betrayed Jesus for personal gain. Peter was remorseful and Jesus forgave him and used him mightily after his betrayal. Judas hanged himself. Was he remorseful, sorrowful, did he regret his action? Some say that he was remorseful, but that it was an emotional remorse (regret) that led only to guilt and despair. Matthew 27:3 uses the Greek word transliterated metamellomai, which is best defined as having regrets and changing one’s mind. Because Judas changed his mind, and not the Spirit of God, it signals a mere regret like what a thief might experience upon being caught.

While I do not claim fully to understand how we are to act when Christians with whom we have invested our very lives betray us, here are a few thoughts. 

  1.  Jesus, God in human flesh, was betrayed by those closest to him, just as God the Father has been betrayed by his own followers throughout history. Therefore, we can take comfort that we are not the only ones to experience betrayal.
  2. As exampled by Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, those who betray us are those, whom we have invested part of our lives, giving them a chance to move ahead, or perhaps even leading them to salvation and mentoring them in the faith. Therefore, their betrayal brings us much pain.
  3.  As a Christian, we are to forgive those who betray us so that Satan does not use our unforgiveness as a spiritual weapon against us. Just as Jesus, in Luke 23:34, prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Christ expects us to forgive those who betray us.
  4.  When the brother or sister that betrayed us, like Peter, shows true remorse and seeks our forgiveness, we must be joyful and restore the relationship with them, welcoming them back into our arms as the father welcomed his prodigal son. 
  5.  If we try to work the betrayal out with our brother or sister and they refuse, I believe Matthew 10:14 applies when Jesus said “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Yes, sometimes the other person, like Judas, even filled with remorse continues a spiral of self-destruction rather than a restored relationship.

I asked my oldest son Mark to reflect on the subject of Judas’ betrayal and to read an early rough draft of this blog. I think his words serve as a fitting conclusion to this devotion. He wrote,
“I have given this quite a bit of thought. I cannot begin to think on how Jesus would have reacted, because I cannot wrap my mind around him knowing but still allowing all the events to take place. However, given the demonstration of the cross, I would say his immediate reaction would be forgiveness, and that he must have felt heartbroken. I find solace in knowing that he is a God of forgiveness. Surely, we all have betrayed him at one point or another. Although forgiveness is offered, it does not mean it was accepted. For me the fate of Judas remains unclear.”

Prayer: Lord, I have done wrong and often wounded and betrayed you. I am sorry for betraying you. Please forgive me. I ask that you cleanse me from all that cause me to betray you. I ask that you empower me with your spirit that I never betray you again. Likewise Lord, I pray for those who have betrayed my trust in them. I ask that you convict them that they might desire to renew our relationship, as you have so lovingly done for me. Enable me to be gracious and forgiving when they ask it of me, and work with them to restore the relationship. Strengthen me to be able to go forward when those who betray me refuse my efforts to seek reconciliation, and give me courage and strength to shake the dust of the relationship from my shoes and move on to others in need of what you have gifted me to share. Amen.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Making of a Great Nation

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”[Genesis 12:1-3]

In order to be a blessing to all people so that God can build a great nation, there are four specific traits that we must possess as individuals and shower upon others. In order to influence others, we must first treat them with dignity. Each man, woman, and child deserves to be treated with dignity because they are made in the image of God. Dignity has nothing to do with age, race, gender, etc.; it has to do with the image in which humans are created. It has to do with acknowledging that others possess a state of quality of being worthy of honor and respect.

Second, we are to be kind to others. Kindness is a trait we must learn to shower on others. Scripture clearly teaches us that we are to be kind to one another. Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. This is why our Lord taught us to help those in need, to give to the poor, and to be considerate to those of various ethnicities and cultures. We are polite, respectful, and gentle in how we deal with others.

We are to love others regardless of their lifestyle, ethnicity, or wrongs committed. In fact, as Christians we are to have a special kind of love called agape love. This means that no matter what the other person does to us, we want the very best for them. How can we forgive a person who has brought serious harm upon us? We forgive then because we want the best for them, and for us.

When we learn to treat others with dignity, kindness, and love, we will begin to respect them too. Respect means that you possess a sense of appreciation for someone or something elicited by the other person’s abilities, qualities, or achievements.

In order for America to be a great nation, we must each learn to treat each other with dignity, kindness, respect, and agape love. I am not sure any human can cause this to happen in another person, but I can attest to the reality that the Jesus that indwells us can!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive me when I have failed to treat others with dignity, kindness, love, and respect. Patiently mold and guide me to be more like you. Help me to see all humanity with the dignity you have bestowed upon them. Help me to treat others with a kindness and respect that points others to you, and most of all, help me to love others as you have loved me. Amen.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Great Cardiologist

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” [Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV]

Pour yourself another cup of coffee and let us reflect on what Scripture means when it tells us to trust in the Lord with all of our “heart.” We all know that the heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood though more than 100,000 miles of vessels (arteries, veins, and capillaries) depending upon the size and weight of the person. Is this the “heart” that Scripture is referring to, or is it something even more amazing than the muscular organ that sustains physical life? When we speak of loving the Lord with “all of our heart,” we are not speaking about the physical heart, but rather about the center of our relationship with Christ. Just as the physical heart is the center of physical life, the spiritual heart of which Proverbs speaks is our relationship with Jesus Christ. Just as our physical health is dependent upon the health of one’s heart, our spiritual condition is dependent upon our relationship with Jesus. You might even call it the point of our passion. You see, if we are to be in the right relationship with Jesus and His bride, we must be sure that our relationship with Jesus is passionate and healthy.

This means that we have to exercise spiritually and stay on a spiritual diet. This allows our spiritual heart to be like that of Jesus, instead of being our own “human” heart with human understanding. We are to be like Jesus; little Jesus’, acknowledging Jesus in everything we do and in every corner of our lives. Our relationship with Him is our heart, the centerpiece of our being, pumping life throughout us, creating the Fruits of the Spirit, and making our path straight, narrow, and heavenward. Jesus Christ is our cardiologist, the Great Cardiologist. He can skillfully go into our spiritual heart and correct a blockage so that we can live more freely.

Just as we want our physical heart to function well, we need our spiritual heart to function at 100%. When our relationship with Jesus Christ is healthy and strong, we put others first and self last. Jesus requires that selflessness and servanthood be our way of life. If our spiritual heart is healthy, we are selflessly ministering to others, without thought of personal gain. We are always seeking to walk in obedience to Jesus Christ, and looking for opportunities to help others who are hurting spiritually, emotionally, and physically. So let me ask you, “what is the nature of your heart?’

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, as the Great Cardiologist, search my heart, perform a spiritual angioplasty on me, and if my spiritual arteries are clogged, open the clogged arteries of my spiritual heart and stent them open to improve the flow of your spirit throughout my being, that I may be whole and spiritually healthy. Help me to stay on a spiritual diet of your Word, prayer, and meditation. Hold me accountable to exercise my spiritual gifts regularly to aid in strengthening the body of Christ throughout the world. Allow my life to reveal your sovereignty and omnipotence as the Great Cardiologist. Remain the centerpiece of my life, now and forevermore. I pray this pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the Great Cardiologist.”