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Archive for August, 2010

People Who Pester

Mark 10:13-16 NAS

13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” 16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.

As the Lord’s ministry grows, difficulties appear! This is the nature of everything that allows opinion; issues are guaranteed to be ever present. How these are handled can define the character of a ministry. Let me explain. Jesus had just finished an all-intriguing conversation about the subject of divorce and remarriage. Verse 10 tells us a continuing discussion with His disciples had moved into a house. The Pharisees had left some unanswered question and Jesus’ followers were desperately trying to make sense of it all. While finishing up the tête-à-tête, and trying to get a handle on this great theological question of divorce, parents start bringing their kids in to have the Lord lay hands on them.

Can you imagine what this was like? The disciples are trying to get answers on this whole divorce thing and couples keep coming up, bringing their kids, demanding the Lord split His attention between blessing the children and sharing deep biblical insights! Multitasking with the Lord is apparently not a problem, with the disciples it is.

13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.

Interruptions are an annoyance to anyone who practices the art of concentrating. This is what I mean by “People Who Pester”! As the Lord’s ministry grows, so too do the needs of people, and so shrinks the available time for other things. People can be pesky, especially when you’re attempting to listen or communicate about something in more than fragment sentences. I mean, I’d personally like to hear more about this divorce thing too—I’ve got questions about that! However, concentrating on what I want does not stop the needs of people around me. Interruptions will happen and people can become pesky—especially interruptions from those who we think are less valued; like children.

I can understand why the disciples react. Children can be pestering—adults can be pestering. However, the Lord holds “pestering” people in the greatest of dignity and honor. In fact, these pestering children were of such excellent value to the Lord that He stops what He is doing to regain the proper focus of His growing ministry. I don’t understand why pesky children are so important, but nevertheless here it is in the Lord’s rebuke to His disciples:

14 “…Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

Maybe I just need to take a few more moments to digest the needs of others and spend less time worried about my own questions. I know there are people that find my personality pestering. Let me say; I can tell when I’m a pest to someone. It’s written all over their desire to get away. I can sense when someone wants to exit from me as soon as possible. Any conversation or interaction goes real quick. When I see this on a consistent basis, naturally I want to stop making an effort to even be around that person I bother—I give up.

I very much doubt that is what the Lord wants His ministry to be characterized by. He took time with these children. He called them to Himself. He laid His hands on them—most likely to the shear delight of the parents. They were of greater value than the deep theological question of divorce. Kids did not pester Jesus so much as the children were a reminder to Him of the nature of His Kingdom! So, in practice, maybe I can be a little more patient and less hasty with people who pester. After all, I may be the pest problem to begin with and not others!

J. Robert Hanson

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Ephesians 2:6-7 NIV

6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

In the Greek the word “show” does not simply mean to tell a story. The strength of this word is much richer. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says, “Endeiknumi” implies the idea of proving, while Thayer’s Lexicon reveals the meaning as making a practical demonstration of something, literally, “to put on a display.” It is a visible proof verified by applied facts. The most effective way to show the worth of a thing is by a hands-on demonstration.

In the early 60’s, before the invention of the infomercial, one of the first if not the first TV ads was for a kitchen appliance called the Veg-O-Matic. The product was shaped like a capital letter “H” and had this integral operating handle on top with a spring loaded mechanism. You placed your vegetable above a set of blades and slammed the moving handle down on top of the produce slicing into pieces. In the olden times, the only way to chop an onion was with a knife. This revolutionary product promised no more tears for chopping onions. It sliced, it diced and you could see it all happen with a practical demonstration on TV. Veg-O-Matics sold in the dozens. The founder and owner of Veg-O-Matic would eventual sell his business for 56 million dollars making a fortune—all because he could show practically how it worked! I can still hear his words in my mind, “it slices! it dices!”

The first goal of God is to show in practical demonstration how His kindness works! How does this look practically? It’s one thing to talk about the kindness of God, it’s quite another to see it. Much like the Veg-O-Matic, to see it makes it believable! So where is God’s kindness seen in this world?

Ephesians 2:10 NIV

10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The display of His kindness is witnessed in the good works that God prepared in advance for believers to do. This is not the good works of the flesh, but good works He’s created. The King James Version uses “ordained” to translate the Greek word “Proetoimazo”, but don’t over complicate the meaning. The idea is simply of God defining what the good works were beforehand, or in advance. The display of His kindness is our good works shining before men—eventually exhibited through the house He’s building. We read of the Lord saying in Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” And again in verse 16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (NIV)

One final thought about this word “show.” Kenneth Wuest notes that the Greek word in this verse is in the middle voice, meaning the subject of the verb acts in his own interest. In short, God exhibits His kindness to believers for His own glory, in order that He may be glorified. That is why the good works were prepared by Him in advance for us to do! In someway, one might say, the good works we do are His works that are the results of His workmanship and poetry. This goal, which is eternal and goes on forever, demonstrates the incomparable riches if His grace!

J. Robert Hanson

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Colossians 3:1-3

NAS – 1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

In these verses there are a couple of imperatives based upon certain truths from the gospel. The weight of these commands actually rests upon the doctrine that Paul had just concluded teaching. There are two things that must be kept in balance to maintain a healthy Christian life: The life of the Spirit and an understanding of the Word of God. I’ve heard it said that a, “Correct belief is always the firm foundation for right (righteous) behavior.” It’s from the discovery of the teaching of “who you are in Christ” that shows “who you are in this world.”

In ABC’s hit series Castle, Richard Castle’s witty mother, who comes up just short of a grifter, is always inventing these little saying which she calls Marthaisms. My favorite Marthaism is “You Is Who You Is.” While it sounds a bit outlandish and, no doubt, written with a philosophical wink and nod at psychology, the pithy little saying does present to me a clever way of remembering a spiritual truth! So I’ve called this little effort, “You Is Who You Is!” thanking Martha Rodgers, Rick Castle’s mother, for lending her insights.

The whole premise (or at least what I’m supposing is the premise) of “You Is Who You Is” is that your behavior represents the character of what you believe. (If I’m reading into this way too much you’ll have to forgive me; but don’t stop me, I’m having way too much fun!) That is what Paul is attempting to demonstrate to the Colossians. Let’s read what he wrote without the added imperatives.

1 …you have been raised up with Christ…where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God”

This is the foundation for the two commands from Paul. Listen, Paul is saying something like, “you is who you is” and you is raised with Christ who is seated at the right hand of God. Christ is physically raised and is seated next to the Father. This little verse tells me the result of the resurrection of Christ is that I am raised spiritually with Him. What is obvious is that I am not there physically yet, one day I will be, but at this time I am here on good old terra firma. Paul is then encouraging me that the place where I’m located now physically must see my representation of where Christ has brought me spiritually. “You is who you is” and if you is in heaven spiritually with Christ, then you is to be of the same character below on the earth.

This is what it means to “keep seeking the things above.” This is what it means to “set your mind on things above.” This is what it means to understanding “who” Christ is and then, letting His life work through you, be “who you is” in Christ! And Christ in you the hope of glory is “who you is”! So, the tenor of my life has become “no longer I but Christ working in me.” You is the lights of the world, now shine as those lights! You is Christ’s, and “You Is Who You Is!” (Please remember that any grammatical errors are to be taken with the grain of salt in which they were created. Do not attempt at home!)

J. Robert Hanson

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He Has Done All Things Well!

37 They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” Mark 7:37 NAS

James Woods is magical in his abilities to act. Last night I was watching an old episode of a television series called Shark. It’s about a high-powered defense lawyer that has a change of heart and flips over to other side of the law working as deputy DA. What so impresses me is the quickness of Mr. Woods wit as he goes toe-to-toe verbally with other characters on the show. It’s really quite entertaining to observe the one-liners and spins that flow so effortlessly from this actor’s lips, even if it is all made up and written out beforehand in a script.

And then I learned something very interesting about Mr. James Woods. My second daughter is an aspiring actress who was working on set one day with this man as he was performing a “courtroom” scene. I was most amazed to learn from her that James Woods really is that fast and does most of his lines ad-libbed on set! He has a general flow and direction of a script and then everyone just gets out of the way to let him do his thing. He really is that fast and gifted.

And then the thought came to me, if a mere man as James Woods can really be that amazing to watch in real time, what must it have been like to watch Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, work the tremendous miracles and signs in service for humanity as He did. Never missing a line, always on queue, tirelessly working in extraordinary circumstances, this must have been amazing to witness in real time. No wonder the multitudes around Him were astonished and proclaimed, “He has done all things well!”

J. Robert Hanson

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