A Personal Devotional Journal

I invite you to journey with me. Sometimes we will look at short passages of Scripture and I will give my first thoughts and impressions. Other times, I will just share my thinking about spiritual issues. Always, you are welcome to comment and add your thoughts. Together, we could learn something.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Matthew 27:11-14 "When Men Accuse"

Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.”   But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer.  Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?”  But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

 I know that in some senses Jesus was a special case in that it was God's desire that He should die for our sin and be raised again from the dead.  So, what Jesus did here may not be the right plan for every situation.  Yet, He demonstrates a principle here that is often the right plan.  He did not answer His accusers.

In life, we will be accused -sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly.  There is a sense in which in either case we do not need to defend ourselves.  If we are rightly accused -that is, if we are guilty of something, perhaps an admission of guilt and public repentance is in order -but defending our actions or attitudes is not.  We don't want to make excuses for or defend bad choices or wrong behavior.

It is a little more difficult when we are wrongly accused.  Then we have a strong desire to defend ourselves - to protect our reputation and preserve our honor.  But Jesus did not defend Himself.  He allowed His reputation to speak for itself.  Anyone who actually knew Him, knew the accusations were false.  He rested in the fact that even though man accused, He was right with His Father -that was enough.

So, the principle is this:  when man accuses, we don't need to defend ourselves because: 1) If we are in the wrong, there is no appropriate defense.  In this case we need to acknowledge our guilt and repent.  2)  If we are in the right, we need no defense because we are right with Father and ultimately He is our defender and the only opinion that matters.  In this case, we forgive our accusers and leave it with God.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Matthew 27:1-10 "Another View Of Failure"

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed.  So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
      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.”
 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
      The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.”  So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners.  That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day.  Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel,  and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

Peter betrayed Christ, yet he finished strong.  Judas betrayed Christ and committed suicide.  This reminds me of what Paul told the church in Corinth: "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Everyone fails.  That is a fact.  Every person has made choices that have strayed from God's intentions and plans for us.  And everyone who strays from God's plans ends up in broken, hurting places.  In these broken places we experience things like guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, and emotional pain.  Nobody likes this kind of brokenness, and when we are in these hurting, broken places we have some fundamental choices to make.

Many try to heal themselves -the thousands of different self-help books available indicate the popularity of this route.  It never works -or at least not very well or for very long.  Many self-medicate with alcohol or drugs or sex.  Addictions end in more pain and hopelessness.  Some decide to end the pain as Judas did, by suicide -leaving friends and family with the aftermath of guilt and pain.  Clearly none of these solutions are God's plans.

But since we all fail and find ourselves in these broken places, God does have a plan for how to get out of brokenness.  God's plan involves repentance.  The Old Testament (Hebrew) word for repentance means to literally change direction.  The New Testament (Greek) word means to change one's thinking.  In a sense, repentance involves both things.  When we find ourselves in emotional pain and brokenness, we need to first change our thinking -whatever thinking caused us to depart from God's plan needs to change.  Our own thinking and our own choices led to this hurting place.  We need to understand that and take ownership in our part of what caused the hurt: we left God's plan thinking our own plans were better.  As we change our thinking, we can then change the direction we are headed.  We don't continue to follow the same path we were on.

After repentance, comes a season of healing and restoration.  We cannot bypass this step in the process or we will end up in more brokenness.  We must begin making healing choices -making godly friendships, learning to pray, worshiping, studying God's Word, admitting to others our mistakes and hurts, pursuing godly wisdom, etc.  If the hurt we are in is big -if the choices we have made have led to devastating brokenness, this step can take a while, and the temptation is to try and quicken the process by pretending that the hurt is all gone, that everything is ok.  The problem with trying to shorten the healing and restoration process is that God does not usually give us the new plan quickly.  Whatever His plan was before we departed from it, it changes as we experience the reality of the consequences for our choices that have led to the brokenness.

God's plans for us change.  This is a good thing.  This means that no matter how bad the choices we have already made, or how real the consequences of the choices we have made, God has a wonderful and meaningful plan for us from wherever we are at this moment.  God's new plan takes into account the consequences of our previous choices.

So, when we find ourselves in broken places, as we all do from time to time, this is the path that God has laid out: repentance, healing & restoration, and the renewed ability to pursue God's perfect plan.  This is the path that leads to salvation.  All others lead to more pain and ultimately to death.

Lord, grant me the humility to admit when I have chosen wrongly -to repent and make healing choices so that I can be restored to choose Your plans for me.  Thank You, Jesus, for the fulness of Your salvation -taking in to account even my mistakes and making my mess into a message of hope.  Amen.