What God Sees

When evening came, the disciples approached him and said, “This place is deserted, and it is already late. Send the crowds away so that they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

 “They don’t need to go away,” Jesus told them. “You give them something to eat.”

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“But we only have five loaves and two fish here,” they said to him.

“Bring them here to me,” he said. Then he commanded the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them. He broke the loaves

and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. Everyone ate and was satisfied. They picked up twelve baskets full of leftover pieces.

Matthew 14:15-20

There are so many things happening in the world right now that are hard to wrap my head around, and it has me thinking of the miracle of the fishes and the loaves, and the fact that what God sees is vastly different than what we see.

So many times, we are so focused on our lack, that it’s impossible for us to even consider what God has in store for us. Like the disciples, we see an impossible task. We see what it will take, and compare that to what we think we have. Jesus told them to feed the multitude. He tells us to “feed our multitude” too, and like them, the first thing we think to do is argue, to say to God, look this is all we have, how can we get more at this late date? It’s impossible. We’re so concerned with how we’re gonna do it that we forget two things: One, we forget that no matter how great or small, what we have was given to us by God, and more importantly, we forget that God can do anything, nothing is greater than His ability!

In his book, The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson tells a story about how his struggling church was led to start a praise band. An opportunity presented itself for them to buy an awesome set of drums, but they weren’t sure what to do. They had no drummer, and they had no money. So they prayed about it, and God told them to buy the drums, and they threw caution to the wind and used money they needed for other things, which in human terms seemed to be more important than a set of drums.

No sooner than they took their “imprudent” step, a new fellow started attending their church, and he was a drummer. You see, God knew he was sending them a drummer and He needed them to be prepared. They didn’t know what God had planned, and the whole thing seemed like an insane idea, but from that praise band their numbers swelled. God blessed them.

Many times God asks us to do something that goes against all logic. While we see two fish and five loaves, God sees a multitude fed and twelve baskets of leftovers. 

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

 Isaiah 55:8

God  see things differently than we do, and He simply wants us to give Him what we have, so that He may bless it. Even if what we have seems woefully inadequate to cover the need. All we need to do is offer it to Him and let Him bless it, let Him multiply it, let Him do miraculous things far and above our wildest imaginings.

~SLM

Well Maybe, I Guess

Say just a simple ‘Yes, I will’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Your word is enough. To strengthen your promise with a vow shows that something is wrong. Matthew 5:37

Sandy, mom Sharon and I (Sheryl is MIA- must be the photographer, or in the kitchen with granny!).

When I was a teenager, one of my mom’s best go-to answers for many of my adolescent requests was “well maybe, I guess.” It was standard issue, when I asked her permission to do something or go somewhere that she was skeptical about. It drove me crazy because I didn’t consider it a “real” answer. Actually, it was the perfect non-answer. It gave me hope while giving her an out at the same time. It was a way to deflect, to not commit, because it wasn’t exactly yes or noOver time, I came to realize that what she really meant was “no” and for whatever reason, she just didn’t want to say it outright.

Sometimes, as believers, I think we’re a lot like my mom was with me back then.  We can be dubious about what we think the outcome should or could be, so we say “well maybe, I guess,” too. It’s a way to keep our options open, a way to have things on our terms, especially when we don’t agree with what God has in mind, with His timing, with the people He brings into our lives and the things He uses to to accomplish His purposes. We get too caught up in trivial things, or better, yet, we get too full of ourselves to remember who is He is and what He can do…”He leads forth the starry host by number; He calls each one by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing” (Isaiah 40:26). We doubt His intentions. We doubt His faithfulness. 

One thing I’ve come to have no doubt about is this: God is true and faithful to His word. He says what He means, and He does what He says. He tells us exactly how it is – do this and that happens, do that and this happens – straight up, no sugar coating. We are the ones who play games with words, who “tweak” their meanings to fit our idea of what is good and true. We even try to use His words against Him, twisting them to suit what we want, saying things like, “you say ‘ask and it will be given to you,’ but you still haven’t given me what I’ve asked for,” never realizing that what we’re really asking is for Him to bow down before us, to acquiesce to our will. 

Now that mom is in full-blown dementia, she uses her old stand-by a lot. She says “I guess” because she can’t remember, and is therefore unsure, and sometimes that doubt is expressed in emotional outbursts. As I watch her slip further and further into the abyss, I have a new appreciation for the breadth of God’s love for us. It brings to mind 2 Peter 3:9 which says, “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.”  We can be so defiant and “stiff-necked,” and no matter how many times we deny we know him, He’s still there, standing beside us, patiently forgiving our doubts, helping us when we cry out to Him. He’s willing to wait, to take the insults, the accusations, the disbelief. He’s willing to die for us –  that’s how much He loves us – even when we tell Him, “well maybe, I guess! “

~SLM

The Price of Contempt


When Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ 12 closest followers, goes to the chief priests and asks, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver.” (Matt 26:15) Saying I will give you X pieces of silver for something seems such an odd way to express it’s worth, especially the value of a life. Yet that’s the phraseology the priests used and the number they gave.
The Greek word used in Matthew 26:15 is argyria, meaning “silver coins.” So, thirty silver coins was the value of that life, the price of betrayal. In 33 A.D., the Tyrian shekel was the coin that contained the highest silver content – about 94% pure – which translates to 14 grams of silver per coin. Since these coins were the most pure, they were also most likely the only coins accepted for the required temple tax, which is where the priests procured the 30 coins. At today’s spot price for silver of $0.48 per gram, they’d be worth $201.60. And, while it’s interesting to note what the coins are worth today, it’s more complicated and far more nuanced than simply saying, “Judas betrayed Jesus for 200 bucks.”

So, the priests paid Judas with silver coins, but how did they arrive at that sum, and why was it phrased as “30 pieces of silver?” Surprisingly enough, it’s scriptural. It’is a reference to Mosaic Law as it relates to the disablement/death of a slave in Exodus 21:32, which reads:

“If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.”

Matthew’s choice of the phrasing is also intriguing, because it is an allusion to the prophet Zechariah as well. After he [Zechariah] had done all that God had asked him to do as a “shepherd” among the Israelites, in Zechariah 11:12-13, it states:

Then I said to them, “If it seems right to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” So they weighed my wages, thirty pieces of silver. “Throw it to the potter,” the Lord said to me—this magnificent price at which I was valued by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw it into the house of the Lord, to the potter.

Thirty pieces of silver, that’s what the sons of Israel reckoned were Zechariah’s “wages” for shepherding the flock as the Lord had commanded. As if he were no more than a slave that was rendered useless by a bull. As if God’s word was useless. It was meant to be an insult; they didn’t value his prophecy, or what God had to say. So, God told him [Zechariah] to throw the coins back to them. Isn’t it revealing that God tells Zechariah to “throw it back to the potter?” He is prophesying that the “wages” will be thrown back to the temple, they will go to the “potter,” and that’s exactly what happened. In Matthew 27:3-5, 9-10, we read:

Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; he went away and hanged himself…Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set by the sons of Israel , and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

By using the same phrase, Matthew not only ties the price of a slave’s life to Jesus’ betrayal, but also to Zechariah’s prophecy about him. In context, thirty pieces of silver was more than simply the price of betrayal. It was in fact nothing, not to the priests, nor to Zechariah, but to God it was the price of contempt.

~SLM

 

Do as I Say…

Funny how this seeking for a higher meaning works, just when you think you’ve got something figured out, your turn your perspective a fraction of a degree, and suddenly it’s a whole new landscape.  There are certain verses that seem to return again and again, to show you that what you thought you knew was, in reality, only a small sampling of a greater truth, a greater equation, and that’s why I’ve landed back on Isaiah 29:13, which states, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me,”  It’s not just about being estranged from God, but also about duplicity; about our persistent habit of commingling words and actions, our false logic of substitution in which we assume our words and actions are interchangeable, and our expectation that others do what we cannot ourselves do.

We can say all the right things in flowery prose and elegant verse. We can talk our fool heads off about what is right, what is fair, what we think others should do, or be willing to do. We can be as socially acceptable and politically correct as the best little soldier out there, but the true test of where we live is in the heart, and while we can say anything, and oft times we actually do, our actions are the reflection of our thoughts and beliefs. The heart is where action resides. If we say we are against bullying, but bully others in order to prove they are bullies, then we become what we call, we use our lips to prove our “rightness” while showing what lives in our hearts: a bully. We can talk of peace and cooperation, we can take others to task for what they say or don’t say, but if our actions don’t back up our lips, we are nothing but liars, hypocrites.  We can talk a big game, but when it comes right down to it, our hearts reveal our true intent, our true thoughts and feelings, our true core beliefs, and how we act speaks to what is in our hearts.

Words and actions are not the same; they do not bear the same weight. While words can be illuminating, clarifying, and insightful, they can also be deceiving, misguided and false. Actions on the other hand, are like a mirror; they merely reveal and reflect who we are in our heart of hearts.

“Do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.” (Matthew 6:5)

~SLM

What Fills the Heart

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Isaiah 29:13 which states, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me,” and since it’s Valentine’s Day, the day we all like to give our hearts away, I thought I’d share my ponderings. So, just what exactly is a “far away” heart, what does it mean?  It means not near, estranged and lacking in closeness, distant. When we are distant from someone, we do not hear them, we do not feel them, and we do not see them.

The Message translates this verse like this: “These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their hearts aren’t in it. Because they act like they’re worshiping me but don’t mean it,” and goes on to translate verse 14 as, “I’m going to step in and shock them awake, astonish them, stand them on their ears. The wise ones who had it all figured out will be exposed as fools. The smart people who thought they knew everything will turn out to know nothing.” This verse is so fascinating to me, because it seems to speak on so many levels. It’s about what fills our hearts and the actions that stem from our beliefs. It’s also about hypocrisy, about saying one thing while doing another. It’s about arrogance and pride and bearing false witness.

A far away heart means being unaware of what is in your heart, not knowing what you accept as true or why you accept it, not loving others as you would be loved, and trusting in God, but not trusting Him. Others may not know what is truly in our hearts, but God knows, and he can tell if we are near or far, if our hearts are filled with his love or something else entirely. One thing I know for sure is this: Whether we realize it or not, we live where our hearts are, holding in them all that we value, all that we hope for, all that is dear to us, and no matter what our lips say, or what we declare, our actions are always, always in accordance with our true beliefs, with what fills the heart.

May your heart always be close to God’s and filled with His love today and always…

~SLM