It says in today’s passage, “You have no idea how God works.” This statement was made by Jesus to Peter. Like many Jews at that time, Peter had a very different understanding of the Messiah. But this message can be said of us many times as well.
Too often we try to put things in God’s mouth, we try to say how God thinks, and yet we have no idea how He works apart from His Word and what He shows us through the Spirit. When you encounter something that is not clearly spelled out in the Bible, there is no way to say, “God says…,” just as there is no way to predict how God will move in a situation. There are many He might perhaps possibilities, but are you for certain?
Let us agree that we serve an amazing indescribable God. Let us remind ourselves today that we do not always know what God is doing or how He is works, but we can always trust in Him.
“But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. ‘Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.'” – Mark 8:32-33 [MSG]
Recently a lady came through my lane at work and she had a smudge on her face. In Pennsylvania Dutch terms, we call that “schmutz.” Schmutz is a term I use for things like mayonnaise and ketchup, but it can also be used to describe a grease smudge. When you have a small cut, I might say to you, “Put some schmutz on it,” referring to ointment. Nonetheless, this lady had schmutz of some sort on her face and I tried to politely let her know.
When I told the lady about her schmutz, she was so grateful. She couldn’t see the smudge on her face because she didn’t have a mirror. She had been walking around with it on her face all morning and no one said a thing.
Today’s verse talks about a face smudge that we can so easily see on our neighbors. We all have schmutz on our face but we don’t have the mirrors in hand. Many times we find faults in others and those faults are also our own. It is difficult to see yourself, to see all the bits and pieces, but God can help you see every smudge if you pay attention to His voice and you continue to be in prayer. Whether you know it or not, God knows you better than you know you. I’m praying that today you will able to show grace and mercy to the schmutz of others as you intentionally wash your own face with the help of the Spirit.
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”
-Matthew 7:1-5 [MSG]
This last winter was horrible. I remember being stuck out in the cold many days having to shovel and shovel some more. I remember once my kids locked me out too. I did not have my keys with me because I wasn’t leaving. I was simply shoveling the inches of snow that had once again come our way. But I couldn’t get inside. I was cold. I knocked. They didn’t answer. Thankfully they came to my aide a bit later. It was no fun being outside in the cold.
The Bible says that there will be people who “will find themselves out in the cold.” It is sad but it is true. When you read the verse, something has to stick out—THOSE WHO GREW UP ‘IN THE FAITH.’ Wow. They will be in the cold?!? But they grew up in the faith. The second part says BUT HAD NO FAITH. It’s much clearer then. You see you cannot save your family members. You cannot grow up in a church and say you are a Christian because you were raised Christian. What even is that? YOU, yes YOU PERSONALLY, need to repent of your sins and give your life to Jesus. You need to say, “Not my will, but Yours.”
Growing up in a church won’t save you. I cannot save my own children. I try to follow God’s Word to parents. I take them to church. I lead by example. But they ultimately have to make the decision on their own. If you have been going to church all your life but you have never fully accepted Jesus, never repented of your sins and given your will for His, pray about it today. I don’t want any of you outside in the cold. I know God doesn’t want you outside either. He wants each of you saved. He wants each of you with Him.
“Then those who grew up ‘in the faith’ but had no faith will find themselves out in the cold, outsiders to grace and wondering what happened.”
-Matthew 8:12 [MSG]
Ever since I can remember, I had a great appetite. I like food. I like to try new recipes. I like to watch cooking shows. And to my downfall, if there’s food to eat I will rarely say, “I’m not hungry.” Thankfully I usually practice healthy eating habits.
Matthew 5:6 says, “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.” Other translations say blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness or thirst for justice. The best meal you’ll ever eat. These people, they will be filled, satisfied. Wow!
Do you have that appetite today? Are you hungry for God? Do you thirst for more righteousness? If not, take a small bite. Then take another. As you continue to eat the Word, as you continue to seek Him, as you continue to pray, your appetite will be more for Him and less for the world. You’ll find yourself developing a great hunger for righteousness, a great hunger for God. As He promises, you will be filled—you will have the best meal you will ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”
-Matthew 5:6 [MSG]
I was walking Max the other morning. He is quite the rabbit chaser. The second he notices a rabbit, he wants to go hunt it down. However this morning was different. The rabbit stood still. The rabbit never had to run for cover. There was a big dog in the yard ahead that caught Max’s attention. He became fearful and that fear caused him to focus on the fear and miss out on his “fun.”
Fear can cause us to not take chances. Fear can cause us to act differently. Fear can cause us to cower down. Fear can cause us to second guess ourselves. Fear can cause us to not reach our full potential. Fear can cause us to miss opportunities.
For many years of my life, I was very fearful. I let fear rule different areas of my life and it caused me to be enslaved by fear. It also caused me to miss out on a lot of opportunities. God has a lot for you. Yes, YOU! There’s work to be done. There’s doors to be taken. There’s a need to stand firm. There’s a reason to speak up. Do not let fear rule you. Remember what God promises. Remember Who your God is and remember He is a big God, a faithful God, and that you have no reason to fear.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10 [ESV]
People are important. Every single person matters. Zechariah 7:9-10 tells us, “Treat one another justly. Love your neighbors. Be compassionate with each other. Don’t take advantage of widows, orphans, visitors, and the poor. Don’t plot and scheme against one another—that’s evil” (MSG). These are simple commands to remember and act upon; however, our society screams, “Me, me, me.”
If you are not so interested in people, then you have forgotten the two commandments of Jesus: Love God, love others. It’s plain and clear. There’s no way to misinterpret. It is not complex or mysterious. Zechariah states, “You’re interested in religion, I’m interested in people.” Sometimes we get that mixed up.
Religion is very different than relationship. God wants a relationship with us and He wants us to be in relationships with others too. God is a communal. It is all about community. It is all about people. If people—all people—are not your interests, I pray today you may start changing your interests. There are a whole lot of people out there—and each one needs Love.
“God-of-the-Angel-Armies gave me this Message for them, for all the people and for the priests: ‘When you held days of fasting every fifth and seventh month all these seventy years, were you doing it for me? And when you held feasts, was that for me? Hardly. You’re interested in religion, I’m interested in people.’” Zechariah 7:4-6 [MSG]
It is very easy to change your clothes to appear different. Many people have clothing for different events and situations. We have our work clothing, our casual clothing, our dress clothing, etc. But changing your clothing does not change you. It only changes your appearance to make you more comfortable in your environment, to help you blend in, to keep you hot/cool, or to follow some dress code requirement at work or school.
In Joel we read the need to change your life. You cannot simply change the outer appearance and think you have accomplished what God was after. God wants your heart. God wants you to have a pure heart. You can easily change your clothing and attend church and think you’ve done what was required of you. Yet your heart could be without change—the outside was changed but the inside remained the same.
Today is the day to look deep within and ask yourself if there has been a change. Have you just changed clothing? Have you simply sought a “Christian” radio station and changed your appearance? Have you started to attend church every Sunday so you can say you went to church? Or have you changed? Do you see something different about yourself? Are you more joyful? Are you more hopeful? Are you more helpful? Are you nicer? Do you act with more compassion? Are you after truth? If you aren’t seeing one bit of change, chances are you have just changed your clothes.
“Change your life, not just your clothes.
Come back to God, your God.
And here’s why: God is kind and merciful.
He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot,
This most patient God, extravagant in love,
always ready to cancel catastrophe.”
-Joel 2:13 [MSG]
As I was walking Max down a familiar street, a young girl told her friend, “Cover your ears.” I chuckled a bit. I saw that there was a cat hiding under a nearby car. I assumed that she told the other girl to put her hands over her ears because she believed Max would notice the cat and start barking. I continued walking but quite soon found out why the little girl warned her friend.
From around the corner a large dog approached, barking as he ran in our direction. The girls held their ears as the dog continued to warn Max and I to keep our distance. Here I thought it was humorous that she thought Max would bark. Silly girls. Yet I was the silly one. I was the one also covering my ears as I walked away, shaking my head that I did not see the big picture.
In life we never really see the big picture. Only God sees the big picture. We see small glimpses. We know some things. We can hold on to His promises. We can walk in trust. We can only remind ourselves that He has a great plan. We do not need to see the big picture to live knowing that it is a great one, that He is good, that He is faithful, that He loves us and promises us life in abundance and eternal life with Him.
“For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” – Psalm 33:4-6 [NIV]