Friday, August 6, 2010

Over-turning Tables in Life--a devo from Matthew 21

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What are you protective of? If you were caught in a fire and could only retrieve one thing from your home, what item would it be? Are you protective of your schedule; if someone randomly asks you to do something, are you able to deviate from your regular routine to either help or be with that person? What about your body? Are you protective of how much food you eat; how much exercise you perform and what goes it? Here’s a scenario—if a total stranger said that one of your siblings or even your spouse said something wrong or did something wrong how would you react? Would you abandon your family member to the testimony of that complete stranger?

These are all things that I have been wrestling with. The act of protecting your body, following a schedule, and contemplating what a person outside your family says about a member are all legitimate things to be concerned with but like everything life, there’s a balance. I have noticed a few things within our society and American culture that frustrate me about the concept of protection. Even more bothersome, some of these things are part of my own life. I find myself becoming angry or overly sensitive to things that are not truly close to my heart and are not my first on my priority list of needing to protect. Anger itself is not wrong, it is the act of sinning when we are angry. I feel like anger can serve as a good indicator of the status of my heart. A passage of scripture that has intrigued me on this topic of protection and anger is repeated throughout the Gospels. It is the account of when “Jesus Cleanses the Temple.” I so wish I could have personally witnessed this event in Christ’s life not because I want to see Jesus mad, but I feel like it would empower me more to protect things that are important to God and that I am called to protect when I associate with Christ. Let’s read the passage together from the gospel of Matthew (or you can check out Mark and Luke’s version as well!)

Jesus Cleanses the Temple
12(O) And Jesus entered the temple[b] and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of(P) the money-changers and the seats of those who sold(Q) pigeons. 13He said to them, "It is written,(R) 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but(S) you make it a den of robbers."
14(T) And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15(U) But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple,(V) "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant, 16and they said to him, "Do you hear what these are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes;(W) have you never read,
(X) "'Out of the mouth of(Y) infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise'?"
17And(Z) leaving them, he(AA) went out of the city to(AB) Bethany and lodged there.

Matthew 21:12-17 ESV

Wow. How would you react if someone walked into your church this Sunday and overturned different tables (on the account you were selling something of course---not just a random fit of rage). I am trying to even put myself in the place of someone at the temple that day; you know what’s sad, I think I would think in my head “Jesus, settle down, just talk to them and have them remove the tables.” Almost react like an embarrassed child at the grocery store when mom gets upset with the packing of groceries or upset with dad when he is yelling at a umpire at a baseball game---but this is Jesus Christ—the Holy and Anointed Son of our God. The ESV commentary describes the situation as this market-like setting at the temple of travelers to exchange currency and a place to purchase animals for sacrifices. Notice how the church in this case, is simply trying to make something convenient to the people coming and going in the city and those that attend the temple. Jesus compared this scene to a den of robbers---where people “store wealth or store their ill-gotten wealth and plot future crimes” (ESV Study Bible Commentary). Now, I am not trying to accuse the modern-church’s efforts to provide fellowship with coffee shops or different sitting areas because I think those are great; but we must keep a perspective of protecting our temple, our church from becoming like a den of robbers. This is not just the physical building itself, but rather the body meaning the people---what do your conversations consist of when you’re together? Are you meeting together to take care of business or meeting together to lift one another up in prayer and bless one another in fellowship and company?

Notice how Jesus, in verse 14 immediately switches gears to healing people and the first group at the temple to recognize this was…..children! Yes! The children at the temple were able to recognize Jesus as the Son of David and worship him the way we all should. The “regulars” or the chief priests were skeptical and they became angry at Jesus for doing these things. AH! So backwards! But I can totally see how I would be one of these regulars---standing back and saying, “Really Jesus? Why do you have to do that now and look, the children are getting all out of control praising you as the promised Savior.” Obviously if I am seeing this type of reaction with Jesus Christ you can only imagine what my other relationships look like in this area of protection. I become so concerned with what is politically correct and fearful of man’s opinions that I forget about imprisoned souls. Here are just a few examples in my life that I am choosing to be vulnerable with you on in sharing because I think it can shed some light when you are looking at your own life:

Wrongful Protection Example #1- I will choose to skip morning coffee or breakfast with my family because I like to get up by myself, eat by myself and carry out my own routine. I do believe we need to spend time with the Lord alone but to be so consumed with a morning routine to neglect spending time with family is selfish and almost abandonment of a vital communication time with my family.

Wrongful Protection Example #2- Sometimes my mom will share about an event that happened in her day whether at work or just in public where she is blantenly disrespected or the opposite situation where she shows Christ’s love to someone by giving money to a homeless person and I immediately become critical of her and think—“Oh mom, you probably did something to aggravate someone,” or “mom—you need to be careful in giving to homeless people.” Obviously my mom is not perfect but how often do we abandon the testimony of our immediate family member (Spouse, mother, father and sibling) on account of another person’s opinion. We almost shoot ourselves in the foot! There’s a passage that talks about meeting the needs our immediate family members first before we go out and administer to those who are in need outside of our home. Are you quick to give money to a total stranger before you loan money to a family member?

Wrongful Protection Example #3- I love running. I run everyday. Sometimes I become cranky when I can’t run on certain days. I will wake up early, run in the heat of the day, or go out at night just so I can have that time to run. I like coffee and tea—I will get excited to wake up in the morning just so I can make that coffee or tea and if I run out, I will walk over to a coffee shop at 6 am just to get it. I hate procrastination and so I will often study two weeks in advance in efforts to prepare for an exam. I will become defensive if I don’t have plenty of time--even if it is at the expense of spending precious moments with family and friends. Notice how quick I am to defend these things; my body, my hobbies, food and intellectual gain? It’s not wrong to like these things or to prepare for an exam—but notice how I become angry at this but the minute either my family or I see another group of Christians doing something outwardly for Christ—I become critical and somewhat abandon what I should be protecting?

Infidelity is spreading like wildfire in our country—why? Because we give in and abandon to the sin and temptation of sexual sin. Husbands are willing to protect their need of pleasure and fulfillment while abandoning their wife and family. Women are willing to sacrifice precious time with their children in efforts to work just one more hour a day at the office; willing to have someone else raise their child so they can climb the cooperate ladder and obtain a goal. Kids are willing to spend hours on Facebook and communicate with friends every single day yet neglect to read their Bible; as students, they are quick to memorize a textbook but to memorize a single verse from the Bible is like pulling out teeth. I am just as guilty in some of these areas.

Think of Christ in his last few hours before he was crucified; what were the disciples doing? Sleeping. Later on, when Christ was being arrested, where were his disciples? Running away, denying association with him and even selling information to the authorities. AH! That’s totally me! Please, please, please take notice to little areas of your life that you are abandoning Christ in. We are not even in the heat of persecution and we are so quick to “sell-out” Christ. If we can’t protect these little things, how can or will we withstand the firey trials that will undoubtedly come in this life? We need to protect the things that we are called to—especially relationships that we are entrusted with---the most important one needing to be protected is with Christ. Do you need to “turn some tables” like Jesus did at the temple in your own life? Allow the Holy Spirit to convict you and the passage from Matthew and the other gospels empower you to become fiercely protective of the Truth and the pursuit of being like Christ.

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