Posted tagged ‘Pharisees’

Giving It a Jesus Spin

January 19, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      January 19, 2020

                                   

Years ago there was a car accident at an intersection. Four witnesses coming from different directions gave their statements to the responding police officers. Each witness gave a different accounting of what had happened, and each believed their words were the only ones that were true…even though they differed! When the officers pieced all the eye witness accounts together they came to the conclusion that each statement had some of the truth in it, but not all of the truth.

Our culture has a certain contrariness to it. There’s a stubbornness that tends to believe that my truth, or your truth, is the whole truth, not to be questioned or minimized. 

In Jesus’ day the religious folk would put their view of the Law upon a situation. In John 9 there’s the story of a blind man who Jesus healed. When Jesus’ disciples came upon the man they asked Jesus who had sinned, this man or his parents. The struggles of life were blamed on someone’s sin. That’s how they understood the workings of life. Jesus brought them to another perspective: The man’s blindness was to allow the work of God to be displayed. The scripture doesn’t mention the disciples reaction at that point. Maybe they were confused, or maybe they came to a new understanding of the ways of God. 

The man’s neighbors come in next and can’t quite grasp that this is the same man who has never been able to see. They take him to the Pharisees who investigate the healing. These men can only see the healing through the lens of the Sabbath. That is, he had gained his sight during the Sabbath. Jesus had spit in some dirt, made some mud, and put it on the blind man’s eye lids. That constituted working on the Sabbath. They could only see the situation through the application of the Law.

I’ve noticed that there are those who frequent churches today who seem ready to press their view of situations as if it has a monopoly on  the truth. The thing is instead of the Pharisees seeing things through the Law, people today put a “Jesus spin” on their personal preferences. It smacks of “Jesus justification”, the attempt to validate my belief by attaching Jesus to it. Sometimes, dare I say, it seeks to validate our prejudices by trying to convince people it’s what Jesus would want.

Social media is a stampeding ground for people to do their Jesus spins. There’s a difference between politely and respectfully disagreeing and “Facebook Pharisaism”. 

The man who Jesus healed of blindness was convinced that Jesus was from God, but no matter what he said he could not change the perspective of the Pharisees. In fact, towards the end of the story they throw him out of their gathering. They had their understanding based on the Mosaic Law. They didn’t want to be bothered with the truth…or the Truth. 

I have certain beliefs that have nothing to do with Jesus. Like popcorn should only be eaten with an accompanying soft drink, and always root for the team that Michigan is playing…unless it’s Notre Dame! 

I also have preferences such as the NIV Bible, baptism by immersion, and Starbucks coffee. I’m openminded enough, however, to believe that Jesus can speak to me through other Bible translations, a different baptism celebration, and that he did not ordain Starbucks to be the coffee for the saints. I keep my personal preferences separated from questions that are indications of what Jesus would do.

There are certain scriptural truths that are meant to be trumpeted, such as grace, love, forgiveness, hope, and peace. So often, however, we become blind to seeing life through them.

The People Who Push You On or Pull You Down

December 9, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   December 9, 2017

                         

We have a tendency to not think about it because they breeze by us like a spring gust, but most of us…if we stop to think about it long enough…have numerous people in our lives who have pushed us to keep going, and others who have grabbed us by the arm and pulled us down.

That thought occurred to me recently as I was meeting with two people who have helped me in the editing of the book I had been writing. As we sat and talked they made several helpful suggestions on plot ideas, flow, character development, and other things. I left our conversation with new excitement about the project that caused me to hibernate in my favorite writing spot later on that day.

That’s what “pushers” do! They create an excitement within you to keep on going, to motivate you to move, to create, to take a risk.

Ed and Diana Stucky have been that to me for a good fifteen years. I remember when I doubted my worth as a pastor and a person and they got behind me and pushed me up. Roger Mollenkamp, Steve Wamberg, Thelma Dalrymple, Janet Smith, Chuck Landon, James Voss, Harold Anderson, Rich Blanchette, Mike Oldham, Ben Dickerson, Don Fackler, Dave Volitis, Ron McKinney…my fingers keep pecking out names like there’s no tomorrow. Each name that flows to the page is a quick reminder of how I’ve been blessed, influenced, and shaped.

When I was back in Ohio visiting my dad back in August one of his good friends, Bill Ball, passed away. Bill was ninety-something, an optimist and encourager. I remember when I was in high school and preparing for my senior season of track that he took me aside after church one Sunday and told me he thought I could lower my time in the mile considerably if I did a cope of things with my running form, how I used my arms and the pace of my race. He infused confidence into me and I broke the school record that had stood for almost twenty years. They were just simple words backed by affirmation and belief, and they worked.

For sixteen years I officiated high school basketball. I remember Andy Brooks, my mentor, encouraging me as he imparted wisdom to me. Ray Lutz, an official and mentor of officials for fifty years, recently passed away. At his memorial service in another couple of weeks there will be numerous men and women wearing black and white striped shirts that he pushed to keep on going.

Pushers keep us moving towards our potential.

But there are others who pull us down, also. Pullers are those folks who hold us back, torment us with their words, minimize us with their disdain and attitudes. Pullers are people who would keep reminding Jesus that he was only the son of a carpenter. They are the people who would keep whispering to Michael Jordan that he hadn’t made his freshmen basketball team. They are the present-day scribes and Pharisees that seem to enjoy making other people’s lives miserable.

If someone has more pullers than pushers in her life she will be the Cinderella that never made it to the ball, the fourth grader who will never learn to read because to many people had already convinced him he never could.

I’m fortunate! I’ve had many more pushers than pullers in my life. And for that I say “Thank you, Lord!”

Jesus Coffee: Part 3

July 12, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            July 12, 2016

                                        

(This week “Words from WW” is a continuing coffee conversation between W.W. and Jesus. To read Parts 1 and 2 go to “wordsfromww.com”)

“Pharisees for Jesus…you’re right! It doesn’t flow out of your mouth like Jews for Jesus.” I took a sip of my coffee that had lost its steam.

“Kind of like ‘Criminals for Christ’! The only attention it draws is not positive attention.”

“Bigots for Baptists!”

“Turn or Burn Peace Advocates!”

“Pentecostal Prostitutes! I guess there are a lot of titles for groups that it’s just as well that they don’t exist.”

“Exactly! Let me ask you a personal question.”

I hesitated even as I was saying okay.

“What name or title would people give to describe who you are, or, better yet, to describe what you’re about?”

“Wow! That’s a little deep, isn’t it?”

“You must have some idea.”

“I guess I haven’t really thought about it too much. It’s not one of those things that occupies my mental pondering.”

“Maybe not, but it’s a question that you have based most of your life on.”

“How so? If I don’t think about it how do I base my life on it?” I recognized that I asked the question with a bit of indignation in my tone.

“What I’m saying is that most of what you do and what you say arises out of the unspoken question you hold inside of you. That is, how do I want people to see me? If I want to be seen as a jerk the things I say and do spill out of that. If I want to be seen as a saint I consider my words and actions accordingly.”

“Wait a minute, Jesus! If what you’re saying is true where is there true authenticity? What is my true self if who I am is based on how I want others to see me?”

“In other words, what is at the core of your being?”

“Yes, I guess so.”

“And is your core being described with the same words that people describe you? That’s how you know whether you are living authentically or not.”

“Yes, I think that would be correct.”

“So if you don’t know who you really are it’s impossible to live authentically?”

“Well, impossible is not a word that is usually associated with you, but I’d give a qualified yes to that.” I had a sense of fear about where this conversation was going, about what I might HAVE to discover about myself.”

“So who are you when no one is looking? What do you think, what do you say to yourself, what do you hope for? Here’s another defining question! What is the longing of your soul?

“Good Lord, Jesus! You keep asking me even more questions that are hard to answer.”

“Knowing who you are happens to be a journey powered by reflection.”

“I’m…I’m a person who longs to be loved.”

“Is it hard to say those words?”

“They sound so simple, so uncomplicated, and yet…yes, it’s hard to say them.”

“Would you like to get a refill before we go any further?”

“Absolutely! I need another cup to help me move ahead.”

(TO BE CONTINUED)