Is There a Seat for Jesus?

Recently, I spoke with a friend who, upon moving to a new town, visited the local church she had grown up in. She said all the heads turned when she walked in, and they weren’t just looks of curiosity. As she found a seat, she had a feeling that she was sitting in someone else’s seat. She sat through the service, feeling uncomfortable. She continued to try to visit the church, picking different pews and different spaces within them for several Sundays. Each Sunday, she was met with the same reaction, that she was occupying a seat that belonged to someone else or that she was unwelcome. She even waited one Sunday until the last minute, after the church bells rang, giving everyone a chance to sit in their regular places. She still was met with turned heads and eyes looking down their noses. The minister never payed her a visit and she finally quit going. Why go where you don’t feel accepted or wanted? I’ve thought about our conversation a few times since and it strikes me how their reception is so unlike my friend’s personality. She embodies the same opening arms towards others as Jesus, not judging, but loving people exactly as they are. Others from all walks of life are welcome in her world.

Jesus in church

I wonder what those church people could have had in their minds to be so cold to such a warm and caring person? Were there rumors or gossip they had spread and believed, which are usually lies? Or did they feel they were too good for her? Or were they so cliquish, that they didn’t accept others who hadn’t been in their fold for years? Greater still, would they recognize Jesus if he came through their doors and sat in one of the pews or would he have been met with the same huffs and looks of derision? I can tell you they did encounter Jesus, and they didn’t recognize him, because we carry Jesus with us, when we are believers. (Galatians 2:20 “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.“) We are the light and perhaps that is what they didn’t like. Her light was dispelling their darkness and their sins of piety and holier-than-thou attitude.

I think of how opposite their attitude was to Jesus’ attitude towards others. The first one that comes to mind is the Samaritan woman. He hadn’t heard rumors about her, he Knew her life story, but that didn’t keep him from talking with her and offering her the living water. 

John 4:7, 9-10, 13-15 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink? The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He went on to ask her to call her husband and she said she didn’t have one and he told her she was right, she’d had five. But that didn’t stop Jesus from conversing with her or offering her salvation, because he didn’t look at her sins or what people said about her, he looked at her as redeemed. 

Another story that comes to mind is when Jesus ate with Levi, a tax collector and sinners. It was then that the pious teachers of the law had a fit! They couldn’t figure out why Jesus would eat with tax collectors and sinners. But how would he reach them, if he didn’t fellowship with them? They welcomed Jesus at their table and many turned their lives to follow him. 

Mark 2: 15-17 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

So these were people that were not accepted in the community, but what about those who were? What about the leaders, how did they treat Jesus when he dined with them?
Let’s look at one Sabbath at a prominent Pharisee’s house, (maybe a deacon or bishop in today’s standards). 

Luke 14:1-4, 7-11 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law,“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Jesus didn’t allow the circumstances of those around him to stop him from doing what his father had sent him to do, to heal the sick and save the lost. He also didn’t miss an opportunity to teach them how ill-behaved they were in choosing their seats and jockeying for position. So, to me, my friend was in good company, because her lifestyle was the same as Jesus, going again and again where she wasn’t wanted and continuing to love those who are rejected by society as she had been. I wonder, is there a seat for others in your life? Is there a seat for Jesus? 

 

Women in ministry

I received much of this teaching from Jonathan Welton, who I trust and agree with. I hope I have explained it as well as he did.

1 Corinthians 11:5 NLT “But a woman dishonors her head if she prays or PROPHESIES without a COVERING on her head, for this is the same as shaving her head.” (My emphases.)

1 Corinthians 14:34 “Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says.”

Don’t those verses sound like a contradiction? It’s okay for women to prophesy in the first verse, but that she can’t speak in church in the second verse? That’s because they’re not instructional verses, they’re quotations of a letter written to Paul.

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The book of 1st Corinthians is a response to a letter the Corinthians wrote to Paul. In 7:1 it says, “Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter…” and then, he’s answering their letter, which pertains to their culture in the first century. He writes, alternating between quotes and instruction. Unfortunately, most English translations have lost the indication of when he is quoting; which leads to misinterpretation. In the Greek, there are 42 quotes that are bracketed in the 2 books of Corinth, by a grave accent, that are Not in quotations or brackets in the English translations.

In the Greek, it indicates that what he is about to say is a quote from their letter, not his instructions. In 11:5 he mentions covering their heads; which was to set themselves apart from the temple prostitutes. The prostitutes would wear heavy makeup, jewelry, and adorn their hair in braids and jewelry. The prostitutes prophesied falsely and mixed in sexuality with witchcraft. So in that culture, the women put a covering over their heads to keep down the confusion. Chapter 12 talks about the spiritual gifts and 13 is the love chapter. In Chapter 14 he instructs until he gets to verse 34 and in the Greek there is a strong quotation before 34 and after 35 indicating that what he is saying in 34 & 35 is a quotation from the Corinth letter. If you read from vs 33 & skip to vs 36, it says, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people… Or do you think God’s word originated with you Corinthians? Are you the only ones to whom it was given? If you claim to be a prophet or think you are spiritual, you should recognize that what I am saying is a command from the Lord himself. But if you do not recognize this, you yourself will not be recognized. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking in tongues. But be sure that everything is done properly and in order.” So he is rebuking them for thinking they know the only way to conduct the church and service and restricting women to speak.

Now read Romans 16, also written by Paul, where he praises his co-workers. The word of God does not contradict itself. Please understand what I’m sharing and take it to heart, with an open spirit. Don’t let religiosity get in the way of realization. Some of Jesus’ most ardent followers were women. Some of the ministers in his time were women, why would it be different today and why would he say he makes no difference between men and women as there is also no division in race? Jesus’ death, burial, & resurrection took us back to God’s original purpose which was to be equal as man and woman.

Genesis 1:27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Galatians 3:26-28 NLT
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

What makes Lent different?

What is Lent? Lent is observed by both the Catholic and some Protestant churches. It begins on Ash Wednesday and continues for six weeks until three days before Easter. Those who participate in Lent, sometimes  do so by fasting and usually by giving up things they feel represent a form of self- denial. It is penance to God. Many also take up a short daily devotion during this time.

It is good to keep our hearts pure and to have a closer relationship and walk with Jesus, but what if instead of doing those things on our own for six weeks, we allowed the Holy Spirit to rule our hearts Every Day and allowed him to guide us into living a life free from sin, that is  pleasing to God, instead of ourselves?  He has given us a new heart if we have accepted Christ as our Savior and repented of our sins. The Bible tells us how we are able to be free from the life we lived before salvation.

F5F541EA-3DAA-449B-9F20-647799E33CBDGalatians 5:16,22-25 “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”

The plan has been laid out clearly for us and it’s as simple as asking the Holy Spirit to take over for us and to guide us daily, hourly, minute by minute. The Bible also says if any of us lacks wisdom to ask of God. Who do you think is the wisest King in history? I immediately think of Solomon. Why? Because he asked God for wisdom. He knew how to answer every man and to settle disputes as long as he kept his covenant with God. He was sought after for his diplomacy and his way of working things out to benefit both parties in a feud. He spoke with authority, he was wise beyond any other man or ruler. But that wisdom came from above, because he had requested wisdom. It was nothing he had of his own accord. What was his downfall? He quit listening and thought he could handle life on his own. He ran after women. He followed other gods and broke his covenant with God. Solomon Left the Holy Spirit behind. He opened his mind up to sin and destruction by his own doings. God didn’t leave Solomon, Solomon left God! Isn’t that what happens when people get into sin? What ‘gods’ are you following that are in your way? Is it gossip, drinking alcohol, drugs, sexual immorality, listening to those who don’t follow God, little white lies, big lies, complaining, quarreling, jealousy, or do you want to create division in other people’s lives? God made a way of escape for all these things, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Calling on the name of Jesus can help us resist the temptation; just as he did when Satan tempted him and Jesus told him to leave! The Holy Spirit is our advocate to see us through, he’s our strength.

Galatians 1:4-5 “Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.”

John 20:27-29 “Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!””

John 14:26 “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative-that is, the Holy Spirit-he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”

I’m not telling you not to observe Lent, I’m saying take the attitude of the season and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. Let him be the one who leads you away from the things that shouldn’t be in your life, instead of choosing for yourself, as Solomon did and failed. Let the Holy Spirit be the one who chooses and it won’t be self- denial, it will be spiritual atonenent. Let the Spirit guide you and you will not need self-denial, because you will have self-control, as well as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness.