In Jesus’ Words: Follow Me (Mark 2:13-17)

Do you remember that feeling when you got picked for the team in school? It probably made you feel happy or relieved. Or maybe you remember not getting picked, and it seemed to make your whole day feel even worse.  Everyone wants to belong somewhere, to know they have worth. We want to feel, that even though we might not be very good or have made some stupid mistakes, someone believes in us anyway, and likes the potential they see in us. Well, that’s exactly what Jesus did, and how he made people feel.

Jesus was known for dining with sinners and tax collectors. Tax collectors were in a category all by themselves and considered the biggest sinners of all. It would have been scandalous in those days to be seen with them, much less dine at their house. Now, Jesus was not hanging out with them to call out their sins or to prove his point, which he certainly had the authority to do. He was there for one thing: Follow Me! Jesus saw their potential over the bad. He was giving them a chance. They had been picked for the team!

~ The Call of Matthew, Dining with Sinners ~
Mark 2:13-17

Then Jesus went out again beside the sea. The whole crowd was coming to Him, and He taught them. Then, moving on, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him.

While He was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also guests with Jesus and His disciples, because there were many who were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew went on to follow Jesus the rest of his life, giving up his rich lifestyle. He wrote a book about Jesus’s life which became one of the four gospels. He went on to minister to Persia, Macedonia, Syria and Ethiopia to bring the good news to kings and sinners, and he never regretted that day he was picked or his decision to follow.

There is true help for anyone.

Three classmates by the age of 22.  Almost one per year since my son graduated high school.  That’s how many of my son’s school friends have committed suicide or fatally overdosed since high school.  The count is four if I also include my cousin’s son in those numbers.  These were all good kids from good families with promising futures.  I’ll never forget the look on my son’s face the day he came home from that first funeral.  He was 18 and just starting college, not too long after having listened to a hope-inspired send-off from his high school graduation ceremony, and now he was suddenly thrust into the real world with real-world consequences.  These classmates of his earlier school years had all eventually gone to different schools, but there is something agonizing about looking back on your youth, remembering those cub scout days together and playing Star Wars, and wondering how did it get to this?  Suicide has become an epidemic, especially among young men age 18-25.  In each case, there was something troubling each of them deep within, something no one could reach or know what to do with.  I don’t understand it because I have never been there, but for those family and friends left behind to deal with it, they know that suicide is not the answer.

There is something attacking our society, attacking us, our families and our friends.  It should not be so casually blamed on things (fill in the blank).  It’s more than that.  It’s evil that is invading our society.  Period.  Jesus warns us in John 10:10 that “the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy”, and by any means possible.  The closer it gets to Jesus’ return to earth, the more evil activity Satan tries to stir up in a last-attempt effort to destroy mankind.  And while I don’t pretend to know what someone may be personally going through, I do know there is only one answer that will truly work.  Jesus mentions it in the second part of John 10:10 when He says, “but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Jesus promises you life, and peace and rest, no matter who you are or what you’ve done.  Jesus doesn’t look at your past.  He is only interested in your future.  No one else on this earth offers the love, grace, forgiveness, help, and wisdom that Jesus does, and no one else promises victory over evil.  Why wouldn’t you want to follow His promises?  I cannot think of any better option on this earth, so I hope you’ll give Jesus a try.  You just might be surprised at what He can do if you let Him.

I hope you will join me as I continue in my study series, In Jesus’ Words, where I look specifically at the recorded words of Jesus, by going directly to the source and blocking out all the other noise out there.  For if Jesus is who he says he is, then His words matter, a lot.  They are the most important thing we have.

1-800-273-talk(8255)
suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Find a counselor to talk with. Most health insurances and churches can recommend someone.
Sometimes it may take a few tries to find the right one, just like with anything else, but keep trying. 

Pray for Our World: Jamaica

Jamaica is a large mountainous island in the Caribbean.  Jamaica has a wonderful Christian heritage, and one of the highest number of churches per square mile with several Bible schools and seminaries.  However, gangs and drug cartels have also brought high crime, violence and drugs to the country.

The Rastafarians is a common religion in Jamaica, characterized by the colors green, gold, red and black that you see in Jamaican hats, symbols and clothing.  It is a mix of Christian beliefs, black consciousness ideas, and social movement.  Dreadlocks, reggae music (popularized by Bob Marley), the use of marijuana, and their peace and love philosophy are all part of Rasta.  Though it all may sound good, they do not follow the Christian God.  Bob Marley sang a song called The Redemption Song, which hints of a spiritual longing and searching.  It is said that Bob Marley wanted to convert to Christianity but the people around him convinced him otherwise, as it would not be good for his popularity or their wallet. The story goes that Bob Marley later converted to Christianity and was baptized before he died.  I hope he is singing that true Redemption song in heaven today.  Our earthly rewards will be quickly gone and forgotten, but our eternal decisions will live on forever.

Pray that the Jamaicans will be able to reclaim their country from the crime and violence and drugs that is taking away our youth and true freedoms.

Pray for Our World: Greenland

Greenland is 85% glacial ice cap, the world’s largest island, and the lowest population density.  Total population is about 57,000.  The economy is primarily fishing and supported by the Danish government.  The culture of Greenland has been so ingrained with the inhospitable environment for so long, that it has been devastated by the change to more modern ways.  There is widespread immorality, sexual abuse, alcoholism, mental illness and suicide.  Thankfully there are some indigenous believers and missionaries that are helping with counseling, healing and deliverance through the work of the Holy Spirit.

In 1984, there were only about 20 born-again believers in the entire country.  Since then it has been growing.  Pray for more contemporary Bible versions to be available, training, resources, and counselors for the people.  Jesus offers hope to all, and it is the only lasting and true hope for all our problems.  Not religion, but knowing the living Jesus and having Him be a part of your life.

There is a restlessness within us that can only be satisfied when we rest in the presence of God. – AW Tozier

Pray for Our World: Germany

Germany is strategically placed in the center of Europe.  The post WWII recovery has become one of the world’s strongest economies.  With the inclusion of East Germany in the 1990’s, it led to high social security costs and a dip in the economy, but they are starting to recover.  Unemployment of over 3 million is still a concern, mostly in the east.

As a new post-war generation is taking over the leadership, Germany is starting to become more active in an international role.  Post 9/11 has also brought a greater interest in the Christian way as an alternative and counterbalance to Islam, and evangelicals are much more prominent now than before in media and politics.

Germany has many opportunities and challenges.  Strategically their location, wealth and influence are important in the EU and Europe.  Yet, the 1989 unification of the east and west remains a burden, especially spiritually and psychologically.  Mental illness is occurring in record numbers, including clinical depression.  Suicide is the second-largest killer of 15-29 year olds.

But there is much hope for the once-darkened Germany.  Pray that the hope and light of Jesus Christ will reach the people of Germany.  Jesus is the only true and lasting cure to our world’s problems.  He died for all.  He is available to all who seek Him.  This is why Jesus tells us He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), for anyone who comes to Him will be saved (John 6:37).  No other religion or person promises that.