Short Thoughts: Week 15 – Days 99-104

Day 99  –  Resurrection

 

 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.      Matthew 28:5-6

 

After two days of violence and darkness and gloom, it is the third day. For the followers of Jesus, it is time to cast off fear. The resurrection of Jesus Christ triggered a variety of reactions: an angel appeared; women told others the good news and met the risen Lord; soldiers and chief priests were afraid and spread a lie; the eleven disciples went to Galilee and met Jesus there and worshipped Him; Jesus gave the great commission.

There are some sets of two in Matthew 28: two fears, two fear nots, and two messages.

The guards were afraid of the angel. When they told the chief priests that an angel had appeared and rolled away the stone that blocked entrance to the tomb, these priests consulted with the elders and fabricated a story, paying off the guards in return for protection from the governor. When you don’t want to hear the truth, you make up a lie and spread it around.

The women who had gone to the tomb out of love for the Lord were afraid, but were told, “Don’t be afraid[of me, an angel].” What chased away fear? “He is risen,” said the angel. And a little later, Jesus Himself met them with greetings and, “Do not be afraid.” Both the angel and the Lord gave them a task, namely, to go and give good news to the disciples and all the “brothers” that Jesus would meet them, too!

The fear the guards experienced did not go away as sincerely as did the fear of the women. The guards still had to wonder if they would get punished for falling asleep and allowing the body to disappear. The women ran with “great joy” to tell the disciples the wonderful news. As said above, the guards’ message to the public was a dangerous lie. For the followers of Jesus, the message was, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and    make_disciples of all nations,  baptizing them in_the name of the Father and of the Son   and of   the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold,I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthews 28:19-20)

Which message have you listened to and acted upon?

 

Your Turn:

  1. Read Matthew 28.
  2. How can you help someone hear the truth about Jesus?
  3. There were three parts to the Great Commission that Jesus gave: (a)“All authority is given Me”, (b) “Go, make disciples, baptize and teach them.”; (c) I am with you always.” Which part have you found hardest to heed?
  4. Notice that the action part, the part requiring obedience (“Go, make disciples…”), is surrounded by two reassurances (“All authority is given Me” and “I am with you always”).
  5. What do you need from Jesus today: the removal of fear? the challenge of finding purpose? or the comfort of His presence that He promises? Talk to Him in prayer about this.

 

Day 100  –  Defensiveness

 

“…reprove a wise man, and he will love you

10  A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding

than a hundred blows into a fool. Proverbs 17:8b,10

 

Defensiveness has been defied as  “self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood in an attempt to ward off a perceived attack” (https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-defensiveness/). When I examine my own life, I see defensiveness as an area of weakness. I believe strongly in the teaching of Proverbs quoted above, that a wise man learns from rebuke, and there are times I’ve appreciated a gentle rebuke. But, I nonetheless, find myself all too easily wanting to defend myself when I perceived a criticism that in retrospect I realize may not even have been intended.

Another source says, “We are all wired to protect ourselves, and this can lead to defensive behavior.” ( https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-17713/12-truths-about-defensive-behavior.html ). While it may be a natural response, defensiveness can easily lead to communication failures and unnecessary conflict. It harms a relationship rather than helps. I sometimes reflect on my years as a pastor and think about some time when I did not help a problem by my defensive response to either a personal criticism or a general comment on the way the church ministry was going at the time.

Such realizations should lead me to repentance. Also, I need to ask God to help me see my tendency to be defensive. Perhaps it is a certain person or type of person whose actions or words trigger a defensive response in me. Perhaps it is a certain situation that I react to. I need to be alert to this weakness in me. A spiritual weakness needs spiritual strength to overcome.

The Bible teaches us to practice humility, gentleness, and patience – and to “bear with one another” (Ephesians 4:2). Surely that is an antidote to defensiveness. God’s Word teaches that we are not to avenge ourselves but leave such to God (Romans 12:19) for that is what Jesus did, not reviling but “entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly” (I Peter 2:23). The Lord taught , “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Meekness involves self-denial, which is the opposite of defensiveness. God has given His children the Holy Spirit to convict us when we sin, to enlighten our understanding, to equip us with the power we need to live for Him.

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-8)

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:17-20).

Your Turn:

  1. Read II Peter 1:3-11.
  2. I have a feeling that I will be writing more on this topic in some future devotional – defensiveness has such stubborn tendency to return in my life. What problem do you find yourself having to deal with repeatedly? Is God’s power within you really strong enough to overcome? Re-read John 16:7-8 and Ephesians 1:17-20 (above).
  3. It may be that someone else in your circle struggles with defensiveness. How can you help that person without being negative – for example, re-phrasing how you speak so that your words are less likely to be seen as an attack; or being understanding and gentle when they overact; or avoiding defensiveness in return.

 

 

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