Our family once vacationed on a rather new lake in Michigan which source was a dam constructed over a river some years before. The bottom of that lake was strewn with brush from trees that had once grown there. Dad and I were trolling for walleye when my line became tangled on the bottom. My Dad was an expert fisherman and knew how get it free. He showed me how to pull the fishing line taut, then release it with a snap, releasing the hook (hopefully). We worked on that for over an hour, and were about to cut the line, when it broke free.
I reeled in my line, and, to my amazement, brought to the surface a gnarled ball of tangled fishing line and a half-dozen lures that had become lodged there in the past. I didn’t catch any fish, but I had bait for the next day.
Sometimes our lives become entangled in the affairs of this world, like my fish line. We can do all we can to extricate ourselves from the mess we’re in, but the only way out is for something to break. If you are entangled in something while reading this, God is telling you to break free while you still can. Run!
My first car was a 1958 Chevrolet Bel-Air. I once locked my keys in the car. After half an hour of trying to get in with a coat hanger (remember when that worked?), another fellow employee tried his keys for a year newer Chevy, and it opened my door! Keys aren’t supposed to be interchangeable like that. My keys wouldn’t work in his door, but his key worked in mine.
In the Kingdom of God, sometimes our keys are interchangeable, and sometimes not. Jesus gives us keys to spiritual blessings, but sometimes the keys only work for us. And sometimes the key only works today but won’t work tomorrow. Tomorrow He’ll give us a new key.
I like to call these “keys” Keys to the Kingdom.When the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, it was a key to her healing. It wouldn’t work for anyone else, only her, and only for that ailment, and only on that occasion. Its what I like to call the Miracle of Alignment. He aligns the right people in the right place and the right timing. And only God can do that.
I have a friend that pastored a church in upper Michigan. His church and another across town decided to merge their congregations. Their theology was enough alike that they had no problems there. Even the leadership groups merged in an amazing matter. One building was aged and falling apart and the other was new construction, so merging the two into one meeting place made everyone happy.
But, they had one difficult difference that was hard to resolve. One congregation believed that communion should be with real wine. The other congregation believed grape juice was necessary with no alcoholic content. Because of the two historic backgrounds, this threatened to keep the two factions from taking communion together. My friend had to take steps to resolve this seemingly important division.
So, they had everyone come to the front to receive communion, with certain elders using grape juice, and others with wine. The elders shifted place from week to week, and people tended to receive communion from their favorite elders, who sometimes changed from juice to wine. At the end of five years, people had forgotten to ask which it was they were taking and all they then served was grape juice. Deep set convictions had shifted over just five years.
Just how important is the thing that you think is important? Fellowship seems to trump tradition.
“God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the People of Israel. Tell them that from now on they are to make tassels on the corners of their garments and to mark each corner tassel with a blue thread. When you look at these tassels you’ll remember and keep all the commandments of God, and not get distracted by everything you feel or see that seduces you into infidelities” (Numbers 15:37-38 MSG).
God told all the Israelites that they were to identify themselves as God’s people by wearing this fringe and blue ribbon around the edge of their robes…from them on. As the generations went on, the fringe became a symbol of the priests, but all godly people who wanted to live by God’s laws wore that blue ribbon around the lower edge of their garment. It was a mark of righteousness. Of course, Pharisees were known for “making broad their phylacteries” (blue trim), to be seen of men. The blue represented the heavenlies. Of course, Jesus was obedient to wearing this trim of blue thread or ribbon around his garment.
Luke’s gospel records the story of a very ill and hopeless woman. “She came up behind Him and touched the edge of His cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped” (Luke 8:44). There was something heavenly about the hem of Jesus’ garment. The Ribbon of Blue symbolized God’s righteousness in humanity. When she touched the ribbon on Jesus’ robe, power went out of Him to heal her. That same power is available today, for those who will receive it.
There have been many paintings of the crucifixion over the years. When you study the painting of the crucifixion by the famous Dutch artist Rembrandt, your attention is first drawn to the cross and to Jesus. Then, as you look at the crowd around the cross, you are drawn to the faces of the people involved in the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God. Finally, your eyes drift to the edge of the picture and catch sight of another figure – almost hidden in the shadows. This, we are told, was a self-portrait of Rembrandt, for he recognized that by his sins he helped nail Jesus here!
Wounded for me, wounded for me,
There on the cross He was wounded for me;
Gone my transgressions, and now I am free,
All because Jesus was wounded for me.
I remember the first time I cussed in front of my Mom. My Aunt was visiting at our house and I repeated a humorous story I had heard, using the world ‘Damned’. The room got deathly still. My Aunt’s mouth dropped open. My Mom shouted my entire name (including the never-mentioned middle name)! My brother laughed out loud (probably from his excitement at the impending doom about to fall). The color drained from my face and my brain froze. Can I take it back? Can I say, “I meant to say…?” Nope. I was caught red-handed (or red-faced). There was no way out.
I got up, walked outside, got on my bike and disappeared for the rest of the day. I’m sure my Mom said behind my back, “You just wait til your father gets home!” I’m sure she was completely humiliated to have her god-fearing sister hear how I talked in front of my Mom.
Ever stuck your foot in your mouth before? Sometimes a kid tries to act like an adult before you’re ready. That was me. I had to learn the hard way. That incident put a real caution in my brain. Mom’s never heard me swear since then. We should all be very cautious with our words.
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36).
There are tings we forget and things we cannot forget. I cannot remember my First Grade teacher’s name but I’m sure she had an impact on my life. I cannot forget my Drill Instructor’s name (Sergeant Stamper), because he had an important impact in my life.
I’m sure there are certain things even Jesus doesn’t remember about the details of his formative years. But Jesus cannot forget you. God said, speaking through the Prophet, “They may forget, yet will I not forget you. I have graven you upon the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15-16).
As Jesus ascended into heaven, his scarred hands, marked for us sinners, could clearly be seen. The beauty of the Creator had been marred at the hands of men. It was a price He was willing to pay to not forget us. The marks of the nails are you reminder that He hasn’t forgotten you.