Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Judas – The Betrayer

You look down on me, I know. You can’t believe I would do what I’ve done. Looking back, I want to tell you – I can’t either. I can’t explain it, but it seems my entire life I’ve been awed with the power of money. I don’t remember a lot growing up, but our family has been through quite a few highs and lows. My father was a religious leader and I was always trying to prove myself to him – to get his praise and attention.

So when the chance came to follow this Jesus, I jumped at it. I just knew he was different from the others who’d come and gone, pretending to be the Messiah. Somehow, I knew this man was different. Something new was happening here. My dad was going to be so proud of his son – at the epicenter of the Messiah rising to power and overturning the Roman rule we’ve been living under for so long.

There was one problem – even though I was handpicked by Jesus to be one of his 12 closest apostles, I was the only Judean. I was called “Judas Iscariot”, which told everyone I was from Kerioth, about 30 miles south of Jerusalem. I thought that would help my position in the ranks – you see, the other 11 were all from Galilee. I was different. I was unique. I was from a city closer to Jerusalem than all of them. Unfortunately, they all knew my hometown was not traditionally a place for faithful Jews. Still, just being one of “The 12” seemed like such an honor, and surely when he rose to his power I would be remembered. I just needed to serve well, and let him see how valuable I was.
I knew my chances for power increased when I was able to secure my spot as the “Group Treasurer” . I would take in donations, make decisions on what supplies we could sell, and make sure we always had the money we needed when traveling. You should have seen the gratitude some people wanted to give us. Sometimes a rich young man, or a powerful servant would be healed or want to give thanks for their masters’ healing. I knew Jesus was a humble guy, and simple as well. He didn’t want to accept gratitude, and didn’t want people to give us more than we needed. Thankfully, he had me in charge of that area. I knew he would eventually need some seed money to secure the provisions and supplies for an uprising worthy of the Son of God. And, of course, if I needed to set aside some of the funds myself, or enjoy some nice things on my own to survive our travels – that would be okay.

One time, Jesus sent us out in pairs to accomplish his ministry with greater impact. He gave us authority over unclean spirits. Imagine – the power to command unclean spirits and heal in the name of Jesus. I won’t tell you which disciple went with me, because I don’t want to get him in trouble. But let’s just say he wasn’t doubting my ability to make use of the gratitude people gave us. Jesus told us as we went out, not to carry any money in our belts, but he didn’t say anything about spending what was given to us while it was still in our hands!
So yes…I may have enjoyed being with Jesus a bit more than some of the other guys. But it only made sense. For so long, we Jews had been taught that life was all about living according to the law, and finally here was the Messiah saying – we didn’t have to worry about the specifics of the law – just the love of God. And boy did I love what following God gave me.

Too much, obviously.

It was my weakness. It was an area I thought I was gifted in – and it became the one area I wasn’t watching carefully. I was so good with numbers. I could tell you what anything was worth, and I could tell you how much it would cost for a group of 13 to manage a journey from Jerusalem to Galilee. I remember overhearing Jesus complimenting my skills of calculation to a fisherman whose boat we had borrowed. He seemed so genuinely glad to have me around. In that moment, I knew I’d secured my spot in power with him when his time came. I remember when that Tax Collector, Zacchaeus had us all over to his house, and apologized for defrauding people of their money. Jesus had me stay after the meal, and help this small man calculate how much he owed each of the people he’d taken from. I was so mad at this pawn of Rome’s power and oppression. He’d taken so much from his own people, all while using his position as servant of Rome to benefit from crushing his own. It was great to see him humbled. You should have heard the story Jesus told, about men who had been entrusted with wealth, and the honor given to the servant who helped multiply what was given to him. As I listened, I knew Jesus would be thankful for all the ways I helped grow our finances. Thankful enough, even, to forgive the small amounts I kept or used for my own.
He should have listened when I complained about the woman, Mary, pouring money all over his feet in the form of perfume. I’d smelled the scent only a few times in my life – this was liquid gold, basically. This was the kind of gift he would usually turn down, and I would accept after he’d walked away on his behalf. Do you know how much money it would’ve gained us? But he didn’t always make sense.

Like not long after that meal, when we arrived at Jerusalem. Word had gotten out that we were coming. That he was coming. You could hear the noise rising while we were still a long way off. So what does Jesus do? He asks us to get him a COLT. An ugly little thing that had never carried more than a basket of grain. He made us look like fools, even as the people cried out “SAVIOR, SAVE US!!” We tried to hold our heads high. We were with him.

But the problem had grown clearer with each passing day. Whenever we’d bring up his plans for power, he’d start talking and teaching us like we were children. Whenever we’d start day dreaming about putting Rome in it’s place, he’d redirect the conversation and try to soften our hearts toward the Roman oppressors.

Three years. Three years of my life I’d given to following this man, investing all that I had in what might happen next. I knew it was time. Everything was ripe for revolution. The crowds were with us. The power and influence in the Kingdom was shifting. But every single time we’d try to mention it, Jesus would try to calm us, change the subject, or start telling stories. I got to the point where I just started walking away. I didn’t need to hear these words. I didn’t need to hear these stories. I needed to see action. I needed to see that God’s Messiah hadn’t grown soft and gutless.

I began to wonder, what if? What if this wasn’t really the Messiah I’d thought he was going to be? What if this was just another false prophet, stirring up the crowds and speaking with authority, only to let us all down all over again?

I began to pay more attention to his stories. He warned against the scribes, saying his followers shouldn’t worry about getting respect, and having the best places in the synagogues or places of honor at banquets. He pointed out a poor widow putting two copper coins into the treasury at the synagogue. He honored her offering as if it were worth more than those who gave gold and silver. As I held onto our groups finances, I was pretty sure he wouldn’t want all of our coins to turn to copper. What was all of this talk about? We should have been looking for wealthy allies, people who could offer us the connections and supplies we needed for the upcoming revolution. Instead – Jesus was praising the gifts and presence of this woman who had nothing to offer us.

I was there, not long after, when he started to prophecy about the destruction of the temple, and the destruction of Jerusalem. I think that’s when it happened. When my heart really began to harden against this man I thought was the key to my future, the key to OUR future. What kind of Messiah would talk about the coming day when the Temple would be destroyed? What kind of Messiah would talk about the destruction of God’s Holy City? He even talked about the Judeans needing to flee into the surrounding mountains, away from the city! Didn’t he know this was God’s Holy Place? This was the place where our salvation and freedom would come from. This was the place where Majesty would be enthroned. This place was OUR HOPE. This place was our very LIFE.

As he continued to teach, I listened less and less. Something about the coming of a “Son of Man”. He was probably confessing we were all still waiting on a Messiah – including him. He seemed to be losing it, and was filled with emotion as he stared at a fig tree nearby. He talked about how you can tell summer is coming, because of the leaves sprouting on the tree. He compared it to knowing about the Kingdom of God, and how we can know it is near because of the signs he’d talked about. That we should be on our guard, and watchful.

Watchful. For what? If he didn’t know when God was planning to set up His Kingdom, it must not be now. It must not be here. It must not be Him. But he was so powerful. He was so different. He was so – Jesus. My heart was torn. I was mad. I was sad. I was breaking apart.

I lost track of the days. He would spend all day teaching in the temple, and come back to the Mount of Olives most nights. Some of us went with him. Sometimes a few of us stayed back. I usually stayed back those days. That’s when it happened…

Some of the higher ups were walking nearby, and I don’t think they realized I was there. They were talking about a secret meeting, and wanting to get rid of Jesus. I made myself remember where they were meeting, and when…..just in case I could connect. This would be the perfect way to see if he was the Messiah or not. If he could be gotten rid of, he was obviously not the man we’d been waiting for.

So as the others were gathering supplies for the passover meal, I knew this was a rare chance to sneak away. I went to the place this meeting was happening. At first they were worried, because they knew I was one who was close to Jesus. But I told them what was on my heart. We had a common goal. If this was just another man, he needed to be quieted. If this was the Messiah, well then – what could we do to stop him? They offered me 30 pieces of silver. Not a lot, but better than being left with nothing if they were going to have him killed anyways. I agreed.

Imagine, then, what happened next. As we gathered for the evening meal, Jesus took off his outer robe, tied a towel around his own waist, and came around washing our feet. A lump rose in my throat. The room was so quiet, as he came to each of us. Simon Peter, obviously, couldn’t keep his mouth shut, and wouldn’t let Jesus do it at first. Then Jesus mentioned we didn’t need to wash our entire bodies, because we were clean…except, he also said – not all of us were clean. I couldn’t tell if he looked at me in the moment, or not. But as the meal continued, it was so hard to pretend anymore. Finally, he paused as he spoke, and warned everyone that one of us would betray him. Of course, everyone responded with gasps, wanting to prove who was the most loyal. I tried to fit right in, in that moment. Then he called me out on the spot. How did he know? He excused me from the table, and I knew – my time was short. If he knew I was involved in something, it wouldn’t be long before he ran. I knew where he was going to be that night, but wasn’t sure about his plans the next days. So I went to find the men who I’d spoken with.

The leaders took me and we went to find a group of guards. Words were flying, accusing Jesus of instigating a political uprising. The guards knew exactly who they were talking about, and it wasn’t hard to convince them Jesus had a large following. They were charged with keeping the peace, and making sure we Jews didn’t attract too much attention from Rome. They knew if this went beyond them, it could be their own lives at stake. So they came with us, as I led them into the garden.

With a kiss of greeting, so I wouldn’t have to say a word, I’d agreed to show which man was Jesus there in the darkness of the garden. As soon as we arrived, I began to question what was about to happen, but if I turned back now it would be my own life at stake. So I walked forward to greet Jesus. I felt the glare of Simon Peter, hand already on his sword, and my eyes began to water as I greeted our rabbi.

I stepped aside, as Jesus with a commanding voice asked them “Whom are you looking for?” They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth”. Then it happened. I can’t explain it, but as Jesus spoke the words “I AM.”, all the fullness of a divine power seemed to overwhelm us, and we dropped to our knees. Still trying to understand what was happening, we heard Jesus ask again, “Whom are you looking for?” The guard responded again, this time bracing for what might happen….”Jesus of Nazareth”. Jesus answered “I told you, I AM. Let these other men go.” That’s when Peter ran forward with his sword drawn. I thought he was coming at me, and quickly dodged out of the way, but his eyes had always been fixed on the high priests’ slave who was reaching out to grab Jesus. He sliced the mans ear off, and that’s when several of us began to run. I was afraid of getting caught up in whatever might happen next.

The next hours were unbearable. I ran until I couldn’t run. I cried. Three years, for this? But the love in his eyes. The grace and kindness, even in those last moments. I wandered back into the city. I could hear crowds chanting, and women crying in the streets. I could hear the religious leaders rallying the people against this rebel. Threats that they needed to silence this man before Rome came to put us all in our place.

But the accusations they made. The horrible picture they painted of who Jesus was. How quick they were able to get everyone to turn against him. I didn’t even care anymore if he was the Messiah. Maybe he wasn’t – because this sure didn’t look like a rise to power. This looked like a path toward prison.

Finally I heard the news. It wasn’t prison – it was a death sentence. I couldn’t believe it. Jesus wasn’t rising to power the way I’d thought he should. But he was definitely a powerful prophet from God. An innocent man. And I had accepted payment to send him to a horrible death by crucifixion. This mans blood would be all over my hands, for the rest of my life. I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to give the money back, but they wouldn’t take it. I threw it on the ground in the temple, and ran.

You know my story. But I want you to know – we are not so different. We all want a savior. There’s a part of us that doubts whether Jesus has what it takes to meet our needs. To meet the needs of our community. To change our world.

I want to assure you – I don’t know everything. But I know the power of that man was divine. I want you to know the Love in those eyes, even in the moment of my betrayal – is the kind of love that can change a world.

I want you to know, if you get a chance to follow Jesus, even if the road ahead looks rough….please – follow Him. Any other path, leads only to death. A death you don’t have to experience – because he already did for you…

The Connected Child(ren of God)

Years ago, when we began the journey of adoption, it was surprising to read in “The Connected Child” that we would want our daughter to cry.  Reading the explanation, however, seemed to make perfect sense.  For a child who has never known the safe environment of a loving home and parents who cared for her needs, she has to learn the connected-child-cover-web-198x300instinct to cry out.  Previously, crying gained her nothing, or quite possibly the opposite of affection, and so she may have “unlearned” the behavior.  As our child became connected to us, it would become evident through moments like crying out – knowing she could trust a proper and loving response.

Fast forward several years.  We’ve finally brought home a daughter who is about 5 years old, and not only has she “unlearned” many habits of children who grow up in healthy environments – she’s also acquired many habits of children who grow up in unhealthy environments.  She is loved, for the first time as never before, and brought in to being part of a family. At first, she didn’t understand much of anything.  What did “Father” mean?  What did “Mother” mean?  There are certain things, and certain words, that if you were to examine them in the routine of many normal homes it would be confusing.   But in our context, where we’re attempting to purposefully build the connections most children would naturally develop from birth, they make sense.

Now take a step back.  Think about the Old Testament and the actions or words spoken between God and His people.  A common question among people who don’t want to believe in God, or even those who do but are honest with their doubts – “Why would God command ______?  Why would God do ________?”

I can’t pretend to understand the mind or heart of God completely, but I do understand the heart of a Father who wants to connect with the heart of their child. A child who has never known a Father like this before.  A child who has become so separated from the concept of “family” or “parent”, that it is a completely foreign concept.

So we see God calling out His people from among all others.  We see God rescue His people, only to force them into depending on Him through the wilderness for 40 years. We hear words from God about the wrath He’s capable of, even though ultimately He reveals His heart to be powerfully Loving and full of Grace for humanity. (lol, I realize that sounds bad here.  No worries, we’re not threatening wrath or taking our daughters on 40 year wilderness journeys.)

It’s not the kind of relationship we’d have if we were born aware of Him.  But it’s an adoption that impacts us to the very core of our being, for eternity.  Romans 8:15 reminds us, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

One of the most natural ways to build that connection and bond? Simply to hold our daughter, and to allow her to feel our love. To remind her that we are here, and she is here, and she is ours no matter what happens.  To help her feel safe, and loved, and comforted.  To provide for her needs, and help her to see how depending on us to meet those needs is a trustworthy habit to develop.

In this moment – maybe it’s a good reminder for you and I – if this is what I am aware of, can’t we trust that God knows even better how to move His children into a fully connected relationship with Him?  We can trust in these moments, if we allow ourselves to be held by Him, to listen to His words, and to depend on Him to provide – these are habits worth developing in our own lives.

Even as I continue to pray my daughter would know my love deep in her heart, and not just in behavior – I also pray that my heart would deeply come to know the Love of my Father, not just in my behavior.  I pray that God would use this understanding of His Love – to invite even more children into fuller connection with Him…

Leading Them To Water

Moses: Hello rock.

Rock: Hello Moses.

Moses: How are you today?

Rock: Oh, ya’ know, it pretty much rocks being me.

Moses: lol, always so witty.  Hey, do you think you could give us some water?  God said it was cool.

Rock: Well sure (transforms into giant office water tank).  Go ahead.

Moses: Wow, that’s a pretty nifty trick.

People: WHOO HOOO.  Hooray for the Lord, God of Moses! All of creation responds to His desires!

You may not recognize the above story from your time in scriptures.  That’s because it never got a chance to happen.  In Numbers 20:8, God directs Moses to relieve the thirst of the people and their animals by speaking to a rock “that it may yield its water.”  Who knows what they may have looked like?  Okay, probably not the situation above, I just had a bit of fun with it.

Instead, Moses was filled with anger and frustration at a whiny group of untrusting people.  Even after all they had been through, they were blaming God for their thirst, and asking if Moses had led them to this place to die.

I imagine a large group of kids in the back of a mini-van.  This trip has been much longer than they thought.  They’ve asked “Are we there yet?” about a hundred times, and now have escalated to the drama of “I’m going to die, I’m so IMG_9800thirsty!!”  Mom and dad are in the front, thirsty too, but driving through traffic jams in the middle of midwestern cornfields doesn’t offer many chances to stop.  Finally dad slams on the breaks and pulls over.  He’s had enough.  He turns around to look at his children and the main goal in that moment is to stop the whining.  He gets out of the car, and hits a rock.  The rock starts gushing water, and the need is met.

Now for a “bigger lens”…

As parents, we want to meet the needs of our children.  Just like Moses, we feel the burden of providing for our family.  There are ways to do it, that honor God and help turn the hearts of our children toward responding to their ultimate provider in worship.  There are other ways to do it, that simply (or luxuriously) put food on the table, but end in a result of our children being amazed at our abilities and filling their thirsts.

It’s difficult…sooo very difficult to spend time talking to rocks.  But in the end we recognize our children have a thirst that goes deeper than any material item in this world can quench.  More important than causing the water to flow, and meeting their every immediate need – is providing them a path on which they see and experience the love and provision of God, and are shaped to depend on Him.

The question then becomes – Where is the rock God is calling you, as a parent, to talk to?

 

confession: I want to prove God.

For as much as I wasn’t a giant fan of “God’s Not Dead” for reasons we can talk about in person…I will confess I have something in common with the young college student.  I have a desire to prove God.   It’s not that I want to prove His existence, or even prove to someone that Jesus was divine.  It’s not an intellectual debate I want to win.  I want to prove to my children, the goodness and faithfulness of God, in the midst of a world where such testimony may be hard to hear behind other noises.

It struck me in a particular way recently, as I was praying for our adoption.  You may have something else weighing on your heart.  Something your family is praying fervently for.  Something you and your children name regularly every night in family prayer time, and the main thing your kids might mention if they’re praying before bed at a friends house.  Whatever that thing is, beyond praying for that “thing” itself….as a parent we also find ourselves praying it for the sake of our children.   That they will experience God’s hearing of the prayer, and be able to celebrate together as a family when He responds.

So what happens, when that “main family prayer”, becomes the one unanswered?  The one a family is left to struggle with.  What if our children grow up praying about it, almost as a reflex, but slowly and accidentally learn never to actually receive a response from God on the issue?http___makeagif.com__media_5-05-2014_dpmt43

In my anxiety and frustration, God calms me down.  Hand on my shoulder, tears welling up in his own eyes, He speaks with love.  “You and your family are not the beginning, or the center of what I’m up to, Chadwick.”  In a moment of humility, He reminds me of where I sat just a few weeks ago, at a Seder dinner with my children. From my own lips, my children heard God’s story as one we are now the continuation of.  That His people lived for hundreds of years in slavery, and have faced suffering and death for millenia.  That the story of God’s people is one of embracing what it means to suffer in a world that is not yet made right.  What it means to not pretend everything is easy or can make sense.  Imagine what it would’ve been like for an Israelite parent to teach their children the goodness of God, in the midst of generations of slavery.  God calls us to live uncomfortably in a world that idolizes comfort and ease.  We are a people who have been crying out to God for thousands of years, and God has been/continues to respond to that cry.  He invites us to actively participate in that response as well.  Not by denying or avoiding the brokenness of the world – but by how we suffer as those who know God is with us.

His was a reminder – one of the greatest things we do as a parent is to give our children, and younger generations a context for their struggles/doubts.  A safe place to express suffering…(any youth pastor who’s heard a teenager lament at a broken relationship can understand this)…and a larger view/context that helps to bring genuine perspective and comfort knowing God is with us even in these moments.  Not promising to make everything better for every individual who comes to Him like a genie inside a magic lamp.  Yet….not like a removed deity who has nothing to do with the world He set in motion, either.

God is at work.  In faithful and world-changing-ly large ways.  But also in small, thankful whispers of reminder.  We know that His heart is seen being revealed in “Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.'”

All of that to say, be encouraged.  Even when it seems our prayers aren’t being responded to.  Not because “God’s working it all out to be even better than you would’ve prayed.”  But because, God is with us.  Always.  Has been, and will be.  That’s the story we invite our children to live within.   That’s the story that invites them to prove God…

how the US is fighting world peace.

A news update I’ve become aware of (that you may all already know, because you watch the news), concerns the future of the US and our World in a way that seems to matter.  “UNESCO” is the “United Nations Educational, Scientific, & Cultural Organization”.  It was launched many years ago under the premise that you do not bring peace about by enforcing a cessation of violence, but by developing minds and hearts together.  Literally “building peace in the minds of men and women”.  More specifically, it came together in the mid-40’s, “In their eyes, the new organization must establish the “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind” and, in so doing, prevent the outbreak of another world war.”

unesco-sign-and-buildingSounds like a pretty important effort, right? One that we would not only want to join, but help be an influential voice within?  And we did.  Until 1984, when we left because UNESCO’s goals were found to be different from our own.  But in 2003, (after we were attacked horribly in 2001, and remembered why it’s important to connect hearts and minds globally), we rejoined.   President George W. Bush stated, “As a symbol of our commitment to human dignity, the United States will return to UNESCO. This organization has been reformed and America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights and tolerance and learning.”  Ever since 2003, we’ve been a big part.  Even as recently as a few years ago, the US Contributions to the UNESCO budget made up over 22% of their operations.

They’ve done great work to connect the scientific developments across the globe.  Along with cultural education/sharing/protection, encouraging/promoting rights to eduction and especially of girls/women.  They do some pretty incredible and VERY important stuff – for more specifics, check out their report from last year. Education for children, power for powerless, food for hungry, etc.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is, back in 2011, UNESCO voted to allow Palestine participate as a nation.  That went against a 1990 US Policy that amounted to “If you invite _____ to the party, we’re not coming.”  At the time, some feared that it was a first step into crazy things like Palestine joining the UN.  I get it, as a group, Palestine definitely has problems with stability.  Some with long-standing land-conflicts..and some from the “Fatah vs. Hamas” conflict within.  I’m very limited in my knowledge/understanding, but I don’t like a lot of what I’ve learned about the Hamas side of things.  That being said…would I still want to invite them to a global conversation on how to better humanity around the world?  I think so?  After all, look at the list of nations who are part of UNESCO…we were cool sitting at a table with North Korea.

There was a grace period of a few years, where we had opportunity to keep our involvement/funding.  But now we’ve officially lost our “vote” as a part of UNESCO.  Whether it was just a final plea for our finances or not, the Director-General made some very powerful statements about why the US needs to stay connected to UNESCO.

So what’s my rant about?  I just think it’s important to note that most of the world disagrees with us on this one (in the 2011 vote, out of 159 nations, 13 sided with us).  That in order to protect “our own interests”, we’re actually modelling the very behavior that in the 1940’s we set out to combat.  That the “interests of humanity” worldwide must always be more important than the “interests of a nation”…if we’re to avoid roads of world war…or even continue living on this earth as the growing collective humanity that we are.

So how do we communicate all of this…something I hardly understand myself…to our children?  I’m not sure, but it starts with prayer.  “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”, not as interpreted by one nation…but for all.

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