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What's on your mind? Jesus said we spend too much time thinking about this life and not enough preparing for the next one.
"Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.
"Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.
"Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father in heaven."
Matthew 10:27-33 NKJV, condensed
Is it worth it to speak up and be counted among those who believe in Jesus? Is it worth the strange looks, the unpopularity, even the tension it can cause within our homes. Jesus' response?-- Don't be afraid of those who can only kill the body! Yeah, right. Furthermore, don't be afraid to die for what you believe. If you are afraid to die, your fear will limit your activity and prohibit you from really living.
Jesus has a bone to pick with us. We get so wrapped up in the affairs and concerns of this life, we completely lose sight of eternity. Our fears are based on short-sightedness. The remedy is to think eternally! Don't worry about what happens here on earth when you bear witness to your faith and suffer for Jesus' sake, worry instead about what will happen in the future if you don't.
Jesus declared that God pays such great attention to us that even the hairs of our heads are numbered! That's a figure of speech to express how important we are to God. So let whatever hair you have on your head remind you to live with eternity in view. When you comb your hair, take a good look in the mirror because you are very important and precious to God.
That being said, God expects something from us. Actually, God needs us to do a job for him. You guessed it--God needs us to speak up and be counted among his own. In fact it's shameful to be timid and deny knowing Jesus. Risky, too, because if I want Jesus to put in a good word for me, then I must be bold and publicly stand by Jesus here and now for all to see.
Is this fair? Does Jesus "have us over the barrel"? Certainly Jesus would be our most influential character witness on judgment day. Yet somehow I cringe at the thought because I have denied him many times by my silence. Jesus was very honest and did not sugarcoat these difficult precepts. I must be honest, too. I am neither bold nor brave, and easily intimidated. Obedience to these strong and fiery words of Jesus would require a big change in my life. So what am I to do?
This passage does offer one practical route, a possible step in the direction Jesus wants me to go. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, proclaim on the housetops. We cannot duplicate the experience of the twelve disciples who literally walked in the footsteps of Jesus. But we can still learn his ways through the words of Scripture, through prayer and the inspirational thoughts of others. As we tune our ears to listen, God speaks to us today, whether we're alone or in a room full of people, in a group Bible study or out walking in the woods, in a prison cell or a grand cathedral, advocating for social justice or delivering meals on wheels.
As I write this page, it's getting toward the end of September. The days are shorter, the nights getting long. Like many people, my day starts in the dark. Those of you who set time aside for morning devotions are most likely up before dawn also to feed your soul and fuel your spirit. When we devote a part of our day, whether 10 minutes or an hour or more, it is an invitation to God. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, we are building a highway for our God. A highway with welcome signs and the message, "Come Lord Jesus."
Setting our face toward God is a good and necessary discipline for all of us who want to be present-day disciples. Creating time and space to turn our attention from the usual cares and concerns which fill the rest of the day, and focus instead on our Maker. To lift up our heart in love and gratitude, lay out our hopes and aspirations, seek guidance and wisdom, receive comfort and assurance, to pray for peace and righteousness.
Then Jesus has this special instruction for us. Go forth intent on sharing what you have received with someone you meet during the day. (Actually that's putting it very mildly. He said we are to shout it from the rooftopsfor all to hear!) That which we have heard in the dark, what the still, small voice whispered into our ear--talk about it in the daylight, make it part of the daily conversation. Freely and generously God has given to us, therefore be free and generous as you share that gift with others.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Recite one of your favorite inspirational quotes.
Jesus gave us this image of God--So mighty God could wipe us out completely, yet so tender God notices when one of the most common little birds falls to the ground. Since God is that mindful of the birds, be assured you are of much greater value; God has even counted the hairs on your head. Discuss what comes to your mind when you read these words. How does this picture of God make you feel? Within the context of this passage, what is the purpose of this image?
We call the Gospel story, Good News. If it is good news, why is it so hard to share with others? When was the last time you shared the good news of Jesus with someone? Is it fear which prevents us from talking about Jesus? If so, fear of what or whom? If it's not fear, then what does keep us so quiet about matters of faith?
Were you ever ashamed to be associated with God? What would happen to you if God treated you the way you treat God?
Jesus is not physically here to teach us. So how do you know what God wants you to do? Our world is filled with the sounds of many voices. How do you distinguish God's voice from all the others?
Shouting from the rooftop is not my style, nor that of most people. Was Jesus exaggerating to make a point? Or did he really mean for us to do it?
Make a list of your joys and a list of your fears. How would your joys and fears change if you lived with eternity on your mind?
Imagine yourself standing before God on judgment day. What expression do you see on God's face? Picture Jesus by your side. What is Jesus saying about you?Are the same things which were important to you throughout your life the same things which are important to God? Now imagine that God gives you a second chance to go back and get it right. What would you change and do differently?