Archive for October, 2016

True Greatness on a Monday (Matthew 20-21)

October 31, 2016

26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, Matthew 20:26

As Jesus makes His way toward Jerusalem (19:17) there is much conversation and activity on the road.  This conversation leads us to understand true greatness.  Yes, true greatness, even on a Monday!!!

The subject matter is leading us to see this one true:  “Those who are truly great in God’s kingdom work are those who serve!!!” In the context of chapter 20 we discover three great truths for those who are truly great:

I. Those who are saved (God’s children) serve at the pleasure of the King, 20:14-15.

Our Lord is generous to all those He calls to His service.  There is one quick warning here: “One must fight the old nature of selfishness in becoming jealous about what God gives to others.”

II. Those who are saved (God’s children) understand their salvation has come through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, 20:17-19.

III. Those who are saved (God’s children) seek to follow the example of our serving Lord, 20:20-27.

In the very next chapter we see the servant heart of Jesus as he comes into Jerusalem ridding on a donkey.  The King who is coming showed us the way to true greatness!!!  May you and I serve this week as one who is great in God’s eyes.

 

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Its all about the purpose (John 11)

October 28, 2016

But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” John 11:25

Yes, it is true, “sometimes the purpose can get lost in the busyness of life.”

This is true for so many things in life.  Here are a few examples:

  • The purpose of caring for people can get misplaced when we are worn out from caring for people.
  • The purpose of loving people can get lost in the unpacking of their life issues.
  • The purpose of our vocation can get overshadowed by the earthly pursuits of life.

The above examples are just a small sampling of how purpose can get lost in the busyness of life.

Question: “What is your purpose?”

If we were to ask this question to the writer of the gospel of John, we would clearly hear his response:  John 20:31

31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John understood the purpose.  And by the way, so does Jesus in John 11.   I hope you take time to read John 11 with the above purpose in mind.  If you do, here is what you will discover:

  • The death of Lazarus was a reminder.  “You and I live in a broken world.”
  • Jesus eencounters with Thomas, Martha, and Mary teach us a powerful lesson: “The purpose was for our belief.”
  • The resurrection of Lazarus point us to the purpose:  “Jesus is the Christ (Our Messiah).  He is the answer for our brokenness.  Jesus is the Son of God (who conquers both sin and death).

Brothers and sisters, this same reminder comes to us as we encounter broken people each day in our places of work, recreation, and life.  Our is the purpose of pointing them to the remedy for their brokenness.

Bottom line, “Every encounter has a purpose.”  May you and I never be taken away from the purpose!!!

How are you managing? (Luke 16:1-17:10)

October 27, 2016

10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Luke 16:10

After the death of a dear friend, someone asked the person who had lost their friend, “how are you managing the loss?”  The friends response, “not very well.”

Question:  “Do you ever consider your life from the perspective of a manager?”

When I read Luke 16, I come away with a great challenge to look at my days through the eyes of a person who has been tasked with managing what God has placed in my hands.  I find myself wondering, “am I managing life the way God intended me to do so?”

I would like to place before you three management tips that will help you with your management skills:

I. You must regularly evaluate the management of what has been placed in your hands, Luke 16:19

Jesus places a parable before us in these verses.  The manager in the parable both crooked and shrewd in his skills.  At first he is condemned for the crooked way he manages.  But then he is commended for the shrewdness in placing himself in a favorable position with the people he manages.  It is important to understand that Jesus is not commending underhanded management.  He is simply stating the need to give every effort to the managing of what has been placed in our hands.

You and I have been called to be a steward of God’s resources.  You and I will either be promoted or demoted in God’s Kingdom economy based upon our management.  I am rewarded if I serve faithfully.  I am demoted if I serve me, Vs: 14-15.

II.  You must daily evaluate the mindset of your heart attitude toward what has been placed in your hands.  Vs: 14-15

Do we serve for God’s glory or for our gain?

III.  I must be sensitive  to the responsibilities that are placed before the gate of my life each day, Vs: 19-32.

The rich man (manager of much resources) did not consider the man at the gate as his responsibility.  The rich man lived every day managing the resources given as if they were all for him.  When he died, he was reward with hell for the way he lived his rebellious life.

The poor man (Lazarus) never had many resources to manage.  He was born poor and he lived in earthly poverty.  There was much pain in his place of management.  But he did well, in surrendering his life to God.  When he died, he was rewarded with heaven for the way he lived a righteous life.

Takeaway:  “If you and I could ask both men, how they are managing, I wonder what would their responses be?”

I think the rich man would say, “I regret how I managed my life.”  I think the poor man would say, “I am thankful God taught me how to mange my life.”

Question:  “What will be your response in eternity?”

Loud Silence (Luke 14-15)

October 26, 2016

And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. Luke 14:3-4

The title of today’s blog, “Loud Silence,” seems like a great paradox.  However, in context of Luke 14, it fits perfectly.   Someone once said, “He spoke more in his silence than he would have if he spoke.”

This was the case with the ruler of the Pharisees.  Jesus is invited to his home for a meal.  There had to have been tension in the room as this Pharisee had it all set up to try to trap Jesus in something so that they could disprove Him as the Son of God.

Notice, it was Jesus who points out the man who was in great physical need.  Jesus knew the Sabbath law.  But He also knew the heart of His Father, John 3:16.  Jesus did for this man what every true believer should do.  He cared for Him.

But those who were supposed to care, “were silent.”

As I read those words this morning, I asked myself, “how often do I have loud silence when I see the brokenness in our world?”

I also asked myself this question:  “How do I guard myself from loud silence?”

  • I must care for what God cares for, i.e. the souls of men.
  • I must humble myself remembering, I am not worthy to be whole before God.  He has been so gracious to me.
  • I must give myself to the ministry of compelling broken people to come to Jesus.
  • I must daily remember, I am a disciple of Jesus.

When I do these things, the words of Jesus are so true.  They speak loudly from my life:

34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

I want to be good salt in this world.  I believe you do as well.  May the Lord use us in the above ways to reach out to those that are lost!!!

The requirements (Luke 12-13)

October 25, 2016

40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Luke 12:40

Recently I had the honor of being names, Butts County Recreation League basketball coach of the year.  Honestly, I did not know there was given such an honor.  And even more I did not know you could get the award if your team won only one game in the previous year.  It was apparent the requirements for the award did not include winning every game.

Question:  “How long has it been since you considered the requirements of your faith?” Honestly, I arose to read our Scripture without the slightest thought of the requirements, but within a few moments they were staring me in the face.

Here is the deal.  Luke 12 begins with a narrative statement:

12 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

There were thousands of people waiting for Jesus to speak.  It was an amazing opportunity.  However it seems as if Jesus turns away from the crowd and speaks directly to His disciples.  In this moment, I realize, “the hope of the world lies in the need for God’s disciples to meet the requirements.”  Here are some of those requirements:

  • Everything we say and do will be judged by God, Vs: 2-3.
  • We are to have the greatest of respect for the one who has authority over our soul, Vs: 4-7.
  • Trust in the Holy Spirit in leading you to speak God’s Word, Vs: 12.
  • Keep the reason for our blessings in the forefront of our thinking, Vs: 13-21.
  • Seek God’s kingdom purposes knowing that all of your needs will be met, Vs: 22-31.
  • Make eternal investments, Vs: 32-34.

If we want to effectively meet God’s requirements for service, the above is a must for our lives.  But these are not the only requirements.  Notice verses 35-48.  They speak to us about our need of proper service to our Lord.

The Lord wants to be prepared for His return, Vs: 35-40.  When He returns the requirements will be what judges us.

The Lord wants us to be purposeful with His resources, Vs: 41-48.  Truly we must desire to be faithful with what He has assigned us to do.  I must never abuse what He has placed in my hands.  I will be rewarded based upon what I did with what I had been given.

In heaven, there will be a great celebration for all that has been done!!!  Will you be rewarded because you meet the requirements?  That day will be here before we know it!!!

One of the others (Luke 10-11; John 10:22-42)

October 24, 2016

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. Luke 10:1

A few days ago I paused on a sports channel for a moment or two to listen to a NFL player comment about his seasons with one particular team.  He talked about their successes which were many.  But one thing seemed to stand out to me, “except for one player, on the team, everyone else were simply one of the others.”

Question:  “Would it bother you to simply be, one of the others?”

In the beginning of our readings for today, Jesus sends out 72 people with a simple two-fold task:

  • Minister the gospel with both proclamation and acts of kindness.

Pay close attention here: Those who ministered were identified as simply “lambs among wolves.”  This illustrated how kind they were to be in comparison to those they ministered unto.  Those who were being ministered unto were identified as those who either would respond “yes” or they would respond, “no” to the gospel.

  • Make clear the implications of people’s responses.

Those who did not receive would have no excuse for their failure to come to Jesus.  Those who did not receive would be judged in a much more severe way!

Those who did receive Jesus were called into the same ministry as those who had ministered unto them.  “This is Kingdom Life.”

At this moment, I want to pause and ask the following question: “Who were those 72 people?”  Answer, “They were simply the others.”

Brothers and sisters, there is something fulfilling in knowing that you are not doing something for the recognition of men.  There is something refreshing in knowing that you are lifting up Jesus.  There is something liberating in knowing, your life is about someone else’s glory.

This had to be one of the lessons Jesus intended in the parable of the Good Samaritan (10:25-37).

May this day, you and I be accounted as one of the others!!!

Not Matthew 18 (Matthew 18)

October 21, 2016

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin![a] For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell[b] of fire. Matthew 18:7-10

I can still remember where I was and who I was with when I heard the following: “Not Matthew 18.”  The person who made this statement was speaking out of frustration toward people who had repeatedly abused the teaching of Matthew 18.

When I read Matthew 18, I come away with a totally different view.  Here is why:

Matthew 19 begins with the issue of humility and it ends with the issue of mercy.  Here is an overview of the chapter:

  • Vs: 1-6 deal with the childlike attitude needed to follow Christ.
  • Vs: 7-10 deal with the issue of stumbling blocks.
  • Vs: 10-14 deal with our care for lost sheep.
  • Vs: 15-20 deal with the issue of spiritual accountability.
  • Vs: 21-35 deal with the issue of mercy and forgiveness.

All of this fits together so wonderfully.  If I have a childlike walk with God, I will be able to avoid the stumbling blocks of life.  I will care for the lost and I will seek to bring home the lost church member.  I will show mercy because I have overwhelming experience with mercy.

Dear Lord, lead me to approach Matthew 18 with a heart that lives out my faith with the goal of reconciliation between God and man in all things!!!

Glory verses Hell (Matthew 17; Mark 9; Luke 9:28-62

October 20, 2016

47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ Mark 9:47-48

True statement: “There is never a moment in this life when something is not at stake.”

If you are reading the blog early in the morning, the above statement could be a wake-up call?  If you are reading the blog late at night, the above statement could be a reason to stay up a little longer.

For me, the reality of the eternal consequences of every moment cause me to pay closer attention to details.  For example:

In our focal texts for todays readings we see similar content in each:

  • The scene of Jesus true glory being revealed.  Here Peter, James, and John have the honor of seeing the unveiled glory of God.
  • The scene of Jesus power being revealed.  Jesus has power over all the forces of hell.
  • The scene of Jesus future being revealed.  Jesus is going to the cross.  He will die and He will death hell, death, and the grave.

Each of those scenes point us to the magnificent glory of God.  But there is also unique content in each chapter.  One of those is in Mark 9:42-48 where Jesus teaches us concerning hell.

Most would rather spend their day’s not speaking of such a place.  But it is real and it is the payday for those who live a life of sin.  In Mark’s writing we are reminded of sins destructive power.  We are reminded of hell’s pain.  We are reminded of the radical spiritual surgery we need in order to overcome sins pull on our lives.

In this moment think back to what we said in the beginning:  “There is never a moment in this life when there is not something at stake.”

God intends for His followers to live a life that reflects His glory before the nations.  The significance of this is clear.  There is a heaven to gain and a hell to overcome.

Brothers and sisters, “Let us give every effort to this work because every moment counts.”

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

A miracle in a desolate place (Matthew 16; Mark 8; Luke 9:18-27)

October 19, 2016

And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” Mark 8:4

Sometimes you and I are robbed of the impact of a moment in time because of our familiarity with the details.  For example, “How many times have you and I read the story  of Jesus feeding the 4000?”

The story is of a miracle in a desolate place.

The word, “desolate” speaks of a place where there are zero resources to meet the needs of those who find themselves in this place.  The weight of the word leaves its reader feeling the helplessness and hopelessness of the place.

Question:  “Do you know of anyone in a desolate place?”

It is to this place where Jesus brings His disciples and it is to this place where Jesus teaches thousands of people.  Take a moment brothers and sisters, “step into the crowd.  Feel the emotion, look at the sweat, rub shoulders with the people, and listen to the voice of God.”

Be honest, this is impossible apart from a miracle.  Brothers and sisters, “God works miracles in desolate places.”  Here are three points of interest in this desolate moment:

  • Compassion leads us to care about those who find themselves in desolate moments.
  • Short-sightedness leads us to reason away the possibility of miracles in desolate places.
  • Christ-centeredness leads us to a faith-centered life that experiences miracles in desolate places.

Jesus works an amazing miracle in this hopeless place.  Pay attention now, the guy to your left is leaning back full and at ease.  The lady to your left is in praise mode because her children are no longer hungry.  The people in front of you are refreshed and in tears.  The miracle is all around you.

Question:  “Did you receive the miracle as well?”

The answer to this question, brings us back to this moment in time!!!  A few verses later Jesus and Peter are having a private conversation.  Here are Jesus words to Him: “Peter you are not mindful of the things of God, but of the things of men.”

Here is the deal.  When our mind is focused on God things, compassion leads to a faith that sees the miracle.  Oh that this would be our mindset in this day!!!

Hand-Me-Downs (Matthew 15; Mark 7)

October 18, 2016

13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:13

Being the youngest of seven children, my wife knows a few things about hand-me-downs.  In case you do not know what hand-me-downs are, here is a definition:  “It is something that someone who is older hands down to you.”  It could be something they wore (as is usually the case) or something they believe.

The issue of hand-me-downs is front and center with Jesus in both Matthew’s and Mark’s account of Jesus encounter with the religious elite.  Here is the deal:

  • The religious leaders highest priority was the traditions of men, handed down from generation to generation.
  • Our Lord’s highest priority was the truth of God, given to Him by the Father in heaven.

Pay close attention here:  “The religious leaders were concerned with what men said and our Lord was concerned about what God said.”

The conflict that ensued revealed how the religious leaders focused on the outside of man while our Lord focused on the heart.

The end result was a group of people who handed down empty traditions that could not change the heart.  The heart continued to produce works that were sinful.  However, Jesus came to change the heart!!!

Power-point:  “We hand down what comes out of the heart!”

This hit me very hard as I prayed for my family today.  I took some time and wrote down what I believed I have handed-down to my family.  Some of the things I wrote, I was very proud of.  But others, not so much.  In the things I wrongly handed down, I have repented and I will seek my families forgiveness.  In the God-things I will seek to strengthen the handing down more and more.

I hope you will take time to inventory what you have handed down and I hope you will allow God to change your heart every day so that you can hand down the correct things.

Here are a few heart Scriptures for your consideration:

Jeremiah 17:9; Ezekiel 36:26; Matthew 5:8, 22:37; I Peter 2:22