Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Made and re-made in the image of Christ

Colossians 3:9-11 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 
As Paul continues to exhort us to be willing recipients of the transformation process, He builds upon one of the most cardinal truths: our creation in the image of God.  We are to treat one another with honor, in both speech and action, because we are all made in the image of God. This is doubly true of how we are to treat one another in the body of Christ - not only are we all made in the image of God, we are re-made, born anew, in the image of Christ.  As believers we have twice as much reason to treat others with honor in our speech and actions.  We also have double reason to revere and honor God with our words and actions: He is our Father that we should resemble - both as our Creator, and as the one who had made us new through Christ.  It is not a list of external rules, but it comes from who we are within.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wrath for wrath...

Colossians 3:5-8 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 
The transformation process which God has begun in the believer's heart is to be pronounced.  It is to show in how we use our bodies, and how we use our mouths.  Using our bodies for whatever makes us feel good, with no regard for God or others makes those things our idols - we worship them instead of Him.  As for our mouths, using them as offensive weapons against the holiness of God or the honor due another human being is also wrong.  The short sentence that should jump off the page is nestled in between: "On account of these the wrath of God is coming."  God's wrath is coming because of man's sinful wrath - our unleashed words and actions that occur as if He did not exist.  His wrath is just; ours is not.  He is holy; without Christ and His transforming power we are not.  May we put to death and put away what does not please Him today.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A new way to look...

 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV)
As Paul calls on us to examine the progress of the transformation process in our lives, He begins with our minds, our perspectives, the way we view things.  Having Christ as King means we think totally differently about the past, present, and future.  We died to our old life and were raised to a new one. We are now citizens of heaven, where Christ is, and that is where our minds should be. We also are to view our future differently: Christ is coming back and we will join Him.  Everywhere we look - past, present and future, Christ is there, and that makes all the difference.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Twisting the truth...

Matthew 28:11-15 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. 
The soldiers, not knowing what had happened to them, nevertheless went to share the facts with those who had hired them.  They, in turn, took the facts and reshaped them into a new story to fit their view - they were unwilling to accept Jesus for Who He said He was, because that would mean saying that they were wrong.  We have a hard time admitting we are wrong, and often re=interpret the facts to fit our self-defense.  Let us be committed to the truth that Christ is King, He is truth, and we need to be changed to fit those facts, not twist the facts to fit our "story".

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Matthew 28:8-10 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” 
The Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ intersect in so many ways.  Both events were filled with both fear and great joy.  Both times an angel brought Greetings.  And both times people end up coming to worship Jesus Christ.  That is what today is all about; worshipping Him as Savior and King. but it does not stop with a one-day joyful event.  In both cases again those who worshipped then went and told: the shepherds told everyone they could find, the women who witnessed the risen Christ told the disciples who then were instructed to go and make disciples. Today, may we too receive the greetings, the invitation to come and see, bow and worship, and go and tell.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Come and See...

Matthew 28:5-7 Responding to the women, the angel said, “Stop being frightened! I know you’re looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here. He has been raised, just as he said. Come and see the place where he was lying. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead. He is going ahead of you into Galilee, and you will see him there. Remember, I have told you!” 
At both His incarnation and resurrection, the invitation of the angels was to "come and see".  The shepherds were invited to go and see the newborn King, while here at the resurrection the women were invited to come see where he had been laid.  May this day be a day when we stop and see, and recognize Who He is laying there, what He has done, and what it means that He no longer is laying in the tomb.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Word of the day: Catatonic

Matthew 28:1-4 After the Sabbaths, around dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to take a look at the burial site. Suddenly, there was a powerful earthquake, because an angel of the Lord had come down from heaven, approached the stone, rolled it away, and was sitting on top of it. His appearance was bright as lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. Trembling from fear, even the guards themselves became catatonic. 
Many of us are familiar with the old King James translation of this last word: "became as dead men." The dictionary definition of "catatonic" is: being characterized by muscular rigidity and mental stupor." In other words, one cannot move or speak.  This experience was so stunning, they could not function as normal.  That was the effect of the resurrection of Christ.  A similar effect was seen at His Incarnation, when the shepherds were "sore afraid" or "feared a great fear."  Intense fear immobilizes;  you do know know what to do, so you do nothing.  But this state cannot continue, it must be broken.  These two greatest days of human history demand a proper response. We must go, we must speak.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Anything to hide the truth...

 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. (Matthew 27:62-66 ESV)
It's almost amazing to see the extent to which these leaders would go to cover up their crime - almost. But we often do the same thing. Rather than be "found out", we try to "cover our tracks," to make it appear that if any wrongdoing does surface, someone else gets blamed.  The action of these leaders represents well our often unwillingness to admit our sin, ask forgiveness, come clean, and let the truth be seen and heard.  May the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ burn in our hearts and minds the need for "Truth" in the flesh.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Faithful Friends...

Matthew 27:55-61 Now many women were also there, watching from a distance. They had accompanied Jesus from Galilee and had ministered to him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Later that evening, a rich man arrived from Arimathea. His name was Joseph, and he had become a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, and Pilate ordered it to be done. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. Then he placed it in his own new tomb, which he had cut out of the rock. After rolling a large stone across the door of the tomb, he left, but Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained there, sitting in front of the tomb. 
When Jesus died, very few friends were there.  But these were, and they were not ashamed to be called His friend. This, of course, made them suspect.  Especially Joseph, who was sacrificing a lot to even be there, let alone give Him his grave.  He would lose face with this Pharisee friends, who had done all they could to get Jesus on the cross.  What are we willing to sacrifice to be called a "friend of Jesus, a Jesus fanatic, faithful and true?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Power to Open...

Matthew 27:51-54 Suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth shook, rocks were split open, tombs were opened, and many saints who had died were brought back to life. After his resurrection, they came out of their tombs, went into the Holy City, and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those guarding Jesus with him saw the earthquake and the other things that were taking place, they were terrified and said, “This man certainly was the Son of God!” 
Jesus has the power to open that which was closed.  At His Incarnation, He came and opened up the heavens after a long period of seeming silence.  Angels appeared, stars shone, God's Glory was revealed in a way we could see and hear.  The same happened at Jesus' death: the curtain keeping us away was torn, the graves were opened, and the mouths of many spoke in testimony to His Great power.  God has an open-door policy: Jesus opened the door and asks us to open our lives to Him.  It's like those adjoining motel rooms with doors on both sides.  He has opened His side and is knocking to see if we will open ours.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Anticlimatic? Depends what you're looking for...

Matthew 27:45-50 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. About three o’clock, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, eli, lema sabachthani?”, which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the people standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling for Elijah.” So one of the men ran off at once, took a sponge, and soaked it in some sour wine. Then he put it on a stick and offered Jesus a drink. But the others kept saying, “Wait! Let’s see if Elijah will come and save him.” Then Jesus cried out with a loud voice again and died. 
Jesus had drawn a crowd, like the latest reality show, with every watching every detail.  They wanted to be wowed by something they saw first hand.  After all, they had missed the supposed miracles, and this man wasn't saying much for an itinerant preacher.  What would they see? What would they hear?
In this spectator sport there was no thrill, unless you are looking not at Him as the one having a need, but you.  It makes all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Surrounded by scorning sinners...

Matthew 27:38-44 At that time two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left. Those who passed by kept insulting him, shaking their heads, and saying, “You who were going to destroy the sanctuary and rebuild it in three days—save yourself! If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross!” In the same way the high priests, along with the scribes and elders, were also making fun of him. They kept saying, “He saved others but can’t save himself! He is the king of Israel. Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him, if he wants to do so now. After all, he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” In a similar way, the bandits who were being crucified with him kept insulting him. 
Everywhere He looked, all Jesus could see and hear was people mocking Him, using the charges against Him as insults: "if you are so powerful, deliver yourself; if you are King, come down; if you and God are so close, why isn't He saving You?"  Who would go out of their way, out of town, to show up and do this?  People who want to feel better about themselves.  We thrill in others' pain; we feel self-vindicated by others' misfortune.  We even want God to look like a "failure" so we can be imperfect.   We are unable to see deeper and beyond, in time and depth, to a God who loves, is in control, and is working out His plan.  Such words will come back to us.   As we look in the manger, may we also look at the cross, and see the same innocence, love and awesome plan that only God could imagine.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Government-sponsored Public Displays at Christmas

Matthew 27:32-37 As they were leaving, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, whom they forced to carry Jesus’ cross. When they came to a place called Golgotha which means “Skull Place”, they offered him a drink of wine mixed with gall. But when he tasted it, he refused to drink it. After they had crucified him, they determined who would get his clothes by throwing dice for them. Then they sat down there and continued guarding him. Above his head they placed the charge against him. It read, “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” 
Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, the underlying theme has been: "Prepare to Receive Your King!" The Jewish leaders have been trying to keep this hidden as much as possible, doing all they can to snuff out and stamp out the Truth - both what and Who that is.  They seem to be succeeding, yet the Gentile leaders do this: they put up a sign publicly displaying that Jesus is King. This is a flashback to when He first came, when other Gentiles came to call Him King.  Here too, however, they fall short, because this King is also their King; He is Lord of all.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Playing Games...

 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. (Matthew 27:27-31 ESV)
These soldiers who were entrusted with the execution of Jesus seemed to have one view of Him: He was a game to play with.  There they were, stuck with overtime duty during a crowded season, during the Holy Days of the Jewish people, and not a lot of night life.  None of them seem to even question: "Could He actually be a King?"  But the same happens in our season of crowds as well.  Christmas can become nothing more than a game we play: Who can make the best cookies, get the best deals, buy the best presents, decorate the most distinctively?  What this time really should be is a celebration: The King has come, and I choose to allow Him to be Who He really is: the king of me.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

dirty hands...

Matthew 27:24-26 Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that a riot was about to break out instead. So he took some water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Attend to that yourselves.” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and our children!” Then he released Barabbas for them, but he had Jesus whipped and handed over to be crucified. 
Pilate had tried everything he could to convince the people to NOT crucify Jesus.  But the final say was his.  The "washing of the hands" was a Biblical principle for the case of a corpse of a  person who had been murdered but no one knew who did it.  Here they knew exactly who was doing it, and the act had not yet been committed - it was preventable.  There were no innocent hands.  They were all dirty, including Pilate's.

Friday, December 12, 2014

No way around it...

 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”(Matthew 27:15-23 ESV)
Pilate kept looking for ways to both appease the people and to spare a man he found to be innocent. He tried every trick in the book of crowd-pleasers, but it came down to his choice. There is no way around it.  Faced with the truth, and Jesus is Truth, we must each one account for our own response to Christ: turn on Him, abandon Him, or trust in Him and follow Him.  That choice does not always please the crowd, but it is ours to make.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Surprising Silence...

Matthew 27:11-14 Meanwhile, Jesus was made to stand in front of the governor. The governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”Jesus said, “You say so.” While Jesus was being accused by the high priests and elders, he made no reply. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear how many charges they’re bringing against you?” But Jesus did not reply at all, so that the governor was very surprised. 
The religious leaders accused Jesus of being a revolutionary, who claimed to be King.  Pilate was not shocked.  They then piled up all sorts of additional far-fetched charges.  He was not stunned. What took him by surprise was Jesus' response to all this: calm silence.  Why? Somewhere in the midst of those charges and accusations was a nugget of truth exposed, waiting to be mined.  Will Pilate find it? What will he do with it if he does?  When we are falsely accused one of our best defenses can be silence.  Not that we never speak out, but that we let the truth be "heard", and found out by people who really care what the truth is.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holy Hypocrisy!!!

Matthew 27:6-10 The high priests picked up the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put this into the Temple treasury, because it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the Potter’s Field as a burial ground for foreigners. That is why that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what had been declared through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled when he said,“They took the 30 pieces of silver,the value of the man on whom a price had been set by the Israelis, and they gave them for the potter’s field,as the Lord commanded me.” 
The council had a problem - money thrown into the temple.  They were too self-righteous to accept this gift; after all, it had be gotten by agreement to betray an innocent man.  They had to find some "good work" to us it for, so they did not defile the temple ministry.  But where had the money come from? Them, taken from the temple treasury.  They were the ones who took God's money and turned it into "blood money."  How hypocritical is that? How do we do the same thing???

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The power of guilt...

Matthew 27:3-5 Then Judas, who had betrayed him, regretted what had happened when he saw that Jesus was condemned. He brought the 30 pieces of silver back to the high priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”But they replied, “What do we care? Attend to that yourself.” Then he flung the pieces of silver into the sanctuary, went outside, ran away, and hanged himself. 
Judas had made his choice - money over the master, stuff over the spiritual.  He had betrayed his truest Friend.  It brought overwhelming guilt.  But rather than go to the One he had offended most, he went to those who were accomplices with him, and they could not forgive; they would not forgive.  This added anger to his guilt the resulted in the greatest self-destruction.   Oh, the power of guilt that God is willing and able to overcome, if we will turn to him, and not depend on ourselves.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Railroaded Justice

Matthew 27:1-2 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. 
These leaders had not even slept a full night on their decision.  They came back to figure out how to get Jesus dead that day.  They had to get Roman approval to do so, and they deliver Him to Pilate as if they were doing him a favor, having captured some dangerous criminal.  Though it seems almost unbelievable that they would do so, the same kinds of things often happen today.  We often judge others ahead of time and want them to pay.  Not that we personally have been harmed, (thought that may be exactly the problem - we were offended), but more often if the other person looks bad, we can "feel better" about ourselves.  Jesus had made these leaders look pretty lame, even untrustworthy. They wanted to look and feel better about themselves, even if that meant denying the truth.  Which is more important to you: your feelings or the truth?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Going down... Steps two and three...

 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
(Matthew 26:71-75 ESV)
Having played dumb, Peter has set himself up for the successive traps of failure.  Rather than admitting his error, his sin, he digs in to demand he is telling the truth. His resolve to not abandon his Lord has now become resolve to not admit his guilt.  When challenged on this, he seeks to remove all doubt, with cursing and stronger anger - surefire ways in our society to try to convince people of our "sincerity".  The people were not fooled; neither was the rooster.  And thus Peter brought great sorrow to himself and his Master.  How much sorrow will we bring today by our own stubborn sin?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Going Down, step one...

Matthew 26:69-70 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 
Peter had vowed fidelity vehemently.  Though he was as cowardly as the others, at least he tagged along to see what would happen.  But he had hoped to blend in with the crowd.  Then she saw him.  This first incinuation that he was "one of them" is met with playing dumb, feigning ignorance, acting as if "I have no idea what you are talking about."  It is the first step down - not actually "lying" or denying, just plain dumb.  Like any of our failures, it sets us up for a series of successive sins.  Let's avoid all these poor "first steps" today.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Blasphemy or Truth?

Matthew 26:65-68 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” 
The capital crime of which the Sanhedrin convicted Jesus was blasphemy - the ultimate irreverence toward God.  Their accusations were true, unless what He said was true - the He was God the Son, the Messiah, with authority not only here on earth, to drive scum out of the temple, but also authority in heaven - to sit at God's right hand, to rule, and to judge.  He indeed was innocent, because He was being totally truthful.  His claims on us will only seem to be the highest insult to our intelligence and humanity if we fail to realize He is all He says He is.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Confession

Matthew 26:62-64 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 
During this interrogation by the High Priest, Jesus is being badgered to make a confession - to say something that will be evidence of a capital crime, worthy of death.  But Jesus didn't have to brag. He waits until someone finally gets the facts straight.  Then He comments: "You've got it! I am the Messiah!"  That is all the evidence they need, but He does not stop there. He realizes that what He means by that, and what His accusers mean by that are two different things.  Since He is the Messiah, His current situation, being bound and abused, is only temporary.  He will show His authority, at the right hand of God, and then in Judgment.  They will indeed be able to see that He is the King.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Twisted Testimony...

Matthew 26:57-61 He said to him, “You have said so.” Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 
The Sanhedrin did all they could to find two witnesses to agree, but were having trouble finding anyone who could tell the truth.  Finally, they found two to agree, but with a twisted view of what Jesus had said.  He had said "(You)" tear down this temple and in three days I will rebuild it."  He did so foretelling what they would do to Him, not what He would do to the temple building.  But of course, they had no comprehension of what He was saying; their eyes were blinded.  That's where we often get into trouble - the connection between our eyes and ears and our mouths.  What goes in gets all twisted, and what comes out is only a semblance of the truth.  May we listen with believing hearts and see with the eyes of faith, so we can give a true testimony of what God has really said.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Reflecting on our Reactions...

Matthew 26:51-56 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled. 
The hour had come.  Jesus was finally being handed over to the officials for the death march to begin.   He had said it would happen, now it was.  How would His disciples react?  Were they prepared?  Also in view here is the reaction of this mob, this posse'.  They had seen him publicly, in the City, every day for the past several days.  Why arrest Him now, in this way?  We tend to let things simmer, then explode.  We do not prepare properly, and prayerfully, for what He has told us is sure to happen. We miss the big picture; God is in control, at work, and to be trusted.  At this point, none of them were trusting Him: His followers thought they had to protect Jesus or run, as if He could not longer protect them like He had in the storm, as if this small ragamuffin band must be greater than God.  And for all the things they had seen and truths they had heard, the crowds would not believe Who He was or what He had said.  How will we react to life today?  With Him or without Him?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

no surprises to Jesus...

Matthew 26:47-50 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 
Throughout the journey into and around Jerusalem, it has become increasingly clear that there are no surprises to Jesus.  He knew the details about the donkey; getting a place for the Passover at the last minute was not a problem; He knew that Judas would betray him, and even when the moment was approaching.  It cause everyone else by surprise.  What a picture to us.  Nothing that will happen to us takes Him by surprise, only us.  So what should we do? Stay close and listen to Jesus.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Failing to pray is failing our Friend...

Matthew 26:36-46 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” 
We often think of Peter's coming failure as his "falling away," but he and the other disciples do a fine job of it here, failing to pray with Christ in His hardest hour.  He will come away from this strong enough emotionally for the spiritual battle He is about to win, but it would have been humanly comforting for Him to have his friends stand with Him in prayer.  Even more, He cared about them, and was warning them to be ready for what was to happen next, which they would not be, because they had not spent time in prayer.  Thus, they caused him double anguish - failing to support Him, and adding to that the burden of their failure to come.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

We would do the same...

Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
(Matthew 26:33-35 ESV)
We often remember Peter for this event, especially because it is so prominent in Mark's Gospel, which appears to be primarily from Peter's perspective.  Looking back, he realized how badly he had failed to be faithful to Jesus on that fateful night.  But ALL the disciples did the same.  They were coming off of a spiritual high in the upper room, climaxing with singing Psalms of worship about the greatness of God. How could they every fail? Only if they took their eyes off of Him, and stopped listening to Jesus, believing everything He said. And that is exactly what they did, and we do too.

Monday, November 24, 2014

React and Return...

Matthew 26:30-32 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 
By this time, the disciples are hopefully listening better, having been convinced that Jesus did indeed know what was going to happen; the Father had revealed it to Him.  Again, they did not like the words that they heard - they would fall and fail.  They would react to His capture with fear and run.  But as with each scary detail foretold, there was hope.  They would return.   Is that not a picture of our lives many times?  We fall and we fail, and in repentance return, admitting we failed to listen, obey and trust in Him?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Always looking to the next meal...

Matthew 26:26-29 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” 
One of the things I noticed when my parents retired is how much thought and talk takes place among retirees about the next meal.  As soon as the dishes of one meal are cleaned up, the next words about plans for the next meal.  In this case, however, the next meal is far into the future, but we are to keep looking forward to it - to Christ's return and our being with Him.  The Lord's supper is not just looking to the past and what Christ has done, but it also looks ahead in Hope to His coming again.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What our questions reveal...

Matthew 26:17-25 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” 
When Jesus made this announcement in the upper room with His disciples, all of them answered with the same question: "Is it I?"  There are, however, two distinct differences between the response of Judas and the rest.  First, it was a spontaneous, solemn response of the other 11 - conviction and self-examination wes their first response.  It was not until later that Judas asks.  Secondly, and more obviously, the others ask "is it I, LORD?", a sign of understanding more about who Jesus is, whereas Judas asks, "Is it I, Rabbi?", a much less passionate and convincing response.  Of course, these things went relatively unnoticed by the others that night, because their focus was on self-examination, and Judas' was on self-excusing.  What questions are you asking the LORD? What does the way you are asking reveal about your heart?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

sealing the deal...

Matthew 26:14-16 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. 
This account records Judas sealing the deal with the religious leaders to betray Jesus. But what was it that sealed the deal in his heart? The answer is found in the very first word: "then".  This refers us back to what has just happened - the waste of the precious perfume by the woman.  It was the last straw - resources not within his greedy control, money spent on some "pie-in-the-sky" sentiment, the submission of all things worldly to the eternal.  He could not, would not stand for it.  He wanted out, with severance pay.  What would make you "bail" from following Jesus?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Too busy talking to listen...

Matthew 26:6-13 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” In the previous paragraph, Jesus has just made the fourth and final announcement that He is going to die in a couple of days. If the disciples were really listening, the action of this woman would have made total sense - Jesus was NOT going to be around long! But like us many times, they were too busy talking about this woman and the whacky think she had done to be able to see beyond the extravagance to the signal it gave: she understood His announcement; she believed His words; she was devoted to Him as savior and Lord. Jesus does answer their question "why this waste?" in a sense with "Why not you?"

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sealing the Deal...

Matthew 26:1-5 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people. This is the strangest of contracts. The two parties are both signing off on the deal separately from one another. For His part, Jesus had imparted to His discples the warnings and instructions needed to carry on after His departure. For the religious leaders, they had their plan to silence this trouble-maker. They were both moving towards the same goal: His death, but for far different reasons: His was to provide salvation to His own, and to fulfill all the promises made about Him as Messiah. Theirs was to seek to silence the living conviction brought to their souls by His very presence. They got the short end of the deal, for the sought the impossible. But they could not get themselves to meet with Him again face to face and accept His part of the deal: the offer of the salvation we all need.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I didn't see...

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46 ESV) Three times in this chapter Jesus speaks words of judgment, causing us to sit up and take notice; He usually did not talk to His disciples so strongly. The "goats" here are shocked by what is going to happen to them and why. They did not see it. They did not see it coming. They were so wrapped up in themselves, they did not see others. They were so into the things of this world, they could not see the King returning, in judgment. They could not see judgment coming their way. O say... can you see? Can we see clearly as He does? Let's look today.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

when ignorance is bliss...

Matthew 25:31-40 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ They really didn't know. These servants were so into doing what they did for the master that it was no big deal for them. The same is true for us: if we are really into serving The Lord as an act of worshipping Him, we will almost be ignorant of the fact we are doing so. That is a sign we "get it," because serving is following Jesus. This is by no means salvation BY good works, but the good works of salvation - having a changed heart and life that serves others because the love of Christ dwells within and flows through us. May we not be so self-focused that we are always thinking about "what we are doing for God," subconsciously serving Him in love.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Doing nothing with what you've got...

Matthew 25:14-30 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ As Jesus told this parable, it is interesting to note that it was addressed to the Twelve. These were not words about "them" out there, but those who claimed to be His closest followers. So they are indeed serious words. It is important to note that there are two issues brought out. First, is the issue that the servant did nothing with what he was entrusted by the Master. Many people entrusted with the Gospel are doing nothing with it. More pointedly, many American Christians are blessed with material resources and doing nothing with it for the Kingdom of God. Second, and possibly even more important, is why the servant did nothing - he had a faulty view of what God is like. He proclaims to the Master that he knows what He is like, but the Master in essence replies: "so, you think you know what I am like, do you...?" Not only were the servants actions inconsistent with his own thoughts on what the Master is like; his view is skewed. God is not heartless, and He will judge those who claim Him, but do nothing for Him.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Having the Door Shut in Your Face...

Matthew 25:1-13 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Jesus is having a serious sit-down with His closest disciples. He is telling them as much as He can about His return. At the end of the last chapter His message was simple: Don't be surprised; be ready; it will happen suddenly. That message continues on here as he uses this parable of the lazy, unsuspecting bridesmaids. They may have claimed to be "friends of the bride(church), but they were not that excited about the Groom's (Christ's) return. But that is exactly what this event was all about: His coming. If we are truly friends of the Bride, we will have a joyful anticipation and preparation for His return. If we do not, we are not true friends, and will have the door shut in our faces.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Be Aware and in Prayer...

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. Paul wanted the Corinthians to stay out of ignorance: many believers were suffering persecution for their faith. The same is still true today. (Just see for examples). They are living in horrible conditions with the threat of death at their door daily. We need to become aware and pray for them, that they will trust in God, have hope, and even be a blessing and testimony in some of the most hostile places in the world. May we not forget them today.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why no one knows...

Matthew 24:36-51 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. After Jesus' "matter-of-fact" statement about the universal ignorance of the time of His return, he tells us why God has done this but introducing the reast of His comments with this word "for". We have seen before what happens when God says He is sending judgment: people continue to carry on as if He does not exist. They will push the limit, until the door is ready to close, and hope they are not late. That is not the perspective we are to have at all. We are to live today and every day as if He may return now. We are to be ready and faithful. If we do not believe that, then we will live every day selfishly, squandering His blessings, ignoring those around us in darkness, acting as if God, His Heaven, and everything having to do with eternity is not a reality. Such a life ends in eternal death.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

For sure...

Matthew 24:32-35 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. As Jesus was speaking, the disciples could look out and see these fig trees around them. They knew what He was saying about them was true. But they were concerned. If the Temple was going to be torn down, what would happen to their people? Would this be their end? Not only would they continue to exist; God's promises would continue to exist. Even when the world seems to be falling apart around us, God is still there, in control, watching over His people.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Darkness before He comes...

Matthew 24:29-31 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. As I write this, it is very early morning, before the sun is up. It is extremely dark. So it will be before Christ returns. The spiritual battle will be intense. Much of Mankind will be resistant, not wanting His full reign to come. But come He will, with great power and glory, to judge and to rule. He will, and for that we wait with great anticipation.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Are we ready for this?

Matthew 24:23-28 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. As Jesus is describing His coming again in judgment, He clears up some misunderstanding about what it will be like. Rather than it being gradual, it will be sudden. Rather than it being a subversive sneaking around, it will be apparent for all to see. Rather than being limited in power, it will be total. There will be no place to hide, no time to reconsider, no excuses to muster. Are we ready for this?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

He knows...

Matthew 24:15-22 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place let the reader understand, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. When Jesus began to answer the disciples' urgent questions about the coming fall of Jerusalem, and the disturbances that predede His coming, He was blunt: "It isn't going to be pretty." But the bottom line is this: God knows what we can take. Things will be "cut short" of total annihilation. He is watching over His people, even in tribulation. There is hope. He knows. He cares. He can and He will save.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I can't wait?!?!?!?!?!

Matthew 24:9-14 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. The disciples had asked Jesus about the fall of the temple, and then end of the world. It was a mixed bad of news. They were not too anxious for the destruction of the temple, but like us, they longed for Christ to come again and set all things right. And then there are the things that come along the way: tribulation, persecution, faithlessness and relational stress. Yet, in the end, the Gospel is victorious and our salvation will be complete. In some ways it is hard to wait; in others, we're not sure we want to go through it all. Therefore, let us be faithful, share the Good News, and trust in Him; it will all be worth waiting for.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...

Matthew 24:3-8 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. When asked about when this judgment would take place/when He would be coming again, Jesus said we need to be discerning. There are many signs pointing towards His coming, but there will also be many imitators of Him. To be sure we can see the signs; labor has begun. But let us be leary as to who we let deliver us...

Saturday, October 25, 2014


“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matthew 23:37-39 ESV) More evidence that Jesus' words in this chapter are as much or more sorrow than anger are found in this concluding paragraph. Despite the fact that God's prophets had repeatedly been rejected, even violently, by the people of Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, God still looked lovingly on them, wanting them to come under his care. Instead, they were like chickens in the barnyard, going around aimlessly, making noise, open and oblivious to whatever wolves may come after them. It need not be so. Jesus is coming again, in judgment, and has sent his warnings. Mixed with those warnings are the invitation to come to Him for protection and care. Are we listening?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Don't jump on them; look at me.

Matthew 23:13, 15-36 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. Often, when we look at these 7 "woes" of Jesus, we think that Jesus is finally letting the Pharisees have it - that He has been holding all this in and is exploding in anger. But this "crying out" is not simply anger; it is sorrow. He has compassion even on these leaders who constantly opposed Him, because they were not only bringing judgment on themselves, but causing judgment on the nation as a whole, and they would be held accountable. This list also serves as points of self-examination for us about our relationship with God. Do we have our priorities straight? Are we a way to God, or a hindrance for others? Are we so caught up in looking "spiritual" that we even have ourselves deceived?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Whole New World...

Matthew 23:8-12 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. As Jesus is taking apart the Religious thinking of His day, He presents in its place a whole new way of thinking: Humble Service. Rather than "working your way up the ladder of holiness," so that you will impress other people so that they will look up to us and call us wonderful, he calls on us to seek first to serve others in His name, exalting His Name, not ours. It's not about looking right and sounding right, but being right with Him.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Matthew 23:1-7 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. Jesus gave the Pharisees a backhanded compliment: They speak the truth of God and are to be listened to, but... they do not practice what they preach. Jesus had issues with the Pharisees, but the biggest one was this: they were to be God's servants, but instead they wanted to be worshipped. they wanted people to be awed by their wisdom, impressed by their dress, and intimidated by their "holiness". Jesus was none of the above. May we not be impressed by the same, and may we not seek to impress others by it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

More than a building...

Matthew 24:1-2 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” The disciples' mouths must have dropped open at these words: the temple represented their whole system of worship. they knew it had been destroyed before, but had they fallen away so far again? Things needed an overhaul - more than cleaning house. What He was about to build was far stronger, much better.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sometimes we need to shut up and listen...

Matthew 22:46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. After being presented with question after question, which really was a free-for-all of excuses not to believe in Him, Jesus has silenced the last one. He has made His case in the Court of public opinion: you can either listen to what He says and believe, or you can walk away and try to hide from the truth. Of course, that's hard to do when it is the Passover, and Jesus just won't go away. Today, which will we choose: to listen, or try to walk away?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I never stopped to think about that...

Matthew 22:41-45 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord,“Sit at my right hand,until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” The religious leaders of Jesus' day had long pondered over the Messiah: Who was He? What would He be like? How would we know Him? They had many prophesies and psalms they viewed as describing the Messiah, from which they sought to form a concept of Whom to expect. That the Messiah would be from the line of David was clear from several sources. But they never stopped to consider the question Jesus poses here, posed by the Messianic Psalm He quotes: How can David's Son be David's Lord? For that to be true, He must have existed before David, yet be born after; He must be both the Son of David and the Son of God. Such revelation is overwhelming to be sure.

Friday, October 17, 2014

One plus one is Wow...

Matthew 22:34-40 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus' answer was spot on - each of His opponents would agree that this first commandment was primary. What none of them every would have thought to do was connect the second to it. But both of them have another statement in their original form: "I am The Lord." Our love toward God and our love toward others is connected by Who He is. As King, the Messiah, Jesus is calling on us to join the two - something God has always had in mind. When we do this, we will understand what He has had in mind all along.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Another Wrong Question

Matthew 22:29-33 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. We have all heard that there are no dumb questions. But there are wrong questions, especially when we think we already know the answers, which are wrong. This wrong question was based upon not knowing the true and living God, who raises the dead. They had totally missed God's Message to them. May we let God speak and tell us what He wants to say; may we listen with open hearts, and may we embrace our relationship with Him today.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What is wrong with this picture???

Matthew 22:23-28 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” As we will see, everything is wrong with this picture. First, the Sadducees are asking about something they don't even believe in, so it is a very poor hypothetical situation. Secondly, they are treating this woman as a hot potato that no one wants; these men were just "fulfilling their obligation." Their question is almost"Who gets stuck with her?" Their questioning reveals many of our self-righteous questioning: it's based on doubt, not faith; it is all about what do I get and not what are my responsibilities; it jabs at the very goodness of God: Does He really care about me enough to give me what is best for me?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Keeping it simple...

Matthew 22:19-22 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. Even though these religious leaders had evil intentions, Jesus answered their question - rather, he had them answer their own question. We tend to make life complicated for ourselves, when God has made it very simple. Since He has seen fit to make us citizens of a particular nation or kingdom, we owe that leadership its due. That simple truth also carries with it a corollary: if we are truly members of God's kingdom, we will give Him what is due: our faith, our hearts, our lives. These particular people were willing to do neither: they were not willing to submit at all.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Jesus: Everything we are not...

Matthew 22:15-18 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? The Pharisees compliments were enough to make one gag. Though true statements, the sentiments behind them were false. Their motives were impure and full of malice, wanting to see Jesus fall and fail. He is truth, always says truth, and never states truth with evil intent. Even if we are basically honest people, there are none of us who never say something we know to be true, just because it will hurt or insult another, or at least make us look better. May we pursue and cling to the truth, but may we stop using it as a sword or hammer with which to hurt others.

Friday, October 10, 2014

More than showing up...

Matthew 22:11-14 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” Jesus had put out the invitation to come to His banquet, to enter His kingdom, to follow Him. Many had physically followed Him in the parade to the Passover. But lest we think that following Jesus is just showing up in a particular place at a particular time, he challenges that thought with this parable. It is His banquet, in which He wants us to be fully engaged. The lack of proper attire here shows that this man was not really there; He wanted the feast and celebration, but not to celebrate with the King and His Son. He was not willing to abide by the rules of the kingdom. He wanted to come his own way - not clothed in the the garments the King provided. There is only one way we can enter the Kingdom, and that is Christ and the righteousness He provides. He wants us to fully trust and follow Him.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

God's Celebration Will Happen!

Matthew 22:8-10 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. One might think: "What is a wedding celebration without any guests? Those who had been invited didn't show and their city was leveled..... But God has a plan - He always does. The party will go on. It is still His Son's wedding. So others were found - as many as would receive the invitation, and they came. The Party is on; don't miss out!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Not your typical wedding party...

Matthew 22:7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. The King had invited everyone to the wedding banquet, and reminded them and asked them graciously to attend, but was ignored and even revolted against. He justly eliminated those who rebelled. They were not worthy of the banquet, because they would not thankfully receive His invitation. God's invitation is not to be ignored or snorted at; it is to be embraced with the same joy and love with which He invites and receives us.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

One last call...

Matthew 22:4-6 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The King had alread sent messengers, calling His people to the wedding feast. In that day, this was after a full year of preparation; it was not something that should have caught people off guard. Yet they had ignored it. In His grace, the King sent more servants, because the feast is ready; if it is not held now, the food will spoil. It is now or never. Yet, many kept on with life as normal, and some even reacted to the announcement with extreme hatred. Scuh it is when God calls. People act surpised when they should not; they refuse to respond, acting as if they have all the time in the world, when they do not. "Many will say: "Don't bother me", and become extremely angry against a gracious God.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The ignored invitation...

Matthew 22:1-3 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Anyone who gets mail gets invitations: invitations to give to charity, invitations to get a credit card, invitations to buy the latest wonder drug. Those are a daily occurrence, which can be accepted, ignored, or rejected. But other invitations are not to be ignored - they demand a response: a wedding invitation, a shut-off notice, a contract. If we do not respond in some way, it will affect our relationship with the other party. When the King of heaven sends an invitation, it is the last one we should ignore, but that is often the case. We put it in the back of the stack of mail to reconsider later, ignoring the need for a timely response, failing to comprehend that we will one day face the King and have to answer why we have ignored Him.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Rejecters Replaced....

Matthew 21:33-46 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:“‘The stone that the builders rejectedhas become the cornerstone;this was the Lord's doing,and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet. This parable was the most incriminating yet in its aim against the religious leaders. They had been entrusted with the care of the Temple and the spiritual oversight of God's people at Jerusalem. They became so comfortable and self-established, that they believed they owned the Temple, and now set the rules - so much so, that when the Owner's Son came, they tried to kick Him off His land and out of His Home on earth. They were evil spiritual tenant farmers. As we go to our houses of worship today, do we have any of the same attitudes? It is our house, or His?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Major Ouch!

Matthew 21:28-32 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. These religious leaders had come to Jesus to question His authority to teach and to heal, presuming that they had the right to govern what God did in His own house. They themselves repeatedly refused to response to Christ's call to repentance and faith, while watching the rejected ones in their society do so. One lesson after another here he turns into a self-incriminating accusation against these leaders. They are the son who said he would obey, but did not. They had refused John the Baptist, the forerunner, and now they were refusing the Christ. What a belittling, yet true statement: the dregs of society would precede them into the Kingdom, and there was reason to doubt they would enter at all. May our faith be much more than trying to look good and feel good about ourselves in comparison to others.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Questioning Authority....

Matthew 21:23-27 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. The leaders at Jerusalem had come to think of the Temple as "their turf." They had responsibility for what went on there. Of course, they were sad stewards who let all sorts of things go on there that should not have. Nonetheless, they wanted to know who told Jesus He could teach the Good News and Heal and lead the children's Choir there. The answer was obvious, but one they did not want to hear. We have the same response often when Christ marches into our Temple, our lives, our bodies: we act like He has no authority here, but he does; He actually has all authority. If we will start with that perspective, and then ask what He wants done, we will find more of the real answers we are looking for.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mountain Throwing...

Matthew 21:18-22 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” here we have one of those promises of prayer that we often forget the context in which Christ said it. It is in response to the question of the disciples as to how Jesus was able to speak against the fig tree and have it die instantly. The tree was a symbol of the Jewish religious establishment; it had become spiritually unfruitful. Therefore, it was an obstacle in the way of people coming to God. What Christ is doing is promising His power to remove those obstacles to people coming to faith in Him. It's not just so we can watch things burn or mountains fly. In the background as well here is the prophesy in the Old Testament that someday The Lord will cause that mountain, the Mount of Olives, to split, and half go to the south, where the Dead Sea is. He has all power and authority.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The right choice of noise...

Matthew 21:12-17 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babiesyou have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. When Jesus arrived at the Temple, it was crowded and chaotic - not a place conducive to worship. Most of the noise was coming from the Court of the Gentiles, where a money exchange for temple coins at high exchange rates, and the sale of sacrificial animals at exhorbatant prices, were competing with one another, and for space - keeping those who needed God most away. Jesus objected to such noise. The Pharisees, on the other hand objected to the noise due to Jesus - the praising of the healed, and the recognition by the children that He was the Messiah. Jesus' questions were simple and piercing: Which kind of noise pleases God? Which kind of noise does His Word promote and prohibit? What kind of noise are you making in God's house?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Matthew 21:10-11 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” At the Triumphal Entry many who observed the grand entrance wondered who this celebrity was. The answer given? The prophet from Nazareth of Galilee. This was a micro-definition of Who He really is. He is a prophet; His name is Jesus, and His hometown was Nazareth. But this description falls far short, and, as we are told elsewhere, for many the auto-response would have been "can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Such an answer would keep people at a distance, not draw them to learn more. What answer would you give to describe Who Jesus is? When people are "stirred up" enough to ask, may we be prepared to answer well.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The King is coming!!!

Matthew 21:1-9 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion,‘Behold, your king is coming to you,humble, and mounted on a donkey,on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” For many of us, this exclamation does not have dramatic impact. The pictures that should rush to our minds when hearing those words have lost their punch. Some may remember Elvis; some may have visited European Monarchies, but most of us would not think "I've got to go see him right now!" That's what these people would have thought and felt and acted upon. They were drawn to him, surrounding Him with shouts of praise and hope. May we seek to draw near to Him today, also giving Him shouts of praise, and hearts of hope in Him.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Different Kind of King

And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him. (Matthew 20:32-34 ESV) As Jesus continues to show and tell us what His Kingdom is like, He comes across two blind men, begging at one of the richest cities in Israel: Jericho. Though they had the best place to beg, they could not receive what they needed most: to be healed. Not only would the kingdom of this world not do what they could, there were things they could not do: heal and forgive. Only Jesus can. And He still does.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

sharp senses...

Matthew 20:29-31 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” These two men had lost the sense of sight. But their ears worked very well - they heard that Jesus was passing through town. They had the spiritual sense to realize this was their golden opportunity - not to make a quick shekel, but to plead with the only one able to heal them. They persisted despite negative public opinion. They had the sensibility to recognize Christ as the Messiah, the merciful Son of God. If you are able to read this, you have sight. How well can you see who Christ is and what He is able to do in your life?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Taking our cue from Him...

Matthew 20:24-28 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The disciples kept falling into the comparing and questioning: "What's in it for me? Surely, I deserve more." That line of thinking has no place in the Kingdom of God. It definitely was not something Jesus taught or demonstrated. To think or act that way is not following Jesus, but a pagan line of thought. If we are going to truly follow Him, we will be characterized by servanthood - sacrificial servanthood. It's not about position or power or personal glory, but experiencing the thrill of true living - being used by God to serve others and doing it well for Him. Who can I serve today?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Have you been listening???

Matthew 20:20-23 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” It might seem at first glance that this was an innocent question asked by an intruding mother, who had no idea what Jesus had been teaching. But the mother of James and John was one of those women who faithfully had been following after Jesus, and the parallel account in Mark makes it clear that this was not just her - it was the Sons of Thunder themselves who wanted this. They were, after all, two of the key three disciples. They just didn't get it; we often just don't get it - Jesus abhors all this comparison and vying for position that characterizes the world in which we live. It is not part of his creative design or His Kingdom. And those positions? Don't even think about it; they are already filled. Let's just take up our cross and follow Him; He's good with that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Deadly details...

Matthew 20:17-19 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” This is the third time Jesus reminded His disciples of what was going to go down once they were in Jerusalem. Third time was not a charm; they really did not want to think or hear about it. Each time He gave more details: he would be betrayed, given to the Jewish authorities who always opposed Him, and here; the Gentiles would become involved. As Jesus is saying this, He has just left behind those Gentiles on the East Side of the Jordan River who followed Him while they took the highway down the coast. During that leg of the Journey many of them had listened, been healed, and journeyed along. All of a sudden, no one around them is not suspect as one who could be a part of handing Him over. There is only one white sheep.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Grace isn't fair!

Matthew 20:8-16 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” In Jesus' parable, those who served (worked) the shortest were paid the same as those who had labored all day. This brought complaints from those who served the longest, even though they got what they had agreed on. Why the complaint? Because they were comparing to others, thinking they deserved more. In context, the disciples were being rebuked for always asking "What do we get?" and implying that they deserved more because they had left all to follow Jesus. We often miss the big picture. The Kingdom of God is given by Gracious God. He owns it, and therefore is in His full rights to give it to whomever He choses, whenever and however He chooses. He doesn't have to give us anything at all. Whatever He gives is at least what we deserve, and often so much more. May we stop complaining.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Not too late...

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ (Matthew 20:1-7 ESV) Earlier in His ministry Jesus had commented that the harvest is plentiful and the need for workers is great. In this parable, He indicateiins that God is still calling workers. Even when it seems that it's near the end of the day, and the end of the world, the need for workers will be great. He is still calling. It's not too late to join in, and take part in the purpose God has for you. If you will respond to Him, you're hired.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Getting in...

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:23-30 ESV) You can't buy your way in. You cannot enter by good behavior. There is nothing you do to deserve it, or any of it's blessings. It comes when we run away from everything and everyone else in whom we trust and run to Him, trusting in Who He is and what He has done. He is the way in, and it is only by living for Him that the pieces all fit together.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

It's not what you've got, but what's got you...

Matthew 19:16-22 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. This "rich young ruler" had everything going for him, and everything one would need or want, except the security of his soul. It was not that he was rich that was the problem, but that his riches ruled his heart and life. For some of us riches are not the problem. There are other things we allow to keep us from letting Christ rule and reign. It's not what we've got, but what's got hold of us.