Sunday, October 31, 2010
YOU....of all people...YOU.
YOU, the precious Son of the Most High, pray....
Not only do you give up all to humble yourself,
and wear the very fabrics of human life.
Not only do you gently speak words of healing and truth,
And help our simple minds understand your vast wisdom.
Not only do you make yourself an example in baptismal profession,
and eat the bread at the table of man.
Not only to you take the cup and drink it's awful dregs of suffering and pain.
Not only do you bear the awful punishment my soul would be condemned for,
And draw me to yourself continually in intimate love.
PRAY FOR ME.
Like a tenderhearted husband, you pray for me.
Selflessly and full of compassion you bring me before the Father.
Knowing the fragile state of my spiritual mind,
And the power of your Father to enable.
Not for my glory do you pray, but for His.
Yet, for the joy also of my spirit being with yours, for this also do you pray.
Wanting to keep me close and guided...
For your church, your bride, you love, do you pray.
For each part of it in unique purpose and place.
Like a husband who loves all of his wife from head to toe,
You hold precious the body of your bride.
You know what will keep her together and unified,
For this YOU PRAY.
I could ask for friend or family, for sister or brother to pray,
as I should.
Yet, to know always that my great mediator stands...
Glowing with glory and grace,
TO PRAY continually,
How can my heart ever feel you don't care?
How can my soul now doubt?
How can I forget and feel alone?
For YOU PRAY,
John 18:1-2; Mark 14:32-42; Matthew 26:36-46; Luke 22:39-46; Mark 14:43-52; Matthew 26:47-56; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:3-24
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Today's passage is really quite monumental. In it, we have Judas agreeing to betray Jesus, which ramped up the Jewish religious leaders' plan to kill Jesus. They'd planned to wait until after the Passover because they feared the people's reaction, but now Judas gave them an in. We also have the preparations for the Passover celebration shared by Jesus and His twelve closest disciples, which is interesting and we'll look at that more closely in a moment. And then we have the foot-washing ceremony, the confrontation and dismissal of Judas, but the really stunning stuff is this: we have here in this passage the VERY LAST Passover feast ever and the VERY FIRST Communion ever! This is HUGE!!!
I listened to and read this John MacArthur sermon and was really blown away by the significance of the goings-on in these verses. I know I always say this, but seriously, take the time to listen!! Download it to your mp3 player and listen while you houseclean or go through it tonight instead of watching nonsense on TV, whatever ~ you won't be sorry!! (It's a full hour long, so get yourself a cuppa tea and settle in somewhere comfy)
Okay, so the first thing that struck me was how Jesus orchestrates the Passover celebration and everything around it. I've never given much thought to the way He sends Peter and John ahead of everyone to get things prepared, but look at all the secrecy:
Peter and John had been sent away by Jesus from the group of the Twelve to get things ready for the Passover. They had gone away to an unknown place. They had met a man without a name, carrying a pitcher of water. They were to follow him, he would go to a house, they would go to that house, unnamed. They would prepare [the Passover feast] there. Later, Jesus would come with the ten.Isn't that incredible?? I love how Jesus, knowing all His life what He came to do, made sure that He would be sacrificed at exactly the same hour as all the ceremonial lambs would also be sacrificed. For thousands of years, millions of substitutionary Passover lambs have been sacrificed in anticipation of this final Sacrificial Lamb and now Jesus makes sure it happens perfectly according to ceremony. I think that's beautiful.
Why all the secrecy? Jesus had to get into a position where the crowds would leave Him alone. He had to also get in a position where the streets were empty to people so that no one would know where He was going. He had to keep the secret from His disciples because Judas was looking to betray Him at the most convenient moment he could. He wanted his money and he wanted it fast and he wanted out. And so Jesus had to keep the secret from Judas who would have easily discerned that a perfect place to capture Jesus would be in a room, in an upper room, where the streets were empty of people and He was only there with His Apostles and they could move in and take Him with no muss and no fuss and no public scrutiny. Jesus had to protect Himself for that night from Judas, from the crowds, and so no one knew except Peter and John and they never came back to tell the rest.
Jesus is controlling all the contingencies in every detail at every step to effect His purpose. He does not want to be arrested before this night because He has to accomplish so much on this night. Remember now, the Passover is instituted by God. If it is now to be eliminated, it must be eliminated by God. Not just anybody can shut that down, nor can just anybody inaugurate the new memorial that we know as the Lord’s table, or communion. He must do it. (all emphases added)
So Jesus and His disciples are celebrating the Passover ~ the LAST Passover ~ and then we come to the monumental transition from the old covenant, the Old Testament, to something brand new: Commuion. The Holy Eucharist. The Lord's Supper.
What happens here? I’ll tell you what happens. This is the end of the whole ceremonial law, all the dietary laws, all the Sabbath laws, in fact there’s no more Sabbath. Immediately after this, the church starts to meet...when? The first day of the week. This is the end of the ceremonial law. This is the end of all the ceremonies, all the rituals, all the rites, all those social things that separated the people, the Israelite people, from the Gentiles. They’re all gone. The moral law doesn’t change because God doesn’t change.Isn't that absolutely breath-taking?!
This is the end of all the rituals. This is the end of all the sacrifices. This is the end of all the altars, all the temple had to offer. This is the end of the priesthood. This is the end of the holy place. This is the end of the Holy of Holies and God would split the curtain from top to bottom and throw it wide open for anybody and everybody to walk in and out. This is the end of everything that they knew in all of their religious life that was symbolic. No more ceremonies, no more rituals, no more priests, no more sacrifices, no more altars, no more temple, no more holy place, no more Holy of Holies, it’s all gone. He dies, He rises, they meet on Sunday and they are a priesthood and there is no more sacrifice ever until the Lord institutes some memorial sacrifices and the Passover in the Millennial Kingdom.
What is the New Covenant? The New Covenant is the covenant of Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36, it’s the saving covenant. It’s the covenant of forgiveness and salvation, it’s the covenant by which God forgives sinners and it’s ratified in the death of Christ. God forgave sinners before Christ died. God forgives sinners since Christ died. But God forgives all sinners because Christ died. He ratified the covenant even though it was in effect before His death, as it’s in effect after His death. He ratified it in His blood. That had already been applied before it even happened because He was the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.About the only thing I can think of to say to wrap this up is,
The New Covenant is the only Covenant that saves. The Mosaic Covenant, the Covenant of Law damns. This covenant, the New Covenant, saves.
How can God do that? Only when justice has been satisfied. You can only be delivered from judgment when death has been accomplished that satisfies God. It has to be the death of an innocent substitute who is satisfactory to God and that is Christ by God’s own choice. God made Him sin who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. I’ve said this so many times, God treated Jesus on the cross as if He lived your life...so He could treat you as if you lived His. (all emphases added)
"HALLELUJAH, PRAISE THE LORD!!"
Tomorrow's passages: John 13:31-38; Mark 14:27-31; Matthew 26:31-35; Luke 22:31-38; John 14:1-15:17.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The passage that jumped out at me today was the one about Jesus separating the sheep from the goats, separating the true believers from the pretenders and unbelievers, separating the saved from the lost.
And what separates them?
In his book, Outlive Your Life, Max Lucado says...
The sign of the saved is their concern for those in need. Compassion does not save them - or us. Salvation is the work of Christ. Compassion is the consequence of salvation.....
As Chrysostom pointed out, "We do not hear, 'I was sick and you healed me,' or 'I was in prison and you liberated me.'" The works of mercy are simple deeds. And yet in these simple deeds, we serve Jesus. Astounding, this truth: we serve Christ by serving needy people....
None of us can help everyone. But all of us can help someone. And when we help them, we serve Jesus. Who would want to miss a chance to do that? (emphasis in bold mine)
V40 seems to indicate that these are acts of compassion to fellow believers. And, indeed, there are many passages that reinforce this.
In his sermon Doing Mercy to the Brothers of Jesus and the Broken Neighbour, John Piper says...
When Jesus says in Matthew 25:40 that doing ministries of mercy to the least, namely, his brothers, is doing them to him, he means, doing them to his disciples is doing them to him.
We see the very same teaching in Mathew 10:42, “Whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” In other words, Jesus says that true Christians do ministries of mercy to Christians because they are Christians. And that’s one of the main ways that your Christianity is shown to be real—which is why heaven and hell hang on it.
James explains how this fits with faith as the way of salvation: James 2:15-17 “If a brother or sister [a disciple!] is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what goodis that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” If we don’t ever bear the fruit of practical love toward brothers and sisters—the least of them—our faith is dead and we are not saved. That’s Jesus’ point.....
Does that mean then, that unbelievers should not get our mercy? No. In fact Jesus was very strong on this matter. He said that if we only love those who love us, if we only do good to those who do good to us, we are no different than unbelievers. So yes, show mercy to your brothers and sisters when they suffer. This is what true families do. But if you only love your family, if you only sacrifice to relieve the suffering of your family, you are no better than an unbeliever. (see Luke 6:27-36)
But, just like the parable Jesus used to answer the "Who is my neighbour?" question, the emphasis is not on who we are to serve, but on the fact that we are to serve!
And, as my Life Application Bible points out...
This parable describes acts of mercy we all can do every day. These acts do not depend on wealth, ability, or intelligence; they are simple acts freely given and freely received. We have no excuse to neglect those who have deep needs, and we canot hand over this responsibility to the church or government. Jesus demands our personal involvement in caring for others' needs (Isaiah 58:7).
Are we bearing fruit of our salvation?
Tomorrow's passage: Mark 14:1-2, 10-26, Matthew 26:1-5, 14-30, Luke 22:1-30, John 13:1-30
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Thoughts from today's post have been gleaned from Bob Deffinbaugh's sermon Jerusalem in the Last Days.
Note the contrast between what Jesus notices while at the temple and what the disciples notice.
Jesus notices the beauty of the poor widow who is generously giving out of her poverty.
The disciples notice the beauty of the temple.
And Jesus quickly points out that they are valuing the wrong thing - they are valuing something that is only temporal. Jesus values those things which make an impact for eternity.
Much to the disciples dismay, Jesus prophecies the destruction of Jerusalem and the beautiful temple. The disciples are, of course, curious to know exactly when this is going to happen. Aren't we all the same way? We want the details!
But Jesus does not answer them they way they want Him to. He doesn't give an exact date. He tells them what some of the signs will be before both the destruction of Jerusalem and before the second coming. The prophecies are intertwined amongst each other.
But Jesus' focus is not on the events themselves, His focus is on how Christians are to conduct themselves in the meantime.
He tells us that there will be false messiah's and warns us not to be deceived. False messiah's promise good times instead of the Good News, and they are very tempting to follow - but we must cling to the Truth.
He also tells us that hard times will come, persecution is certain - but encourages us not to be frightened into silence but rather seize the opportunity to be a light in the darkness. Though physical lives of the faithful may be lost (just like the temple), their eternal lives are secure.
He also reminds us not to rely on temporal things (like the temple or the city of Jerusalem) for safety and security. He promises that He will come again, this time in power and glory, to redeem us forever!
Our trust needs to be in Him alone and our focus needs to be on eternity.
Tomorrow's passage: Mark 13:32-37, Matthew 24:36-25:46, Luke 21:34-38
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
First off, let me say that pretty much everything in today's passages is worthy of posting about. We start off with the Greatest Commandment, there's the story of the woman who gave all she had, and then the woes to the Pharisees, or hypocrites. It makes picking something to post about a challenge.
I think we often find that greatest commandment difficult, although it sounds simple. To love God with all our heart, soul and mind is difficult to do when we are so easily distracted and discouraged about what it means to follow Him. Or else we profess to love him, but there is little evidence of it in our lives. Loving our neighbour as ourselves - well, that's a tough one too. It's easy to love someone who treats you kindly and with respect. I think we all know that our neighbour, in this case, doesn't just mean those who live in close proximity to our homes, but anyone with whom we come in contact - be it at home, at work, or elsewhere. There are a lot of people we come in contact with who are difficult to love. Part of loving, and thereby serving, our neighbours, involves doing it because we have compassion for them and not to make ourselves look good.
I've been reminded of the book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (author: Joanna Weaver) several times in the past couple of weeks with our Bible readings. Obviously, the book is about the sisters, Mary and Martha, and to a lesser extent their brother, Lazarus. It has an entire chapter devoted to Mary's extravagant love - the story about her anointing Jesus' feet with perfume.
It also talks about service - serving others in any way we can. I believe this to be one of the key factors to loving your neighbour. There is a box in one of the chapters called "Checking Your Motives". It contains an excerpt from the book Living a Purpose-Full Life by Jan Johnson. When we want to fulfill the commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves, while we will probably feel some kind of personal gratification for giving to someone or helping someone, these are the questions Jan suggests we ask ourselves in order to make sure that we are doing it for the right reasons and with the right attitude.
* Am I serving to impress anyone?
* Am I serving to receive external rewards?
* Is my service affected by moods and whims (my own as well as others')?
* Am I using this service to feel good about myself?
* Am I using my service to muffle God's voice demanding I change?
Hmmm. Maybe I should ask myself those questions more often.
I found this commentary by Bob Deffinbaugh taking about the "woe" passage where he speaks out against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. I was surprised, as Mr. Deffinbaugh was, to find that some people actually question whether or not Jesus actually said this because of the relative harshness of the words. Here is a little bit of what he had to say about it.
The scribes and Pharisees are not only going to play a leading role in the arrest and crucifixion of our Lord, they are the “blind guides,” who are responsible for leading others to hell (Matthew 23:13-15). Jesus not only speaks strongly and with severity to the scribes and Pharisees because they are hypocrites; He speaks strongly in the hearing of the masses, because they must know who it is they are inclined to follow. To choose to follow the scribes and Pharisees is to choose to proceed on the path to certain damnation. This is no time for warm, fuzzy talk when judgment is both certain and near.
Now let us consider our Lord’s “hard words” in Matthew 23 in the light of the last three verses of this chapter. Allow me to make several observations concerning these verses.
(1) When Jesus speaks here, He speaks as God. Prophets spoke for God, but Jesus spoke as God. Jesus is not merely a prophet, He is the Prophet. He is the One who sends out prophets and wise men (Matthew 23:34). He is the One of whom all the prophets spoke (John 1:45; 1 Peter 1:10-12). He is the One who desires to gather Jerusalem’s children and keep them under His protective “wing” (Matthew 23:37). He is the One who is going to return, and when He does people will say, “‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23:39). Jesus speaks as One having authority, and not as their scribes (see Matthew 7:28-29). You expect one with infinite authority to speak in an authoritative way, especially when judgment is needed.
(2) Jesus speaks severely, but with tears in His eyes. I am reminded of the harsh words with which Joseph addressed his brothers and also of the tears he shed in private (Genesis 42:9-24, 30; 43:30). These last verses inform us that our Lord loved Jerusalem and His chosen people deeply. He takes no delight in the eternal destruction of lost sinners:
Monday, October 25, 2010
These passages are basically a showdown between the religious leaders and Jesus as they attempt to discredit Him and disprove His authority. They do this by trying to ask Him questions that they believe there is no right answer to.
But, not only does Jesus have completely unexpected answers for them, He also challenges them about their hypocrisy or their false beliefs. He demonstrates His authority, amazes the people with His wisdom and basically sends the religious leaders into a jealous rage that kickstarts their plans to kill Him.
I've always liked His answer about paying taxes - Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.
From Matthew Henry's commentary....
First, That the Christian religion is no enemy to civil government, but a friend to it. Christ’s kingdom doth not clash or interfere with the kingdoms of the earth, in any thing that pertains to their jurisdiction. By Christ kings reign.
Secondly, It is the duty of subjects to render to magistrates that which, according to the laws of their country, is their due. The higher powers, being entrusted with the public welfare, the protection of the subject, and the conservation of the peace, are entitled, in consideration thereof, to a just proportion of the public wealth, and the revenue of the nation. For this cause pay we tribute, because they attend continually to this very thing (Rom. 13:6); and it is doubtless a greater sin to cheat the government than to cheat a private person. Though it is the constitution that determines what is Caesar’s, yet, when that is determined, Christ bids us render it to him; my coat is my coat, by the law of man; but he is a thief, by the law of God, that takes it from me.
Thirdly, When we render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, we must remember withal to render to God the things that are God’s. If our purses be Caesar’s, our consciences are God’s; he hath said, My son, give me thy heart: he must have the innermost and uppermost place there; we must render to God that which is his due, out of our time and out of our estates; from them he must have his share as well as Caesar his; and if Caesar’s commands interfere with God’s we must obey God rather than men.
Lastly, Observe how they were nonplussed by this answer; they marvelled, and left him, and went their way, v. 22. They admired his sagacity in discovering and evading a snare which they thought so craftily laid. Christ is, and will be, the Wonder, not only of his beloved friends, but of his baffled enemies. One would think they should have marvelled and followed him, marvelled and submitted to him; no, they marvelled and left him. Note, There are many in whose eyes Christ is marvellous, and yet not precious. They admire his wisdom, but will not be guided by it, his power, but will not submit to it. They went their way, as persons ashamed, and made an inglorious retreat. The stratagem being defeated, they quitted the field. Note, There is nothing got by contending with Christ. (emphasis in bold mine)
Tomorrow's passage: Mark 12:28-44, Matthew 22:34-23:39, Luke 20:41-21:4
Sunday, October 24, 2010
There are two things I never knew about these passages.
First of all, I didn't realize there were two separate incidents where Jesus threw people out of the temple.
Secondly, I never realized that this incidence of Jesus throwing people out of the temple was related to the lived out parable of the fig tree.
According to my Life Application Bible....
In this passage, two unusual incidents are related, the cursing of the fig tree and the clearing of the temple. The cursing of the fig tree was an acted-out parable related to the clearing of the temple. The temple was supposed to be a place of worship, but true worship had disappeared. The fig tree showed promise of fruit, but it produced none. Jesus was showing his anger at religious life without substance. If you claim to have faith without putting it to work in your life, you are like the barren fig tree. Genuine faith has great potential; ask God to help you bear fruit for his kingdom.
Wow! I never out two and two together on this passage before, that's for sure. And Jesus sure does have hash words for people who claim Him, but don't even attempt to live like Him.
It's so interesting because our sermon in church today dealt, partially, with this exact truth. We had a visiting preacher from our daughter church in Winkler, a town South of us. It's a church plant in a town (small city?) where 96.4% of the people claim to be Christians. The problem with this is that many of the people have become disillusioned with the church and wandered away from the faith. Their lives do not bear fruit, but yet they would still claim the title "Christian". The problem, of course, is how to win these souls for Christ when they already know all the facts.
One of their strategies is to be a seeker offensive church. You've heard of the seeker sensitive movement - and he defined it as being church where the message is watered down so much as to be hardly recognizable, in order to attract secular society. Jesus would have no use for that type of message. No one could ever accuse Jesus of watering down the gospel! So, this pastor is conducting a seeker offensive church instead, and if you show up on a Sunday morning - expect to be uncomfortable! Expect be convicted. Truth is laid out plain. And it is working! People who have not attended church in 15 years, are beginning to return to the faith - to true faith. And that is so exciting!
And I really think that is what Canad/America needs as a whole. We need our churches to preach the Word fearlessly, truthfully, in it's entirety! Where holiness, wrath and fear are preached right alongside of love, grace and mercy. Hmmm, I just posted about this on my personal blog last night too. Turned out my choice of song for this morning fit exactly with the message. Who knew? The answer, of course, is - He did.
Tomorrow's passage: Matthew 21:28-22:33, Mark 12:1-27, Luke 20:9-40
Saturday, October 23, 2010
The passage that jumped out at me the most was the description of Mary's act of worship, particularly the account in John.
I don't know how I've missed this my whole life, but I've never put 2 and 2 together and realized that this was Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. I think I had obviously and wrongly put this event together with the earlier annointing of Jesus by the penitent woman. Nope, two different scenarios.
In his sermons The Sweet Smell of Love and the Stench of Greed, Bob Deffinbaugh makes an important point about the extravagance of Mary....
Before we go on, we might do well to put this whole matter of “extravagance” into its proper perspective. When King Ahasuerus was searching for a new queen to replace Vashti, the women who were chosen as candidates went through a rather extravagant preparation process:
Each young woman’s turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus after she had completed twelve months’ preparation, according to the regulations for the women, for thus were the days of their preparation apportioned: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women (Esther 2:12, NKJV).
Furthermore, extravagance was expected and praised in a king:
1 Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to Jerusalem to test Solomon with hard questions, having a very great retinue, camels that bore spices, gold in abundance, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. … 9 And she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold, spices in great abundance, and precious stones; there never were any spices such as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon. … 22 So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. 23 And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart. 24 Each man brought his present: articles of silver and gold, garments, armor, spices, horses, and mules, at a set rate year by year (2 Chronicles 9:1, 9, 22-24, NKJV).
If, therefore, Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, the gift which Mary lavishes upon our Lord is far from extravagant.
That sure puts it in the proper perspective doesn't it?!
Mary of Bethany is in fact another of the timeless, representative figures so wonderfully portrayed in this Gospel. She is a type of the true Christian worshipper, even as the sinful woman in the very different anointing story in Luke vii. 36-50 is a type of the true Christian penitent.Mary's worship was extravagant, yet something she could afford to give. Though we are to give generously, we are not to go into debt in order to do so. Her worship was out of love, not duty. It was not done to draw attention, but it was done with humility. It was selfless, it was sacrificial.
Jesus it not here with us bodily, so how can we worship Him extravagantly now?
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' " Matthew 25:34-40
I just finished reading Max Lucado's Outlive Your Life, and he pointed something out about this passage I had never thought of before.
Jesus didn't ask us to heal the sick - but to look after them. He didn't ask us to liberate the prisons - but to visit them. He asked us to be His hands and feet to a hurting world.
We worship Jesus when we serve those He loves - humbly, selflessly, sacrificially, extravagantly.
Tomorrow's passage: John 12:37-50, Mark 11:12-33, Matthew 21:12-27, Luke 19:45-20:8
Friday, October 22, 2010
I'm going to focus on Luke 19:11-27 today. It's a passage that isn't recorded in any of the other gospels and it's a harsh-sounding passage. I have always felt this particular parable painted Jesus and the Kingdom of God in a rather negative light, but on closer study, I see that it really doesn't. Actually, I learned quite a few new things about this passage!
Have I mentioned before how much I love how this blog is encouraging us to dig deeper??! I feel like I have a whole new understanding and appreciation for the Bible after these last 9+ months. And what I love most is that I'm loving the Scriptures more. I think I'm finally beginning to grasp what an amazing privilege it is to be able to hold God's Message to mankind IN MY HANDS!!!
Think of how incredible it would be to be able to hold a treasure like the Dead Sea Scrolls in your hands. Can you imagine the reverence you'd feel? The sheer awe of such a moment is almost unfathomable. And WE HOLD SOMETHING FAR GREATER every time we open our Bibles!!!! I feel like each time I open it, a great hush should fall around me, as if all creation would collectively take a breath and hold it without making a sound until the first word is read...
I hope we are learning to truly revere God's Word.
Okay, so moving right along here...! Relying heavily on David Guzik's commentary, I discovered that this parable holds compelling historical relevance that Jesus' listeners would have picked up on. Apparently, Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, was such a man ~ hated and distrusted by the Jews, who travelled to Rome to receive a kingship. A group of Jews had gone to Rome at the same time to dispute his claim to royalty, but he was appointed their ruler anyway. So Jesus' audience here had possibly experienced this story to an extent, though one major difference is that the ruler in Jesus' story is hated by the citizens for no apparent reason. Archelaus? Well, there were reasons! (he was the reason Joseph needed to be convinced by angels in a dream that it would be safe to to return with Mary and their son, Jesus, from Egypt)
So this rich ruler distributes 10 minas evenly among 10 servants and leaves them in charge. They were expected to carry on his business in his absence, to use the resources he left them. This is the gospel. We've all been given different gifts and talents, but we've all been given the same gospel to spread around the world so that when the Master returns, He won't rebuke us for being lazy.
The first two servants, the ruler commends and congratulates. He rewards them for being faithful. Interestingly, he rewards them with more responsibility!! "The reward for faithful service is not rest, but MORE service! But this is entirely pleasing to the servant of God." The third servant gets everything taken away. He remained the ruler's servant, and in his house, but he was left with nothing.
The whole point of leaving the money in the care of these servants, Guzik says, is not because the ruler really needed more money, but that he wanted them to build character by giving them responsibility. The third servant missed the point. Similarly, we have unfaithful servants today who think that because our Master is so mighty, He doesn't need their help, and so they do nothing. But the issue is not God's need of our help; the issue is OUR need to help Him, our need to be a part of His work.
The servants all had to answer for their work in the master's absence, but at least none of them were guilty of treason. After dealing with the servants, the master deals with the citizens, the ones who hated him and tried to make sure he didn't become king. The world continues to try and deny the sovereignty of God, but He will rule over them one way or the other. The servants will have to answer to the Master, but so will all the citizens.
The phrase, "'Slay them before me' seems so severe; we might even think Jesus compels us here to a life or death decision.
And indeed, He does."
Tomorrow's passages: Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13, John 12:1-36, Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 19:28-44.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Today I'm going to tackle a controversial topic - divorce and remarriage.
My personal opinion has always been that only adultery is grounds for divorce, and even then reconciliation and restoration is still the ideal. (A different passage deals with an unbelieving spouse leaving a believer, but that's a topic for another day).
There are some who believe there is no exception clause - that fornication meant discovering betrayal during the betrothal period which could result in divorce (it was called divorce even though the marriage hadn't taken place).
And there are some, John Piper included, who believe there is simply no exception clause whatsoever. Marriage is intended to reflect the ultimate convenant-love between Christ and His church and that because God will never break His vow to us, we can also not break our marriage vows. If a divorce is forced upon someone by their spouse, he believes they are to remain single until their divorced spouse dies, because they still need to uphold their part of the marriage contract - till death do us part.
He makes a persuasive argument, but I am still leaning to adultery being a legitimate exception clause. What are your thoughts about this?
Either way, David Legge makes a very interesting point which I think we can apply to every area of our lives. He says that we're looking at it from the wrong point of view.
Tom Hovestol, in his book 'Extreme Righteousness', a study of the Pharisees, commenting on the Lord's warning against oath-taking in the Sermon on the Mount, I believe really gets the nub of this problem of divorce. He says: 'We live in a culture in which promises and commitments, even solemnly made ones, are routinely broken. Our wedding ceremonies, baptism rituals, infant dedications, and church membership covenants, to varying degrees, include pious oaths which we cavalierly break. Every divorce', he says, 'is a major violation of the promise 'Till death us do part'. However, we spend most of our theological energy debating when it is OK to break our promises'. He says: 'We are like the Pharisees, seeking loopholes. We are masters at the art of evasion' - and I agree with that! Whatever your opinion of divorce and remarriage might be, we are asking the question, 'How far can I go?'. Yet the question we ought to be asking as Christians and members of the kingdom of God is, 'How like Christ can I be?'. Does this highlight a moral and spiritual duplicity in our Christian lives?
We're trying to find a loophole. Instead we should be looking at it from the other point of view - how Christ-like can I be in this area?
Same thing with sexual purity before marriage - the temptation is to ask "How far is too far?", "How far can we go?" That's the wrong question. We should be asking, "How can I keep myself pure?"
And in the marriage relationship - we should be asking ourselves how we can keep our marriages thriving.
First of all, we need to recognize the seriousness of the marriage covenant. Promises these days, even covenant ones (like marriage) are treated very lightly by secular society, and unfortunately also by Christians.
I know the stats say that Christians are just as likely to divorce as non-Christians, but I actually don't believe that statistic. And this is why. I think just about everybody and their cat would claim to be a Christian (ok, slight exaggeration, but you get my point). But just because someone says they are, doesn't mean they are (sheep discussion from the other day!) And simply from my own experience. Yes, I know of couples that are divorced. But the percentage of Christian people I know who are divorced is really, really low. Which means either the stats are off, or somewhere out there is a large group of Christians with a super high percentage of divorces in order to average out the numbers in my experience.
But either way - marriage is no longer viewed in society as a serious covenant lifelong commitment to one spouse. And as Christians, we need to be very proactive in teaching our children the value and the seriousness of marriage. This would include having a different stance on dating - and teaching them about this from very young. Waiting till they're 14 to start talking to them about dating and marriage is way too late.
We are discouraging our children from dating until they are old enough that marriage is a serious possibility in the relatively near future, and to only date someone that has all the character qualities they are looking for in a spouse. In my opinion, the purpose of dating is to find a husband. It is not to have fun. You can do that without dating. This is not a "try-out" situation where you need to sample all the goodies before making your choice. We plan on encouraging them to get to know their possible future spouse as a friend first. As soon as the "falling in love" emotions kick in, everything is viewed through rose-coloured glasses and judgement just isn't there anymore. Getting to know someone's true colours is so important because marriage IS a lifelong commitment - which means it is a decision that is not to be treated lightly!
Another way we want them to think of those of the opposite sex is that they are someone else's husband (or wife). It's true. If you do not get married to "Bob", "Bob" will marry someone else, he will be someone else's husband. It's a good way to give yourself a reality check and to evaluate how you're treating someone, and what you're doing with someone else's future spouse. We are praying for our children's future spouses now already, and we are encouraging our children to pray for them too.
Our goal in marriage should be to live as Christ-like as possible. Not to look for a way out.
Tomorrow's passage: Matthew 20:1-34, Mark 10:32-52, Luke 18:31-19:27
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
According to John Piper, in his sermon Always Pray and Do Not Lose Heart, the parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge is really a conclusion to the discussion about the end times.
As we wait for Christ's return we are faced with two dangers - that the lure of sin will cause us to be like Lot's wife who loved the world, and that the sheer ordinariness of everyday life will blunt our sensitivity to God's kingdom - two different extremes but with the same results - being unable to persevere to the end. Therefore, the question is, how can we endure to the end without losing faith and love?
And the answer is pray, pray, pray and do not lose heart.
Piper has some pretty harsh words to say on the topic....
If you are saying to yourself that daily earnest prayer for more power to live a fruitful life of Christ-likeness is only for spiritual heavyweights, and that you intend to make your way to heaven without such pious excesses, then you are greatly deceived. Somewhere along the way someone has put the deadly, unbiblical teaching into your head that you can be saved even if you don't persevere in prayer. But you can't. First, because without persevering prayer, faith and love become lukewarm, and we saw last week that lukewarm faith does not save. Second, because Jesus commands us in Luke 18:1 always to pray and not to lose heart. Therefore, prayerlessness is disobedience. And if we do not repent and begin to pray as Jesus taught us, we will not be saved. For Hebrews 5:9 says, "He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him."
Why should we pray and not lose heart?
Because if we don't pray and we do lose heart, our faith will wither and we will not persevere to the Second Coming.
Because God is NOT like the unjust judge, He loves us and will vindicate us who cry out to Him day and night.
And because He has commanded us to.
Always pray. Do not lose heart.
Tomorrow's passage: Luke 18:9-30, Mark 10:1-31, Matthew 19:1-30
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
There were several verses that jumped out at me while I was reading today's passages. My Bible study group studied the book "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World" last spring, which covers the story in John about the raising of Lazarus. It is directed toward those who are feeling frazzled or worn out by all the day-to-day details and rushing around of life.
I've chosen to do this post on Luke 17:1-10, and some of the material below is from Putting Faith in Perspective by Bob Deffinbaugh.
It was difficult for me to understand how the different parts of this passage fit together, until I read the commentary noted above. It starts off with how serious sin is and how we dare not become a stumbling block to those around us. Not only are we to avoid tripping others up (which is fairly passive) but we are to rebuke and seek to restore those who have fallen into sin (much more "active" and often very difficult). Not only that, but when we are asked for forgiveness, we are to grant it unconditionally - not requiring a test of the other person's sincerity first - just as God forgives us when we ask. This is true whether the other person has sinned against us once, often, or even again after having said he or she repented. Not an easy command! Forgiveness can be difficult even when we know the other person is sincere and repentant, but if they seem not to be it is even more difficult - yet there is no doubt that we are commanded to forgive.
As I understand our text, it is Jesus’ words about forgiveness which precipitate the apostles’ petition for more faith. They seem to understand that forgiveness must be granted by faith. They also appear to believe that such forgiveness would require more faith than they possessed. Thus, they petitioned the Lord to give them greater faith, with the implied commitment to obey His instructions when such faith was theirs.
I think that the apostles were sincere in their request, but that something must have been wrong with it. It does not seem to me that faith is what was lacking here, but simple obedience.
Ouch. That hurt. Forgiveness is an act of obedience. Jesus corrects their response, in a way, by saying that a small amount of faith can accomplish great things. Also, as Mr. Deffinbaugh noted in the commentary, though they made their request sincerely, Jesus is not said to have granted it - a point that could easily go unnoticed.
A friend of mine pointed out that this request of the apostles is most interesting in the light of the power and authority already granted them by our Lord. They had been sent out to preach the kingdom of God, with the power and authority to heal and to cast out demons (Luke 9:1ff.). In spite of such great power, some of which seems to abide with them on an on-going basis, they found that they did not have sufficient “faith” to forgive. The disciples asked Jesus for more faith, but Jesus did not grant it. A lack of faith must therefore not be the problem.
And this is where the first part of the passage connects to the part about the slave who does his duty for his master. At that time, in their society, people owned slaves. This was normal and accepted. Jesus used the example of the master and the slave because this was something they could all understand, even though it seems strange in our society. A master expects, rightly, that his slave will do his duty and do all that his master requires of him without expectation of congratulations for a job well done, or even gratitude for having done it. It was no more than was expected of him. It was his duty to comply with his master's commands, just as it is our duty - not something for us to congratulate ourselves or expect to be rewarded for having done, but what is expected of us as followers of Christ. Let's face it, we all like recognition and congratulations and thank-yous, but we are expected to be obedient to the commands of our master, not because of the accolades and rewards we expect from doing so, but because it is our duty as those who belong to Him, recognizing that we are unworthy of the grace and mercy extended to us by our Saviour.
WHY DOES JESUS INSTRUCT HIS DISCIPLES TO THINK OF THEMSELVES AS UNWORTHY SLAVES, WHEN OUR CULTURE IS TELLING US THAT MEN NEED A BETTER SENSE OF THEIR SELF-WORTH?
Frankly, this is a good question. I will leave it to those who advocate a “good self image” to explain. I cannot. Jesus’ words, in my estimation, are too clear to brush aside. It is the Pharisees who had a “good self-image” and were destined for hell. It was those who knew themselves “unworthy” who came to Jesus and found grace and forgiveness.
Our Lord’s words in this text teach us a vitally important principle, which can be summed up in this way: FAITH ALWAYS OPERATES IN THE ARENA OF GRACE AND MERCY, AND IS EXERCISED BY THOSE WHO KNOW THEMSELVES TO BE UNWORTHY.
Jesus would have us learn that while a master has every right to demand total obedience from his slaves, and the slave has every obligation to obey his master completely, the master has no obligation to be grateful to his slave, even though he obeys him completely. Pharisaical faith becomes a kind of “work” which obligates God to respond. Biblical faith requires obedience to God, without any demands on Him at all. Biblical faith thinks in terms of duty; Pharisaical faith thinks in terms of benefits, obligated by faithfulness.
It occurred to me as I have reflected on the Lord’s command to forgive and the apostles’ petition for greater faith that the key to our obedience is not only in petition, but in praise. How often, when we pray, we ask God for something, rather than to praise Him for what He has given. How often we assume that the reason we have not acted in obedience is because we lack the faith to do so. Many times, I believe that we lack the gratitude to act, rather than the faith to act. (emphasis mine) Often, it is not that we lack the means to obey God, but that we lack the motivation to obey Him. Peter tells us in his second epistle that God has given us all that is necessary for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and this through the knowledge of Him. Let us therefore take praise much more seriously. Let us not seek petitioning God for that which we truly lack, but let us also grow in our grasp of all that He has given, and give thanks to Him.
Appropriate, having just celebrated Thanksgiving, to be reminded that thankfulness and praise should be given to God all year round, in everything.
Tomorrow's passage: John 11:28-57; Luke 17:11-18:8.
Monday, October 18, 2010
The passage in John is the one that I wanted to focus on today. I read a fantastic sermon on this chapter by David Legge called Identifying the Sheep of God. I'm going to quote quite a few passages from the sermon - if you have time to read it in its entirety it is excellent.
In those days it was really difficult to tell the literal sheep from the goats, and sometimes it can be difficult to tell the spiritual sheep from the goats. This passage tells exactly what the sheep look like and how they become His sheep.
First of all, there's no fooling God. The Shepherd knows who His sheep are, and the sheep know who their shepherd is. You may be able to fool yourself (I believe, my dad is a pastor), but you can't fool God.
Jesus is the only way to God. He is the gate (10:9) and there is no other way in.
And what must we do to become His sheep? Believe (10:25).
But there's a difference between believing something and believing something. I'm pretty sure that a very large number of Canadians and Americans would say they were Christians, if asked. Sure they believe - everyone believes! But check out James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You see, true belief does not exist on it's own. Yes, we are saved by faith alone - our works cannot save us. But faith does not exist on it's own. Faith and works are a package deal. You cannot have genuine faith and then live a life with no fruit of that belief.
David Legge says....
most believer's children make professions and decisions at some stage in their lifetime. Don't get me wrong, I work with children every summer and I don't minimise the value and the beauty of a child, in simple faith, trusting Christ - it's a beautiful, beautiful thing. But let me say this: one of the greatest tragedies, perhaps, of Christendom is for parents of children who make decisions to cement that decision in the child's mind when there is no evidence in the child's life. Now, we do that, and it's natural - it's a natural affection. You want your child to be saved, so you hope that that decision they made was a genuine decision - but you look at your child's life and there is absolutely no sign of the life of Christ in them!
What many parents do is they reassure that child: 'But you prayed that prayer, and you came in simple faith to the Lord Jesus' - and perhaps that child has got it into their mind, and many people in East Belfast have, for the rest of their days: 'I said that prayer, I made that decision, and when I get before God everything will be alright'. Now, that's the relevance of this message. I believe, parents - just on a side issue - that what you should be doing is looking for evidence of salvation in your child's life and, if it is not there, telling your child: 'You know, there's very little in your life to tell me or anybody that you're saved - are you sure?'. You should be questioning it for their sake, for their eternity!
This is such a good reminder for me to not become complacent about our children's spiritual lives. We are not done when they have prayed the sinner's prayer. It would be rare for a child brought up in a Christian home not to pray that prayer. But as they grow, do they make that faith their own? Do they understand that decision? Do they reaffirm that decision? And do their lives reflect that?
If they tell me they believe, but their life bears no fruit of that belief - to leave that unchallenged is to gamble with their eternity. Empty words (like "I'll pray for you"), do not make you a Christian. It may simply mean they're familiar with the Christian lingo and know what you want to hear. God has no spiritual grandchildren. My faith will not save my children. Their faith needs to become their own.
Secondly, there is unrepentant faith. To put it bluntly, that means no changed life....there has to be a changed life. There has to be a desire after God, there has to be a repentance to know that a man or a woman has been born again. (emphasis mine)
How do we (the sheep) hear His voice? It's not an audible voice. It's the Word of God. And if we have no desire to hear His voice, if we have no desire to read the Word, if we have no desire to hear the Word preached - are we really His sheep?
1 John is very clear about the identifying characteristics of a believe. If we say we believe, but we do not keep His commandments, we are liars. (2:3-4) If we love the world and the things of the world, we do not love Him. (2:15) If we continually live a life of sin and are comfortable with it, we are not saved. (3:4-6) If we do not love each other, we do not love Him. (4:8-9)
Here's the thing: 'David, you're saying you have to be perfect' - no I'm not. I sin regularly, but I hate my sin, and I hope that I do what I can by the Spirit of God not to fall into sin. There is no such thing as perfection until we get to glory, but what I am saying here is: if you love your sin, if you live in your sin, and if you are content with your sin - you are not a child of God! I'm not preaching 'saved and lost', that you have to keep up the momentum in your spiritual life, that you can't go down a bit, or be depressed, or be spiritually dejected - but I'm saying this: that there is something wrong if that is your constant state, if you fail to show fruit for Christ on a daily basis, if you do not follow Christ's way, or have no desire to follow Him. If you are in conscious sin, or continual disobedience, you can't be saved! The proof of conversion is not a list of statements that you prayed as a child, or doctrines that you've nodded to in agreement at, but the proof of conversion is a life radically changed for Jesus! (emphasis mine)
Back to the faith and works package deal.
James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (emphasis mine)
Faith without works is dead! Faith without works is not faith at all! As one of the reformers said: 'Faith alone saves, but that faith is not alone!'. Faith alone in Jesus Christ the Lord will save you, but if you have that faith it will not be on its own, it will not be without works! The works don't save you, but it's a package that comes together - and if you don't have the works you don't have the faith! (emphasis mine)
So, how are we truly saved?
We hear His voice, we recognize He is the only way, we believe, that belief is evidenced by our transformed lives, as we joyfully receive eternal life, safe in His hands forever.
Tomorrow's passage: Luke 14:25-17:10, John 11:1-37
Sunday, October 17, 2010
The passage in John is the one that jumped out at me today.
Whenever Jesus healed someone, He was not merely concerned about their physical healing, He was concerned about their spiritual healing.
His healings always included forgiving their sins, reminders to go and sin no more, or tracking them down again to ask them if they believed.
And that's exactly what He did with the man who had been born blind, not as a result of his sin or his parent's sin like everyone assumed (Job, anyone?!). But so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. So that through his disability, God would be glorified.
All life is precious to God for we are made in His image.
And it doesn't matter if we are disabled, if we are old, if we are sick, if we are healthy, or if we are unborn.
In his sermon Born Blind for the Glory of God, John Piper says....
Let me set up the situation we are facing in America and how today’s text relates to it. There are about 3,000 abortions a day in the United States and about 130,000 a day worldwide. Which means that the horrific, gut-wrenching reality of Haiti’s earthquake on January 12 happens everyday in the abortion clinics of the world. And it is likely that if the dismemberment and bloodshed and helplessness of 130,000 dead babies a day received as much media coverage as the earthquake victims have—rightly have!—there would be the same outcry and outpouring of effort to end the slaughter and relieve the suffering.
Americans have been giving 1.6 million dollars an hour for Haiti Relief for the last ten days—a beautiful thing. I hope you are part of it. It is so unbelievably easy to give with phones and computers. But the funding and resistance to the suffering of the silent, hidden destruction of the unborn is not so easy. So the 3,000 babies who are crushed to death every day in America by the earthquake of abortion go largely unnoticed.
Most of these babies are killed between 10 and 14 weeks of gestation, when the situation is, as they say, “optimal” for the complete dismemberment and evacuation. The babies usually look something like this.
We have no reason to think that there is any morally or spiritually significant difference between this baby and a one-month-old outside the womb. All the differences are morally and spiritually negligible. If it is wrong to kill a newborn, it is wrong to kill this baby in the womb....
With the development of prenatal genetic diagnosis, the drive toward eugenics has returned with a vengeance. Americans may heartily cheer participants in the Special Olympics, but we abort some 90 percent of all gestating infants diagnosed with genetic disabilities such as Down Syndrome, dwarfism, and spina bifida....
The message is that God knits all the children together in their mothers’ wombs, and they are all—all of them of every degree of ability—conceived for the purpose of displaying the glory of God.
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Psalms 139:13-15...
In every disability, whether genetically from the womb, or circumstantially from an accident, or infectiously from a disease, God has a design, a purpose, for his own glory and for the good of his people who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Therefore, it is wrong to think that such children in the womb—or out of the womb, or in their doddering old age—are unimportant, or without a unique, God-given worth in this world. (emphasis mine)
Yes, in this case Jesus healed the man physically. But Jesus wanted to be sure he received spiritual sight as well. And in John 9:35-38, Jesus tracked him down and he confessed his belief and worshiped Him.
Sometimes God uses healings for His glory. Sometimes He uses death for His glory.
It's all about Him.
It's about magnifying God.
It's about making less of us, and making more of Him.
Tomorrow's passage: John 10, Luke 13:22-14:24
Friday, October 15, 2010
For the disciples to seek God’s kingdom would mean for them to have an earnest desire to have him as their Sovereign, submitting themselves to do his will, looking to him to bless their efforts to obtain life’s necessities, and maintaining faith in him as the one who would aid them in their time of need. Just as the birds do what they can to find the provisions available to them, Christ’s disciples demonstrate themselves to be willing and exemplary workers, conscientiously using their God-given abilities to make a living. At the same time, they avoid giving in to unproductive worry, as that would call into question their faith in God’s ability to care for them.
In an unbelieving world, disciples of Christ may face difficulties and hardships. At the time Jesus taught his disciples, they were very few in number. The majority of their fellow Israelites had not responded in faith. Being greatly outnumbered, they may well have been apprehensive about what the future might hold for them, especially as they became more aware of the kind of hostility that was directed against Jesus. He, therefore, admonished them not to be afraid. While they appeared to be just a “little flock” of sheep surrounded by many unbelievers, the heavenly Father, in his good pleasure, wanted to give them the kingdom, making them part of the realm where he is Sovereign and granting them all the associated blessings. (Luke 12:32)
In keeping with what God had in store for them, they should focus on giving to those in need. Instead of acquiring extra possessions, they would be selling possessions and, with the funds obtained therefrom, relieve the plight of the afflicted. In this way, they would be making purses for themselves that did not wear out with use, for the heavenly Father would look favorably upon their generous and rightly motivated giving. The record of giving would come to be like a treasure deposited in heaven, which the Most High would richly recompense. This treasure is secure, for no thief can steal it and no moth (in its destructive caterpillar stage) can ruin it. The hearts of the devoted disciples or their affections and desires would be where their treasure is, centered on their heavenly Father and pleasing him. (Luke 12:33, 34, which passage parallels Matthew 6:19-21) For those whose treasure is on earth, their thoughts and actions are not ennobling. They merely exist to eat, drink, and engage in some temporary form of merriment. (emphasis mine)
In what ways is life more than food and the body more than clothes? Both life and body pertain to people. People are God’s children, created in the image of God. We are spiritual beings who live eternally. Food and clothing are consumables. They do not last forever, and they exist to serve and provide for people. In these ways, life and body and more valuable than food and clothing.
How does Jesus’ statement challenge my view of what life is all about? His statement reminds me that life is about people and about relationships. To make life’s focus food or clothing is to completely miss the point. It’s to focus on the lesser rather than the greater, on the temporary instead of the eternal. The application is to not worry about food or clothing because God will provide for those things. Instead, I should worry about seeking God’s kingdom—which includes the loving of people.
According to this passage, what truths about God and about life make worrying foolish? God provides. He provides for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. And if he provides of them, then surely he will provide for me for I am more important than them. Basically Jesus is saying that God will provide for his disciples their basic needs. And so because there is infallible proof that God provides (just look at nature), it is foolish for me to worry about my basic needs. God is both willing and able to provide what I need to live.