October 21; Use It All

Luke 14:25-17:19

The guy was losing his job. He knew he was in big trouble. He was too weak to do manual labor, and too proud to beg. So he came up with a plan to make himself look good to people who were in positions to help him.

Whenever I read this parable in Luke 14, I am struck by the boss’ reaction to what the man did. It cost the boss money. But he commended the man for his ingenuity. I guess it’s true that evil really does see good in evil.

Then Jesus said, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (verse 9)

I think I’ve shared that I have recently realized 99% of my relationships here on this island are with people from my church. I am blessed by them and treasure their friendships. It’s a blessing to serve God with them.

But God has been dealing with me about stepping out of my comfort zone and beginning to rub shoulders with people who don’t go to my church, may not go to any church.

Jesus said that if He can’t trust us with what we have, how can He trust us with more? Today I am wondering what kind of steward I am with the treasure that is mine through my Savior’s blood. Am I as creative in the way I serve my Master as the man in the parable was in serving his?

But I am also wondering what kind of impact I have on people who need Jesus, using the material blessing which are mine. Is my house open to my neighbors? I don’t even know most of their names. Is my car transportation for an unchurched friend? I can’t think of any unchurched person I consider my friend.

Jesus said we should use it all “so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” I’m certainly not going to take any of my possessions with me. Why am I hoarding them?

If the world is so good at networking, at community, at charity, why aren’t I even better? What they offer is perishing. What I have is eternal. Jesus told us that where are hearts are, our treasures are.

I pray that I will be the kind of steward of God’s blessings who gives all I have. I want to step outside the walls of my church and make friends of people who need what I have. I want to use the material things that are mine to bless others for Jesus’ sake.

I want you to want that, too. I think God wants it of all of us.

 

October 20; Worry

Luke 12:22-13:17, 13:22-14:24

Why do Christians worry? I mean, I think most of us do at some time or another. We worry about our children, our health, the state of the world. We might worry about tomorrow, or today.

Jesus reminds us that worry is a waste of time. Someone once said worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.

But I think worry is a bit more serious than that. Worry tells God I just don’t trust Him enough. That’s serious.

Look around. God takes care of His creation. And we who were created in His image are the apple of His eye. Why would we even consider that God can’t handle whatever we are facing?

Jesus tells us to seek first His kingdom. Everything else will fall into place. Are my eyes on God? Is my focus on my Savior? Am I praying God’s will be done, and meaning it?

Then there is no reason to worry. Verse 32 tells us, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Let that sink in.

Back in the day we used to sing a chorus, “Why worry when you can pray? Trust Jesus, He’ll lead the way…Why worry, worry, worry, worry, when you can pray?”

The answer to that musical question is, “I don’t know.” There is no good reason to worry when you can pray. Let’s pray.

October 19; Sounds Like A Plan

Luke 10:21-24, 38-11:13, 27-12:21; Matthew 11:25-30

I read Luke 10:22 and Matthew 11:27 and understand why there are those who believe God is selective about which individuals are chosen for salvation, and which are chosen for hell. But God’s Word is more than a verse.

In the context here, Jesus is talking about wise men and children; the fact that God’s plan is hidden from the learned, and revealed to the simple. God does not reveal Himself through intellect, but through childlike faith.

Matthew Henry, in his Commentary on the Whole Bible in One Volume, (Zondervan Publishing House, 1961; page 1262) asks the question: why was Matthew, a lowly fisherman, chosen to be a disciple when Nicodemus, a Pharisee and leader of the Jews was not? Both men believed in Jesus.

Henry says, “this honor (was) put upon those whom the world pours contempt upon,” to magnify the mercy of God. What might make sense to us humans, doesn’t come close to what what makes sense to God. By choosing the disciples He chose, Jesus is demonstrating His great mercy and grace, revealing Himself as merciful and full of grace.

In the very next verse Jesus open Himself up to “all who are weak and burdened.” “Come,” He says to everyone, “and you will find rest for your souls.” I believe He chose those particular twelve to be His disciples to demonstrate His mercy, and to be the ones through whom He would use to get His Church going; and He chose the people of the world to save.

Jesus began this discussion by praying and thanking God for this plan. (verse 21). And I certainly thank Him, too! If God revealed Himself only to the intelligent, scholarly, big shots of the world, I’d be “chosen” for hell.

Henry reminds us that God “resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Grace – God’s grace – is freely given to everyone who humbles themselves before Him.

So I will give thanks to God for choosing this plan of salvation. The highest IQ, the most successful businessman, the most important and famous come to God and are saved exactly the same way as a child, a homeless person, the average Joe – me. We might think God should be a bit more selective, but God selected all.

“Whosoever” believes in Jesus will receive eternal life. That’s His will. That’s His plan. That’s how He chose to redeem us all. And He is faithful to forgive anyone who comes to Him in humility, and repents of sin.

Sounds like an awesome plan to me.

October 18; It’s Pretty Clear

Matthew 17:24-27, 18:10-35, 8:18-22, 11:20-24; Mark 9:38-50, 10:1; Luke 9:49-62, 10:1-20

Can a person believe in God and not believe in Jesus? Is it ok for a person to call God Allah, and his son Mohammed? Can a person be accepted by God on their own terms, without the cross?

Jesus said, as recorded in Luke 10:16, “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (emphasis mine)

So, no. If anyone rejects Jesus as God’s only Son who died on the cross, was buried, and rose again for the world’s sin debt, if anyone rejects Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the only way to the Father, they are not just rejecting a man who lived 2,000 years ago. They are rejecting God.

It’s pretty clear.

October 17; Do You Wonder?

Mark 9:2-37; Matthew 17:1-23, 18:1-5; Luke 9:28-48

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the school year, I have the privilege of volunteering at Good News Clubs in two of our local elementary schools. Between the two schools, we are sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with almost 100 children.

I wish you could see their faces and hear their comments and questions as God begins to reveal Himself to them, and draw them to Himself. Some children have never heard the Biblical accounts of real people with whom God walked and talked so many years ago. And some who have already heard the stories, begin to understand the meaning behind them. I’m telling you, it’s a blessing every week. Their wide-eyed enthusiasm is contagious.

Jesus told His disciples that all of us must approach Him through the eyes of a child. Oh, to have that wonder, that excitement in hearing God’s Word, to have open hearts and uncluttered minds eager to learn.

I think sometimes we might open our Bibles after years of walking with the Lord and think, “I’ve heard it all before.” But friend, if we go to God with the understanding that we are as ignorant as children concerning spiritual things, God will continue to teach us. If we close ourselves off to more, we’ll stay right where we are.

Now, please, I am not talking about a new revelation that is extra-Biblical. I’m not talking about twisting what God says in His Word to come up with a new enlightenment, or new religion. But there are things we can learn from God’s Word that are backed up and true according to Scripture.

Let’s not miss what God wants us to know at this time in our lives, thinking we are already mature in the Lord. Oh, maturity is a good thing. We are told to grow in grace and knowledge, to study to show ourselves approved.

But let’s not lose the wonder, and the blessing that is God’s Word.

 

October 16; A Little Yeast

Mark 8:11-9:1; Matthew 16:1-28; Luke 9:18-27; John 6:60-71

The first time I ever tasted pizza was at my Aunt Doris’ house in the early ’60’s. I remember standing next to her in the kitchen and watching as she opened an Appian Way Pizza box, and pulled out three bags and a tiny tin can. She opened the larger of the bags and poured its contents into a bowl. Looked like regular flour to me.

Then she opened one of the smaller bags. The contents looked like a bit more flour. A little coarser, perhaps. And it had a strange smell. She told me it was yeast. (never heard of it). She poured it on top of the flour in the bowl, and mixed it together. Then she took some water and slowly moistened the flour mixture until she could use her fingers to push and squeeze it into a ball. I remember the sticky dough all over her hands.

Next she covered the bowl with a kitchen towel, and put it on top of the pre-heating oven. Then we waited.

While we waited Aunt Doris took a log of pepperoni and cut it into thin slices. She grated some cheese, and opened the tin can of red sauce. She took out a weird round pan and coated it with a thin layer of Crisco.

Then I witnessed a miracle.

Aunt Doris took the towel off the bowl on the stove and showed me what was inside. The dough had grown into a giant blob! It had taken on a life of its own. It was magic.

Needless to say, we finished compiling the pizza on that flat greased pan, and popped it in the oven. I can only say, it was love at first bite. I still could eat pizza every day.

I thought about this today as I read God’s warning concerning yeast. We all know He wasn’t talking about pizza dough, but used the magic power of yeast to warn us about false teaching.

I have shared my heavy heart as I witness how false teaching is infiltrating the Church at what seems like break-neck speed. That’s really nothing new. Jesus was talking to people 2,000 years ago about this happening right then, too. Why does Jesus give this warning?

Because false teaching, like yeast, takes on a life of its own. It might resemble the Truth. But if allowed to mix with the Truth, it grows, it changes what was into something very different.

Please be aware. Please don’t allow Satan’s Christian-sounding lies to enter your heart or your mind. Know the Truth that is God’s Word. Don’t base an enlightenment on a verse or two, but read the Bible and keep reading it ALL.

Be on guard, Jesus tells us. Be on guard.

 

October 15; From A Distance

Mark 7:1-8:10; Matthew 25:1-39

I was reminded about the centurion’s dying daughter whom Jesus healed from a distance. In the passages we read today, Jesus is again healing a little girl, this time demon-possessed, from a distance. Both the centurion and this woman were Gentiles – a whole race of people at a distance from God. Yet both put their faith in Jesus, and their prayers for their loved ones were answered – from a distance.

I’m encouraged, and I hope you are, too. I have loved ones who are living at a distance from God. I would imagine you do, too. God is reminding me today that no distance is too great for Him to save. We should never start to believe anyone is too far gone.

Let’s continue to put our faith in Jesus, and pray that our loved ones will accept His amazing grace. That is a prayer Jesus died to answer.

I would ask you to pray for my pastor, his dear wife, and their 30 year old son. They are at his bedside in a Miami, Florida hospital right now as this young man faces a life-threatening condition. He has been living a great distance from God the past few years. But I thank God that His Word has assured me today that no distance is too great for our great God.

We are praying from the distance of several hundred miles, that God will touch this young man’s body and get him through upcoming surgeries. May God give wisdom to all involved, and may He be revealed in every detail.

And we are praying that God will break through Satan’s hold on this young man, and heal his soul, for Jesus’ sake. He may be at a distance, but he is only a prayer away from the God who loves him and gave Himself for him. When you think of it that way, he’s really not all that far away.

Thank you for your prayers. And as I pray this morning, I will be praying for your loved ones, too, who seem to be at too great a distance to come to Jesus at the moment. I’m putting my faith in God, and trusting Him to handle the distance.