Monthly Archives: October 2019

October 30; Stand Firm

Matthew 23:37-39, 24:1-28; Mark 12:41-13:23; Luke 21:1-24

The end is near. Or at least nearer than it was the day Jesus spoke these words. But the reality is that life on planet Earth will come to an end.

Jesus wants us to be prepared, to watch out, be on guard, stand firm. Is the abomination that causes desolation already in our pulpits? False prophets will deceive some, some will turn away from the faith, the love of most will grow cold.

Don’t be one of them.

Let’s determine to stay in God’s Word, to grow, to put on the whole armor of God, and to stay true to the truth that is Jesus. “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Stand firm.

October 29; To Love God

Mark 12:18-40; Matthew 22:23-23:36; Luke 20:27-47, 10:25-28

I don’t think I can skim over what Jesus says is the greatest commandment. So I’ve sat here for a bit and pondered what it means to love God. Is it the kind of love we see on “The Bachelor?” Is it the kind of love we express when someone gets a new haircut? Is it a love that gets more than it gives, is is dependent on circumstances?

What does it mean to love God the way He deserves?

First of all, Jesus tells us we need to love Him with our whole heart, that part of us that is our hopes and dreams, our life and our emotions. It’s that which makes me me and you you. The question is, do I love God with all of me?

Jesus says we should love God with all our soul; the eternal, spiritual part of us. Does my love of God translate into complete trust, obedience, worship and praise? Is my love of God that which drives my faith? God is spirit, and we who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Does that define my love of God?

And Jesus says we should love God with all our mind. Love of God is not a mindless emotion. Can I honestly say I love God with good sense and thoughtful choice? Is my love for God simply a reaction toward His love for me, or is it a conscious decision to love Him because He first loved me?

The Ten Commandments would be so much easier to obey if we loved God like He deserves. Jesus said loving Him is the greatest commandment.

It’s that important.

October 28; Perfectly Centered

Mark 11:27-12:17; Matthew 21:23-22:22; Luke 20:1-26

Jesus is the Cornerstone, the One on whom the Church is built. There is so much in just that one statement!

My sister was at a Bible study recently where the pastor, filling in for the regular teacher, shared that he and his teenage son had recently built a retaining wall together. Dad showed son step by step what needed to be done.

They put the first stone down and the dad showed the boy how to read the level. When the bubble in the level was perfectly centered, they were ready to move on to the next stone. After wiggling and tapping the second stone until the level was perfectly centered when resting on both the first and second stones, they were ready for stone #3. The bubble needed to be perfectly centered when on it and the already level second stone before they could lay a fourth stone, and so on and so on and so on.

Eventually the dad put the boy in charge of the level, and the wall went up. With each stone, the dad would ask, “Is it level?” When the boy could assure Dad it was, they went on to the next stone. They worked together for quite some time. But around the third layer, the dad realized something was wrong. He measured and found the wall was already several inches off.

How could that happen? The boy assured his dad the bubble was always in the center for every stone. “Show me,” Dad said.

Have you ever used a level? That bubble changes position when the difference on the surface in imperceptible. Is it in the center if it touches the left line, but doesn’t go over it? Is it in the center if it favors the right line a fraction of an inch? The boy found out that mostly centered is not centered.

Being perfectly centered is an exact spot, not an area. The father and son had to remove all the stones, until they got back to the cornerstone, in order to build their wall.

Are you with me? How many infinitesimal deviations has the Church made away from the Cornerstone over the last 2,000 years? What will it take to get back to the Cornerstone? Is there damage we need to correct?

I can think of so many examples. But one has come to the forefront. And that is what I believe to be more than an infinitesimal shift from our Cornerstone. The Church seems to have decided to make the Gospel a bit more palatable, a bit easier to swallow. You never hear a “hellfire and brimstone” sermon any more. Why? Because that kind of preaching puts people off.

There are churches that refuse to use the word “sin” because it offends. We want people to see Jesus as love, to make worship of Him emotional and entertaining. But is that what you see when you go back to the Cornerstone?

Listen to what Jesus said about the Cornerstone: He who falls on the stone will be broken, but the one on whom it falls will be crushed. (Matthew 21:44, Luke 20:18)

A person, face to face with the awfulness of his sin, should be broken! Repentance isn’t comfortable or pleasant. It’s like throwing yourself onto a boulder. It hurts. It breaks our old self into pieces.

But Jesus warns, waiting until that Stone falls results in a final crushing from which there is no recovery.

Jesus is the Cornerstone of the Church, but He is also the Cornerstone of my life. When I put the level of His Holy Word on my life – is it perfectly centered? Or am I off just a tiny little bit?

I want to be perfectly centered. I want to use God’s Word as my level, and line myself up with the Cornerstone according to Scripture. I’m not looking for a comfortable relationship with Jesus. I want to be broken when I deviate from His Holiness. I want conviction to tap me into position. Because if I allow that level just a bit of leeway, it’s not going to correct itself down the road.

Because almost centered is not perfectly centered.

 

 

October 27; What the Cross Does Not Do

Matthew 21:1-22; Mark 11:1-25; Luke 19:1-10, 28-28; John 12:12-19

It was time for Jesus to complete His mission. It was time for the cross. So Jesus, on a donkey, rode into Jerusalem with more fanfare, showered with more attention than He had permitted during the previous three years.

“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

But you and I both know just a few days later, the same people who celebrated Jesus’ entrance into the city would demand His crucifixion. What could possibly happen to cause such a drastic change?

John and Luke provide us with insight. “…the whole crowd began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.” (Luke 19:37). John tells us a similar account in that the people who witnessed the bodily resurrection of Lazarus spread the word, and people flocked to Jesus because they heard He had given a “miraculous sign.” (12:18)

The people who joined the parade to accompany Jesus into Jerusalem seem to have been focused on the material. They may have thought they were leading their ticket to easy street into town. Maybe they followed Him out of simple curiosity. But their faith quickly died because they weren’t following Jesus in truth.

During Jesus’ public ministry He performed many miracles, more miracles than could be recorded in the Gospels. But He never healed a sick person so that person would be well. He never gave sight to a blind person so that blind person could see. He never raised a dead child or adult so that person would live a few more years.

All His miracles had one purpose only: to establish the fact that Jesus is God, so that when they nailed Him to the cross, everyone would know just who was hanging there.

Did Jesus die on the cross so His followers would be healed of all physical ailments? No! Did Jesus die on the cross so our bodies would live forever on this earth? No! Did Jesus die so our bills would be paid and we’d have roofs over our heads and food on the table? No!

Jesus died to pay the price for your sin and mine. Jesus died in order to redeem sinners. Yes, Isaiah said “by His stripes we are healed.” But people who claim that guarantees physical healing for the saints are twisting Scripture to mean something it doesn’t.

Dear one, if you are following Jesus because of what He can do for your bank account or your doctor’s appointment, you run the risk of making the same mistake the people in Jerusalem made that last week of Jesus’ life on earth.

Let’s turn our eyes away from the temporal and look to the eternal. Let’s not make the cross about our comfort. Jesus promised that we will have trouble in this life. Paul lamented his thorn in the flesh. Most of the twelve disciples met with gruesome deaths.

What the cross does not do is guarantee a healthy, wealthy life in this world. But it does guarantee a glorious eternity with Jesus Himself. The cross does not buy my comfort or my happiness or my cancer-free life. The cross bought my pardon, my redemption, my salvation. And yours!

What the cross does do is nothing short of amazing!

 

October 26; Second Fiddle

John 11:17-57; Mark 10:32-52; Luke 18:31-34; Matthew 20:17-28

Do you ever read something in the Bible and think, “Wow. This is totally opposite of the wisdom of the day?” That’s what happened to me today.

We in the 21st Century are told to look out for number one, to tell ourselves we are strong and powerful and capable and perfect just the way we are. And we are teaching our children to believe they are those things, too.

On the surface that might sound like wisdom. But in God’s economy, it’s foolishness. In the passages we read today, God explains His economy and you might not like what He says:

“The last will be first.”

“Whoever wants to become great, must be a slave to all.”

(I don’t see those slogans on many t-shirts these days)

I went to my cousin’s funeral yesterday, and heard the account of a servant, a woman who was a selfless friend, whose house was always open and throw-together meals were commonplace (and she often used her gold-trimmed china for impromptu entertaining). She could sit for hours with a hurting neighbor without thought for her own comfort.

She’d taught music for nearly 60 years, and especially loved teaching young children how to play the violin. We heard of incidents when Beth Joy would go out of her way to take a student home after lessons, or drive them to performances, or how she would provide violins for children who couldn’t afford one.

But what impressed me most about my cousin was something I hadn’t realized. I knew she played in two large symphony orchestras, one in Ohio then one in Charlotte, NC when she and her husband moved there. But what I didn’t realize is that for over 40 years, Beth Joy played second violin.

As a musician myself, that speaks to me. And I was reminded of it today as I read what Jesus said to His disciples about “number one.”

The great orchestral conductor, Leonard Bernstein when asked what the most difficult instrument was to play said, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem, and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

Beth Joy played second fiddle with enthusiasm. She was the harmony in the life of her family, friends, and students. Why? Because she was a tireless servant of her Lord, Jesus Christ. At 80 years of age, she was still teaching children how to play the violin up to six weeks before she died.

I am challenged today to enthusiastically play the position of second fiddle for Jesus’ sake and for His glory. One thing people kept saying yesterday was that Beth always pointed people to her Savior. It was never about her. It was always about Jesus.

What a privilege it is to play second fiddle in God’s economy, His orchestra called the Church. It’s not about me. It is always about Jesus.

October 25; How Far Am I Willing To Go?

Mark 10:23-31; Matthew 19:23-20:16; Luke 18:24-30; John 10:22-11:16

Lazarus was dead. But several days before he died, his sisters sent word to Jesus saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When Jesus got the news, he didn’t jump up and run to his friend’s side. He stayed put.

He could have high-tailed it to be with Lazarus.. He could have healed Lazarus from right where He was. He could have teleported Himself to Lazarus’ sickroom. But Jesus did none of those things. And Lazarus died.

Then, three days later, He told His disciples He was going to Judea, to where Lazarus, Mary, and Martha made their home. But His disciples remembered that the last time Jesus was in Judea, the people tried to stone Him. “Let’s think about this,” they urged Him. But Jesus insisted He was going, no matter what, so that they would believe.

Now here is what spoke to me today. Those disciples were very aware that Jesus could be walking right into the hands of His enemies. The Judeans wanted Jesus dead. Yet Jesus was determined to go.

Then Thomas, of all people, said to the other disciples, “Let’s us also go, that we may die with him.”

Sometimes I think old Thomas gets a bad rap. We label him “The Doubting Disciple” because he had trouble believing Jesus had really raised from the dead. But I think Thomas was more than that.

This is a man who was willing to die with Jesus. He sounds like a man of great faith to me, a man who was willing to go the distance with his Lord.

So today, God is asking me how far I am willing to go with Him. I’m not in danger of walking into a crowd of people who want to kill me for my relationship with Jesus. But what if Jesus wants me to go with Him to speak to my neighbor, or confront a sister in Christ of a sin, or to speak up when God is being misrepresented, and His Word is being twisted?

How far am I willing to go?

October 24; Sheep and Children

John 9:35-10:21; Mark 10:2-22; Matthew 19:3-15; Luke 16:18, 18:15-23

Jesus talks about sheep and children in the passages we read today. Both sheep and children are totally dependent on someone else to meet their needs, to care for and lead them. Neither can thrive without help.

Sheep and children can both be described as innocent, trusting, perhaps naive. But Jesus uses sheep and children to describe you and me. Not warriors. Not intellectuals. Not fierce lions or cunning cobras. We are sheep. We are children.

Or we should be.

Yesterday God impressed on me the fact that He is the Truth, and He alone can free any of us from the stranglehold sin has over us. Today, he reminds me that I need to come to Him with complete trust, the same kind of trust a sheep has for its shepherd. I need to come to Him in total dependence, like a child’s unapologetic dependence on his parent.

God is telling me today through His Word that I have nothing to offer Him. A sheep doesn’t tell the shepherd how to shepherd. A child doesn’t know what’s bests for him, is unable to make wise decisions, so he depends on a parent to do that for him.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Good Father. And He can be totally and completely trusted.

I said God is showing me that I have nothing to offer Him. I’m going to amend that a bit and say I realize I have nothing to offer God but myself, and He is assuring me that’s all He asks. I want to be a sheep in His pasture, a child in His care.

So I give myself to Him as freely and as unconditionally as a sheep who follows the voice of my Shepherd, like a child who knows her Daddy loves and cares for me.

And like the sheep enclosed in the pen protected by the Shepherd, and the child drawn close to the Father in a loving embrace, I want to live my life totally dependent on the One who loves me and gave Himself for me.

Sheep and children? Yep. That’s me.