Category Archives: Christianity

The Second Greatest Commandment (it might not mean what you think)

Matthew 22-23; Mark 12

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied: Love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.

However, the modern church has seemed to skip over that and rushed to what Jesus called the second greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Our churches are so full of love, they’ve neglected to understand God’s love. We’ve come to believe love is the same as acceptance, tolerance, respect. But is that godly love?

I challenge you to read Matthew 23:13-36 and point out one loving thing Jesus said to the teachers. Is it that he repeatedly called them hypocrites? Or that they are sending people to hell? That they are blind guides, or that they are ignoring the most important aspects of the Law? He called them white-washed tombs. Is that your definition of love?

Well, that’s God’s definition of love. As harsh as Jesus’ words to the pharisees, it’s all about love. Love enough to point out sin – not tolerate it. Love enough to point out their misguided religious beliefs – not accept them. Love enough to call them what they were without worrying about disrespecting them.

Jesus got in their faces. Why? Because He loved them.

If the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, then we must also adopt God’s definition of love. His love sent Him to the cross. I’m worried my love might hurt someone’s feelings. That’s not God’s kind of love.

If I love God sincerely with all my heart, soul, and mind, I can’t help but shout out a warning to people who are rushing to hell, people for whom Jesus died to save.

YOU ARE A SINNER. YOUR BELIEFS ARE WRONG. YOU NEED JESUS. BELIEVING YOU HAVE YOUR OWN TRUTH IS BELIEVING A LIE. YOU CAN’T CHOOSE YOUR GENDER. YOU AREN’T GOOD AND CAPABLE AND WORTHY. YOU ARE A WORM FOR WHOM JESUS DIED TO SAVE. AND UNLESS YOU COME TO GOD ON HIS TERMS, YOU WILL GO TO HELL.

Does that offend you? Hurt your feeling? Make you angry? I love you enough to tell you I don’t care. I care more that you hear the warning and turn to God. I care more that you offer yourself to God and receive what He longs to give you.

If I simply love my neighbor with a love I manufacture, I could easily tolerate, accept, and respect your sin and wrong ideology. But because I love God with all that I am, I can’t do that. Because of that love I am begging you to know Him according to Scripture and through the blood of His Son. There is simply no other way.

I’m praying for you today.

Give It All

Mark 10, Mathew 19, Luke 18

To some people, hearing Jesus talk about the rewards promised His followers has them expecting a financial windfall. The prosperity false gospel of Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Joel Osteen, Robert Tilton, Hillsong, some of the Pentecostal and charismatic churches, etc. all place their faith in it. Health and wealth are promised to followers of God, they proclaim.

They expect to receive 100X as much in return for their investment. After all, that’s what Jesus said.

Even some who reject the prosperity false gospel’s interpretation of these verses, still fixate on the level of reward they will receive in heaven They’ll put up with being the least in this life if they can have a front row seat in glory. After all, that’s what Jesus said.

But the point of what Jesus said to the young man in these verses is this: GIVE IT ALL. And “all” isn’t just material possessions. It’s family, career, reputation, social position, a seat on the Board, your health, etc. It’s your very life.

That’s the point of the lesson. Give it all, and trust God with everything, including your future. Give it all. Don’t hold back. Jesus wants us to hear Him say that in order to follow Him we must submit everything to Him with open hands, like jumping out of a plane with no parachute. You relinquish control, and allow Him to do as He wills. The reward isn’t the goal. Submission is.

Don’t make this about what you will get out of following Jesus. Make it only about what God will receive as a result of your total submission to Him.

Give your SELF to Him. Give it all.

I Guess That Depends

Luke 17:20-18:8

As our world continues its rapid downward spiral into sin and insanity, we Christians look toward the sky, expecting, hoping to hear that trumpet and see our Savior descend once again, this time to take us home. We see the signs and believe it could happen any minute.

But it could be another 10,000 years. Only God knows when life on earth will cease to exist. So what do we do in the mean time?

Jesus used the examples of Noah and Lot to remind us that the people in those days were living life; parties and weddings, eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building until they weren’t. They were doing their thing until God came and judged their sin, found them guilty, and demanded the death penalty they deserved.

But there was a difference. The people in Noah’s day heard the Truth and rejected it. They died in the flood. The Ninevites heard the Truth and accepted it, repented, and were spared.

Jesus tells us that, much like those examples, “it will be ‘business as usual’ right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”

It won’t be just sinners living life as usual. Christians will be doing the same. So what does ‘life as usual’ look like for you? Parties and weddings, eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building?

Of course. All of that is part of living this life. But shouldn’t we all be the Noahs and Jonahs of our time, too? As we go through our day, meeting our responsibilities, enjoying our blessings, shouldn’t we also be the ones shouting out the warning? THE END IS NEAR!

Very few people alive today will still around 100 years from now, a fraction of a millisecond in eternity. The end for all of us is near whether Jesus returns today or tarries another millennium.

Jesus clearly states that when we die we will face the Judge who will bring perfect justice to everyone. Our fate is sealed the moment we take our last breath, depending on our acceptance or rejection of Jesus in this life.

Christian, do you believe that? Then what are you doing in these last days to warn the people around you?

When the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?

I guess that depends on how many people hear and accept the warning from me and you.

The Light

Luke 11:35

Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness.

I can’t help but think of the “woke” lie about living your own truth. They think they’ve found the light. But they are living – and dying – in darkness.

Jesus is the light of the world according to what He Himself says in John 8:12.

The Apostle John knew the truth of that first-hand. In 1 John 1:7 he says:

But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

There is no other truth. There is no other light.

Trust The Process

Mark 8:22-26

I had to sit here and think about this passage this morning. On the surface it seems as though Jesus goofed a little trying to heal a blind man. Took Him two attempts to get it right.

Now, just in case you think for a minute that’s what is revealed in these verses, think again. God doesn’t “goof.” He doesn’t fail – EVER – and have to try again.

So why was the man partially healed before he was completely healed?

The first thing I notice is that the blind man didn’t beg Jesus to heal him. His friends did. So I believe Jesus needed to address the man’s own faith.

So we see the man allowing Jesus to lead him outside the city. Scripture doesn’t identify it as such, but I believe this demonstrates the man’s faith. He probably expected to be healed right there in the city like everyone else. Instead, he followed Jesus some distance without being healed, without turning back, not even knowing where Jesus was leading. That speaks faith to me.

Secondly, it doesn’t appear that Jesus spoke with the blind man at all before he spit on the blind eyes and touched the blind man. His first words seem to be the question, “Can you see anything now.” The man answers, “Yes. Kind of.”

Was he disappointed? Maybe he thought seeing a little was better than not seeing anything at all. But it certainly couldn’t have been what he’d expected from Jesus who had the reputation for healing all kinds of people. His answer seems to indicate acceptance. I think it reveals faith, because he didn’t walk away. He allowed Jesus to touch Him once again.

This time he was completely healed.

Makes me wonder how I’ve reacted to prayers not answered exactly as I expected. What do I do if God doesn’t answer as quickly as I had hoped? Do I accept the process? Or do I get frustrated at the necessary steps it takes to have my prayers answered according to the will of God?

Why does God often use chemo and radiation, a long and painful process, to heal cancer? Why do our wayward children sometimes take years and thousands of steps before they return to faith? Why don’t marriages heal, conflicts disappear, ministries bear fruit the moment we pray?

I think there are lots of reasons, lots of lessons to be learned, lots of people to be touched by the process as they see the faith of God’s children not waiver.

Oh, to be able to see God’s hand as clearly as the man we read about today. Oh, to trust the process because we trust the Lord!

Jesus Will Be There

Matthew 10:37-42

Some people think about, and make choices considering the “rewards” they will receive in heaven. Jesus Himself said that if you receive a prophet you’ll get a prophet’s reward, if you receive a righteous person you’ll get a reward like a righteous person, if you give water to the least of His followers, you will receive a reward. So if Jesus says we will receive a reward in heaven, I have to believe it.

What is a reward of a prophet, or a righteous person? What is a cup of water worth?

I’ve heard the interpretation of John’s revelation as describing the crowns believers will receive in heaven. The focus being on the crowns. God, through John clearly says that for those who endure, there will be a reward. People can get excited wondering what their crown will look like. Diamonds? Rubies? Gold?

But if you look at Revelation 2-3, and if you think about the reward promised to the people who endure, you’ll see a theme.

Rev 2:7 LIfe
2:11 Salvation
17 Manna
28 Morning Star
3:7 Belonging to Jesus
12 the Name
28 Victory

Do you see it? All of these crowns or rewards describe Jesus Himself, who HE is and what HE has done.

What is a prophet’s reward? JESUS! What is the reward of a righteous person? JESUS! What is a cup of water given to a thirsty soul worth? JESUS!

When people talk about mansions or crowns or streets of gold, I want to remind them that Jesus will be there.

In Matthew 10:37ff Jesus tells us if we love anyone more than we love Him we aren’t worthy of Him. If your whole life isn’t lived for Him, if anything is more important than Him, you aren’t worthy of Him.

I personally believe that if you look forward to seeing anyone in heaven other than Jesus, you don’t get it. JESUS WILL BE THERE!

Jesus Himself will be your award! Jesus won’t be one of many things to see, being with Him won’t be one of many things to do. Jesus will be everything! And it will be glorious!

The reward for a believer will be Jesus. Can you think of anything more important? Think again.

Even The Wind And Waves Obey Him

Mark 4, Matthew 8, Luke 8

I picture a dad trying to get a nap on the couch while his rambunctious toddlers are wrestling on the floor. Giggles turn into crying and shouting at each other. So the father sits up, and in his sternest Dad-voice barks, “SETTLE DOWN!”

I see the toddlers sit down in mid-strike, afraid to move, eyes wide open and mouths firmly shut. Dad is not kidding.

I kind of think that’s how the wind and waves reacted when Jesus sat up in the boat and barked, “SETTLE!” Scripture says He rebuked the wind and waves. He wasn’t kidding. And the wind and waves obeyed immediately, probably afraid to move.

I know that’s not necessarily the main lesson here. I’ve heard more than one great lesson on Jesus’ power and the disciples faith from these passages. Today, I see it as a lesson about obedience.

Maybe that’s because God has been working in my heart about my own obedience. I am reminded that God is serious when He says something.

Be holy.

Be separate.

Confess sin.

Go make disciples.

Love one another.

Worship me only.

I don’t read in Scripture about a little renegade wave that impishly slapped up against the boat Jesus was in, testing to see if He was serious. Yet sometime I think I do that.

“Just one more tiny sin, God. Look at me. I’m so special, how could you get mad at little old me?”

The answer is that our Holy God spoke. Period. Disobedience is not an option.

After all, He is God – and even the wind and waves obey Him.

Transplanted

Mark 4:1-20

My heart is heavy this morning thinking about the parable of the seeds. I’m especially sad about the seed that is choked out by the thorns. Jesus tells us they represent people who hear God’s Word, even grow spiritually to a point, but allow “the worries of this life, the love of wealth, and the desire of other things, so no fruit is produced.” (Mark 4:19) Matthew and Luke quote Jesus as saying the plant is choked out by the thorns.

I’m sad because I have loved ones who heard God’s Word from their youth. Yet the thorns have overtaken them. I’d like to believe the only thing they’ll lose is their fruit, their witness of the Gospel of Jesus. But I’m reminded Jesus also tells us branches that don’t bear fruit are cut off and throw into the fire. (John 15) Jesus goes on to tell us no branch bears fruit on its own. It must be attached to the vine, which is Jesus.

We are all living in a weed-infested world. May our spiritual roots grow deep in the Word of God and the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s choke out the thorns instead of letting them get to us.

How?

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. (John 15:4a)

Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Put on the whole armor of God , that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate,” says the Lord. (2 Corinthians 6:17a)

These are only a few of the many places in Scripture that assure us that we can and should stand against the things of this world, by the power of God in us. We can. And we should.

A daisy has no choice as to where it’s planted. It has no ability to remove itself from ground overgrown in weeds.

But we’re not daisies.

We can choose where we’re planted. And we have the Savior who can transplant us into fertile, healthy, ground where we can grow in grace and knowledge of Him, and bear fruit that will bring Him glory.

It’s not too late. You may be choking on the things of this world. But say the word, and your Savior will lift you up and graft you into Himself, the Vine that brings life.

Where are you planted? Do you need a transplant today?

The Worship of Your Heart

Luke 7:36-50

That woman who anointed Jesus’ feet. I want to be her.

I want to love Jesus with abandon, worship Him without thought of anything or anyone else. I want to give Him all I have, cling to Him with tears enough to wash His feet.

Do you think for a minute she worried about what other people at dinner thought of her, how she must have looked to them, bent over with her face on the ground, crying the ugly cry? I don’t think she even knew anyone else was there. Her only thought was loving Jesus. He was all that mattered. I want to worship Him like that, too.

Here’s the thing: there has been a line drawn between contemporary and traditional worship styles. What we “do” during worship places us firmly on one side or the other.

On one hand, we’re told if you raise your hands you’ve crossed over into the contemporary camp. On the other hand, if you don’t raise your hands, you’re not really worshiping. On one hand, we’re told if we look to heaven with smiles on our faces we’re putting on a show. On the other hand we’re told that serious faces can’t worship, that we ought to look to heaven with smiles on faces when we worship.

Now what? What does Scripture tell us about worship that pleases God?

Very often, especially in the psalms, we are told to worship God joyfully, with singing and dancing. However, very often Scripture condemns those exact demonstrations of worship.

So which is it? Do I raise my hands or bow my head? Do I put a smile on my face or shed tears instead?

The answer, I believe according to Scripture, is “yes!”

What I see in the woman we read about today is someone who took herself out of her worship entirely. Her worship of Jesus came from a humble, selfless, repentant heart. Her worship wasn’t about her. It was about Jesus only.

I will confess there have been times during a hymn or song of praise, my instinct was to raise my hands in worship. But I have stopped myself because I didn’t want people to think I crossed the contemporary line. And there have been times when I was told to smile or clap, but my heart was broken in worship, and smiling and clapping would not have been an honest expression of my heart.

When I read about this woman I realize I’ve put too much thought into what anyone says my worship should look like. Maybe we all ought to stop trying to orchestrate worship to fit our picture of worship, and let God lead instead.

Maybe we all ought to consider our heart’s condition before the Holy God we worship. Raise your hands if that expresses the worship of your heart. Bow your head if that expresses the worship of your heart. Fall at the feet of Jesus and let your tears wash His feet if that expresses the worship of your heart.

Let our worship of God come from hearts that belong to Him, cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and from humble, grateful hearts that can’t help but worship Him. Worship Him with abandon, without thought of whoever is sitting next to you.

And, worship leaders, may I suggest your own worship of God ought to cause you to focus on Him instead of what the people you are leading in worship are doing. Let God move in hearts without your prompting. Jesus didn’t tell the woman how to wash His feet, or where to pour the oil. He accepted the expression of her worship as she presented it to Him from her heart.

Anyway, as I consider my own expression of worship, I pray you will do the same. May all of us worship our Lord as He deserves, from hearts cleansed by the Savior, and focused on Him without thought of anything or anyone else but Him. Worship isn’t what we do or don’t do. It’s whether or not our hearts are in tune with our Holy God.

The Hope Of All The World

Matthew 12:15-21

Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah to the men who were plotting to kill Him. They were angry because He had healed a man on the Sabbath.

He healed a man.

But it was the Sabbath, a day they had put so many restrictions on, believing they were following God’s Law and then some. And the law was much more important than the healed man. Their idea of the law blinded them from really seeing the miracle.

It’s ironic that they were so concerned about following God’s Law when they were looking at the Author. Jesus wanted them to know that. He wanted them to know He was their long-awaited Messiah.

“I am the beloved Son of God. His Spirit is in me. I haven’t come shouting or fighting or crushing the weak. I bring justice to the nations.”

The fact is, they wanted Him dead because He healed a man on the Sabbath. They didn’t just want Him punished, excommunicated, or simply stopped from continuing His ministry. They wanted Him dead. And Jesus wanted them to recognize who it was they wanted to kill.

I say all of that to point you to verse 21.

And his name will be the hope of all the world.

Our world seems so intent on looking everywhere except to Jesus for hope. Yet here He is!

Some reject Him because He doesn’t fit into their idea of what they think He should look like. Some reject Him because they don’t like His message. Many look to the government, or religion, autonomy, even good deeds to find their hope.

If our civilization has any hope it won’t be because we tolerate differences or are accepting of every thought or belief out there. It won’t be because everyone’s bank accounts have exactly the same balance as everyone else’s. It won’t be because we have a preconceived notion of how things ought to be, like the Pharisees had in Jesus’ day.

Isaiah knew, and Jesus reinforced the truth that Jesus is our only hope.

Jesus is the hope of all the world.