Showing posts from June, 2011

Foundations and Good and Evil Men

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” —Luke 6:45, NIV.

What’s that old saying? Who can fool all of the people all of the time, or some of the people all of the time, or none of the people all of the time?

Luke reminds us that sooner or later the true character of a man will show itself. Oddly enough the verses that precede this announcement tell us that we shouldn’t judge. We are also reminded that we are certainly not to try to correct anyone else’s faults until we have taken care of our own.

Perhaps the lesson is this: Don’t judge, wait a while. Evil will show itself eventually without you saying one single word.

In the earlier verses the person who has the “speck of sawdust” (vs. 41) is referred to as a “brother,” a believer. In our verses for today there is a clear distinction between the “good” man and the “evil” on…

I Can Do That

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” —Luke 4:18-19, NIV

Nope, can’t do it. Must be strictly a job description for Jesus. They won’t let me preach ‘cause I’m a woman. The last time I tried to break someone out of jail—oh wait, that was someone trying to break me out of jail and it didn’t go well (another story for another time!) and I don’t have the gift of healing. I’M the working stiff so it’s ME someone has to release from oppression! Personally I’m not part of the inner circle and therefore unaware of the date that marks the Lord’s return so I can’t tell anyone about when He might favor us with His physical presence again (though that, from my perspective, is the best favour He could do me).

So we’ll just read these verses and pass on by.

We won’t?

It’s spiritually poor…

More Mountain Moving

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” –Mark 11:24, NIV.

This verse is Mark’s version of the verses I commented on in yesterday’s post, you know, the one about throwing mountains into the sea? (Matthew 21:18-22).

In Mark’s gospel the verse quote above is followed by another verse that seems totally unrelated to the subject of faith and moving mountains. Verse 25 says: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Yesterday, I suggested that we don’t do much external mountain moving perhaps because we haven’t allowed the Holy Spirit to remove those internal mountains that keep us from being in as perfect a relationship with God as is possible on this side of heaven.

Today, while doing some research for an upcoming series of studies on The Lord’s Prayer, R. T. Kendall commented on the passage from Mark that may give us anoth…

Mountain Moving Faith

Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, Go throw yourself into the sea, and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” –Matthew 21:21, NIV.

I looked at these verses with slightly different eyes this morning. I suppose that’s because a passage from Mark Buchanan’s book Hidden in Plain Sight, is still stuck in my head. He was writing about Samson and remarked that Samson used the power of the Spirit of God to defeat the Philistines who had invaded God’s Promised Land, but he ignored that same Spirit when it came to defeating the “Philistines” in his heart. His pride and lust killed him long before the Philistines captured him and put him in chains.

When we look at the verses from Matthew we often think of physical “mountains” that we’d like to have faith enough to remove. But if you are like me it is not often we think abo…

The First Hurdle

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” —Matthew 28:19, 20, NIV.

Recently I took a group of people through a class meant to prepare them for baptism. After explaining to the group all the standard information about baptism, I introduced them to a second presentation. This one, I warned them, was all about the reasons they shouldn’t be baptized.

Perhaps that presentation might have something to do with why only half of the group moved on to the next step in the process leading up to actually being baptized.

Part of me feels badly about that—but not that bad! After all, I didn’t keep anyone out of the Kingdom since being baptized doesn’t affect anyone’s salvation. What I hope I did do was to remind those in the class that baptism  is not only a public confession of the faith that…

Getting Ready for Eternity

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” –Matthew 24:35, NIV.

We worry a lot about the temporary.

During those last days of Christ’s earthly ministry He warned His listeners about what was to come. The first section of Matthew 24 outlines some of the disasters, natural and otherwise, that would be the lot of believers. Actually none of those things was new information. Wars between nations, famine, earthquakes, persecution, deception and unfaithfulness to God had been part of the human experience since the fall of man back at the very beginning of time.

However, the Lord did add some new information. The destruction of Jerusalem, and the temple that was so dear to the Jewish nation, was not far away. Jesus also reminded His followers that He would return at some point in the future, but until He did, and they would know Him when they saw Him, they were not to be deceived by the fakes that would come along or by the false prophets who would send them scurry…

The Opposite of "What Not To Wear"

For many are invited, but few are chosen” –Matthew 22:14, NIV.

This much-quoted phrase used to cause me some consternation. However, a careful examination of the context quickly put that concern to rest. You see, this phrase has often been used to defend a particular interpretation that some people use in trying to convince their listeners that God arbitrarily decides who gets saved and who doesn't.

Look at the context. Jesus is telling a kingdom story (Matthew 22:1-14). A certain king is celebrating his son’s wedding but the guests he has invited (representing Israel) all have excuses for not attending. In fact, the invited guests went so far as to abuse the king’s messengers. That was a grave insult–when the king issued an invitation, it was definitely not “politically correct” to refuse it. There were nasty consequences (22:7).

Then the king sent his servants out to invite “anyone you find” on the streets (representing the Gentiles and anyone else). The passage says that the …

The Ground at the Cross is Level

So the last will be first, and the first will be last” —Matthew 20:16, NIV.

It’s amazing how much of our thinking revolves around getting the advantage over someone else. We strive for achievement, promotion, recognition and appreciation—all those things that give us “a leg up” as the saying goes. So it’s not surprising that many people reading this verse immediately apply it in the same way. We use it to warn those who are getting cocky, or who think they are one step ahead of everyone else, that things may not turn out as well as they think. Of course, we don’t apply that same rule to ourselves when we’re the ones who seem to have an advantage over others!

We use the verse to console others, and ourselves, when we seem to be at a disadvantage. Someday, we say, we’ll be “top dogs” — the Bible says so!

It turns out that we are all wrong about what Jesus was saying in this phrase.

The saying comes at the conclusion of a parable that Jesus was sharing with His followers and is actuall…

The Cancer We Can't Ignore

I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” —Matthew 18:18-20, NIV.

This is one of the most abused verses in Scripture. It is also one of those verses that we neglect to use to its best advantage. We work hard at applying it to things like granny’s ingrown toenail, but hardly ever claim it for the restoration of those trapped by sin—which is its original intent.

The context is Matthew 18:15-20 and has to do with discipline. Here’s the whole package:

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimon…

Be All And End All

I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” –Matthew 18:3, NIV.

If you ask the average person what it means to “become like little children” you will often be told that a person needs to be “innocent” in order to gain heaven. Theologically that is true–though it isn’t our innocence that gains us heaven but the innocence that is declared to be ours when we ask Christ to forgive us and to cleanse us from our sins.

But the verse tells us that there is something we have to “make” ourselves in order to be ready for the declaration of innocence that only God can make on our behalf.

The question the disciples asked was, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (18:1, NIV). Jesus didn’t answer that question that way the disciples anticipated. There is no class system in heaven, no hierarchy of believers. The Lord turned the discussion to how a person gets into heaven in the first place, and pride (which probably…

When You Want Something Badly

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it’” –Matthew 16:24, 25, NIV.

The Lord Jesus has just finished calling Peter a “stumbling block.” That was the politer of the phrases Christ used to describe His passionate but mistaken disciple. The Lord was getting into a habit of announcing His coming death and Peter couldn’t stand the negative talk any longer and took it upon himself to “correct” the Lord of the universe.

After the stinging rebuke, Jesus turns to all His disciples with this word. Basically if they are serious about following Him, their path must take them all the way to the cross. They will need to sacrifice everything for Him just as He is sacrificing everything for them.

This is not: “I just want you to be willing to do it. I really won’t ask you to carry out your promise.”

This is for sure.

To …

When Words Can Kill

But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” –Matthew 12:36, NIV.

I’ve been reading The White Rose by Inge Scholl which recounts the story of Sophie and Hans Scholl who were decapitated by the Nazis in 1943 for resisting the direction in which their country was going under the leadership of Adolf Hitler.

At the time they were students and their protest consisted mainly in the publishing and distribution of leaflets decrying the actions of the Fascists. The group was never big–a half dozen or so–but obviously their written words were a thorn in the flesh to the regime.

As I read the verse for this morning and the context surrounding it I thought of the consequences that the words of these students had during that terrible time. Their words were not careless by any means. Sophie and Hans were deeply religious. They knew that what their country was seeing and experiencing was wrong and were driven to find a way to…