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Showing posts from February, 2013

God's HR Department

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It’s a familiar cry. Few organizations have a excess of volunteers to accomplish all that needs to be done. The church is no exception. There is always more work than there are people to do that work. There are always plans that remain on the drawing board because there are no human resources to take that plan and make it happen.

The story was the same in Jesus’ day. As He looked at the people around Him, He recognized the problem. He described them as “sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). The first question we might ask is why He didn’t do something about that. He was God. He was the Great Shepherd. He could fix it. But He didn’t. Instead He gave this instruction to His followers:

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (9:37b, 38).

It’s an odd request. He could have fixed the problem, but didn’t. Then He asked His disciples to pray to “the Lord of the harvest” about the situation. Wh…

Playing Favourites

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As I read through Matthew 9 again this morning I was struck by the diversity of people with whom Jesus dealt. Earlier, in Matthew 8, we see him dealing with two demon-possessed men (8:28-34). Now we see Him with a paralytic and the teachers of the law (9:1-8). Then He moves on to the Pharisees, a tax collector and other assorted “sinners” (9:9-13).

Later, in verses 18-26, he encounters a sick woman, a leader in the synagogue and a dead child. Then we have two blind men and another demon-possessed man (9:27-34). Of course, we have to count the disciples—a motley crew if ever there was one! Social class, gender, health, occupation, age—none of these made any difference to Jesus. He dealt with them all according to their needs and threw the “political correctness” of the era to the wind.

No one messed with demons, or went against the religious leaders, or ate with tax collectors, or bothered with women, or touched the dead—except Jesus.

James wraps it up in his book by saying: “My brot…

Beyond Our Expectations

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It’s the oddest encounter. Some men bring a paralyzed friend to Jesus (Matthew 9:1-8). We assume that they have brought him because they want Jesus to make him walk again. I say “assume” because, even though it turns out the Jesus does heal the paralytic, something else happens in between that might indicate that something other than physical healing was on their minds.

Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven’” (vs. 2).

From what we have recorded for us in Scripture, when the sick came to Jesus He simply healed them. But this case is different. It wasn’t until accused of blasphemy by the teachers of the law who were watching Him that Jesus physically healed the man on the mat. It seems that He did so to prove a point—that the One who could physically heal also had the authority to spiritually heal. The man on the mat is almost incidental!

But what about the man on the mat? Had he c…

Jesus: Bad For Business

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Henry Blackaby tells this story in his book, Fresh Encounter, as he describes the Welsh Revival.

God’s activity among His people extorted a profound impact on the community at large. Taverns were closed for lack of business. The crime rate dropped so dramatically that the police had to find new uses for their time. People repaid delinquent debts and made restitution for thefts and other transgressions. There was even a work slowdown in the coal mines as the pit ponies reportedly could no longer understand the reformed language of the converted coal miners! Soon the world took notice of what God was doing in Wales. Before long, similar revival movements occurred worldwide. It all started when God drew 17 of His people back to Him. Once they returned to God in complete surrender, their community, then their nation, and ultimately the world felt the impact.” (pg. 15).

When God moves, it could be bad for business. When Jesus and His disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee and came to the re…

The Whole Truth and Nothing But

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In our anxiety to get people to become believers we sometimes “fudge” a little on the facts of discipleship. We certainly don’t want to scare anyone away, right?

But our Lord never made it easy. Yes, he demonstrated and taught forgiveness, love, and acceptance, but He always talked about cost. Salvation is free; discipleship costs everything.

In Matthew 8:18-22 we witness a confrontation with a couple of men who had been present during the Lord’s sermon on the mount. The first was a teacher of the law (8:19). He knew all the rules and probably did a fairly decent job of keeping them. But Jesus chose to challenge him on the issue of his lifestyle. The teacher said that he was willing to follow Jesus wherever Jesus went. Perhaps he assumed that would be from one Holiday Inn to another Holiday Inn. Jesus burst that bubble by saying: “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (8:20).

We aren’t told if the man took up the challenge of leaving a…

It's Up to You

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The sermon is over. Jesus and his followers come down from the mountain only to be greeted by a leper. The Scriptures say that the man had the nerve to come right up to Jesus and kneel in front of him (Matthew 5:2). That would have parted the crowds like nothing else could! No one wanted to be around a leper and by law that man was not to approach healthy people without giving fair warning by crying out “unclean, unclean.”

What this poor soul then said to Jesus sticks in my mind: “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” (8:2b).

No demands, no expectations, only an expression of faith and a submission to the will of the Great Healer.

Lord” — I acknowledge you as Master.

if you are willing” — I don’t know your will, but I bow to it whatever it is. It’s up to you.

you can make me clean” — I know you have the power to do this.

I always get the feeling that when I pray “your will be done,” I am simply expressing a lack of faith, that I don’t really believe He will, or…

Avoiding Sandy Shifts

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I wonder what the difference sounded like?

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as the teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28, 29).

The sermon delivered on the mountainside had ended and the audience was left with their mouths open, their minds awhirl, and their hearts aflutter. This man, this Jesus, sounded inspired and the people knew the difference between Him and all the others who claimed to speak in the name of God—not too hard since Jesus was God in the flesh!

The sermon had ended with a challenge and a warning. Jesus told the parable of the two men who had built houses; one whose foundation was laid on sand and another whose foundation was laid on the rock. When life got difficult the house built on sand collapsed while the other remained upright. Jesus summed up the parable and His teaching by warning the people listening to take heed to His words.

But everyone who hears these words…

Look Out for the Sheep That Growls

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It’s not a pleasant picture. As hard as we work to introduce people to the forgiveness and new life they can have in Jesus Christ the majority will not believe. As convincing as the Spirit of God is as He works to show men the depth of their sin and the sufficiency of the Saviour most will refuse to listen. We are to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) of the nations, but the nations will not necessarily respond positively.

Pessimistic? No, realistic.

Matthew 7:13, 14 tells us what Jesus said about the matter. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Does this stop us from sharing the Gospel at every opportunity or praying for family, friends, neighbours, and the lost wherever they may be found? No, it shouldn’t. We don’t know who those few are who will eventually find the narrow road and the small gate. And b…

Judging Right

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Most of us have been told many times not to be judgmental. Often that warning comes with this quote from Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” So we don’t say anything to anyone about anything.

But in the context of this verse we get a different message. From verse 3 on, we read that Jesus said that we are to help our brothers and sisters to see what doesn’t glorify God in their lives, (which requires judgement) but only after we have examined our own lives. When we do that we might discover that our faults are bigger than the ones we are pointing out in them.

Why do you look at at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your bother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, FIRST take the plank out of your own eye, and THEN you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (7:3-5, emphasis mine).

Jesus didn’t say …

Priorities and Promises

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Material possessions and worry go together like cheese and crackers. The second half of Matthew 6 deals with both.

From verses 19 to 24, the Lord warns His listeners not to focus on gaining stuff that can be stolen, or destroyed. Rather, we are to work to gain what is eternal. “...store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do no break in and steal” (vs. 20).

Why is that important? Verse 21 nails that down: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our hearts and minds need to be directed toward those things that matter most to God. To focus elsewhere is to be blind, to be “in the dark” (vss 22, 23). We are then told that a choice has to be made. We have to decide to direct our attention to the things that matter to God or to concentrate on the stuff that will eventually be destroyed. We can’t do both (vs. 24). God isn’t just one of many priorities in our lives—He is THE priority.

But it isn’t that God doesn’t c…

Secrets

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All of us keep secrets. There are some things that are no one else’s business but ours—and God’s.

In the middle of the Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, recorded for us in Matthew 5 through 7, the Lord mentions three things that are to be kept secret.

We are to keep our charitable acts a secret (Matthew 6:1-4). Matthew writes: “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men to be seen by them” (vs. 1). To make a big deal about how generous we are with the expectation that others will honour us for that generosity ends up becoming our only reward. People may praise us, but God won’t.

We are to keep our personal prayers to ourselves (Matthew 6:5-8). There are many Scriptures that tell us how important corporate prayer is so this passage isn’t saying that we shouldn’t come together as a group of believers to pray together, The message is that we shouldn’t pray to be admired by men. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the syna…