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Showing posts from March, 2013

The Revolving Door

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One of the ongoing concerns that people have about the church is its revolving door, or back door. People come, some stay, others disappear, some look good, others look bad—spiritually, that is. There are complaints about hypocrites, and devastation when a spiritual giant within the congregation turns out to have clay feet.

I remember a young man in my youth group—its leader as a matter of fact—who stood up one night in prayer meeting and confessed that he wasn’t a Christian. His profession, his baptism, his leadership was all fake, done to please his parents and others in the church. Looking back I might have picked up a clue on that when, as President of our Christian High School group, he refused to speak at an assembly and left me to do it. The non-Christian kids probably saw through him better than we did!

But Jesus warned His followers that in the Kingdom of God there will be real “fish” and plastic “fish” and we might not detect the difference. Sorting those out will be left unt…

All?

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How precious is it?

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” —Matthew 13:44-46

Did you promise God everything when you first came to faith? Do you sing “all I am, all I have is yours”? Now, after the fact, and after the stirring worship of a Sunday morning, is He really a treasure in whom you have invested everything?

Ambition.

Leisure.

Time,

Money,

Sports.

Friends.

Family.

Hobbies.

Business.

In these parables from Matthew's Gospel, nothing was held back. Jesus warned His audience to “count the cost” BEFORE they built (Luke 14:28). Jesus challenged the ruler who came looking for a cheap entrance into the kingdom with the very thing that stood between him and the door—and the man walked away (Mark 10:22).

We like…

Feed My Sheep

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It’s always fascinated why there are a number of times in the Gospels when Jesus tells people NOT to speak about Him. I can understand Him rebuking the demons and telling them to keep their “insider” information to themselves—after all, that message would be bound to be twisted into some aberration of the truth and is a perfect example of the importance to “consider the source.”

But there were times when Jesus healed people and then told them not to say anything (Matthew 9:30) about what had happened to them. You'd think He's wanted those He healed and helped to shout it from the rooftops. Here in Matthew 13 the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke in parables (13:10). It appears that they thought He was making things more difficult for His hearers by telling stories that then had to be interpreted. These were plain-spoken men.

But the Lord’s answer was even more mystifying. We are urged to be “seeker-friendly,” to make things as easy as possible for those who have not yet had a …

Stopping the Downward Drift

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Someone commented to me the other day about how pleased she was that I was thinking progressively instead of how my generation is perceived to think. I probably shouldn’t have said what I did, but I commented that my contributions were not progressive thinking but simply reflected something that we had done years ago (before this person was around) and that we were simply doing what we always do; repeating a cycle. Methodology works that way. For all the shifts in the “bells and whistles” we will eventually come back to basics.

Solomon once commented that there was nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and he was right.

The demands of discipleship have not changed since Jesus' time either. Though two thousand years have passed and we have chosen to ignore much of the instruction given to us, what God asks of us remains the same. Like the cycle that Israel went through, we get on fire for God, then our ardor wanes, then we move into disobedience. God sends His warnings. When …

A Clip on the Lip

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Lord, put a clip on my lip!

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had no idea how much grief they were heaping upon themselves when they criticized the Lord. In Matthew 12 we find one of the many examples of the head-on collisions that often took place between Jesus and those who haunted his steps looking for a excuse to marginalize Him.

Jesus did miracles and they accused Him of doing those miracles through the power of Satan (12:24). This particular conversation led the Lord to remark: “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit” (12:33).

The evilness of the remarks made by the Pharisees was proof of how bad the “tree” was. Out of their mouths came what was in their hearts and Jesus warned them that all those words would condemn them one day (12:37).

The New International Version calls such words, “empty.” The King James Version uses the word, “idle.” One of the meanings given for this word in the orig…

How Do You Spell "Relief?"

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Ahhhhh, what blessed relief!

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

We love to lean on these verses when we need a break. But did you notice the context? Did you take a peek at the cross references given for these verses?

What we have here is a call to repentance. Just before Jesus said these words he warned the people of the towns where He had done the majority of his miracles (11:20) that, because they hadn’t repented as a result of being the beneficiaries of those miracles, they were in danger of judgment (11:21-24). The point of the miracles was not just to be helpful but to call people back into relationship with their God. The “blessed relief” of verses 28-30 is the relief that comes from being forgiven.

One of the cross references to Matthew 11:28-30 takes us over th…

Cosmetics and the "Kids"

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Do we detect a little bit of “something” in the Lord’s voice as He looks at a multitude who refused to be satisfied? The Lord likens them to children: “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn’” (Matthew 11:16, 17).

Do it our way, they say. The problem was (one that Jesus recognized easily) that these “children” would not be satisfied, would not respond to the message of reconciliation, no matter what the “packaging” looked like. Cosmetics wouldn’t cut it. Band-aids wouldn’t cover the wound.

Jesus’ statement came on the heels of answering a question sent to Him by John the Baptist, who was then in prison. John was a rare character. He had appeared out of the desert. He wore strange clothes, ate weird food, and was in attack mode from the get-go. He was not “politically correct.” But he was doing what God had ordained him …

When There Are No Words

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It’s not exactly good recruiting policy to tell your prospective employees that deprivation and death are likely to be their on-the-job experience. But that was the gist of Jesus' message to His followers in Matthew 10. They were going to be “sheep among wolves” (10:16) as they went out with the message of the Gospel. Serving Him would be dangerous.

If I were delivering such a discouraging message I would be tempted to temper it with assurances that I would be looking after their worries about provision and protection. But Jesus doesn’t really do that. Instead He tells them not to worry about what they should SAY when they are arrested and brought before their accusers.

Okay, then we should rehearse our explanation, “get our stories straight” as they say in the crime dramas. But no, that wasn’t what Jesus told His followers to do. They were to exercise faith.

But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for…

Not For Sale

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It’s not something we pay much attention to but in Matthew 10 we find an interesting fact about the ministry that Jesus assigned to His first team of disciples. According to verse one of the chapter, Jesus gave His followers the ability to cast out demons and to heal the sick.

They immediately went out and opened bank accounts, signed contracts for television shows, planned huge crusades with twenty dollar entrance fees, hired PR people to advertise their miraculous powers and shopped for gold-plated offering plates.

Not.

The disciples were instructed to “..,proclaim the message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” and then, “Freely you have received; freely give” (10:7-8).

They were to expect that people would look after their food and lodging along the way, but they were not to even carry an extra set of clothing let alone an Armani suit and Italian leather shoes and be driven around in a luxury automo…