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Showing posts from April, 2013

Good Thing Math Isn't My Strong Point

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One of the questions asked most frequently involves how to know when enough is enough. How many times do I have to forgive someone who repeatedly offends me?

Peter wondered the same thing and, as was his personal style, he asked the question that the others were probably too timid to ask. “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). If you’ve been studying the Bible for any length of time, you already know how Jesus responded to that question.

Peter thought he was being generous. In the Jewish culture, forgiving a person three times for the same offense was as far as anyone was required to go, Peter reasoned, and he was correct, that followers of Jesus ought to be more generous than that so he upped the number to seven.

Not enough.

Jesus’ response: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (18:22).

I don’t know about you, but after seven (okay, three or four) times, I get a little weary.

However, to put t…

Looking after the Lambs

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Whether you believe that Matthew 18:1-14 refers to children or to new believers, or to both, the principle remains the same—we more “mature” believers had better not be the ones that lead them astray!

“Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! (Matthew 18:7).

The discussion centered around a question about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (18:7). Jesus took a child and taught His disciples a lesson in dependence.  Then He warned them, and everyone else, to take great care to NOT lead these young ones astray—or else (18:6). So serious was this to Jesus that He went so far as to exaggerate the situation by saying it would be advisable to cut off whatever the offending appendage was rather than continue to be the cause of stumbling (18:8, 9). If you take them by the hand and lead them somewhere they shouldn't go, cut off that hand. If they follow your feet someplace they s…

Behold, the Tax Man Cometh

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I’m declaring myself a sovereign state. In doing so I don’t have to give account to anything or anyone. The laws don’t apply to me. I don’t recognize any civil authority.

Sound familiar? All over North America there are groups of people who have done what I have just declared. It’s an action as ridiculous for them as it is for me. When we live in a country, or even visit a country, we are subject to the laws and authorities of that country. Even those with “diplomatic immunity” can be thrown out if the country where they are stationed decides that they are personas non grata.

In Matthew 17:24-27, an interesting conversation is recorded between Peter and Jesus. It was a tax question. The tax men asked Peter if Jesus paid the temple tax. Peter took the question to Jesus and the Lord answered it by first asking another question. The bottom line was: Do those who are under the kingship of someone other than the king of the land in which they are living, have to pay taxes?

Were not the foll…

Motivation

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A friend messaged me this morning to say that she wasn’t sure if she would make it to our lunch hour prayer meeting today. Her back has been killing her, making it difficult to sit or do much else for the last three weeks. I messaged her back to assure her of my prayers. In the back of my mind I remembered what I had read this morning from Matthew 17 and wished I had better faith.

The story surrounds an encounter between Jesus and a father with a demon-possessed child. The disciples couldn’t heal the boy and finally the father appealed to the Lord. Of course, Jesus healed the child. When the disciples asked why they hadn’t had any success (something that they had been able to do on other occasions (Matthew 10), Jesus answered: “Because you have so little faith” (Matthew 17:20). Even faith the size of a mustard seed would have move a mountain, let alone dealt with a demon.

I kept thinking about the size of my faith. I’ve never moved a mountain and I don’t “do” demons. I’d like to be abl…

Jesus Only

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It’s a familiar story. Matthew 17:1-13 describes a journey Jesus took with His inner circle to a high mountain. Peter, James, John—and Jesus. There on the mountain, these three men were privileged to see what no one had ever seen before and what no one would ever see again—Jesus, Moses and Elijah in intimate conversation.

Oh to be a fly on the wall for that one!

But it wasn’t only the company that stunned the three disciples. Jesus reflected some of the heavenly glory that one day John would see again and that one day we will all see. The text says that, “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes as white as the light” (17:2, cf. Revelation 1:12-16).

Still, the event was not complete. From the heights of heaven came the voice of the Father: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (17:5).

Now, completely overwhelmed, the disciples fell on their faces. They were terrified. Terrified! As anyone in their right mind should be when coming into a close encou…

Hey Mister, Have You Got Any Bread?

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I have the bread. It’s in my possession though it isn’t really mine. God provided it, but unless He blesses it, it will not multiply nor will it satisfy anyone.

Those are the thoughts that go through my mind as I read Matthew 15:29-39. It’s a similar story to the one we find in Matthew 14:13-21. This latter event startled me too. In Matthew 14 the disciples come to Jesus after a long day of teaching and tell Him to send the crowds away so that they can get some food. Jesus tells them: “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat” (14:16). In Matthew 15 there was a little more faith present. The disciples didn’t ask to send the crowds away, they asked: “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd” (15:33). In both cases there was bread and fish. In the first case they didn’t believe those would be enough. The second case reminds me of someone standing beside a well-to-do man and asking: “I wonder where I can get a dollar for a cup of coffee…

Persistent Faith

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Exclusivity.

While the Lord walked this earth He limited Himself in many ways. He did not, as Dan Spader says, “use the God-card” and demonstrate all the power that He could have. There were people He didn’t heal, needs He didn’t meet, judgment that He didn’t execute. His message was exclusively for the people of Israel—well, almost.

While Jesus’ particular focus was Israel, He paved the way for the Gentiles to be included in the household of faith. The story recorded for us in Matthew 15:21-28 illustrates this. Jesus often traveled through “foreign” country—through Samaria, for example. In Matthew 15 He takes His disciples to Tyre and Sidon. Obviously they will meet people who are not Israelites. And it is in these encounters that Jesus has a lesson to teach to His followers.

They are confronted by a Canaanite woman. If you remember your Old Testament history, the Promised Land was wrested from the hands of the Canaanites who were idol-worshippers. But this particular woman had some…

From Lip to Heart

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“Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” never seemed to apply to the religious leaders of the Lord’s day. When they pushed Him, He pushed back. In Matthew 15, some Pharisees and teachers of the law criticized Jesus for allowing his disciples to eat without washing their hands. It wasn’t that the Public Health Department would be after their hides if they didn’t (unless they were serving the food they were handling to other people). The religious leaders had a rule, a tradition, that hands should be washed. Good precaution but hardly a hanging offense!

Jesus pushed back, reminding them that they regularly broke their own rules and taught others where to find the loopholes so that they could break those same rules when it was convenient. Then came these fateful words:

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules’” (15:7-9).

Matthew 7:16 reminds…