Showing posts from June, 2013

Calling Up the Reserves

We don’t tend to hold much in reserve. If we have it we spend it, use it, give it away, or protect it so that it isn’t useful to anyone! If forced, we might consider sacrificing a little of what we have held back to ease the stress of the moment.

I would think that facing everything He knew about the cross would have tempted Jesus to let loose the heavenly reserves.

“‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him [Peter], ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you not think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?’” (Matthew 26:52, 53)

The crowd had gathered to arrest Jesus. One of the disciples (identified in John 18:10 as Peter) was wearing a sword. He drew it and cut off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest. Gut instinct. That Peter was carrying a sword in the first place was odd. A fisherman carrying a sword? The disciple of an itinerant teacher, a man dedicated to peace, carrying a sw…

It's In His Eyes

If ever there was a low point in Jesus’ life, it came that last night before His death. As if knowing what was about to happen wasn’t enough, the frailties of those closest to him added weight to an already overwhelming burden.

As He sits at the table to celebrate that last Passover supper, the gloom of the evening is made even gloomier by the atmosphere in the room. The disciples have heard their Master say that one of them will betray Him to the authorities. The very fact that they all would ask “Surely not I, Lord?” demonstrated their own insecurity about the strength of their commitment to Him.

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’ Jesus answered, ‘Yes, it is you.’” (Matthew 26:25).

What do you do with that? He knows that he knows that He knows.... What was in His eyes as Jesus gazed into the face of the man who now with a certainty must have felt naked before his Master? This is your chance, Judas, to confess what you’ve done, to beg forgiveness, …

The Correct Response

It was an expensive gesture.

Just two days before His death, Jesus reclined in the house of Simon the Leper. We can assume that Simon wasn’t a leper any longer, but he isn’t the focus of the story. As Jesus sat at dinner with His disciples, a woman came into the room. She might not have been noticed if she had been a servant in the house, intent on putting down some delicacy before the guests or filling up their cups.

When she broke open the flask she was carrying and poured its contents on the Lord’s head, we can almost imagine the collective gasp that filled the room along with the scent of perfume.

I was traveling from Lahore to Shikarpur, Pakistan. As we landed, the man sitting beside me opened his briefcase, took out a bottle of cologne and doused me with it. Honestly, I had showered and to this day I have no idea why he did it!

In this story from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus made the reason behind the woman’s actions abundantly clear. “She has done a beautiful thing to me...When she p…

Act Naturally

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about living our lives out for God’s benefit rather than for our own. In the next parable we read in Matthew 25 we find an example of what Jesus meant,

The parable begins with another reminder that someday an account will have to be given for what we have done while here on the planet. As we will see, the issue is not only WHAT we have done but WHO we have done it for.

The scene is the Throne Room of God and the occasion is the Judgement. God separates mankind into two categories: sheep and goats. And though we know that salvation is through faith alone, this particular judgment is carried out according to what the two sectors did while on earth.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you …

Investing Wisely

God left us “in charge.”

He provided for each of us the skills and abilities necessary for us to accomplish what He had designed us to be and do. And, to some extent at least, He gave us the freedom to make choices as to how we would use what He had given us.

Someday, He’ll ask for an accounting.

This was the message behind the parable that Jesus told in Matthew 25:14-30. There was a not-so-subtle warning in the story. The parable was built around the story of an owner who left his servants in charge of his property. Each servant was given money. The expectation was that each person would use the money in some way that would result in a profit for the owner when he returned from his journey. Two of the three men did well with their investments. The third didn’t even make an attempt to carry out his master’s wishes.

The first two men were rewarded with a commendation from their master, a promotion, and what sounds like an invitation to a celebratory event: “Well done, g…

Halfway is No Way

It was a case of “halfway.”

Matthew 25 continues Jesus’ message from Olivet and His warnings about being prepared for His coming. At the beginning of Matthew 25 He tells the story of ten virgins waiting for the bridal party to arrive. “The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps” (25:3, 4). It was night and they were sleepy. All of them had lamps but not all of them were prepared for a long wait. Five of the virgins made sure that their lamps had plenty of oil so that when the bridal party arrived they would be ready. The other five were too tired, lazy, or negligent to take care of this detail. When it was announced that the bridegroom was on his way to the banquet, the negligent ones wanted to borrow from those who had been prepared, but that wasn’t possible. The five foolish ones rushed out to buy more oil but while they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. The five virgins who were prepared went int…


Matthew 24 ends with some pointed advice from the Lord about being watchful. This last “sermon” of His, called the Olivet Discourse, covers some details about the future of Jerusalem and information on Christ’s return to earth, which we call the Second Coming.

The message on being watchful is based on His caution to His followers that no one knows when all this is going to happen and because of that, they need to live as though it could happen at any moment.

Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:42, 44).

Jesus gives the illustration of two women grinding grain and two men working in the fields. One will be suddenly taken and the other left. He also says that life will be going on as normal when the Lord returns. No one will be standing on a mountaintop dressed in white with one eye raised to heaven and the other on a watch counting down t…


I am not one to calculate the time of Lord’s return according to every natural disaster or news report. When the Lord said that no one knows the time (Matthew 24:36), I take that to mean that I won’t be likely to figure it out anymore than anyone else will.

However that same chapter, Matthew 24, reminds us that we need to be ready simply because we don’t know when the Lord will return (24:42-51).

There has been an endless debate about which parts of Matthew 24 speak of the destruction of Jerusalem, which some of Jesus’ followers would probably still be around to experience, and the return of the Lord when He comes to gather His followers and take them to glory, an event we are still waiting for. But the debates often shift our focus away from the message that Jesus is delivering here: Be Watchful and Be Ready.

We are to watch out, not for the signs of the end, but for the dangers associated with the end: the false prophets and the coldness of our hearts toward the Lord. One particular v…

Under His Wings

You can almost hear His heart break.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37).

A historian would have known what Jesus was referring to as He looked over the city during that last week before the journey to the cross. The Lord knew all the details of that history because He had been there during the period recorded for us as the Old Testament. He knew how often the nation called by His Name had rejected its God and His messengers.

History was about to repeat itself once more.

The picture in this verse is one of the most poignant in Scripture; and the only maternal image of God that we have. Our most intimate view of God is as our Father. But here Jesus described the image of a mother protecting her young even at the cost of her own life.

But then the shocking statement: “...but you were not willing.” If any…

Inside and Out

Inside out.

There are some pieces of clothing that come with the instructions to turn the garments inside out before they are to be washed.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law of Jesus’ day needed to be turned inside out. Sometimes, so do we. That act would reveal our true selves as opposed to what we might show to the public.

Jesus, who knew exactly what was going on inside His critics, didn’t mince words when He addressed the issues.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are f…

Don't Drink the Kool-Aid

I had occasion to do a little research recently on a well-known evangelical figure. I knew the name, having come across it in several of our denomination’s old publications. But someone had passed on some disturbing news about this man and I thought I’d check it out. The picture was not pretty. He ended badly. Last night in prayer meeting, the group leader shared some thoughts from the lives of several Old Testament kings. The same scenario—begin well, end badly. The opposite can be true as well, but often our attention is only drawn to those who end badly.

The disturbing thing about these examples is that these men were leaders. A leader has followers and as is expected of followers, they follow. If the example is bad; well, you don’t have to strain your brain to figure out what the results are.

In Matthew 23, the Lord has some choice words for the religious leaders of His day. Jesus warned people to be careful how they responded to their leaders. The Pharisees and teachers of the law…