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Showing posts from January, 2015

Few, Not Many

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There are many renditions of the photo you see on your left. But I think this is the version that once hung on a wall in the church of my childhood. It depicts what is described in Matthew 7:13, 14.

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.

This is not a message that we want to hear. The New King James version of the Scriptures uses the word “difficult” to describe the road that leads to life. Commenting on this, John MacArthur writes: “Christ continually emphasized the difficulty of following Him (Matt. 10:38; 16:24-25; John15:18-19; 16:1-3; cf. Acts 14:22). Salvation is by grace alone, but it is not easy. It calls for knowledge of the truth, repentance, submission to Christ as Lord, and a willingness to obey His will and Word. Cf. Matt. 19:16-28.” (One Perfect Life, p. 150)

After I read this passage and the conte…

Washday

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I was on my way down to the basement to put some items in the recycle bin when a neighbour from the floor below me got on the elevator. She had a coffee cup in her hand. Her sister was in the laundry room and she was going down for a chat. I commented that Monday was the traditional day for doing laundry. She laughed and remarked that some things never change. As we got off the elevator I mentioned that in my mother’s day it always seemed to be a race on Monday morning to see who would be first to get their wash on the line.

That thought prompted some other thoughts related to what I had read earlier this morning. I am working myway through the Sermon on the Mount, much of which is recorded in Matthew 5 through 7. Other parts of the Gospels record smaller sections of these famous teachings of Jesus. Among the things that struck me this morning was Luke 6:37b which says: “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

What I read from the Gospels dovetailed with a chapter from Max Lucado’s book,…

It's All About the Little Things

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That the authorities were now actively looking for a way to get rid of Jesus did not deter the common people from seeking Him out wherever He was. Huge crowds followed Him from many parts of the region. Nowhere in Scripture do we read so much about healing as we do when it comes to the ministry of Jesus. The miracles were evidence to all of who He was, especially since such a sheer volume of such miracles was not common.

Matthew 12:17-23 quotes Isaiah 42:1-4: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.

The reminder from the Old Testament of the nature of the Messiah’s coming should have calmed the fears of the political hierarchy at least. There was no…

WHOLE Truth

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Apart from declaring Himself God, nothing got the Lord into more trouble with the religious authorities of the day than what He did on the Sabbath. Right after He had healed an invalid on the Sabbath, John 5:17,18 says: “Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day and I, too, am working.’ For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

In John 5:19-47 we find a lengthy statement given by Jesus where He clearly identifies Himself as God, ending with: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” We can recite all kinds of stories about Moses but one of the most famous is the account of how Moses received the Ten Commandments directly from the hand of God on Mount Sinai. I got to thinking about Jesus and His relationship to those …

Saving Faith

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It could not have been easy. The roofs of many homes in Israel were made of slabs of burnt or dried clay set on wooden beams that stretched from one side of the house to the other. Over the labs was spread a layer of wet clay. This was left to harden, allowing the family to come up on the roof in the cool of the evening to get some fresh air. To break up the clay and remove the slabs would not have been simple and certainly would have caused a disturbance for the people below in the house.

But that is exactly what four men did in order to make sure that their sick friend got to see Jesus.

It happened in Capernaum (Mark 2:1). Along with the crowds of people who wanted to hear Jesus, there were many Pharisees and teachers of the law who had come from other parts to investigate this man whom they were hearing so much about (Luke 5:17). The house was full to overflowing. There was no room for a stretcher and the four men carrying it. So they mounted the stairs leading to the roof and began…

Risking A Touch

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Three of the four Gospels record the story of the man with leprosy who came to Jesus for healing (Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16). The Old Testament term for leprosy included other skin diseases (Leviticus 13:2) but this man probably had the real thing given the sensation that his healing caused.

I know an elderly lady who mentioned to me several times that she had actually touched a leper in her younger days, and considered herself fortunate that she had never contracted the disease herself from that touch. A leper was isolated from the community because of the fear of contamination. No one touched a leper, and those with the disease were required to announce their presence whenever anyone from the general population approached by calling out “unclean, unclean.” Luke, the doctor, records that this particular man was “full” of leprosy. Matthew tells us that when he approached Jesus he worshiped Him. Mark says that the man begged Jesus to heal him (Mark 1:40). “Lord, if you …

Blind Spots

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Sometimes (perhaps more times than I care to admit) I am not too bright. I’ve been without internet on my laptop all weekend. I tried all the usual tricks to get it up and running but this morning I was finally driven to call my service provider. The gentleman on the other end began to ask me questions that I didn’t quite understand. I felt a little stupid, but then again when it comes to these things I AM a little stupid. Finally the problem got fixed—it turned out to be something simple—the presence of a splitter that for some reason wasn’t a problem until Friday morning, though it had been connected for years.

So as I sit down right now to organize my thoughts on what I read in the Scriptures earlier today I realized that blind spots (a nicer way to say, “stupid”) happen to all of us.

In Luke 5:1-11, the crowds have gathered to hear Jesus speak. Because there are so many of them and everyone is pressing for a front row seat, Jesus steps into a boat—specifically one belonging to S…

Getting to the Heart

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John the Baptizer had been arrested (Luke 3:19, 20). When Jesus heard about His cousin (Matthew 4:12), He and His disciples left Judea and headed back to Galilee. But He chose to return via Samaria. The Jews and the Samaritans didn’t get along, but Jesus was on kingdom business and had a visit to make with someone with whom most Jews would not even pass the time of day.

They stopped at a well near Sychar. Jesus sent His disciples off to find food while He stayed at the well to rest—and to keep an important appointment. At noon, a woman arrived at the well. Normally women collected their water in the early morning or in the evening, to avoid the heat of the day. That this woman came at noon was a strong indication that she was not an accepted member of Sychar’s society.

In any case, most Jewish men would not have spoken to her. She was a woman and a Samaritan at that. But Jesus wasn’t “most men.” He asked her for a drink of water and so began the conversation about the living water th…

Workers Together

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The theme verse for the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada, of which I am a member, is Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

This is what the Kingdom of heaven (or of God) is all about.

John the Baptist was all about the kingdom, its proclamation, and the preparation for the coming of its King.

So when John’s disciples expressed concern that Jesus and His disciples were close by and enjoying a successful ministry they were a little concerned because “everyone is going to him” (John 3:26). John, who had drawn huge crowds, was no longer doing so.

Rivalry among churches of like faith is not unusual—unfortunately. Often one church will refuse to advertise the activities of another church because of the fear that it will “lose” someone to that church. Another church will not participate in joint activities with another church for the same reason, or because the other church isn’t quite as dispensationalist (don’t ask) or a little more “e…

The Simple Gospel

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At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He came to Jerusalem at the time of the Passover and went into the temple. Instead of the reverence due to God that was to be expected He found the riotous sounds of bargaining, the clink of coins, the braying of animals (John 2:13-25). “Worship” was big business, and corrupt business at that! Jesus “…made a whip of cords. He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And he said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’

Taken by surprise the Jewish authorities settled, this time, for challenging His right to do what He had done and asked for a sign to back up that right. His answer was misunderstood by many of those who heard it, but there was one leader of the Jews who was intrigued by what he heard.

John 3:1-21 tells us about the encounter Jesus had with Nicodemus. The Scriptures describe him as a Phari…

The Best Policy: Honesty

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John the Baptizer, true to his character, continued to point others to Christ. The day after he identified Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29) to his audience at the river, he pointed out the Messiah to two of his disciples (John 1:35, 36): “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’”

This prompted the two men to follow Jesus. They spent the day with Him. We know nothing of the conversation but by the end of the day John’s disciples were convinced that what John had told them was true, that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Messiah, the One they had so long expected (John 1:40-41).

Andrew brought his brother, Simon, to the Lord. On the following day, Jesus called Philip to join the growing band of Christ followers (1:8) and Philip, in turn, invited Nathanael (1:45).

This was the start of an interesting encounter between Jesus and Nathanael. Philip introduced Jesus as “…Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph”…

Selfies or Selfless?

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While Jesus was in the desert being tempted by Satan, His cousin John was facing some temptations of his own.

When Jesus appeared at the Jordan to ask to be baptized and John recognized Who He was, the Baptizer must have had an “aha” moment that he could only think about after Jesus had left him. He had finally met the One around Whom his birth, his life, his ministry revolved. There was no time to think about the significance of this meeting in the river except for John to say: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14).

But after Jesus had left John must have spent a lot of time glorying in the fact that he had finally met the Messiah, the King of the kingdom about which he had preached, the One who would grant the repentance through His own death, to the people of whom John was demanding that repentance. We can only imagine just what was going through John’s mind.

It was during that period that the authorities in Jerusalem, having heard about this “Baptizer…