Showing posts from April, 2017

Lessons from the Litter Box

Everyone wants to be great—even if it is just a little bit!

That’s what makes it so hard to be the one who always ends up cleaning the litter box. It just doesn’t jive with greatness.

I don’t think there were litter boxes in Jesus’ day, but if there had been He’d be the one cleaning them out.

Talk of the kingdom had put delusions of grandeur in the heads of some of Jesus’ disciples—and their relatives. On one occasion, the mother of James and John came to Jesus to ask Him to put her sons in positions of greatness when He established His kingdom (Matthew 20:21).

Jesus’ reply would not have been understood until later. He said “You don’t know what you are asking…Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” (20:22).

They were thinking Bordeaux, and He was meaning suffering, when they replied, “We can” (20:22).

This conversation, fueled by the furor of the others when they realized that someone else had thought to make the request before they did, led to a teaching opportunity.

Jesus replied: “

Jesus Loves the Little Children

The Gospel and the young.

However you define the “children” Jesus refers to in Matthew 18:1-14, the result is the same—don’t cause the young to stumble in their faith, or else!

Jesus was responding to a question put to Him by His disciples: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (18:1) Considering some of the other discussions they had among themselves I suspect they wanted Jesus to affirm that they, for the sacrifice of following Him, qualified for the position.

Instead Jesus takes a young child and uses the simplicity and fervour of a child’s faith as an illustration of who will be the greatest in the kingdom. That provides a launch pad for this:

But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (18:6). Yikes!

This leads to an even more graphic description of what is necessary to protect the budding faith of the young. In verses 8 and 9, …

Little Really Can Be a Lot

In 1924, Kittie Sheffield wrote the words to a song that I became familiar with through the Gaithers. It’s called “Little is Much When God is in it.”

In the harvest field now ripened
    There’s a work for all to do;
    Hark! the voice of God is calling,
    To the harvest calling you.

        Little is much when God is in it!
        Labor not for wealth or fame;
        There’s a crown, and you can win it,
        If you go in Jesus’ name.

    In the mad rush of the broad way,
    In the hurry and the strife,
    Tell of Jesus’ love and mercy,
    Give to them the Word of Life.

    Does the place you’re called to labor
    Seem so small and little known?
    It is great if God is in it,
    And He’ll not forget His own.

    Are you laid aside from service,
    Body worn from toil and care?
    You can still be in the battle,
    In the sacred place of prayer.

    When the conflict here is ended
    And our race on earth is run,
    He will say, if we are faithful,
    “Welcome home, My child—wel…

No Sacrifice Too Great

We usually work very hard at making the Gospel as simple and as easy to understand, and accept, as possible.

But Jesus often did the opposite. He was well-known for speaking in parables, stories that, on the surface sounded like simple stories, but which underneath had profound meanings. For those who really listened only out of curiosity they were just nice stories. But for those who were spiritually hungry they were meant to lead to further investigation. Jesus knew that those who were really seeking would ask the important questions such as, “what do you mean when you say….?”

In Matthew 13 the Lord tells a series of these stories. Here are two of them.

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” (vss. 44-4…

Whose Load?

At any given time, someone needs this invitation from Scripture:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

It’s not that the Lord is telling us to happily assign ourselves to the “couch of potato” because what follows after this initial invitation belies that. We have to keep going. We can’t renounce the world and all the events and circumstances and people that seem so often to add brick and timber to our already heavy loads. But we need to learn not to assume responsibility for what is not ours.

What do I do about this? How am I going to get that done? Where does this need to go? When can I fit this in? How will I accomplish that? What will I do if…?

The burden we are asked to carry is often not the one we are presently trying to carry. He tells us “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” (vss. 29, 30).

His yoke. His b…

The Cross: God's Work Done God's Way

Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, is quoted as saying: “God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply.”

Even oversupply, if truth be told.

Moses finally returned from his many sojourns on the holy mountain of Sinai. Instructions were complete and he set to work to build the Tabernacle as God has told him. But where to find the materials to build such a structure?

Word was sent out to the camp that anyone willing to contribute any of the many materials required should do so. “Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence, and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the Tent of Meeting, and for the sacred garments. All who were willing, men and women alike…” (Exodus 35:20-22). The people added their particular skills to crafting what was necessary. It is interesting that no one was commanded or “guilted” into giving or making.

The result was that so much came int…

Seeking the Presence

If you were promised that every desire of your heart would be granted but God would not be with you, would you move ahead toward the fulfillment of your desires?

That was the proposition laid out before Moses in Exodus 33. After the incident of the Golden Calf, the Lord tells Moses this: “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, I will give it to your descendants.’ I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way…’If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you’” (33:1-5).

Hey, the presence of an angel is a pretty good deal, isn’t it?

The Hebrews had lived with the dream of a return to Canaan for centuries and here it was within their grasp even if the God …

Sweet Scent

Every year I haunted the garden centres in Caracas looking for one special flower. It appeared only sporadically. The florists called it “nardo,” which would be translated “nard” or “spikenard” in English. The buds had a slight pinkish tone but the flowers, once opened, were pure white. I would take the bunch home, put it in a vase and wait.

It never took long for the scent to invade every nook and cranny of the apartment. It is the most beautiful, and powerful, scent I have ever had the opportunity to enjoy.

Spikenard originates in the Himalayas, and from it was made the rare and highly prized perfumes of the East. It is part of the Honeysuckle family of which my Venezuelan nard is a branch. When I was growing up we had a Honeysuckle bush outside our back door. The scent in the Spring when the tree was flowering was delicious.

It was the spikenard of the East that is described in Mark 14:3 and John 12:3 as being poured out on Jesus. This event was included in our pastor’s sermon last S…