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Our DAILY GOSPEL DEVOTIONAL is the story of Jesus from Incarnation to Ascension. This is a chronology and harmony of the gospel accounts in which the ongoing narrative and doctrinal context are carefully considered. In one year we reflect on every passage of every gospel.
May God bless you as we follow the disciples on the journey through the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bless the noise

Matthew 19:13-15 / Mark 10:13-16    / Luke 18:15-17…

The disciples saw the children who wanted to touch Him as a distraction and wanted to stop them. But Jesus welcomed “distractions” to His kingdom, and that should make us pause. In effect, some of us act as if Jesus doesn't want to reveal Himself to children, or as if they cannot receive it. This is simply pride and unbelief on our part. The key to effective ministry to children is humility, and we must be on guard against hindering children from coming to Jesus.

This scenario also has bearing on the modern and all too often misguided desire for a “distraction free environment” in worship. The orderly worship of God is not always supposed to be a silent environment. The Bible does not advocate a disorderly and chaotic form of worship, but we shouldn’t think, for example, that Paul was arguing in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 for an entirely distraction free gathering, either.

We must be careful not to turn the worship service into an individualistic consumer event rather than an individual-in-community transforming event. It is about more than satisfying individual wants/needs, it is about transforming us into being more like Christ. Allowing the “distractions” of hurting people, extraordinary situations, special needs children, etc., is training for just that. We don’t need “a distraction free environment”; we need to learn to focus.

Otherwise, we can only “worship” when we can get quiet. And God isn’t happy with that. 


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rest in Peace?

… it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment
Hebrews 9:27

Many people speak of an afterlife, and talk of heaven. But it becomes quite evident that many don’t know what they are talking about. They may say that they believe what the Bible says about it, but they obviously haven’t searched it out.

They speak of a heaven that conforms to humanism (as if everyone goes to heaven).

They speak of a heaven that conforms to worldly pursuits (our friend is up there playing golf, or gardening, or whatever their favorite hobby or pastime was).

They speak of a heaven that conforms to popular but unbiblical notions (they are an angel now, or that they can hear us now or help us now, as if they can interfere and intercede).

Their notions of eternity are not grounded in God’s Word, but in sanctimony, sentimentality, and superstition. Some might be sincere, but sincerity is no substitute for truth.

So what do you do when someone you loved or knew well dies, and someone else brings their condolences to you, and they say something like this...?

• Well at least she isn’t suffering anymore
• She’s at peace now
• She’s with God now
• She’s an angel now
• God needed another angel in heaven
• She’s with the angels now
• She’s looking down on us now
• She’s in a better place

This is an opportunity. Say something like this (make sure to look at them in the eye).

Thank you for showing kindness. I really appreciate it. Well, I know God will do what’s right. And we all know that we can’t judge anyone’s heart. But I also know that if someone hasn’t made peace with God through Jesus Christ in this life, then they won’t have peace in eternity, and it will be anything but a better place. It’s the same for anybody, including me, or you. You know that, right?

This could lead to a fruitful conversation, and it is a faithful, loving thing to do. Some might feel as if this is an inappropriate time for this type of thing. However, it is just the opposite; it is the perfect time for such a thing. You see, at times it might be inappropriate if you are the one who is talking to the person who is recently bereaved, grieving, mourning. But this is a case of where you are the one who has suffered the loss, and the other person is coming to you. So it is the perfect time to show your faith, share the gospel, and witness for the Lord.

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Deceitful divorce

Mark 10:10-12 / Luke 16:18…

After what Jesus had said about possible exceptions in divorce (Matthew 19:9 / cf. 1 Corinthians 7:10-15), what are we to make of these texts (cf. Romans 7:2-3)?

Jesus had tossed the question of the Pharisees (Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?) right back to them. Jesus was in fact limiting their use of Moses’ teaching, correcting their desire to use Deuteronomy 24:1-4 as justification for divorce. In doing this, Jesus is saying that no one has the moral right to dissolve the covenant simply because they want to. 

The disciples wanted further clarification. Jesus summarizes the point of the teaching, the problem of treachery. When the covenant is broken by an action such as “fornication,” the divorce does not sever the bond, the action itself has. But if there is no such severing prior to it, then the legal divorce is itself the severing act, and then it is a treachery, and it is adultery.

The statements in Mark and Luke, when considered out of their context, do seem to prohibit all divorce and remarriage. But when seen in their contexts, they prohibit only divorces that are ill grounded. It is improper to say that all divorces that end in remarriage are adulterous. Rather, all divorces not grounded in the scriptural exceptions that end in remarriage are adulterous.

Jesus was not saying that divorce or remarriage is never allowed. The references to John (Luke 16:16-17) and the loyalty of Jesus to the Old Testament steer us against the interpretation of these verses as a proscription of all remarriages. The absolute prohibition of remarriage has no support in the Old Testament, the very thing that Jesus and John sought to uphold. It all depends on how that second marriage was predicated.

Jesus’ teaching on divorce and remarriage is essentially the same as that of the Old Testament. To unjustly divorce a spouse in order to marry another person is adulterous. If you have broken your vows by an ill grounded divorce you still have repentance open to you. Confess it to God as the sin it was, and determine to take your present covenant seriously, to protect it and prevent any future break. There may, as in all sin, be some consequences that will be difficult to bear but there is complete forgiveness.