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Monday, July 31, 2017

More than money

Luke 15:8-10…

Because Jesus receives sinners as if they were family, they grumble against Him, thinking that He obviously was not from God. Yet it is they who are exposed as having no concept of the heart of God. They have no interest in the joy of God, or what brings celebration to Heaven.

Jesus was bringing the self-righteous into the story, using the dirty (shepherds) and the disrespected (woman) as instruments of illustration. If lesser beings are concerned with lost things, so too, is the Messiah, and so too, should they be.

The woman in the story was on a mission. The monetary loss was terrible, but the possible sentimental value would have made this even worse. It called for a passionate search. Finding the coin was cause for great celebration, not just for this lady or her household, but for all of her friends. How much more valuable are the people around us! Christians must celebrate when salvation’s light reaches the dark and lost soul. Our mission is greater than money.

Unlike the religious leaders, God doesn’t mind being compared to a woman. It is God in Christ who is that woman seeking the lost sinner hidden in the dark and dirty world of sin. He did that for us, and He is the one who places the value in us. When we truly understand that we will truly change, because we treat others like we think God treats us (Romans 15:7). 


Sunday, July 30, 2017

The lost sheep

Luke 15:1-7…

When we lose or misplace something, we trace our steps, we ask other people, and we ponder where we have been and where it could be. We don’t give up until we find it, whatever it is. The more valuable the thing is to us, the harder and longer we try to recover it. If and when we do, we celebrate, it is a huge relief.  Everyone is this way.

Jesus was saying the same to the crowd gathered to hear Him. The crowd was a mix of the religious leaders, the hated tax collectors, and the despised “lowlife sinners”. The Pharisees and scribes were grumbling that Jesus would keep company with “lesser” people.

What they failed to realize is that compared to Jesus, we are all lowlife’s. The people who can really get something from Jesus’ teaching are the ones who know they are lost and need help finding the way, not those who think they are already walking right along in the first place.  Yes we advance in the faith, but we never advance beyond repentance. Jesus wants people to remember where they came from, that all need rescuing. 

Jesus’ short story tells us about the Father’s love for the lost, but it also tells us what our attitude toward the lost should be as well. We need to be confident in what God’s grace can do for any person; especially those who we think are “lost causes”. Jesus specializes in them, and truthfully, that’s all of us (Isaiah 53:6). After we have received Christ as our Savior, a mark of our walk is that we become humbly grateful not grumbly hateful.

When people find the way of hope in God through the knowledge of Jesus, we should rejoice. That’s what heaven does, and that’s where we are going. In fact, that’s also a good test to see if you are really going there. 


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Following or fooling

Luke 14:25-35…

There were a bunch of people following Jesus, but He wanted them to realize what following Him really meant. They were following along physically but if they really wanted to follow it would have to be spiritually. Jesus tells them about the bumps in the road that might cause those who are only fooling themselves to turn back.

When it comes to committing your life, you don’t continue to follow something unless you hope or trust in it. Jesus was not putting conditions on God’s love for us. He was teaching us that while many may seem to start out on the path, most are not willing to walk in the way when the reality of that walk is tested. Jesus is showing us how our walk will be made manifest. Are we really following or only fooling?

Jesus says that we cannot be a disciple, in other words, we will fail to really follow, if we are not willing to put the relationship with Christ above all others. God is not against the family, He invented it, and He’s all for it. But He is not for it over and against the allegiance to Jesus. God wants you to bring your family closer to Jesus, not to let your family pull you away from Jesus (Matthew 10:37, 15:4).

Jesus says that we will fail to really follow if we are not willing to suffer for His name. Taking up our cross means we must be ready to bear up under the afflictions God sends our way as discipline to conform us to the image of Christ. Your cross to carry is not the sin; it is giving it up and having to feel the pain. Some presume that if we walk by faith, we will be removed from all problems, but that’s not the truth (Philippians 1:29 / 2 Timothy 3:12).

Jesus says that we will fail to really follow if we are not willing to lose everything we have. Following Jesus means going all out, and you can’t go all out unless you are all in (Philippians 3:7-10). It is not that you will have to live beaten, bare, burdened, and broke, but would you be willing to (Matthew 10:28)? The answer is provided in the tests along the way.

Following or fooling it is not about how well but how willing. If we are willing to put even good things aside for Christ, then we will be a disciple. We will learn to trust and to treasure Him above all else. Otherwise, the obstacles along the way will stop us in our tracks, and our walk will only be talk at that point. Direction always determines where we end up.


Friday, July 28, 2017

The guest of honor

Luke 14:15-24…

Jesus was still dining in the home of the Pharisee when someone spoke up about how blessed it will be to dine in the kingdom of God. The man was speaking as if he knew he would be there. Jesus used this moment to tell a story that was directed to the pride of the guests.

In the story, the guests who were invited to a great feast started making excuses why they couldn’t come. The first man’s excuse is a lie. In those days, no one bought a field without examining it thoroughly. The second man’s excuse is an insult. It was like saying you can’t make it to the big event that was planned weeks ago because you just bought a ticket for a movie that night. The third man’s excuse is just arrogant. The man had already accepted an invitation, and the feast would not have been scheduled on the same day as the wedding. The only real reason the people didn’t want to come to the feast was because they weren’t hungry in humility.

You see, in the story God is the host, the feast is the kingdom of God, the invited guests were the Jewish leaders, and the poor and crippled and blind and lame were the Gentiles. Jesus was saying, “You proud people won’t repent of your evil ways. You are continually trying to excuse yourself with reasons why I am not the Messiah. You refuse my invitations to the kingdom and reject me any way you can. So I will gather up the hurting, and discard you, the haughty. You who were first invited but who make excuses are not going to be eating with me.”

Let the proud of this world have their cake and eat it too. You don’t want it. Remember, they don’t serve devil’s food in heaven. 


Thursday, July 27, 2017

By invitation only

Luke 14:7-14…

Jesus was using this dinner among the Pharisees to illustrate spiritual truths. He spoke about being a guest, and then, about being a host. This was easy to understand in a literal, practical way. But the lessons are much broader in scope than just being invited or inviting others to events. The truth about humility and grace is timeless.

Jesus noticed how the guests were maneuvering for positions at the table. As He waited, the only position left would have been the seat of least honor. He told them that they should avoid selfishly seeking honor, because they set themselves up for humiliation. The way up is down (Proverbs 27:2, 29:23 / Matthew 23:12 / James 4:6, 10 / 1 Peter 5:5-6).

Jesus taught that the host can also reveal a lack of humility. When planning a party, the temptation is to invite those who promote our standing, those most likely to do us some good in return. We are tempted to give in order to get. Jesus taught that this practice should not only be revised, but reversed.

The way of the world is to invite people in order to gain from their reciprocal invitations and hospitality. The way of the Word is to be gracious to the helpless and to those who cannot pay us back. Doing so assures us of God’s blessings in heaven.

You invite the blessing of God by investing your blessing in others. This is part of what Jesus means when He says we are to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

True colors

Luke 14:1-6…

Self-righteous people are the favorite tools of the devil. A leader of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat at his home. Yet it was apparent that Jesus was not invited out of hospitality, but out of hostility. It was an atmosphere of accusation…they were watching him carefully. The Pharisees wanted to bring some charge against Him. Jesus was to be the main course, but He turns the “dinner tables” on them.

There was an ill man among them, probably placed as a trap to see if Jesus would heal on the Sabbath. Calling their bluff, He asks them if they think it is lawful to heal the man on the Sabbath. They remained silent, which was a passive sign of their rebellion. Their twisted teachings and traditions clearly forbade such healing. The Law of Moses, however, did not forbid it. Indeed, how could one refrain from healing on the Sabbath, if he had the ability to do so (cf. James 2:14-17)?

Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. Jesus knew they had only brought the man in to test Him. He then confronts them about their notions of compassion. Their own practices proved their petty hypocrisy. They taught one thing, but made exceptions for themselves. Once again they remained silent, because what can you say when your true colors are showing?

Before accusing someone, you might want to think about this, because the supposed injustice might cause the invisible ink of your heart to become manifest.  


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A warning from God’s heart

Matthew 23:37-39 / Luke 13:34-35…

Here we see warnings to those who will not repent of their sins. Here we also see a picture of the heart of God.  He does not delight in the destruction of sinners.  He delights when they turn from their sin and flee to Him for grace. Unfortunately, many who assemble with God’s people, who call themselves by the name of God and His people, actually reject His love.

The wicked are opposed to God’s saving action in others. The text doesn’t read “how often I would have gathered you” but “your children” which is not the same thing. The people that Jesus willed to gather together and the ones who would not are different. “Jerusalem” refers to the Jewish leadership, the scribes and Pharisees, who hindered Jesus from bringing the Gospel to the masses (cf. Matthew 23:12-15). “Your children” refers to the Jews suffering underneath them.  Of course, many of those “would not” either. Jerusalem was the very heart and center of that nation, and its heart was hard. This is a warning to all people against unbelief.

Christ warns of the desolation which results from those who forsake Him. We have to ask the question today, is our house desolate?  Does He dwell in your heart by faith, so that you are being filled up with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19)?  Or have you rejected Him, are apathetic about Him, love something greater than Him? Have you not trusted in Him alone for your salvation? 

Everyone will bow the knee to Christ one way or another (Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus is saying that there will come a time when He is returning in glory, but our time to believe is right now (2 Corinthians 6:2).He has warned you because He loves you.


Monday, July 24, 2017

The unfailing plan

Luke 13:31-33…

The plans and politics of the world’s power brokers do not faze God. This Herod was the grandson of Herod the Great who had attempted to kill the infant Jesus. This family was an enemy of God, yet chosen to do God’s will.

Jesus knows that Herod is scheming to have Him killed before His word can take root. But He also knows and is controlled by the fact that God’s mission will be accomplished. The petty threats of powerless people do not stir the stability in His soul. Jesus wasn’t tossed into a panic by the warnings of others. He knew His mission, and He stayed on course.

One of the difficult lessons of life is to appreciate that God will cause the wrath of man to praise Him (Psalm 76:10). That means people will be after us, and may hurt us, but the crushed vessel releases the reality behind our stability (2 Corinthians 4:7-11).

When you are doing the will of God, you are indestructible. Now this is not a license to be lazy or ludicrous with our lives. It is simply to say that God’s plan and purpose for your ministry will be accomplished. You won’t be taken down before your time. God restrains the vast majority of evil in this world just as He restrained the wrath of Herod from destroying Jesus before His time. We may be confounded for a season, but the schemes of Satan are used as the pawns of Providence (Ephesians 1:11 / Romans 8:28).