Sunday, August 09, 2020

Jesus waits

John 11:1-16…

So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. How curious and counterintuitive this seems. That is, until we understand the grand plan of God. It is often this way in our own little world. We are waiting on Jesus, but He is waiting on His own perfect timing. His timing is worth waiting for. He wants is deliberbatenessto turn our worry into worship.

The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Even after we understand where Jesus is going with all this, we may still doubt His direction. But when we are walking by His light, God’s purpose in us and through us will be fulfilled. His direction is worth following. He wants to turn our fear into faith.

I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. The plain purpose of Jesus in His waiting and His direction are for our benefit. We might at times be thinking, “Where are you?” and “Where are we going?” Still, and as always, He knows what He is doing. His purpose is to perfect us. He wants to turn our suspicion into submission.

Jesus is waiting...for you.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Minimum wage

Luke 17:7-10…

Jesus says, “An increased faith isn’t just fulfilling some growing list of duties; that is just faithfulness.” Jesus describes faith’s personality; faith realizes God doesn’t need it, it needs God. It is not our faith that makes things happen it is God. Our faith is in the ability of our Master not in our ability to muster. Not in what we can do but in what He can do. Not what or how much we do for Him, but in what He does for us. Not who we are but who He is.

Most people don’t really want grace, however. They want to earn wages. If things aren’t going the way they want, or to get God “off their back”, they just add another thing to the list. Yet you could fill up every box on some imaginary list without God having your heart. He wants us to want Him not to simply dispatch our duty. You could do all your duty and Jesus says that all it means is that you are an unworthy servant. You can’t earn grace. Your works don’t merit the wages of favor. There is really only one wage we have earned (Romans 6:23).  

One of the benefits of Christ paying the price of redemption for us is that we might be able to bless Him. We should see things like being baptized, taking Communion, living a godly life, praying, reading our Bible, giving, witnessing and fellowship with other believers as gifts we can enjoy to the glory of God. They aren’t tools for earthly treasure, or burdens we must bear lest we be lost. Let it suffice that in His grace we are storing up treasures in heaven for such things, let alone the fact that they please God.

Obedience is an act of worship, not an earning of wages. It is not to prove your worth but to glorify His. The blessing is that when we come to Him as a servant, He welcomes us as family and friend. Don’t look for a list of minimum requirements. Don’t settle for minimum wage.

Friday, August 07, 2020

A little faith

Luke 17:5-6…

What is faith for? Luke 17:1-4 shows us that one thing we need faith for is to be longsuffering, to bear with one another (cf. Galatians 6:1-2). It is for enduring and engaging despite what happens. This is the difficult task. If someone kept on sinning against me, yet kept asking me to forgive them, I might doubt their sincerity. Yet Jesus commands me to still forgive them.

Jesus describes faith’s potentially incredible power, but faith is not about moving trees, it is about moving obstacles to forgiveness. It is not about obtaining some desired blessing. It is for the spiritual things, the forgiveness, repentance, and restoration (Matthew 18:22). Faith is not really about the quantity, but the quality. Faith is powerful when it is focused rightly.

What type of harvest are you hoping for? Be honest. It isn’t that God won’t give you temporal blessings or that it is wrong to want them. It isn’t, if you have your priorities straight (Matthew 6:33). If you are increasing in spirituality but not yet in temporal needs or wants, are you complaining? If so, it shows what you consider more important.

People who only know Jesus on the surface see this passage as a way to do “big things” in the realms of heath and wealth, and many try and minister to others through this understanding. It fails, and people’s faith fails. They aren’t even looking at the right place. The eyes of faith are not, “God is going to give me what I want”, but “thank God He is God, and He will change me to do what is right, and think of Him as enough”.

The greatest miracles of faith have to do with the restoration of relationships, specifically our relationship and/or fellowship with God (Ephesians 2:8-9 / 1 John 1:9). As we relate to God rightly we will relate to others rightly.  Don’t be misled by charlatans who try and sell some faith formula. Don’t be mumbling because you can’t use faith to get what you want. Be satisfied with God Himself (Psalm 73:26). It is all going to be worth it. Have a little faith. 

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Money can mess you up

Luke 16:19-31…

Jesus had been teaching that our use of our resources is an indicator of where our true loyalties lie. Now He tells the story of two men, examples of one who is ruled by God and one who is ruled by money. Wealth isn't bad in itself; it is what we do with it that matters.  

The first man is rich, but self-indulgent, with a need to impress people with his wealth. He always dressed up and had great feasts every day. Lazarus, the second man, was poor and sick. The people of the community had laid him by the gate of the rich man, in hopes that he or his guests might show Lazarus some kindness.   The rich man’s guard dogs are fed, but Lazarus goes hungry. Yet while the rich people wouldn’t help, even the dogs realize that Lazarus needed some mercy. The poor, sick man doesn’t grumble against the rich people or God. The longsuffering Lazarus entrusts his soul to his faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19).

The scene changes, as both men have died, yet they have wound up in different places. The rich man recognizes Lazarus and still despises the poor man! He had known about Lazarus all along and chose to do nothing for him. But now the tables are turned, and yet the tormented rich man wants Abraham to get the comforted poor man to serve him!  

Lazarus might be expected to give the rich man “a piece of his mind”, but he remains quiet. His faithful patience has paid off; he has no vengeance in mind.

Jesus clearly taught the deceitfulness of riches to those who trust in material wealth. What we do with our possessions influences every area of our lives. Having pride in position and possessions blinds people to the greater realities of grace. No sign or wonder, even someone coming back from the grave as some sort of “gospel ghost” can change people’s hearts if they reject the warnings and wisdom of the Word of God. People who reject the Gospel will be in eternal torment, and their condition cannot be remedied. 

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

He is the completion

Luke 16:16-17…

Jesus declared that the old writings of the Law and the Prophets had revealed God and His righteousness to the Jewish people up to the time of John the Baptist. Now, since John had come and announced the Messiah, who was Jesus, the good news of the kingdom of God was being preached. Multitudes were coming into this kingdom, eager to accept the “good news,” redemption through Jesus Christ the Messiah.

Jesus said the Law of God will be fulfilled. He affirmed that His teaching was consistent with those old writings. Why then did the Pharisees hate Jesus? The reason the Pharisees despised Jesus is because He took away their authority. That authority was not really theirs to start with and when Jesus said “follow me”, the Pharisees realized Jesus was showing people a better way. They wanted control of the people and thereby have control of their money.

The good news tells us that we don’t have to follow man made rules or be manipulated into following religious men in order to be reconciled to God or have a relationship with Him. All of the Law was fulfilled, completed, satisfied in and through Jesus Christ and His works. The Bible says God is love and love is the fulfillment of the Law. By faith we are in Christ and in that love; we have fulfilled, completed, and satisfied the Law because of Him (Romans 3:21-31).

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Inside out & upside down

Luke 16:14-15…

The Pharisees heard what Jesus had been saying and responded with ridicule. They seemed to stay silent when Jesus had spoken of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. But when He spoke about their money, look out! Their scorn stemmed from their being lovers of money more than mercy. Much like today’s charlatan teachers, they esteemed wealth, and viewed their supposed keeping of God’s standard of the law as having earned God’s standard of living. They despised the poor as accursed people who were ignorant of the law (Proverbs 17:5).

Jesus tells them that while they may be able to fool other people into thinking that they were good and right, God knows better than that. You can fool yourself most of the time but you can never fool God at any time. We cannot hide what we are and who we are from God (1 Samuel 16:7 / 1 Kings 8:39 / 1 Chronicles 28:9 / Proverbs 15:11 / Jeremiah 17:10 / Acts 1:24, 15:8-9 / Hebrews 4:12-13 / Revelation 2:23).

Jesus took their value system and turned it around on them. The values of God’s kingdom are the opposite of what the world teaches. When the world says stop, Jesus says go. When the world says go for it, Jesus says no. Jesus says that you must give things away before you can truly have anything worthwhile. Jesus says that we must become fools to the world’s ways to become truly wise. Jesus says that we must lose our lives if we are to find them. The question isn’t whether or not God knows your heart; it is whether or not He has your heart.

Monday, August 03, 2020

The quality of trustworthiness

Luke 16:9-13…

Jesus is teaching about how to live wisely in anticipation of His return. He urges us to invest in our eternal future by using our “worldly wealth” in an appropriate way. Money is for building treasure in heaven and you can’t serve both God and money. Our use of our resources is an indicator of where our true loyalties lie. The truth is that you cannot be trusted with truth unless you can be trusted with money.

Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to someone who isn’t building quality into their lives is for them to have some easy success. They may have some success, but they cannot handle success, and they wind up back where they started and usually even worse.  For many people, what they need isn’t success in their life, but stability in their soul.

Even small things matter; faithfulness to a little thing is a big thing. The little only becomes much when you use it (Mark 4:24-25).  Doing the right thing with what you have now shows that you will do the right thing if given more. Being a person who is faithful with someone else’s stuff proves that one is ready for their own stuff. If you can’t be a good subordinate, you won’t be a good supervisor. Invest in other’s lives and other’s will invest in yours (Luke 6:38).

Are you building up the things that make you trustworthy? Can people trust you because you take care of the details? Can people trust you because you know what is important? Can people trust you because you care about their stuff?  Can you be trusted with more things, with better things, with control of things?  

Your influence is beyond money, it includes time, talent, and treasure. You cannot serve both sides at once: who are you serving at this moment? Are you giving glory to God through the stewardship of small things, lesser things, and other people’s things? The most important ability is dependability. You can cultivate that, but are you serving yourself or your Savior? If all you do is act entitled, you won’t be a person who is entrusted. 

Sunday, August 02, 2020

The merciful master

Luke 16:1-8…

The steward in this story was not careful with the stuff entrusted to him. He was apparently using the debtor’s payments for his own pleasure. The master heard the news and told him he was fired. But his master mercifully gives him time to prepare his books for an audit.

The steward struggles with what to do. He was caught and in trouble. His options are limited and he doesn’t like his choices. When the people found out he was a crook who would hire him?

He puts together a shrewd plan. Before the news spreads that he has been fired, he calls on the debtors, and quickly gets them to settle their accounts. They do so willingly because the steward gives them a substantial discount. In this way the debtors see the steward as a hero who had helped them negotiate a lesser fee for their final bill, instead of as a rascal who had been squandering their payments to his master.

The master realizes what the steward has done, but he considers what the alternatives might have been. He also realizes that the people will be praising the master for his generosity in lowering the bills. If he goes back and annuls what the steward had done, their joy in him will turn to anger. The master proves himself to indeed be a merciful and generous man. He allows the steward to go free and the accounts to be settled. The steward had risked everything on the master’s good nature, and he won. 

Jesus is not teaching people to commit fraud, compromise with evil, or act entirely in one’s own self-interest. He isn’t saying we can buy our way to heaven. The emphasis is on living in the light of eternity. We have been unjust, but we have been given a merciful “grace period” to settle our accounts. Like the unjust steward, we must recognize the hopelessness of our situation, and turn to the one source of our salvation, our generous Master.

There will come a day where we will be called to account. It does us well to make preparation before then. Are you placing your total trust in the Master’s mercy? 

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Lost and found

Luke 15:11-32…

Jesus had been responding to the grumbling of the Pharisees at His response to sinners. This parable serves as His final, forceful revelation of their hearts. For the religious leaders listening to Jesus, this was a humiliating exposure of their hypocrisy.

The story paints the younger son as being very impatient and imprudent. There is no attempt to minimize the seriousness of his sins. Jesus did receive sinners, but He never minimized sin. This represented those people whom the religious leaders thought Jesus shouldn’t associate with.

Yet, while the younger son’s sins were great, so was his repentance. When he finally realized his folly, against his earthly father and his Heavenly Father, it caused him to look for forgiveness.  His repentant spirit is reflected in his deep sense of unworthiness. He does not claim any rights, he only hopes for mercy. This represented those people who had turned to Jesus. 

The father had allowed the younger son to go his own way, but he never left his heart. He ran to meet the son as soon as he saw him returning. The father did not force the son to grovel. He instead restored him and started rejoicing. This represented the loving heart of the Heavenly Father, who willingly grants forgiveness, and rejoices in the return of the wayward.

The older brother refused to join in the celebration. He thought his father’s favor was because of his good works, and expected his younger brother to have been disowned due to his bad works. He actually thought that he had been entirely faithful, but he disobeyed his father by not participating. It was not the younger brother’s sins which caused the father’s celebration, but his repentance. The older brother not only failed to comprehend grace, he resented it. The older brother represented the religious leaders who were grumbling against Jesus.

Both sons were equally in need. One simply had needs that are more outwardly evident. The truth is we all need Christ and an understanding of God’s heart for the lost. Understanding grace means you look for the lost and rejoice when they’re found.