For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36)
Jesus had been talking to H
is disciples about who He was and what He was about. When Jesus asked them who they thought He was, Peter responded by proclaiming that Jesus was the Messiah (Mk. 8:29). Jesus went on to teach what being “Messiah” was all about. It meant He would be rejected by the leaders of the nation, be put to death, and then rise again. This didn’t quite fit Peter’s concept of “Messiah”, and when Peter rebuked Jesus for saying He would die, Jesus told Peter that he had missed God’s purposes. Peter was only seeing things from a flawed human perspective.
God’s ways are not always our ways. We think a great leader is one who can make things happen and demonstrate great strength. God’s idea of a great leader is about self-sacrifice. Jesus came to do the one thing we couldn’t do and die for our sins so we could be with God forever.
In man’s perspective, we have perhaps eighty years to live, and so we plan for our “golden years”. When God plans for us, He is thinking a little bigger than eighty years. He wants us in heaven forever. We want security on earth, God wants security in heaven.
It’s not wrong to put a little something aside for retirement, but if your entire life is focused on your golden years, you might miss the golden streets. Be sure to make God’s priorities your own.
Now the magicians so worked with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not. So there were lice on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, just as the Lord had said. (Exodus 8:18–19)
It always cracks me up how the magicians of Egypt tried to duplicate the various plagues that God brought upon Egypt through Moses. Why in the world would they want to make things worse by making more frogs or lice? Yet to be honest, there’s a simple reason why they were trying to duplicate the miracles of God. They were trying to show that Moses was a simple magician, a charlatan, and that they were just as powerful as he was. Even more important, they were working hard to show that there was no reason to take Yahweh, the God of Moses, seriously.
The world has always operated this way. People who don’t want to believe will go to great lengths to show why the truth is anything but the truth. They will work hard at coming up with alternate theories for things like miracles or even the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Even when their alternate theories fall apart, and they cannot “bring forth lice”, they still will not believe because their heart has grown hard.
Don’t take it personally when your message of truth is rejected. When someone has worked hard at rejecting God their whole life, things might not change overnight. Be patient. Keep loving them. Keep speaking the truth.
The story of Joseph and his brothers is not a pretty one. Joseph was dad’s favorite, and the other brothers resented it. Joseph also had some suspicious dreams about one-day ruling over his brothers, and that made them hate him all the more. So when the opportunity came to get rid of Joseph, the brothers took it. While some of the brothers wanted to kill Joseph, it was Judah that came up with the idea of just selling him into slavery. That’s how Joseph found himself in Egypt, first as a slave, then spending time in prison, and then his amazing rise to become Pharaoh’s right hand man.
When the famine hit Egypt, the day came when Joseph found his brothers standing before him. Because they didn’t recognize him, Joseph had an opportunity to answer some questions. Could he trust these brothers who had sold him into slavery? Should he help them? Were they treating his younger brother Benjamin the way they had treated him? While you might think that the way Joseph treated his brothers was cruel, (Gen. 42-45), I believe that Joseph was testing them to see if they had changed. While Judah was the one who was originally behind Joseph’s slavery, it was Judah who would step forward and offer to become a slave himself in order to save Benjamin (Gen. 44:33). Judah had changed.
If you’ve wronged someone, it’s good to say that you are sorry, but words alone are rarely sufficient. Don’t just say you’ve changed, prove it by your actions. Would you pass the test? True repentance can be seen.
In a way you can’t blame him. His parents named him “tricky guy who trips others up”, which in the Hebrew comes out as “Jacob”, and that’s pretty much what he grew up to be. While a younger man, Jacob managed one day to trick his brother, Esau, out of his birthright. A few years later when Papa Isaac was getting ready to bestow the blessing of God on the elder son (Esau), once again Jacob lived up to his name, and at his mother’s prompting, Jacob tricked Papa into giving him the blessing instead. All this led to an expected family crisis, and Jacob ended up moving far away to live with Mama’s relatives. That’s where he found her. Jacob found the girl he wanted to spend his life with, but there was only one problem. She was the daughter of the master trickster, Uncle Laban. When Jacob thought he had worked out a deal to marry his beloved Rachel, the morning after his wedding night… it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?” (Genesis 29:25). The deceiver was deceived.
Here’s the deal. The Bible says that you and I will indeed “reap” what we “sow”. These are farming terms. If you plant bad seeds, you will reap a bad crop. You might say that it was Jacob’s nature to be a deceiver, and he had no chance at being good. Yet friends, Jesus came to give us a new nature. He came to change us. He gives us the opportunity to start a new crop and sow good seeds. Just what kind of seeds are you sowing today?
I am amazed at the willful ignorance of some people. There are some people who continue to claim that the events in the Bible are just made up fiction. Yet, as time goes by, the spades of archaeologists continue to clarify and verify the events recorded in the Bible. When you take a trip to Israel, you get a chance to see these places for yourself.
Last month we were visiting the ancient site of Capernaum, the home base for Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Though it’s a bit obscured by a church built to “hover” over it (like a spaceship!), there is one house in ancient Capernaum that stands out among the others – Peter’s house. We are very certain that all the evidence shows that this small little structure was indeed Peter’s house.
Matthew records, “Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them” (Matthew 8:14–15).
Now, whether you are impressed with the fact that a mother-in-law was healed from her fever or not, and whether or not you call yourself a “believer” or not, you are faced with a simple fact. Jesus is real. He walked this earth. He performed miracles, some as simple as healing a fever and others as spectacular as raising someone from the dead.
The fact that Jesus died, rose again, and ascended into heaven should not leave you thinking that He is any less real. He wants to be a part of your life. He wants to help you. He wants to guide your choices. He’s real.
Everything God created came with the stamp of God’s approval, “it was good”, everything that is except for one item. And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). It was then that God created a companion for Adam, a “helper”, someone who was “comparable” to Adam. The old Jewish proverb stated that “Woman was not taken from man’s head to rule over him, or from his foot to be trodden on by him, but from his side to be his companion.”
When God presented Eve to Adam, the “two” became “one”. It was the first marriage. Jesus considered this marriage to be the standard for all marriages (Mat. 19). It was one man and one woman. God didn’t create multiple choices for Adam. God didn’t give Adam a second wife just in case the first one didn’t work out. Adam and Eve made it work out. With this first marriage, the thing that was “not good” became something wonderful.
You might tell me that I just don’t understand what you’ve been through. You might tell me that I don’t know how horrible your spouse can be. You might tell me that I lucked out marrying someone so special. While there may be truth in those statements, I would remind you that no marriage comes easy. Marriage takes work. Marriage is about learning to put another’s needs above your own. It’s about learning to die to selfishness. It’s about learning to forgive. Marriage is usually more about how God is fixing me, than how God needs to fix my spouse. Marriage is one of God’s ways of taking what’s “not good” (like me) and making it “wonderful”.
We are closing in on that time of year when people begin to think about the year ahead, things they want to do with their life, and those good old New Year’s resolutions. I think it’s a good idea from time to time to look a little further down the road and think about which way you are going to point your life. When it comes to setting goals in life, they say that if you aim at nothing, you’ll surely hit it. So what are you facing this year? What challenges are ahead of you? The biggest question is this: What does God want you to do?
Zerubbabel was the appointed governor over the Jews. It had been decades since Nebuchadnezzar had leveled Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. Zerubbabel was the man charged by God with the monumental task of rebuilding the sacred Temple. The people had tried rebuilding, but each time they started, they faced a mountain of difficulties. It was the prophet Zechariah who received a message for Zerubbabel. So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts. ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” ’ ” (Zechariah 4:6–7)
Be careful of measuring that mountain of challenges by your own abilities. When God commands that a thing be done (like rebuilding the Temple), He will, along with the task, give you the strength you need. Mountains melt before Him. This is the year of God’s Spirit at work in you.
Just what does God require of us? The prophet Micah was trying to encourage God’s people to turn away from doing wicked things and get their lives headed in the right direction. While some thought that God would require paying Him off with thousands of sacrifices, or even sacrificing their own children, Micah knew better. He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
To “do justly” means to simply do the right thing. It means you don’t cheat others. It means you are honest in all that you do. It means that when you make decisions, you make the choice that is clearly the “right” one, and that you don’t just think about it, you actually “do” it.
To “love mercy” is all about having God’s heart. God is gracious and kind towards us. He wants us to be gracious towards others. Mercy is about learning to forgive quickly and not carry a grudge. Mercy isn’t just something that we do when God twists our arm, it’s something we “love”.
To “walk humbly” is not thinking you are a toad. You are, after all, loved by God and His child. Humility is about putting the needs of others in front of your own. Humility is laying aside your rights and privileges and serving others. This isn’t something that God the Commandant orders us lowly peons to do; it’s something that He Himself has already done. When we learn humility, we find ourselves walking with God.
Do what’s right. Love being gracious. Cultivate humility
This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Dave Dunagan…
When I was growing up, I can remember my parents trying to teach me right from wrong and what to do in different circumstances. Many times I would just ignore their instruction, but I often found that they had good advice. They were trying to help me learn things the easy way, but most of the time I insisted on learning things the hard way. I know now that I should have been paying better attention to what they were saying. Most of the time they knew what was best for me.
As I read through the book of Proverbs, I am reminded of my parents’ instruction. Like my parents, the Lord is trying to save me from the consequences of making bad choices. I am amazed at how we can struggle in our walk with the Lord and how we can so easily be tempted and pulled away from fellowship with Him, all because we don’t listen to and honor His words. All through the book of Proverbs, God is warning us about the types of people and the kinds of activities we need avoid.
Proverbs 10 tells us that “Lazy people are soon poor; hard workers get rich… Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses… Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”
Beloved, we would be wise to heed the words of the Lord. He is trying to help us as we go through life’s journey. The book of Proverbs is a great place to look for practical wisdom in our lives.
Proverbs 9:10 says “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.”
This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Dan Looney…
As I read Proverbs, I know that my Heavenly Father is speaking to His children, of which I am one. In the first few chapters it is easy for us to understand that God is teaching through His word exactly what we are to treasure, respect and pursue. Additionally, there are clear examples of what we are to avoid. “To know wisdom and instruction, To perceive the words of understanding, To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity, To give prudence to the simple, To the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” (Proverbs 1:2-5) I am a child of God. I am also a child of Joe and Pauline. They tried and tried to teach me these very things, sometimes I followed their instruction and sometimes not so much. As I look back at the level of respect and value I gave my parents instructions, I am not only embarrassed but can only speculate how life might have been had I valued their knowledge and respected their wise counsel.
I have always read Proverbs as a son listening to his wise father. God has recently given me a different perspective, as if I were writing to my son, and he to his son. I desperately want my son to treasure and value these instructions and for him to pass them on to his son. I want their lives to be filled with love and goodness and God. When I was young, I saw many of my father’s instructions as oppressive. Now I know it was wise counsel. “Happy is the man who finds wise counsel, and the man who gains understanding.” (Proverbs 3:13)