04-01-07

It seems to me that we are pretty quick to give up on people.  As long as the ballplayer hits homers, we cheer.  But the moment he goes into a batting slump, the cheers turn to jeers.  TV shows like “American Idol” and “Survivor” hone our skills of dumping losers and voting them off the island.  It creeps into relationships as friends part ways or marriages dissolve.  And I’m afraid that for some of us, we think this same mentality must exist in our relationship with God.  We’re just waiting for Him to give us the big cosmic boot for that last stupid thing we did. Beloved, God is not like us. The God who is full of mercy and slow to anger is the God that loves each of us.  And He doesn’t give up too quickly.

Here’s a case in point.  Jesus warned Peter that Peter was going to deny Jesus.  And even though Peter promised that he would never stumble, Peter turned around and denied Jesus not once, but three times.  And to make things worse, Jesus was right there when Peter did it.  We might expect Jesus to proclaim Donald Trump’s famous words, “You’re fired”, but Jesus makes no such pronouncement.  In fact, after the resurrection, Jesus tracks down Peter to make sure that Peter knows that he is not only still employed by Jesus, but loved as well.  Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him.    “Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17 NKJV).  Yes, you might have failed Him, but He’s not giving up on you.  He still loves you.  And He wants you to follow and serve Him.

03-25-07

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27 NKJV).

It must have seemed as if their world was unraveling.  If I could get comfortable living with anyone, it would be Jesus.  For three years they walked, ate, and learned daily from their Master.  And now Jesus was saying that He was going to leave them.  Jesus even said that they would all flee and deny Him.  Right into the middle of this turbulence, Jesus interjects this comforting promise of peace.

True lasting and satisfying peace comes from one place.  It comes from Jesus.  The world’s idea of peace is an absence of conflict.  Nations sign “peace” treaties when they are ready to stop fighting.  But God’s peace is different.  God’s peace isn’t limited to a lack of tension; God’s peace comes in the middle of the storm.  The peace that Jesus gives can come when you’re boss is giving you grief, when it seems your family is falling apart, or even if you’re sitting in jail.  Think of Paul and Silas singing songs at midnight from their jail cell in Philippi.  This is God’s peace, the eye of the storm, the calm in the middle of chaos.

How do I receive this peace?  It comes from trusting. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1 NKJV).  Is your confidence resting on Jesus?  Is He big enough to handle the storm in your life?  Put the problem into His hands, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time.  Ask Him to handle the situation.  Trust Him to handle it.  And receive His peace.

03-18-07

Jesus was often misunderstood.  His own brothers didn’t quite understand who He was (John 7:5).  When He healed on the Sabbath and challenged their traditions, they misunderstood (John 7:23).  They knew Messiah was to come from Bethlehem (John 7:42), but when they saw Jesus’ Galilean driver’s license, they assumed He was born there instead of Bethlehem – and again they misunderstood. They reasoned among themselves that no prophet ever came from Galilee (John 7:52), probably because in Jesus’ day, the Galilee was a place of settlers, backwoods people who didn’t have much education.  Religious teachers came from Jerusalem, not Galilee.  Religious teachers were sent from Jerusalem to Galilee, not from Galilee to Jerusalem.  Yet even their assumption about Galilee was wrong, because in their own Scriptures the prophets Jonah, Elijah, and Nahum all came from Galilee.

So when Jesus began to teach and become known, He was an enigma.  People didn’t know what to do with Him.  And as a result, He was misunderstood.  Jesus said simply, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24 NKJV).

I wonder how many people I’ve misunderstood?  It’s not uncommon for me to get frustrated or angry at people or situations.  But it’s so embarrassing when I’ve worked up such a righteous indignation only to find that I simply and totally didn’t understand.  I was looking at the appearance of things and didn’t bother to find out what was really going on.  May God help us look past the appearance of things.

02-25-07

Mary or Martha?  Servant or sitter?  The story that Luke records (Luke 10:38-42) tells us of an incident where these two sisters invited Jesus over for dinner.  In Luke’s account, Martha was “distracted with much serving”.  She was upset because it seemed as if she had to do everything for the occasion and Mary was just sitting in the living room listening to Jesus.  We love Jesus’ response, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42 NKJV).

If we’re not careful, we can come away from that story being critical of Martha, the busy servant. We can get the idea that Jesus just wants us to sit at His feet all day long and never get anything done.  But beloved, it’s important to remember the context of the story.  In the beginning of Luke 10, Jesus has sent out a group of seventy on a sort of “mission trip”.  They had visited many cities, talked to a lot of people about Jesus, been involved in seeing God do miracles, and had even cast demons out of people.  They were very busy servants.  In the middle of Luke 10, Jesus teaches about what it means to “love thy neighbor”.  When Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, the lesson is that loving your neighbor means to meet the needs of the people you run into.  If you claim to love others, you will serve, serve, serve them.

There is no choice to make in being a “Mary” or a “Martha”.  We need to be both.  We need to serve and sit.  If I am bothered and worn out with serving so much, I need to learn to sit.  But if all I do is sit, I need to learn to serve.

02-18-07

John the Baptist’s call in life was to get people ready.  He was supposed to get people ready for the Messiah.  He was supposed to get people ready for the kingdom.  He was supposed to get people ready for God’s work in their lives.  A part of John’s message dealt with the assumptions that people brought when they showed up at his meetings.  He said, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Luke 3:8 NKJV).
The Jews certainly have a proud heritage.  They are the people through whom God chose to reveal His plans for the world.  They are the people from whom the Savior of the world would come.  They are a people with a rich heritage of godly men and women who trusted in God.  But part of John’s message was to shake them loose a little from their heritage.  They needed to be careful they didn’t just rest in the fact that they were descended from Abraham, they needed to have the faith of Abraham.

We have also been blessed with a good heritage.  I live in America, a land that still allows freedom of worship. I go to a pretty decent little church.  I think the pastor even seems to be an okay guy.  But I need to be careful that like the Jews that John was talking to, I don’t rest on my heritage.  God doesn’t just want to work in the lives of people around me; God wants to work in my life.  He doesn’t just want to be the “God of my fathers”; He wants to be “my God”.  Are you ready for Him to work in your life today?

02-11-07

As Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple, various religious leaders came up to challenge Jesus and His teachings.  Among those who challenged Him were the scribes, the fellows who were the experts in the Scriptures.  One of the scribes actually had some good things to say.  He talked with Jesus about the most important commandment, the command to love God (Mark 12:28-34).  But for some reason Jesus later went on to give a warning.  Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, “the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, “who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation” (Mark 12:38-40 NKJV). There are “good scribes” and there are “bad scribes”.
Studying the Scriptures is a necessity for the believer. The Scriptures are the fuel that keeps the fire of our faith alive.  But if we’re not careful, our studying can puff us up and twist our spirituality.  The good scribes are those who learn the Scriptures and realize that they must work at loving God, loving people, and staying humble.  The bad scribes are the ones who slip into the pride that demands attention.  Their focus isn’t on God or on loving people; their focus is on getting into the spotlight, demanding respect, taking advantage of people, and putting on a good show.

Beloved, as you study the Scriptures, be careful to maintain the attitudes that keep you useful.  Love the Lord.  Serve others.  Walk in humility.

02-04-07

It was about the most amazing rescue that had ever occurred or would ever occur in history.  Two million people miraculously rescued as the Red Sea parted and they were rescued from their enemy.  And yet, as the people caught their breath on the other shore, things began to unravel.  They soon found that they had run out of water.  When they finally found an oasis, the waters were bitter, unfit for human consumption (Exo. 15).

Though this was a real, historical event, I can’t help but ponder on how much the event parallels our own lives.  We may have been through the greatest of deliverances, we might have experienced God’s touch in the most amazing of ways, and yet we find ourselves camped out and stuck in a place of bitterness.  Oh how bitterness robs us in life.  It poisons our heart.  It takes the wind out of our sails.  It stops us dead in our tracks as we sink into deeper levels of anger and depression.

But this didn’t stop Moses and it didn’t stop the Lord.  When the people complained about the bitterness, he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet… (Exo 15:25 NKJV).  I don’t think the lesson is about herbal remedies.  I think it’s about the tree.  It’s about the cross.  And when our lives seemed poisoned with bitterness, we need to bring the cross into the middle of the bitterness and remember the love that God displayed toward us as His Son bore our sorrows.  Let Him take away the poison of bitterness.  Drink deep of His sweet, sweet mercy.

01-28-07

I think it’s an issue of pride versus humility.  I don’t want you to think that the horrible thing he did was okay, but the attitude that led up to it is what concerns me. So what am I talking about?  The account is found in Matthew 26, when Jesus is betrayed and arrested.  Jesus had already warned His disciples that the time of His betrayal had finally come.  He told them that He would be betrayed by one of them.  But the clincher came when He said that every one of them would abandon Him.  For Peter, that was simply unthinkable.  Peter spoke up and said that even if others abandoned Jesus, Peter never would.  When Jesus told Peter that Peter was even going to deny Jesus three times, Peter responded that he would not only stay with Jesus, but was willing to die for Jesus (Mat. 26:33-35).

Well, you know the rest of the story.  Peter, along with the other disciples, did indeed abandon Jesus.  When Jesus was arrested in the Garden, the disciples fled.  And what’s worse, Peter found himself denying Jesus three times before the night was over.

I don’t want to comment on the rightness or wrongness of what Peter did.  My concern is that we learn from self-confident pride that says, “I would never do that!”  Because dearly beloved, the truth is we are going to sin.  I’m not advocating sin.  But as hard as we try, we will still sin.  Pride won’t admit weakness.  Humility recognizes utter dependence on God to keep from sin.  Humility is not surprised when I sin.  It’s humility that confesses guilt and receives forgiveness.  It’s humility that goes on to serve Jesus.

01-21-07

I find it so amazing that God would use such ordinary, flawed, and sinful people. Judah was one such person. Perhaps some of Judah’s troubles came from marrying a Canaanite gal (Gen. 38). She bore him sons who were described as “wicked” and “displeasing”.  The oldest was married to a gal named Tamar, but he died before having any kids.  Following after tradition, the next son married Tamar, but he also died before becoming a father.  Naturally Judah was reluctant for Tamar to marry the youngest son, so he sent her away for awhile.  But Tamar wasn’t about to be left out of the picture, so she dressed up as a harlot and waited.  Sure enough, Judah himself comes along looking for a harlot, and he ends up getting her pregnant without knowing who she was.  And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry.” So Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!” (Gen 38:24 NKJV)
I find it interesting that while Judah didn’t seem to have a problem hiring a harlot, he doesn’t want one in his family.  Jesus talked about a danger we face when we judge others. It’s not uncommon for us to become judgmental of the very thing we ourselves have a problem with.  Before we go out to save the world from splinters, we ought to learn to take the log out of our own eye first (Mat. 7:5).  Sometimes we feel so dissatisfied with everyone else, when we ought to be paying attention to the person in the mirror. Learn God’s grace. Receive God’s grace.  Share God’s grace.

01-14-07

“Some people are such jerks!  Can you believe what that guy just did to me?  I wish some people would get their act together.  Why can’t they just grow up?”

Have you ever said or thought things like that?  I have.  All the time.  In fact when it comes down to it, there are very few people who live up to my expectations, and I’m probably the worst offender.

Jesus and His disciples were walking through the grain fields on a Sabbath day.  As they walked, the disciples were picking wheat and eating it. When the Pharisees saw it, they complained to Jesus that the disciples were breaking their law. Jesus went on to explain to these hypocrites that not only were the disciples perfectly okay in eating like this, but the ones who were really offensive to God were the Pharisees.  Jesus said to them, “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Mat 12:7)
Sometimes we, like the Pharisees, have the wrong expectations of people.  And like the Pharisees, we can even trick ourselves into thinking that God has the same expectations that we do.  Now don’t misunderstand me, God does have expectations of us.  But sometimes His expectations aren’t like ours.  Jesus said that a chief quality that God cherishes is mercy.  God has oceans of mercy to pour out on me.  And He would love it if I became so saturated with His mercy, that I in turn would be merciful to others.  Take a deep breath.  Forget about the “jerk” you’re wrestling with.  Reflect His mercy.