Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Yesterday, I looked at the Ten Bridesmaids but backed up a little and read about the manager who was given charge of his master’s servants. I am going to look at that parable today along with another that is recorded in Luke 12 just before Jesus told that parable. I am looking at them together because Luke wrote them together as part of the same conversation Jesus was having with His disciples. The scene is that Jesus was talking with His disciples and a large crowd began to assemble around Him (Luke 12:1). However, this section of scripture suggests that Jesus was speaking mostly to His disciples as we see in verses 22 and then in verse 41.
In the first parable, Jesus talks of servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet. They wait up for his return so when he knocks on the door, they can open it immediately. Jesus then describes how the master will return and serve the servants. He warns the disciples that they need to be ready for His return at any point in time. In the second parable, Jesus tells of the master who leaves a manager in charge of the servants while he is away. He gives two scenarios; in the first the manager takes good care of the servants which is good for him when the master returns. In the second scenario, the manager mistreats the servants and is caught doing so by the master when he returns unannounced. The manager is then punished.
As I said in yesterday’s post, Jesus wants are faith to be active. I think of the song that Keith Green wrote called Asleep In the Light which tells of the church (the body of believers) that is serving only themselves and not seeing or doing the work God has called us to do. Please look up Matthew 25:31-48. Jesus tells his disciples this after telling the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids and the Parable of the Talents. We look at the Parable of the Talents as stewardship over what gifts we have been given; however, Jesus is painting a broader picture of stewardship. There are many people who need love and mercy and He expects us, the church, to provide those things. We are to help the poor, and to love the orphans. We are to help the widows and single parents. In Matthew 25 we see that Jesus expects us to care for everyone! Please understand that I am preaching this to myself; it is so easy to live and forget the needs around us. Jesus wants us to walk through life with our eyes open.
Church, it is time to arise and do the work that God has called us to do! If you don’t know where to start, pray and I know that God will show you the needs around you. Let's let the Spirit fill us with empowerment to do God's work! Are you asleep in the light? Please listen to this song by clicking on the following link:
Let the Church Rise by Jonathan Stockstill
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Jesus told us this parable to explain what the ends times would be like when He returned. It may be silly, but this parable makes me think of the student who hears his teacher tell him to always study and be ready because at any given time in class, there may be a pop quiz. How that student chooses to respond to that information is his responsibility. Have you ever had a teacher that seemed to enjoy inflicting pop quizzes on the class? How did you respond? Did you study diligently, or did you give it up for lost and hope for the best? Did you study a little and think you were prepared, only to find out that you didn’t study enough? Keep that in mind as you read this parable.
Jesus tells of ten virgins who were waiting for their groom to come and take them to the ceremony. In these days, it was the custom for the groom to pick up his bride and take her to the ceremony. Five of the brides were wise and were prepared for however long it may take the groom, but the other five only partially prepared. They had to go buy more oil for their lamps and missed their groom. Jesus then ended the parable with this statement: “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” If you backtrack and read Matthew 24:36-51, Jesus told them that He was teaching about the end times. He explained that only God knew when Jesus would return, so we all needed to be prepared.
Go back to the idea of the pop quiz. Think about the student who heard the teacher warn about pop quizzes, but for the first few months of school there was not a single quiz. After a while, the student may not remain diligent in his studying because he forgot the warning. When the teacher finally gives the pop quiz, the student will be caught off guard. I think we have the potential to be the same way. In Matthew 24, Jesus related not being prepared with a parable of a servant who was put in charge while the master was away. After a long while, the servant began to mistreat the other servants because he forgot he was still serving his master. When the master returned and caught him, he was punished.
Every one of us has a job to do here on earth. We are to share God’s love with others using the gifts God has given us. When we serve others for God, we are growing our relationship with God. As we have learned from reading through other parables, God expects good stewardship of the responsibilities He has given us. He wants us to love others and to tell others of His love. He wants us to care for those who are less fortunate and those who are vulnerable. Jesus was reminding us that He doesn’t want to come back and find that we have not been doing what we have been called to do. I will reference Micah 6:8 again only because it convicts me so strongly. “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” I know I have a long way to go, but I can say that as I have grown in my relationship with God, I have become more aware of the needs around me. Please understand that as I write this, I am so deeply convicted.
I also do not want to minimize the fact that Jesus was also talking to those who may not have yet taken a step of faith and were sitting on the fence. It is a good reminder that since His return is not known, it is better to decide now than wait!
Will God come when you are not prepared? Will you begin to look around you and ask how God would have you to act justly and love mercy and to have a humble walk with Him?
Monday, March 29, 2010
I know a man that has an incredible testimony of God's work in his life. He had lived a life of substance abuse and was a very angry man. It affected every aspect of his life and was beginning to destroy his marriage. God took a hold of him and changed him and restored his marriage. He is now on staff at a church and serves with joy. When I see him worship in church he worships God with a joy and fullness that is unmatched. He is a man who knows and remembers who he was before Christ and knows who he is now in Christ. That is what the parable for today is about.
Jesus was eating at the house of a Pharisee when a women known to be living a sinful life came in and anointed Jesus with expensive perfume and wiped his feet with her tears and hair. The Pharisee was offended that Jesus allowed it because of her sinful life. Jesus then told the parable of two men who owed a moneylender money. One owed a little, the other owed a lot. The lender decided to forgive both debts. Jesus ended the parable with the question, "Now which one of them will love him more?" The answer was the one with the greater debt. After telling the parable, Jesus forgave the women's sins.
Jesus explained to the Pharisee that "...her many sins have been forgiven - for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." Jesus was telling us that it doesn't matter what our background is, we all have sin. The people who understand the depth of their sin are the ones who are overwhelmed by God's grace and love Him deeply. Sometimes this can be difficult for the person who has grown up in church and has always known about God's mercy. Maybe you don't have a past that is marked by sinful mistakes that severely affected your life. Let's look up Romans 3:20-24. I want to point out verses 22b-23 in particular; it says, "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." There is no difference! We all have sinned; therefore we all have been brought up out of the pit. When we can recognize and remember where we would be without our loving Father, we are brought to our knees in love and awe.
This week, we observe Holy Week, which is the week leading up to Jesus' death on the cross and His Resurrection. I pray that as you go about this week and observe some of the rituals such as Communion, that you can realize the depth of God's mercy in your life, no matter what your background is. We all have a need for a Savior!
Do you love much?
Friday, March 26, 2010
There are a few parables that stand out, and if asked to list some of Jesus' parables, I would venture to guess that The Prodigal Son would be one of the top two on most people's lists. This is a parable that is told in Sunday School and from the pulpit to explain God's acceptance and mercy. However, last summer I had an opportunity to listen to Tim Keller talk about it at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. I had goose-bumps all through his talk because he had completely turned this parable upside down for me and allowed me to see it in a new light. Recently, I read his book that he wrote based on this parable called, The Prodigal God. His insight to this parable is incredible, and it is impossible to put it all in a blog post, so I gave you a link to amazon.com so you can look at it and hopefully read it. I will attempt to put down some ideas so you can learn to look at this parable from a new angle.
In this parable, Jesus tells of two brothers - the younger, irresponsible brother and the elder, obedient brother. The father in this parable represents God. The younger brother does the unthinkable and tells his father that he wants his share of his inheritance and left home. This would be the equivalent of a child telling a father that he is worth more dead than alive. When life became difficult and he ran out of money, he returned home planning on telling his father that he would be a servant. Instead, the father ran out to him and greeted him and gave him a feast. The elder brother was upset and would not join the feast.
Tim Keller points out that usually the elder brother's role in this parable is given very little attention and the mercy extended to the younger brother becomes the main point. That is not what Jesus intended, and if you read this story from the cultural perspective that the Pharisees heard it, the elder brother's role becomes very important. You see, Jesus was pointing out that the elder brother was just as lost as the younger brother, but for a very different reason. He was lost in his obedience. He was upset that his obedience never earned him a great feast. He was obedient out of expectancy, not out of love for his father.
That becomes a danger for anyone who is Christian. Are we obedient to God because we love Him and are overwhelmed by His extravagant love for us, or are we obedient so we can gain something in our relationship with Him? When we don't get what we feel we deserve if our obedience is based on the latter, it becomes a stumbling block for us. Jesus knew that would be a problem because He says in Matthew 11:6, "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." He was answering John the Baptists doubts; He knew that sometimes it can cause us to stumble when He doesn't give us what we feel we need (or deserve). When we can remember the reality that we don't deserve anything, even God's mercy, we can grow in our relationship with Him and be obedient out of love. Please read Tim Keller's book, it will challenge and push you in your walk with God.
Is your obedience to God motivated by love or expectancy?
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Once again, I consider today part one of a two part look at three parables. After spending time reading through Jesus’ parables, I feel like the three parables that I am looking at today and tomorrow have the theme that can be found in all the parables; Jesus was very direct in His message about His purpose here on earth. Just yesterday, I was talking with a friend about how beautiful it is to read about Jesus’ life on earth. Through the ages, God had been drawing humanity to Him, and Jesus’ presence on earth became the culmination of God’s yearnings. Jesus lived a life that demonstrated God’s absolute desire to have a relationship with us, and I feel that all the parables He told showed that all consuming love. He wasn’t condemning people to put them in their place; He was showing the flaws we have in our relationship with God so we could have a healthy, vibrant faith.
Jesus began telling these parables because the Pharisees and teachers of the law were mumbling, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them,” (verse 2). Knowing this, Jesus told these parables; please read verses 1-10 today. In the first parable, Jesus tells of a shepherd that loses one sheep and he leaves the other sheep to find the lost one. When he finds the sheep, he puts it on his shoulder and tells his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him because the sheep was found. Jesus also tells of a woman with ten silver coins and loses one. She cleans every corner of the house until she finds the coin and tells her friends to rejoice with her because she finds the lost coin. Jesus then tells of how there is so much rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents.
Have you ever taken the time to truly reflect on that? Have you ever noticed how beautiful that is? God loves you so much and desires to be with you so much that all of heaven rejoiced when you turned to Him! That is incredible! Jesus wasn’t justifying His actions for the Pharisees; He was simply explaining His mission. He spent time with the “sinners” so He could draw them to Him. He went out and sought them! Jesus commissioned all of us to do the same in Mark 16:15 when He said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Standing on a corner and preaching at people wasn’t the way Jesus did it; He spent time with people and shared a meal with them. He listened to them and loved them. Jesus sought us out and brought us to Him.
Jesus wants us to do the same. We need to proclaim the message of His love, but we need to do it in love. I am challenging myself today to look at the people around me and think of how much rejoicing there will be in heaven if they choose to accept the grace God has already extended to them. How can I tell them about His love?
Are you showing God’s love to others?
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Today is part two of two related parables. In reading this parable, I want to caution you that Jesus was not saying that it is evil to be rich. His point reaches further into the heart and is warning people that money will not get you to heaven. Yesterday, in our reading, Jesus said in Luke 16:15, “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” Jesus warned us yesterday that money becomes a god to us when we find ourselves serving it. When money becomes a factor in our decision making process and not what God would have us do; it has become our god. It is detestable because of the value we place on it.
Today, we read about a rich man who lived in luxury every day and about a beggar named Lazarus who was covered in sores and starving. The rich man went to hell and was tortured, and Lazarus went to heaven and was comforted. The rich man didn’t go to hell because he was rich; neither did Lazarus go to heaven because he was poor. It was a heart issue. I want to point out that in the parable; the rich man did nothing to help Lazarus. He was satisfied with the luxurious life that he was living and chose to be blind to the needs around him.
I have started reading a book called When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. I am only a few chapters into the book, but I feel that every Christian should read this book and allow God to challenge them on the subject of poverty. We Christians, for too long have ignored the issues behind poverty and instead have been rather judgmental towards people living in poverty. The authors point out that they have seen a dramatic change in attitude among Evangelical Christians, but we still have a long way to go. The following scriptures are mentioned in the book, and I want to pass them on to you because they go well with what I am writing about today. I will not type them out due to their length. Please look these up: Isaiah 1:10-13, 16b-17 and Isaiah 58:1-3, 5-10. When I studied Nehemiah in November, I wrote about Nehemiah 5 where he helped Israel heal by helping the poor. Micah 6:8 tells us that obedience to God requires us to love mercy. We see in Deuteronomy 15:4, 7-8 that God didn’t want His people to have anyone in need.
This is our call. God has given us different gifts, but we have all been called to love mercy and help those who are in need. Our hearts should change and reflect the mercy that God showed us when Jesus sacrificed for us. When we love our money, we have a difficult time showing mercy. I hope you are as convicted as I am! It is time for action. Please read When Helping Hurts because they don’t just encourage us to help; they show us how to help with the shrewdness that Jesus encouraged yesterday. We need to seek God’s wisdom on how we can best help poverty.
Do you see the needs around you? Do you love mercy?
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Luke 16: 1-16
This is a confusing parable. When we read it, we see that the manager is being commended by the rich man (his boss) for being shrewd. This definitely had me confused at first, and on some levels it still does, but I think I can understand somewhat on a simpler level. To fully understand the message Jesus was giving, we’ll have to extend it into tomorrow’s parable; so please view this posting for today as part one of a two part message from Jesus. Let’s look at today’s message.
When we read this parable and the verses that follow, we know that more than just Jesus’ disciples were in the audience. We see that the Pharisees were also listening and becoming offended. With that in mind, we need to ask ourselves what Jesus would have wanted the listener to understand from the parable. Jesus tells of a rich man who has a manager that had been accused of wasting the rich man’s possessions. When the manager was asked to account for his job, he began making deals with all the people who owed the rich man’s money. He was counting on the culture of the day that depended on remembering favors. He lowered the amount they owed, so when he was out of a job, they would provide him hospitality. When the rich man learned of it, he commended the manager for his shrewdness. The rich man was put in an awkward position as a result of the manager’s actions. The people indebted to him were happy with him because they didn’t owe as much, so he couldn’t really go back to them and demand the full amount. He would’ve also looked bad to others for letting go of a manager that everyone liked. Jesus ends the parable by saying, “…For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use wordly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
That last little bit had me wondering what Jesus was saying! A little more explanation is given in verse 13 when Jesus tells us, “…You cannot serve both God and Money.” I find it interesting that my Bible capitalized Money, making it a proper noun. Our money should never substitute for our relationship with God. We should be using the money God has given us to help others and grow God’s kingdom. The Pharisees loved their money and it substituted for a right relationship with God. They were not using their money to help others or to help others gain understanding of God. I love the fact that Jesus says about wealth, “when it is gone,” because even if we don’t lose our money here on earth, we cannot take it with us eternally. We are to be using the money we have now wisely and not have our money use us. If our focus is on our wealth, that does become our master. When we serve money, our focus becomes gaining more or maintaining what we have rather than asking how God would like us to use it for Him.
We do need to learn to become shrewd…but not dishonestly. We need to learn to see how God views riches and how He would like us to live. We need to be shrewd in a way to learn how to live for God. My husband and I currently have debt that will take a long time to pay off because when we were younger we were not spending money in a way that pleases God. Please read all of Psalm 49, it has some very strong things to say about what happens when we depend on wealth rather than God. Verse 20 says, “A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.” God is not saying that we cannot have money, but He is saying that our relationship with Him is more valuable than anything earth has to give and we should be sharing that with others.
How can you learned to give God all of you? Are you learning how God wants to use what He has given you?
Monday, March 22, 2010
Reading this parable got me curious and I began to wonder what people worry about the most. I know that I have a tendency to worry about finances, but what about other people? So I did an unscientific search on Google about what people worry about. I found it interesting that the top three sites I was sent to were titled, “What do rich people worry about?” I scanned the articles and I found out that they worry about finances, too. But their financial worries are different. They don’t worry about making ends meet, they worry about losing their wealth. An unfair lawsuit seems to be one of the top worries among people that are making around $1,000,000 a year. Either way, financial worries are not what God wants for us. He wants our focus about finances to be about what He would like us to do with our money. Let’s look at the parable for today.
A man approached Jesus and asked Him to settle an inheritance issue between two brothers. Instead Jesus told this parable to warn against greed. He then tells of a man that had an unusually large harvest that year and he built bigger barns to store it all for himself. He was very happy because he felt like he was set for the rest of his life. God told him that he would lose his life that night and no one would get to share in his wealth. “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God,” (vs. 21). I don’t believe that Jesus was saying never to set up a retirement account; He just wants us to think more than just ourselves when it comes to money.
There is nothing wrong with saving money; in fact it is a wise thing to do. Saving money sets us up for future purchases like a house or a car. It helps prepare for the future such as college or retirement. The problem with the man in this parable is that his savings became his source of comfort and he wasn’t sharing his wealth with others. If you jump down to verse 34, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If our heart is in our money, we will probably not be generous with it because we don’t want to lose it. When our hearts are on God, we will become more aware of how He would like us to use what He has given us.
Proverbs 12:28 says, “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” Our trust shouldn’t lie with our money; our trust needs to be in God. When we can put our trust in Him, we will thrive in ways that money would never allow us to thrive. I find this very convicting, because my human eyes see the financial stressors in my life; God wants me to look at those circumstances with His eyes and trust that He will always provide what I need when I need it.
How about you? Are you keeping trust in your money or in God?
Friday, March 19, 2010
We live in a culture that can be very critical and uses comparisons to set standards. We have media that celebrates what seems to be the perfect image. I have even seen magazines that compare people and show the best and the worst of people. It’s no wonder we all have poor self esteems; it is impossible to live up to those images and have a perfect body, perfect face, perfect hair, perfect life, perfect job, and perfect children living in a perfect home. Can you relate to what I’m saying? The human tendency to make up for our inferiority complex is to compare ourselves to someone who may be a “worse” person and say, “At least I’m not that!” Our parable for today looks at exactly why that kind of thinking is a flaw.
Jesus had just finished telling the parable of the persistent widow (which we looked at a few days ago) when he told this parable. He tells of a Pharisee who exalts himself before God and thanks God because he (the Pharisee) is such a wonderful person and is not a person like that tax collector. The tax collector comes humbly before God and says, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus then says the unthinkable; he tells the people that the tax collector is the one who walked away justified before God. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted,” (vs. 14b). Please keep in mind that we have a different view of the Pharisees. In Biblical times, they were highly respected, educated men; the tax collectors were also educated, but they were viewed as lowly crooks.
Jesus was warning us that the point of praying and coming before God wasn’t to make ourselves look good. God wants us to be honest about who we are because God doesn’t need a performance; He knows our hearts already! God loves us even with knowing all about us – the good and the bad. Ours prayers don’t need to become a self indulgent celebration of ourselves to feel justified before God. When we come before Him humbly knowing that we need Jesus as our savior, we are justified. There is danger in comparing ourselves to others because the only comparison that should be made is with God. He didn’t ask us to become like our neighbor; He asked us to become like Him.
Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” God wants us to sacrifice our human nature and to lay aside our desires and follow Him in view of the mercy He has extended to us. I Corinthians 1:2 says, “…to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are called to live holy lives that reflect God’s work in us. Comparing ourselves to other humans before God is pointless because we are to use Him as our model.
I have to chuckle a little because it would be easy to look at the Pharisee’s prayer and say, “At least I don’t pray like that!” Isn’t that the same? It is so easy to compare ourselves to others. Saying, “I could never measure up to that!” when we look at others is actually very similar. It is still focusing on our own abilities to look right before God rather than trusting His work in our lives. No matter which way we compare ourselves to others, it is wrong! Unfortunately, it is so easy to do.
Are you looking to Christ for your justification, or are you trying to measure by human standards?
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I’m backtracking a little with this parable and reading the 7 verses before it. I think it sets the stage nicely for the parable that Jesus told. It gives us the context of the scene and why Jesus would have told the parable. Looking at verses 7 - 14, Jesus notices that people were putting themselves in places of honor at a feast. He warned them against pride and placing themselves in a place of honor because someone else may be honored more and they will be humiliated. Jesus then explains the danger of inviting people to a banquet you know will repay you, instead invite people who cannot repay. He tells them they will be blessed.
After Jesus gives these wonderful nuggets of wisdom, a man blurts out, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God,” (verse 15). I can only imagine how exasperated Jesus may have felt, because I have been there with my children. I give them good motherly advice, and then they just blurt out something that shows they were not listening to the point! Jesus then told the parable of the man who was giving a great banquet and invited many people. When the feast was ready, the people began to make excuses why they should not come. Jesus then told of the man’s reaction and ordered his servants to invite whomever they saw; the poor, the crippled, and the blind. He ended the parable with, “I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.”
Let’s look back on the context of the parable. Jesus was sending a very strong message. We know, as did the Jews at the time, that God is preparing a banquet. The Jews looked forward to being at God’s banquet table and they were most definitely invited. The problem came when the Jews began to look at other things more important than their faith walk with God. Spending time with God became less important than the work it took to follow the law. They became too busy following the law to enjoy a relationship with God. They took great pride in who followed the law the best and who could claim to be flawless. The people who were willing to accept that they were flawed were the ones who found the time to seek Jesus. They were the ones that were not too busy to come to the feast.
Thinking of today, what do we do to send a message to God that we are too busy for Him? We each have our own things that keep us from enjoying God’s presence in our lives. It could be working and raising a family. It could even be very noble things such as serving and volunteering at church or at para-church organizations. There is nothing wrong with volunteering; it just becomes a problem when we get so wrapped up in the work that we don’t spend time with God. Maybe we even take pride in the work we do and look down on those that don’t spend as much time volunteering. God wants our service to Him to be an extension of our relationship with Him; He doesn’t want our relationship based only on service.
Where have you become too busy for God in your life?
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
We have now reached one the most popular parables told by Jesus. In fact, this is a parable that I have even heard told in secular settings. I just pray that our familiarity with this parable doesn’t prevent us from receiving a fresh word from God. This is a parable that we can use to remind us of who God wants us to reach and love. If you haven’t read the parable yet, please do so now.
An expert of the law asked Jesus who his neighbor was after telling Jesus that one of the great commandments was to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus answered him with this parable. He tells of a man that was robbed on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. A priest passed him on the other side of the road, and a Levite did the same thing. These people were highly respected and honored in this culture, and they were very familiar with God’s law. Jesus used these people to show that position on earth does not exempt us from doing what God wants us to do. Finally a Samaritan (Samaritans and Jews disliked each other) saw the man and took care of him and paid for his stay in an inn until he got better.
There was a lot of animosity between the Jews and Samaritans. If you notice the expert’s reaction when Jesus asked who had acted as a neighbor, the expert said, “The one who had mercy on him.” He wouldn’t even call him a Samaritan. I find it interesting that Jesus wasn’t just showing that the person who we considered the least was the one showing God’s love by showing mercy on a person that he didn’t necessarily like. The Samaritan was able to see pass whatever prejudice he was raised in and help a fellow human. The other thing that I find interesting is that Jesus used people who should have known better that refused to help.
I find that very convicting. I know better, but how many times have I turned away when someone needed help? It is easy to justify why I turned away…”I’m late for work…,” “I’m tired…,” the excuses are endless. The problem is that the crisis for the other person still exists. Let’s dig a little deeper and touch on the spiritual needs around us. The justifications become even greater when we don’t share the solution to eternal death. It makes us very uncomfortable to share with a person in a spiritual crisis the very thing that will save them! How many times have I invited someone to church? How about the difficult neighbor that needs a listening ear? Jesus was telling us that we need to step out of our comfort zones to be a “good neighbor.” We need to share God’s love with EVERYONE around us, even the people that can be difficult to love.
I also want to point out that the Samaritan showed love to a person that would never be able to repay him, or even say thank you. We don’t need to ever expect anything in return for showing love. We shouldn’t expect a pat on the back from the people around us; in fact, sometimes you may be asked how you could be so nice to a particular person. Are you as convicted as I am?
Have you been a good neighbor?
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I love how this parable starts: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” I don’t know about you, but I certainly appreciate when the Bible makes a statement like that! It helps me understand the main focus of the parable. I think sometimes we ignore the beginning statement that sets up the parable. Yesterday, Jesus was teaching about prayer, today Jesus was teaching about persistence. We know that was His point because we are told that was His purpose for telling this parable.
Jesus tells of a judge who didn’t fear God or care about men. A widow kept coming to him asking for justice, and he would refuse. Finally, because of the widow’s persistence, he saw that she got justice. Before I move on, I want to make sure that I mention the fact that Jesus used a widow in this story. Widows were some of the most vulnerable people in the village, and Jesus was showing how awful this judge was to not listen to her. Jesus then goes on to make the point that God would never do that to us! God does listen to us and we should never give up asking.
Sometimes we think we know what is best and forget that God really knows what is best. Sometimes we are in a situation when we are crying for justice, and it seems that God isn’t listening. I know when I have been in those situations; hindsight always shows me that there were pieces to the puzzle that I didn’t see at the time that needed to work out first. Just because God doesn’t respond when we want Him to or in the way we want Him to, we need to trust His judgment and remember that He sees the whole picture. We can’t give up; we need to continue turning to God and trusting Him.
Do you trust God’s judgment? Do you trust Him enough to continue coming to Him?
Monday, March 15, 2010
Do you ever remember when you were a child and you wanted something so bad and you kept asking your parents for it when your birthday or Christmas came around? Maybe your friends had it, or it was advertised in such a way that you were sure that you couldn’t live without it. Perhaps you received something better from your parents, but at the moment it didn’t seem better because it wasn’t exactly what you wanted. It wasn’t until later that you received a better item after a lot of use and realized that your parents really did understand what you wanted and needed. This next parable makes me think of that.
We actually are reading a little before the parable starts so we can have some context. One of the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, and Jesus teaches them what we know today as “The Lord’s Prayer.” After teaching them the prayer, Jesus then tells them the parable of the man who goes to his friend at asking for bread for his guest. A pastor told me that culturally, this has a lot of significance. At that time, when a guest came to stay with someone, the whole village considered them their guest; and they also felt it was the entire village’s responsibility to host and feed the guest. So in this parable, the man that telling the neighbor no when he asked for bread was unheard of. Once again, in this culture people didn’t bake bread every day because it was such a big process. This man was probably the one who had fresh bread, and he was doing the unthinkable to refuse to give it to the neighbor for his guest. He finally gives the bread because the neighbor was “bold.”
Jesus then tells us in verses 9-10, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” I find it interesting that Jesus would finish this parable that outlined the unthinkable response of the neighbor with the bread with that statement. To me, it seems that Jesus was telling the disciples that they have a God that would never do the unthinkable and not provide a need. From a spiritual point of view, I also find it interesting that he used bread as the need in the parable. Please look up John ; Jesus says, “…I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” What greater need do we have than to taste the bread of life? Again, I will go back to Hebrews 11:6 where it says, “…because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” If we seek Him, we will find Him; if we ask for the bread of life, we will receive it!
Jesus then goes on to explain that we who are evil (sinners) know how to give good gifts to our children, “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Wow! I think sometimes we take this section of scripture out of context and assume that this means that if we ask God with a lot of persistence for something that we will receive whatever we ask. I think Jesus was showing that when we ask for what we really need, God will give it to us freely. Jesus then references the Holy Spirit being given to those who ask.
I also want to take note of one more thing, Psalm 118:19-21 says, “Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.” Praise God that He opens the door for those who ask and seek!
Have you asked for the bread of life? Have you sought Him out and knocked on the door?
Friday, March 12, 2010
This parable touches every listener because we have all been hurt by someone and needed to forgive them. Forgiveness is one of the difficult things that God asks of us, but when we look at it from the view of how much we have been forgiven; we are humbled and can forgive those who have hurt us. This parable was a very concrete to see the way that God feels when we do not forgive each other. Let’s take a look.
When Peter asked Jesus if forgiving someone seven times was enough, he thought he was being generous. The religious leaders of the day said that people should forgive someone who had offended them three times, so Peter thought he was being generous. Jesus answered “seventy times,” and then told this parable. We learn of three people in this story: the king, the servant with a great debt to the king, and another servant with a small debt to the first servant. The king represents God in this parable. The first servant owed the king ten thousand talents, which was the equivalent to millions of dollars. After the servant pleaded for mercy the king took pity on him and canceled the debt. I am going to stop here for a minute and point out a few things. The servant was going to go to jail for his debt, a debt that was realistically impossible for him to pay back. The king showed him mercy and CANCELLED the debt.
Reflect on that for a minute. When we sin, we don’t just sin against a person we are also sinning against God. God is perfect; He is without sin. When we sin, we have a debt to God that is impossible to pay back. Because God loves us so much, he sent Jesus to make a way to have our sins cancelled! They are gone! Let’s look at the next part of the parable.
Another servant owed the first servant a hundred denarii, which is the equivalent to a few dollars. The servant with the cancelled debt insisted that he get paid back. When the second servant was unable to pay back the debt, the first servant had him thrown in jail. The king was furious and threw the first servant in jail. When I thought about this and why Jesus made the debts so drastically different I realized that really is the way our sins and forgiveness works. Going back to the idea that our debt against God is so huge, we don’t have the ability to ever pay it back. When someone sins against us, it still doesn’t compare to the pain we inflict on God. Please don’t take offense to what I said; this is coming from someone who has come from an abusive childhood and had to forgive for some very painful things. It feels huge (because it is), but when we compare it to the fact that we sin against our maker – the one that will never sin against us and has done EVERYTHING to be with us we realize that our sin against God is so much bigger. Jesus died and rose again so we could be justified in God’s sight, yet we still sin.
With that in mind, think of how it makes God feel when we do not forgive someone when they hurt or offend us. God does not trivialize our pain, but we still need to forgive. Unforgiveness doesn’t hurt the person we are not forgiving, it hurts ourselves (and God). Sometimes the pain is so deep that we can’t bear to forgive. When that happens to me, I ask God to give me the desire to forgive. It is amazing how each time I have prayed that prayer, I find myself with the need to forgive and let go. Once again, God reminds me of the great sacrifice He made for me, and I am able to forgive. When we don’t forgive, it is like we are telling God that we are above the very thing He did for us.
Are you harboring unforgiveness in your heart? If it is difficult to forgive, ask God for help. He will help you because He wants you to forgive just as He has forgiven you.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Do you have a soap-box? I have a few, and if you’re like me once you stand on it, there’s no stopping you! You want to make sure that your point is absolutely clear. The parables we are looking at this week is like that. It all started with the religious leaders and Pharisees asking Jesus about His authority. Did you grasp that? They were asking Jesus about His authority! Maybe that’s what spurred on the onslaught of parables- three of the four parables we have looked at through today came right after Jesus was questioned about His authority. Their refusal to believe Him gave Jesus a reason to tell them what would happen with unbelief and wrong motives. He knew they were rejecting Him, and He told parables about what happens when we reject God and rely on our self-righteousness.
To understand the parable for today, there are some cultural tones that need to be addressed. It was customary for a host to send two invitations to a banquet; the first would ask the guest to attend and the second would announce that the feast was ready. In this parable the host sent more invitations showing us that God continually sends His invitation to us. Another cultural note is the wedding garments. It was customary in the day for the host to provide garments to wear to the feast. It was unthinkable to attend the feast in something other than the clothing provided – it was an insult to the host.
In this parable, we have three sets of people: those who refuse the invitation, those who accept the invitation but don’t wear the proper clothing, and those who accept the invitation and wear the clothing provided by the host. It is easy to understand who the first set of people is; there will be people who will never accept God’s invitation and will not make it to the feast. The second set is a little harder. Here is where I find our recurring theme this week. These are the people who want to come to the feast, but try on their own abilities to come. They still do not accept that only Christ can provide their salvation; they try things like good works. The third set is the people who accept the invitation and fully understand that it is only through Christ that they receive their salvation.
What is the clothing we need to wear to be a part of the feast? Psalm 132:16 says, “I will clothe her priests with salvation and her saints will ever sing for joy.” Isaiah 61:10 says, “…For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” And finally, we see what happens in the end in Revelation 19:7-8, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)” If you remember from our study of Hebrews 11, our faith will be credited as righteousness. Romans 4:23-25 says, “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” If you believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation, you will wear the fine linen to the feast!
Have you accepted God’s invitation? Do you truly believe that Jesus is the only road to salvation – not by works but by faith?
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I remember just after September 11 many people were saying that the tragedies that happened on that day happened because of God’s wrath. They were saying that because America was wicked and God was punishing us for our wickedness. Jesus answered that in verses 1-5 in Luke 13; He was being questioned about recent tragedies. Jesus explained that those people were no more of a sinner than the rest of us and that wasn’t why those tragedies happened. He then warned them that unless they repented, they would have an eternal death. To solidify what He was telling them, He told them the parable that we are looking at today.
A man had a fig tree in his vineyard that had not produced fruit for three years. He wanted the tree cut down because it was wasting soil for something that may produce fruit. The caretaker asked the landowner to care for it one more year with extra attention, and then if it didn’t produce fruit he would cut it down. Jesus was warning the listeners that it was time to bear fruit; our faith requires action. He wanted to see a faith that was life changing and bearing God’s fruit. The fruit that God wants to see in our life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). John the Baptist also gave a similar message in Luke 3:7-9. Please read it!
John was warning them that just because they were genetically linked to Abraham, they needed more than that! They needed to have a fruit-producing faith in God. You see, when we believe that God loves us, our lives are changed. When we accept that our salvation only comes from Him, we change. We then begin to produce fruit to please God because we are so overwhelmed by His love for us. Psalms 1 touches on this, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Our live and active faith makes it a delight to follow God’s law. The law doesn’t save us, but it becomes our delight!
One more beautiful thought…Psalms refers to the person as a tree by streams of water. What does Jesus say about himself? He is the one who gives us living water (John 4:10)! When we place our trust in Jesus and His direction, we will produce fruit only the living water can produce.
Are you producing fruit for God? Are you placing your roots in the streams of living water?
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Knowing the time at which this parable is told is very helpful. Jesus tells this parable at the same time as yesterday’s parable. Yesterday, we saw that no matter how obedient the religious leaders were, their lack of faith was what Jesus noticed. After telling the parable that exposed their non-belief, Jesus then told the parable that we are looking at today.
In this parable, and landowner rents out a vineyard to some tenants and then sent some servants to collect his fruit as payment. The tenants beat the servants, so the landowner sent more servants to collect his payment. They treated those servants the same. He finally sent his son, which the tenants murdered. Jesus asked the crowd what should happen and the crowd said that the landowner should bring them to an end and rent out the vineyard to new tenants. Jesus then quoted Psalms 118:22-23, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone (cornerstone); the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” Jesus went on to explain that the kingdom of God will be taken away from the “religious” people and given to a people “who will produce its fruit.”
I think it is important to remember that yesterday’s parable exposed the un-belief of the religious leaders, and today’s parable was telling them that they were not going to be a part of God’s kingdom. I also find it interesting that Jesus had the son killed in the parable; I think He was showing the leaders that He knew they were plotting to kill Him. Throughout this study of Jesus’ parables, I have seen how Jesus was talking to the religious leaders of the day. At the end of today’s parable, we see that they knew Jesus was talking about them, which made them angrier.
Let’s let God do His work in our lives so that we don’t come to a place where we are rejecting Jesus as our Savior. Once again, we cannot do anything to merit God’s favor; He just wants our faith. The religious leaders would not give God their faith; they just wanted to look good. Jesus told them that Abraham’s inheritance would be taken away and given to those who had faith. He wants people who will produce fruit for Him!
Is your faith producing fruit for God?
Monday, March 8, 2010
While I have been feeling that studying Jesus’ parables is difficult, I have also been richly blessed through the process. I have learned so much about myself through the process, and I am so thankful that God is patient enough with me to help me learn! I know I am not a Bible scholar and my views on these parables are simplistic; I have still been stretched and placed in front of God’s mirror for some self-examination. Oh how I pray that God strips me of any portion that is Pharisaical. It truly hurts when God points out something that must go, but what a victory can be claimed in our lives when we decide to trust His work in us!
I think the context of the parable helps us understand why Jesus was even telling His audience this parable. If we go back to verse 23, we can see that Jesus was teaching in the temple (in Jerusalem) when the chief priests and elders came in to question Him. They asked Him about what authority He came to teach. Jesus never answered their question directly because they would not be direct with Him; instead He asked them questions about John the Baptist’s authority. They wouldn’t answer, so He told them this parable instead.
This parable is about two sons who were told to do something by their father. The first said no, but then he changed his mind and did what he was told. The second said yes, but never did it. Jesus then asked them who did what the father wanted. The answer was obvious, it was the first son. Jesus went on to explain that the “sinners” who didn’t obey immediately changed their hearts and listened to John’s message while the others didn’t believe John. The religious leaders were hoping to trap Jesus, instead Jesus exposed their motives. They didn’t want to hear the truth; they wanted to support what they believed.
Sometimes I can see that in myself. I don’t want to hear the truth if it means that I have to change my behavior! But I desperately need to hear the truth so I can please God. What does God want from us that truly pleases Him? Faith. Let’s look at Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Let’s now go back and look at Matthew 21:32, “For John came to you to show the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” No matter where we are in life, we need to believe God. The problem with some of the religious leaders was that they thought that as long as they plodded along and followed the law exactly, they did not need salvation. What they forgot is that they were not perfect every day of their life and they most definitely needed a Savior.
While God wants us to obey, our obedience is not what saves us. Let that sink in. We don’t obey God for salvation. Our salvation only comes by God’s grace when we have faith in Him. Our faith in God is what will produce good works; good works does not produce faith. In fact, good works without faith can cause resentment. God isn’t looking for the obedient life; He is looking for the obedient heart.
Are you turning to God for your salvation or are you relying on your good works? Pray that God searches your heart so you can walk with Him in faith.
Friday, March 5, 2010
For the last few days, I talked about the parable of the talents and the parable of the ten servants. I explored how Jesus may have been giving us a sense of urgency to keep people from an eternal damnation, and I also explored how Jesus was probably talking directly to some people in His audience that was choosing to ignore His authority. I explored how God wants us to use the skills He has given us. I have also explored how He looks at us building His kingdom during Jesus' absence on earth is considered good stewardship. After reading this parable, I feel that it ties in what we have been exploring for the last few days nicely.
In this parable, I feel that Jesus is reminding us that when we are obeying Him, we shouldn't expect tons of accolades; we are simply doing what we are supposed to do. He likened it to a servant who does what he is told and doesn't expect anything in return because he is a servant. As a mother, I think of my children's obedience. I do not give them rewards every single time they obey my directions. I approve of their behavior and appreciate their obedience, but I also expect it from them. That is what they are supposed to do! That is how our obedience should be with God.
We should obey God because that is what we are supposed to do. This is not for reward; in fact sometimes our obedience can put us in situations we don't really like. What we need to remember is that obedience is what we are called to do - nothing else. We truly are unworthy of His grace, we are only doing what we are told to do (at best).
Are you obeying God out of expectancy, or are you obeying God because that is what you are supposed to do?
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Yesterday, I made a comment about how Jesus’ parables pack a lot of information in them and they can be looked on many levels. Yesterday, I talked about what we as Christians can learn when Jesus talks about Hell, but let’s look at some of the other people in His audience that day. Before I start, I do want to acknowledge that my husband and another pastor discussed these two parables with me and I wanted to share what I had learned from them. If we look at the context of the parable, we see that Jesus was probably speaking to a large crowd, but in Luke, Jesus was at Zacchaeus’ house. We are told in verse 7 that “all the people saw this and began to mutter, ’He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’” It is at this point that Jesus tells the parable of the Ten Servants.
Jesus had several personalities in the crowd with Him; the disciples were there, the “sinners”, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees. For the disciples, we can see that verse 11 tells us that they were near Jerusalem, just before His triumphal entry and death. Jesus would rise again, but He would also be leaving the earth only to return at the end of our days here. Jesus was telling the disciples to use what He has given them while He was away to build God’s kingdom. They (and us) need to be faithful stewards and disciple God’s children. For the Pharisees and Sadducees, He was pointing out that they were not being good stewards over God’s children. Jesus had already mentioned that they were binding up God’s children with rules they couldn’t even follow (Luke 11:46). Jesus was speaking of what would happen to unfaithful stewards. He also was talking to the leaders of the law that refused to accept His authority, and talked about the eternal damnation that would happen to them.
Wow! There is a lot to unpack in these parables. What is God telling you today?
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
This parable is very similar to the one we read yesterday. Please read through it and look at the parallels in the parable from yesterday. One thing that is different is the subjects who disliked the noble man and sent a delegation to the other kingdom to express their displeasure at the thought of him becoming a king. Since we examined God’s desire for us to use the talents and gifts He has given us to build His kingdom, let’s look at His response to those who rebel against His authority.
Have you ever known anyone who has learned about God and made an effort to not follow Him? I’m not talking about the person who has never encountered Him; I’m talking about the person who has been taught about Him and His love for us. They have learned of the sacrifice Christ made for us, but they choose not to accept His gift. This person is very proud and does not accept that he/she needs a savior. I have known people like that and it breaks my heart. These two parables show us what happens to the person who openly chooses to rebel against their knowledge of who God is. They are condemned to die an eternal death, but this isn’t just death, it is suffering. In yesterday’s parable, Matthew 25:30 concludes it with, “And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
I’ll be honest with you, I hate talking about this side of eternity. I prefer to tell every one of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness; I don’t like talking about “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” It is a very disturbing picture. I also believe that God wants us to come into to a relationship with Him not out of fear, but out of humility that He would choose to have a relationship with us. He wants us to learn of His love for us and grow to become more like Him. He wants us to use the skills He has given us to bring people to Him. Sometimes I wonder if the picture of Hell that Jesus paints was more for us; He wants us to feel an urgency to keep people from going there. The more I look at these two parables, the more layers I uncover and it is quite amazing that Jesus packed so much meaning into them! So, the layer I am looking at today is using our gifts to prevent others from the damnation Jesus talks about in both parables.
Do you feel the urgency to tell others of God’s love? Are you being Christ to the world in His absence?
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
This parable is about a man who goes on a long journey and gives three of his servants a certain amount of money to keep. The amount was different for each man, according to his ability. When he came back, the servant with the most doubled the money as did the second servant. The third servant hid his money and did nothing with it. The owner was angry and took the money from him and gave it to the one with the most. This parable isn't just about money; it is about us and what we do with what God has given us.
We are each given something that we can use for God; it could be an artistic talent, an administrative ability, or any other skill. Everything God gives us can be used to glorify Him and to be used for His kingdom. The amount we are given isn't the point; in fact Jesus tells us in the parable that each was given to his own ability. I think that means that God is going to give us what we are able to work with. The point is God expects us to do something with what we are given; we are not to sit quietly with a gift and hide it.
I have been in church long enough to realize that there are a lot of talented people sitting in the pews who do not use their skills while they are there. There are people who are gifted in hospitality who could be greeting visitors each week. There are people who are good with money; they could be sharing their understanding with other people or helping keep the church's finances in order. There are people who are excellent organizers who could be using their skills to organize an event. There are people who enjoy cleaning and they could helping to keep the church clean. I could go on; God gave each of us skills that He want us to share and grow. You may feel that your abilities are too small to be used; that is not true! Even if you are helping cut pictures for the children's ministry, you have just saved someone else time to work on something else. God sees everything you do and is pleased when you use what He has given to you for Him.
Are you using what God has given to you for Him? If you are unsure of what you can do, check with your church; they may have a class or program that helps you find where you can be used. Go be used by God!
Monday, March 1, 2010
Years ago, a serial murderer was caught after brutally killing several people; he was convicted and was given the death sentence. While he was in jail, he repented and asked Christ into his life. While many Christians rejoiced over his salvation, others were upset and said he deserved to die after what he had done. I even remember hearing a person say that they couldn’t believe that this person truly had received the gift of salvation because he had done such awful things. The problem with that thinking is that the person forgot that salvation and grace are gifts that God freely gives to us – we don’t deserve it! He loves us so much that He wants to extend His grace no matter what is in our past. The parable I am looking at today helps us learn this lesson.
Jesus tells us about a landowner (God) who hires some men to work in his vineyard for a certain price. Throughout the day, he finds more men to go out and work in the field with the original workers. About an hour before they finished, the owner found more workers and hired them for that last hour. He paid all of them the amount he promised the original workers, which upset the workers. The owner then replies to them in verses 14-15, “I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?” It is a good reminder for us that how God chooses to give His gift of grace is not our place to give commentary. We are completely blessed to receive the gift in the first place.
God bought us with a great price; He sacrificed His only son so that we could have life with Him! That sacrifice is worth the same for the person who received salvation as a child as it is for the person who received salvation on their deathbed. We can rejoice that God looks beyond our sins and still extends His grace. We are no more deserving of His grace than the person who killed many people, yet He gives it to us anyway. I am so thankful that God has drawn me to Him even though I have sinned!
Do you rejoice when someone comes to Christ no matter what is in their past? If you are new in your walk with Christ, do you believe that God has given you equal share in the inheritance? Praise God that He doesn’t play favorites!