Monday, February 18, 2019

Fear ...

"But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay ...  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” -- Matthew 28:5-6, 10
I have a fear of heights. I remember having a job years ago that required my climbing to the top of a natural gas tower in times of emergency. Thankfully no such occasions ever came, because I found that half way up the stairs I froze and was unable to move forward and was almost unable to back down the stairs. I am living proof that fear is a power that can seriously cripple someone.
In light of the power that fear had over the women, the angel and Jesus quickly spoke to the issue. "Do not fear" was the message and the resurrection of our Lord was all that anyone needed to trade fear for courage. It's just not enough for someone to say "Do not fear", but when all the evidence around you gives hope and security you can be brave. This is what the risen Savior offers to everyone who comes to him... courage.
I have found that I can be confident at any height when I am standing on firm footing surrounded by a protective wall. Fear disappears when we have something or someone in which to trust. Jesus is that someone my friend, because he is the risen Savior. Step out of the dark and hear his words to you today... "Do not fear".

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Walls...

"And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom." - Matthew 27:51
Everywhere we turn, we hear about fences and walls. Some are built to provide simple privacy for quiet family and social occasions. Others are built to protect properties from vandalism and theft. But, no matter the reason, such obstructions are meant to keep people out at all cost. Only those with permission are allowed entrance.
Of all the events that surrounded our Lord's crucifixion, the torn curtain may hold the most significant message. Throughout the ages sinful man has been refused entrance into God's Holy presence. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden and a sinful world has been shut out ever since. Throughout the ages, the only means of entrance was found in an annual atoning blood sacrifice. But, on this day, the curtain was torn by God, from top to bottom, and  through the shed blood of Jesus, permission was given to enter.
Our God is Holy, Holy. Holy and we are sinful in more ways than we can count. The wall is rightly placed between sinful people and a Holy God. But the words of Hebrews 10:19-22 point us to the torn curtain... "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." Child of faith... you now have permission to enter, so draw near my friend, draw near.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Persecution ...

"They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said." - Matthew 27:28-29
In February, 2015, 20 Coptic Christians were killed by the Islamic State in Libya. Their bodies were finally returned to Egypt in May, 2018.  It was reported that they were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians. There are many believers who might ask why would God allow such persecution?
In the face of such martyrdom we might step back and consider the events recorded in today's reading. Our Lord was humiliated and mocked, even before he suffered the agony of scourging and crucifixion. Concerning this experience our Lord said in John 15:20, "Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." 
Never believe that God's children are meant to live a well received and respected life in this world my friend. No matter how much we try, at the end of the day those who follow Jesus will be mocked and humiliated just as He was. While God allows such persecution, He also provides the strength and grace to say "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)

Friday, February 15, 2019

Responsibility ...

"When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”" -- Matthew 27:24-25 
In the spring of 2009, a decision was handed down concerning a rape case in New York City. After a woman was raped repeatedly in the view of two NYC transit employees, the judge ruled that they had no obligation to do anything to help her other than to signal their superiors that police were needed at the station. The case is reminiscent of the Kitty Genovese murder in 1964, when a number of neighbors watched the stabbing without responding with help. When is someone expected to be responsible?
Social responsibility may be open to discussion, but spiritual responsibility is another matter entirely. When each person stands before God after they breathe their last, one question will be asked. "What have you done, in response to my Son?" Pilate wanted to be innocent of the blood of Jesus, but was that possible? Since "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23) and only "the blood of Jesus... purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7) "...how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3) Eventually, every individual person will be held responsible.
Have you found ways to "pass the buck"? Is the concept of personal responsibility archaic and  irrelevant to you? Are you aware that you have already made a decision about Jesus Christ, and you are responsible? John said it in 1 John 5:12, "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." What have you done, in response to the Son? The truth is; no one is innocent and everyone is responsible.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Make a difference ...

"And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end." - Matthew 26:58
I always marvel at the vast number of onlookers that collect when an tragedy occurs. Whether it be rubbernecking on the highway or the crowd gathered around a heart attack victim, people collect like flies to honey. While a large number will come together out of curiosity, there are very few that will step forward in the time of need to make a difference.
Peter was filled fear. He initially drew his sword to protect his Lord, but such boldness had quickly faded in light of the circumstances. The enemy had become far to formidable so Peter backed way. He followed at a distance out of curiosity to "see the end", but failed to step forward in the time of need to make a difference.
The question hangs in the air doesn't it? What could Peter have done anyway? The wheels were in motion and what good could one man do? Is this the kind of rationale that floods your mind when you come across a crisis situation my friend? Consider the possibility that every crisis is a new opportunity to step forward in a time of need to make a difference.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Right Fit ...

"Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”  -- Matthew 26:53-54
Occasionally I purchase a chair or small appliance that requires assembly. The process moves along quite well until I come to that one piece just won't fit. Now I have two choices; I can return to the store and exchange the piece for one that actually fits, or I can force the original one into place. Whenever I choose to force the process, things just don't work. The right fit is the best fit.
The time came for the atoning work of Jesus. It would involve tremendous sacrifice and distress for our Savior, but this was the only way for redemption to be achieved. Furthermore, the crown awaited our Lord, but only through the cross. Jesus could have called twelve legions of angels and forced the process, but the right fit is the best fit.
There are times that the Lord calls you to make serious sacrifices my friend. You might be tempted to force the issue to another path that would seem better and easier. The price to achieve the goal may seem too great, uncomfortable and undesirable. But as you reflect on the choice our Savior made when he went to Calvary, consider that the right choice is always fulfilling the Lord's will. Remember, the right fit is always the best fit.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Never a waste ...

"And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me." -- Matthew 26:8-10 

With the intention to evangelize the previously unreached Huaorani, five young missionaries began making regular flights over Huaorani settlements in September 1955, dropping gifts. After several months of exchanging gifts, on January 3, 1956, they established a camp at "Palm Beach", a sandbar along the Curaray River, a few kilometers from Huaorani settlements. Their efforts came to an end on January 8, 1956, when all five — Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming and Roger Youderian — were attacked and speared by a group of Huaorani warriors. Some people at the time may have said, "Why this waste?"
This dear woman, Mary of Bethany as mentioned in John 12:3, poured out a personal sacrifice to honor the Lord. No matter what the sacrifice, great or small, Jesus sees it as a beautiful thing. It is never a waste when we give our all to worship and serve the Lord. He sees the value in a far different manner than others. The moments to serve pass quickly and the wise servant will redeem the moments for the Glory of God. Our sacrifices for Jesus are never a waste.
When you evaluate your efforts made for the kingdom of God and wonder if it was worth it, remember that his ways are higher than your ways and his thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9) and "He has made everything beautiful in its time." (Ecclesiastes 3:11) In retrospect, a number of those responsible for the above martyrdom became strong followers of Christ and powerful preachers of the Gospel. In addition, over the years, many young people were inspired to give their lives for Missionary work. No sacrifice for Jesus is a waste!

Monday, February 11, 2019

When He is Blessed...

"And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." - Matthew 25:40
Speaking as a father, I have always appreciated those who have been kind to my sons. There have been those who contributed assistance in moments of emergency and those who have opened their homes to provide encouragement and mentoring. From one degree to the other, when my family has been blessed, I have been blessed.
While Jesus spoke of kingdom issues in this passage, he also revealed His heart for His family. Another revealing moment was when the Lord appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus in Acts 9:4. In response to Saul's persecution of believers, Jesus asked "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?" When the Lord's family is hurt, He hurts... and when His family is blessed He is blessed.
Be very careful how you treat the family of God my friend. Should you choose to offend or abuse a child of God, you may be certain that you are offending and abusing the Lord too. When you make a concerted effort to provide care, compassion and encouragement to a fellow believer, you are also doing it to the Lord. When His family is blessed, so is He.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The more you invest ...

"So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." - Matthew 25:28-29
The late Christian motivational speaker Zig Ziglar has told millions of readers and listeners that they can have everything in life they want if they will just help enough other people get what they want. While this is a rather encouraging and positive thought, a parallel concept is found in the teachings of Jesus with the words of Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you." The simple kingdom truth is this; the more you invest in and for the Lord... the more will be gained.
The servants mentioned in the above passage differed from one another in one significant way. Two, out of faithfulness sought to benefit their Master and the other, out of fear sought to protect himself. Kingdom life is about sowing and reaping, not surviving and reserving. In the end the one who feared lost it all and the one who faithfully invested the most for His Master, gained the most.
Living for Jesus isn't a Wall Street experience, but He has given each one of us a stewardship of time, talents and treasures. How are you investing your stewardship today my friend? Are you willing to step out in faithfulness and give your all for the benefit of your Master? Remember, the more you invest in and for the Lord... the more will be gained.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Reservation Book ...

"Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour." -- Matthew 25:11-13
I stood in the foyer of a hotel some years ago and watched as a fellow traveler became quite animated when he was told that there was no reservation and no room for him. He was absolutely sure that he had a reservation, but the hotel had no record of such and they had no rooms available. No matter how sure he was, the record was clear... his name was not found.
"At midnight the cry came out: 'Here's the bridegroom'" The midnight cry is coming and we have no way of knowing when. The door will be open for all those who have reservations. But when it shuts, those left outside will be without hope. No matter how sincerely we believe that we have reservations, if we don't have the oil of salvation in the lamp of our souls, all we will hear are the words, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you". If we don't know the bridegroom (Jesus) in this life, our name won't be found in the reservation book.
For some, the midnight cry is expected with great anticipation. What about you? Have you trusted Jesus Christ as the only means for your salvation? If you have done so, you have been filled and sealed with the Holy Spirit and your lamp is ready for the wedding banquet.  Don't wait until the last moment to come knocking at the shut door. Make sure that your name is found in the reservation book.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Timeless ...

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." - Matthew 24:35

Homes are no longer illuminated by candlelight or kerosene lamps. We no longer cool our food in an "icebox", which used fresh ice blocks to do the job. We no longer travel to church in horse drawn carriages or heat the sanctuary with a coal burning furnace. All of the above have given way to modern development, but every week people join together to hear the Word of God preached. God's Word is timeless.
As Jesus spoke of His coming again on a day far into the future, He made it clear that many events and people will pass by the boards, but His Word will remain steadfast and sure. He spoke of events that have not yet occurred, moments that demand patience and great faith from God's people. Yet, he encourages every reader from every generation to be confident and alert. What the Word of God reports will surely come to pass. As then, so today, God's Word is timeless.
Does the Word of God speak to you today my friend? Are you reassured every day that Jesus is coming again? Do you find fresh insight and understanding as you pour over the pages of this ancient writ? The Scriptures are more unique than any book ever written. They make the past live and breath while bringing the future within reach of every reader. We know that Jesus is coming again because the Bible tells us so and that Bible is, and always will be timeless.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Judgment Day ...

"For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be." - Matthew 24:21 
From my earliest years, I remember seeing people walking up and down city streets with signs that warned of the impending end of the world. The years have passed and there seems to be no end in sight.  Yet, every year there seems to be a new harbinger of world devastation which convinces some people and further hardens others into unrepentant skepticism. The lingering question remains: will there ever be a judgment day?
The answer is clear and sobering as it comes from the lips of our loving and compassionate Savior. He never carried a sign or encouraged the building of survivalist bunkers. Jesus just told it like it would be and left the warning waft in the air of time and space. A time is coming, "such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be".  Yes, my dear friend, there will be a judgement day.
The greater question is, "how then shall we live?" Our Lord placed no set time for that moment, just the factual account of its coming. Just because that day has not yet arrived, should not lull us to sleep my friend. Be alert and busy about the Lord's work, for our time is short. While the present family of God will be delivered from that hour (1 Thessalonians 5:9), we need to be watchmen that sound the alarm. In the words often used by the nineteenth century preacher Charles Spurgeon, "Turn or Burn" for  Judgement day is coming.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

As He Planned ...

"Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down."" -- Matthew 24:1-2
Since 1650 there has been a vital gospel ministry in London called the Tabernacle Fellowship. Through the years such men as Benjamin Keach, John Gill and C.H. Spurgeon served as pastors. The Tabernacle of Spurgeon's day was burned down in 1898, and then rebuilt only to be burned down a second time during World War Two. The ministry continues to this day as a viable ministry of God. Buildings come and go, but the work of God continues just as He planned.
As the disciples marveled at the great buildings of the Temple, Jesus pointed out their eventual destruction. In fact, in 70 A.D. the Roman Military Commander Titus Flavius Vespasianus led a 143 day siege with 30,000 troops and destroyed the Temple buildings and burned Jerusalem to the ground. While Jesus spoke of this horrific destruction, he continued to foretell of many more prophetic events, including his second coming. Buildings will come and go, but the work of God continues just as He planned.
As we take this passage under consideration my friend, stop for a moment and consider the building in which you worship. Are you caught with its splendor or historic characteristic? Do you think that the gospel ministry taking place in this building depends on the edifice? Remember, buildings come and go, but the work of God continues just as He planned.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Focus ...

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." -- Matthew 23:23-24
The story is told about a coastal life saving station that saved a great many lives every year. As time passed the station became famous and efforts were made to buy better equipment and build a bigger building. The volunteers continued to give much time and energy to improve the looks and quality of the station. It eventually became more beautiful than any other station with more volunteers than ever. With all the activity focused on the station itself, one thing ceased to happen; saving lives. They lost their focus.
Within this passage we read strong words of rebuke from Jesus. He was greatly displeased with the leaders of Israel at that time. They were determined to follow the very fine details of the law with tremendous diligence. They were caught up in the technicalities of the law to such a degree that they forgot the more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness. They lost their focus.
It's easy for us to become so obsessive about small microscopic issues that we forget the greater matters and why we are called of God. Some believers are determined to do church the right way and make it look and sound better than any other. In the process they lose sight of the reason the church exists: to save souls. Please be careful my friend, in your drive to do the very best for Jesus, that you don't lose HIS focus... "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them..." (Matthew 9:36)

Monday, February 4, 2019

Love, Sweet Love...

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. "-- Matthew 22:36-39
In 1965 Hal David and Burt Bacharach wrote "What the world needs now is love, sweet love, It's the only thing that there's just too little of."  The song reached number 7 on the US charts in May of that year. Apparently this message hit a nerve that resonated for quite some time. But then again has there been any improvement over the last forty five years? Isn't there still a great need for love?
As Jesus responded to a Pharisee's inquiry with the above statement, he highlighted the greater love that was needed. While the world may join together in a call for loving one another, this love will never be what it needs to be without the greater love for God. Until the heart is converted and grows with an all encompassing love for God, loving others will always be more than difficult. Yes, what the world needs now is love, sweet love... for God.
How much do you love the Lord today my friend? Does he have your undying devotion that draws your heart, soul and mind into total commitment? Is the Lord the reason for your living? When love for the Lord is the driving force in your life, you can't help loving your neighbor as yourself. Such a love for God and others is "not just for some but for everyone".

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Clear Directions...

"Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God." -- Matthew 22:29
 Have you ever been lost in a city? You stop and ask someone for directions and they give you a rather nebulous response. A few blocks later you have to stop again. This time you have an interchange with two or three bystanders and the discussion becomes even more confusing. Oh for a map! (Quite often more dependable than any GPS)
The Scriptures are God's map for life. We can sit around and discuss many ideas about spiritual matters, but if we don't use the map, we will get lost. A good map not only shows the right roads to take, but also has the power to provide us the distance and time our trip will take. God's Word gives clear direction and his power brings possibilities into reality. 
Be careful when theological discussions move toward perplexity. The study of the Scriptures will always give insight and the power of God will always give confidence for the future. Don't stay lost in a labyrinth of spiritual confusion. Study the Scriptures and find the direction and power you need for the journey.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Truly Devoted?

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." -- Matthew 21:28-31
I had a friend some years ago that would argue to great lengths to explain why he wouldn't or couldn't do some task requested of him. It was a curiosity though, that on just about every occasion he came around and quietly did the work. On the other hand, there have been a vast number of committee members in every circle of my life that have failed to fulfill their assigned tasks. Which of the two were truly devoted?
Living for the Kingdom of God is far more than saying the right thing. Jesus pointed out that one needs to walk the talk, not just talk the walk. The walk does not provide entrance into the kingdom; it only verifies that one has been truly changed from within by the Spirit of God. Saying you've been changed and showing you've been changed are two different things. Which of the two are truly devoted?
You may have grown up in a church and may know the right lingo. But, has your heart been changed by Jesus? And if your heart is new in Christ, does your obedient walk evidence this fact? Some church goers have passive "religious" ties and some have active "relational" ties. Which of the two are truly devoted?

Friday, February 1, 2019

A House of Prayer ...

"He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers." -- Matthew 21:13
The coffee shop was once a place of social interaction. People gathered to talk with one another and share the joys and sorrows of life. Today when you stop by most coffee shops you will find tables with just one person bent over their laptop computer. The friendly communion of the past has been replaced with the self focused preoccupation of progress.
In the same way progress led to a preoccupation in the Temple courts. What was originally intended to be a place of communion with the Lord had become a place of self focused gaining of profit. The money changers of those days have become the church business pursuits of today. While there are those who are satisfied that nothing is sold in the foyer of the church, the fact that more church business is transacted than prayer is sad.
Where are the prayer warriors in church today? Do you attend your church with the intention to join your brothers and sisters in communion with the Lord? Does this quality time to seek the face of God hold a priority in your church life? Do you reserve the discussion of church business for other times and places? Remember, His house was and always is to be a place of prayer, not business.