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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

One Way - Left - NarrowIt’s a wonder that any Christians ever run for President. There are just too many things that they need to be honest about and that therefore would seem to disqualify them in a pluralistic culture like ours.  And the big religious question that trips up politicians at the national level is this: “Do you believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven?” It’s kind of hard for the Christian to win the Jewish vote when he answers that one honestly.

But we average ordinary Christians feel that it disqualifies us too, even if we aren’t running for office. Who wants to tell their secular neighbor, their football-watching-buddy, that Jesus is the only way? You’re not trying to win his votes, just keep his friendship, and the statement seems so…unfriendly. In fact, saying that Jesus is the only way to God is tantamount to telling a non-Christian that he’s going to you know where, and that doesn’t make such good half-time conversation.

And for this very reason, many people who call themselves Christians have a hard time proclaiming this truth. I know of a Christian mom who just couldn’t bring herself to tell this to her children, so she said…something else, I suppose. I’m not sure why she did this, but I can guess – she probably thought it would turn them off to Jesus.  You see, we have such a hard time with the idea that we begin to wonder if there is another way to Jesus being the only way. We muse, what if we left this part out? Is it that important to the gospel?

Maybe we should let Peter answer the question. In his sermon recorded in Acts chapter 4, the Apostle didn’t leave it out. He proclaimed the truth boldly. But why?

Here’s the simple answer: if you believe that salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ, that Jesus paid the penalty for your sins by taking your place on the cross, and if you believe that God honored and accepted that sacrifice by raising His Son from the dead, then there is no other way to God. To paraphrase Pastor Erwin McManus, “You can believe in another Savior…but no one else is coming for you.”

In his short statement in verse 12, Peter himself gives the rationale:

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 (ESV)

Why is Jesus the only way? For, Peter says, there is no other name. Only Christ has died. Only Christ has been raised. And ultimately, if Islam and Christianity and Buddhism are simply different paths to the same God, then the path of working for salvation is AOK because that’s how all these other religions are planning to attain salvation, or nirvana, or the place with all the wine and “girls”. Then you can indeed be good enough to get into heaven. Just do it the Muslim way, or the Hindu way. Or, why not the “good guy” secular way? Take your pick because apparently…God is not picky.

Or is He? Well, of course He is. And we know why – because providing salvation for you and me came at a great cost – the blood of His dear Son. And though there are many very sincere people trying to work their way to God all over the world, in the end, they too will need the blood of Christ. And if you tell your children that there are other ways, and if you tell your neighbor that there are other paths, then what you are really subtly saying is that they can be good enough to get to God on their own, and even worse, that the cross of Christ was pointless and unnecessary.

And therefore, when you say that there are other ways to God, you deny the gospel; and in the end, you mislead the one you love on the true and the only way to heaven. And when you come right down to it, that doesn’t seem to be a very neighborly thing to do.

 

For Monday, February 16: Acts 5

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Times of Refreshing

Once upon a time there was a father who took his little boy to a huge toy store at Christmastime. The smell of holly and ivy filled the air. “What do you think?” the daddy asked his boy as he looked around and delighted in the store all decked out in Christmas lights.

“Oh, everything is so great!” the little boy exclaimed.

“Would you like this?” the father said, pointing to a huge brightly colored train set.

“Really?” answered the little boy.

“Or how about one of these?” The father indicated the latest in electronic games.

“Wow!” The boy was almost speechless.

The two wandered the store for a half an hour, with the father pointing things out and the boy gazing and dreaming.  And finally, when the time came to leave, the father looked at the son and said, “Well, now that we’ve seen all that the store has to offer here at Christmastime, I want you to know…that I’m never getting you any of this. Now come on, we’ve got to get going.”

The pastor/theologian Sinclair Ferguson tells a version of the story above, explaining that Satan tells the believer that God is like the father in the toy store.  It is after all, what the serpent was basically telling Eve in the Garden – God is not good, and He does not want your good.

But here’s the question – what does it do to you if you believe God is like this?

Ferguson answers, “It is (this) distortion…that inevitably produces a child who will either willfully rebel or find himself always feeling he has got to do something to earn his father’s love.”

In other words, if you come to believe that God’s character is basically like that toy store father, your misbelief will cause you to ruin your life in one of two ways: First, you may decide that obeying such an evil character would be a foolish thing to do, and therefore in the end refuse to do anything He says.  Thus you will live your life like the Prodigal Son, far away from the Father in a distant country.

Or, in contrast, you may come to the opinion that pleasing this God is nearly impossible, but longing for His love, you will want to try, and so you will be constantly slaving like a legalist in order to win His smile.

In other words, the reason why we refuse to obey like the Prodigal Son or why we live the joyless life of the legalist, is that we do not believe that God’s character is basically good.

But in his sermon in chapter 3 of Acts, Peter does his best to correct this misunderstanding of God, first by calling people to repent in verses 19 and 20, “that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

You see, it’s not, “Repent, so that you can live a hard, cold joyless existence.”  No! God is good, and therefore, when He calls us to follow Him in obedience, He does it so that times of refreshing may come!

Adam and Eve were called to obey in the Garden for their good, not because God wanted to keep good things from them.

And, then, when Peter closes the sermon, he says this:

“God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” Acts 3:26 (ESV)

So I imagine that someone reading this today might be hesitant to trust in and bow before the Lord, imagining that His character is one of cursing, not blessing.  Don’t believe Satan’s lie.  The truth is that if you bow before Him, times of refreshing will come.  And if you are already a believer, struggling to obey in a particular area, remember that He calls you to turn away from your wickedness, in order to bless you.

So come to the Father, and walk in His ways.  It’s Christmas, and there are glorious gifts under the tree.

 

For Friday, February 13th: Acts 4

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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How to Start a Religion

If you were getting ready to preach a sermon that would launch a religion, what would you say? Well, to begin with, I think wisdom would dictate including some practical and helpful teachings that everyone could apply to their lives – Oprah-like helpful would be the target. Along the way, you would want to tell how God spoke to you personally, for sure, to give some authenticity to the whole thing, the voice of God and all that.

But when Peter sets to the public square to announce the new religion which would be called for a time, the Way, he really only says one thing: Jesus, the guy you killed, is alive.

Now, you wouldn’t think that message would have much potency. There’s nothing in it about having a better marriage. Nothing in it about overcoming your nasty tendency to ____________. You don’t hear anything about a special message from God to Peter alone, or anyone else.

Nope, just resurrection…that’s it:

“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” Acts 2:32 ESV

And yet, that’s enough, isn’t it? In fact, it’s more than we could ever hope for. Far, far more.

Forget about special messages to individuals – if Jesus is alive, then there is a special message for all of us. It’s the Bible which He repeatedly cited and considered the Word of God. For if Jesus is alive, then this book is absolutely true. Think of that, and give glory to God.

If Jesus is alive, then the husband and wife in the struggling marriage can turn to Him in prayer to tap into His limitless wisdom and power and compassion.

If Jesus is alive, then there is hope for you and me to overcome any sin we long to overcome, because He has overcome the grave.

And best of all, if Jesus is alive, then my formerly hope-less life becomes hope-filled. For He has promised that all who follow Him will also live forevermore.

Come to think of it, I guess Peter makes a pretty good start in proclaiming Christianity. It’s so good, the Apostles will preach it all through the book of Acts; the resurrection will in fact become their main message from here on out.

In fact, this first sermon is so good, so unexpected, that you might think that the resurrection actually happened. You might in fact think…that this new faith called the Way was not man’s idea after all.

 

Tomorrow, Thursday, February 12: Acts 3

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Secrets of Waiting

Waiting is one of the most difficult things that we have to do in life. It’s difficult because what we’re waiting for is often something we want very much, and yet we don’t know when, or if, it will come. And the uncertainty brings fear, and the fear brings pain.

  • The single gal (or guy) who longs to be married. Maybe she’s dating; maybe she’s not. But she is waiting. And while she waits, the wedding invitations of her friends fill the mailbox.
  • The couple longing for children. They are waiting…and watching others decorate nurseries.
  • Or consider the wait of the unemployed. The people around them are going to the office or the jobsite, but they are home…alone…waiting.

If others are moving on, why am I standing still? This is the question of the one who waits.

Acts 1 is a chapter of waiting.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;” Acts 1:4 (ESV)

The anticipation must have been overwhelming. And either doubt or boredom would surely have been the temptation of the day. And the disciples waited…and waited. Oh sure, they had a to-do list: they had to replace the traitor, and that took a little time…but mostly they waited.

Of course, while we wait, we also have things to do, but we often do them reluctantly, because what we really want to be doing is something entirely different. Who wants to send out resumes when you could be working? Who wants to go to work when you could be tending to a newborn? Who wants to be alone on a Friday night when you could be sharing pizza and a movie with the one you love? So we trudge on…maybe 75% in the game, but usually not fully engaged, because our hearts and minds are somewhere else…wishing and waiting.

You say, “I appreciate what you are trying to say here, but my wait is different than theirs. They had a promise. I have nothing. They had the Word of Jesus that the Helper would come. I have no word at all that my dream will come true.”

Well, if I may speak into your waiting, let me say this: Don’t be so sure.

Don’t be so sure that there is no promise for you.

Of course there may be no specific promise of a spouse or a baby or a job. But what are you truly hoping for when you hope for these? Aren’t you truly hoping for the sense of fulfillment that you believe these things will bring to your soul?

We wait for things because we believe that the things we wait for hold the key to our joy.  And there’s the rub – the particular item or life situation that we wait for may or may not come, but for believers, the joy is definitely on its way.  There’s a promise for that, even a myriad of them.

And those 120 upper-room souls teach us one more thing about waiting: while we wait for what we believe will result in our joy, we continue to seek our joy where Scripture again and again promises it will be found:

All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer…  Acts 1:14 (ESV)

 

Tomorrow: Wednesday, February 2: Acts 2

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Promise

Statue to MacArthur on the grounds of West Point, NY

Statue to MacArthur on the grounds of West Point, NY

They warned me about Reorganization (Reorgy) week at West Point, but there was no way to have a real sense for what was coming.

The week before Reorgy was the last week of basic training or “Beast Barracks” at the Academy, and believe it or not, it was as close to any vacation as I had known thus far. It was hardly basic training, taking place about 10 miles from the West Point grounds at a camp on Lake Frederick. There were leadership exercises during the day, a little boating if I remember correctly, and evening rallies and movies and lots of time to write letters – overall, a general relaxed feeling. It was during this week that West Point Firstie Bob Maruna dropped by my tent and changed my forever.

But we were told what was coming – Reorgy – the week when ALL the sophomores (Yearlings), juniors (Cows), and seniors (Firsties) descended on the West Point campus  from their various summer assignments and made life for us Plebes a living hell. Previously, during the summer there were a few upperclassmen around who would haze us, mostly Firsties. The ratio was maybe 10 plebes to every 1 upperclassman. But now everything was about to change. The Yearlings, Cows and Firsties all had the right to haze Plebes, and most didn’t seem to hold back. That reversed the ratio: 1 Plebe to every 3 upperclassmen. Life was about to get tough.

We still had no idea.

I met my two new Plebe roommates at the start of the week: first, there was hapless Jamie, who had trouble labeling and putting his dirty clothes in the bag for the laundry service to clean (actually going to the cadet store to buy new underwear). The dear chap would flunk out at the end of first semester. But the other guy in our three bed room was at the opposite end of the spectrum – Rocky – who would go on to complete West Point and become an Army neurosurgeon. Thinking about it years later makes me laugh – the phrase oil and water comes to mind.

The three of us returned from our 10 mile forced march with dirty everything from bivouacking and set about to organize our room for the start of the academic year.

Before too long, our new assistant squad leader dropped by to introduce himself. He was a Yearling, a friendly sort, and I got the impression he was on our team. Before he left, he said nonchalantly, “You guys smell. You’d better keep the door open and air things out.”

And soon we had another visitor: A particularly nasty Cow, a member of our new company (and apparently our new neighbor down the hall), he had walked by our room with its open door and didn’t like the odor. “Hey, you plebes, you smell! Keep your door closed!”

Yes sir. We closed the door. (Maybe we weren’t too bright, but I can only say that speaking up to this guy didn’t seem to be the thing to do.)

And then there we two strong knocks at the door. “Enter sir!” one of us bellowed. It was Friendly Yearling, frustrated. “Hey you guys, I thought I made it clear that I wanted you to air things out. Keep this door open.”

Do you know where this is going?

The Nasty Cow came back, loudly and very unpleasantly from the hallway: “One of you Plebes, post out here pronto!” Of the three of us, I volunteered (never do that in the Army) and thus began a couple of weeks of required visits to the sadist’s room for an extra helping of hazing. It remains one of my worst memories of the Academy.

I share all this to give you a glimpse of a particularly terrible week in my life. And yet, God was at work in my life, moving and drawing me. I had just heard the gospel the week before, and had been invited to a retreat at the end of Reorgy for Cadet Chapel Sunday School teachers. And yet, as the end of Hell week approached, my attendance at said retreat was in serious question, at least according to another young man who was my new squad leader, again an unforgettable and seemingly unkind Firstie Cadet named Zunde.

To this day, I remember the three of us, Jamie, Rocky and me, standing at attention in Zunde’s room, waiting his word on the fate of our upcoming weekend. I so wanted to go on that retreat, but would Zunde give his okay?

And as we stood stiff in his room, waiting for his judgment, fearful of his final word, in one glorious moment, I sensed something wonderful. There were not just four of us in that room, the hazer and his three hazees. No…there was another.

Jesus was there. Really. He was. I could tell. I was not alone.

I was going on that retreat.

I’ve never had the same sense like I did that week some 32 years ago, but it doesn’t matter.  He has been with me ever since, just like He promised to be with all those who follow Him:

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20  (ESV)

Inspired Readers: Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 10  – we begin the book of Acts, chapter 1.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Digging Up the Roots of Sin

If there is a particular sin in your life that you are really fighting, then you have a lot in common with one of the great villains of history – Pontius Pilate.

Did you know that Pilate didn’t want to crucify Jesus? No…really. It’s clear that the Roman Governor did just about as much as he could do in order to get out of going down in history as the man who crucified the Son of God.

rootsAnd there is an important lesson in this for us…the tree of sin has deep roots, and many times, even when you know the right thing to do, and when, on top of that, you really want to do the right thing, you still fail. But if we can get to the root of our sin, and pull it up out of the soil of our hearts, then we can destroy sin’s power over us. And maybe Pilate can help us get to the root of why sin holds such sway over us.

Consider that the Governor had a lot of impetus to do the right thing. In Matthew chapter 27, we learn that he knew the whole trial of Jesus was a farce – he knew that he was dealing with an innocent man, that the Jewish hierarchy was simply envious. (vs. 18) And to boot, his wife had told him about waking up in a cold sweat from a dream about the prophet from Nazareth, and she warned her husband: “Have nothing to do with that righteous man…” (vs. 19) So Pilate knew the right thing to do was to set Jesus free.

And therefore he made a plan, a very thoughtful and intelligent plan that he reasoned was sure to succeed: he found a “notorious” murderer, a terrorist if you like, a man that everyone hated, the infamous Osama Barabbas, and he gave the crowd an option (“This will be easy,” Pilate thought. “Innocent Jesus will go free, my wife will sleep soundly, and I won’t have to bunk on the couch.”) But the clever and manipulative Jewish leaders managed to turn the crowd in favor of the terrorist. “Let Barabbas go!” the multitudes cried. And he did…

Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. Matthew 27:26 (ESV) 

And over the next 2,000 years, millions upon millions of people would confess these words…

…born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead and was buried…

– The Apostles’ Creed 

Now, what caused Pilate to do this terrible thing that would make his name reverberate through history as the greatest of villains, mind you, as we know, the greatest of villains who really did not want to do his villainy? Moreover, what is at the root when you and I do the foolish and sinful things that we do, even when we know that what we are doing is wrong, and even when we really, really do not want to do them?

The last few days I was in Minneapolis at the Bethlehem Baptist Pastor’s conference, a conference that I have attended almost every year for the last 13 or 14 years. And on Monday night, John Piper, the former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in the Twin Cities, gave a message on the root of sinning. You see, the root of Pilate’s sin…and yours and mine for that matter…can be seen in Romans 1:

…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions…Romans 1:25-26 (ESV)

From this, Piper said: “…the bottom of sin, the root of all sinning, is such a heart — a heart that prefers anything above God, a heart that does not treasure God over all other persons and all other things.”

And whenever that happens, whenever anything becomes more important to us than God, we are given over…to sin, and even when we really do not want to pursue the particular sin, the bent of our hearts holds sway.

So what is it that you are fighting today? Ask yourself, “What is it that I am preferring over God?” Go deep…and pull up sin by the roots.

 

And if you’ve got time, this will be well worth it…

http://www.desiringgod.org/conference-messages/the-origin-essence-and-definition-of-sin

 

For Monday, February 9: Matthew 28

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Greatest Treasure

Treasure chestHow do you know if you are a Christian?

Many people would answer simply that you know you’re a Christian if you have “received Christ.” Salvation is by faith, and therefore, you need to believe in Him.

Okay, true, but let me offer something else that everyone who has truly believed in Him will be able to relate to – illustrated in the 26th chapter of Matthew’s gospel…

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. Matthew 26:6, 7 (ESV)

It’s an incredible act of extravagance, and it is also a living parable to how we can know if we are truly His:

You know you’re a Christian if Jesus is your treasure. You know you’re a Christian is Jesus is absolutely and totally precious to you.

It makes sense doesn’t it? We know from Luke’s story of this woman that she had been forgiven much, and therefore she loved much (Luke 7:47). Likewise, the true Christian says, “Of course, He is my treasure – look at what He has done for me at Calvary.

There is an idea going around that you can pray a prayer to receive Christ and then live your life never giving Him another thought. This is a lie. In light of his extravagant love for me, how could I not love Him and serve Him and treasure Him with all of my life?” In other words, what Jesus did for us was meant to capture our hearts, and hold us fast for all of our days. His love toward us creates in us a powerful love for Him. You might even say it like this: “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (ESV)

And so, with that said, here is the application: Is Jesus a precious treasure to you, worthy of expending not only the most expensive perfume, but also worthy of expending all of your life in His cause? If you have also been forgiven much – and true believers must admit that they have been – then you will absolutely treasure Christ.

 

For Friday, February 6th: Matthew 27 

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Did Jesus Preach the Gospel?

Sheep with hornsThere are three parables/stories in Matthew 25 that on the surface, challenge a traditional evangelical understanding of how we are saved, the most powerful one coming at the end, where, in the story of the sheep and goats, Jesus says,

Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:44-46 (ESV)

These sorts of stories pop up now and again in the gospels, as in Jesus’ closing words to the man in Luke chapter 10: “Do this, and you will live.”  “Wait a second,” we are tempted to interrupt the Lord, “isn’t it, ‘Believe, and you will live’?  Why is He telling the man to do something in order to have eternal life?”

And therefore, sometimes people are confused by what appears to be a discrepancy between what Jesus seemed to be telling people in order to have eternal life, and what Paul/Peter/John told people.

I have included a 12 minute video below that help you make sense of these questions. But consider this very important point:

Whatever we read in the gospels must always be filtered through the cross of Calvary.  So John Piper says he “reads the gospels backwards.”  This is most helpful because it is clear that each of the four accounts of Jesus’ life are not only accounts of his life…but also of His death. For this reason, each of the four gospel writers spends one third to one half of his time writing about the death of Jesus, and there is a cross-shaped shadow cast across all four gospels that forces us to consider everything in light of Calvary.

In contrast, I listened to a long audio book (45 hours’ worth, or so) on George Washington a few years back, and the author spent a relatively brief time (15 minutes?) describing how he died (he caught a cold and his doctor kept taking out his blood until he killed the founder of our country. Be thankful for modern medicine.) But my point is that the gospel writers focused on Jesus’ death and resurrection…because Jesus himself had such a focus.

So, Matthew 25 must be filtered through Jesus’ earlier proclamation in Matthew 20:

“Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mat 20:28 ESV)

Jesus came to give his life…as a ransom, so that we might live.

In the meantime, what is happening in this parable of the sheep and the goats?  Well, surely, it’s not that we have to make sure we visit people in prison and feed the hungry in order to get to heaven.  If it were, how many would I need to visit?  Would one visit get me in?  10?  20? Regarding feeding the hungry, could I just visit a soup kitchen every Thanksgiving and make it in?  No, no, no!  Rather, when someone is truly saved, the desire to live in such a way, (especially toward one’s brothers and sisters – vs. 40) is placed in our hearts. Such desires inevitably lead to some sort of action.  Repentance always accompanies saving faith. So Paul wrote to the Romans about the “obedience that comes from faith.” Romans 1:5 (NIV)

And John could say:

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3:17 (ESV)

But in the same letter, he would write:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:11-13 (ESV)

For more help, watch this…

 

 

For Thursday, February 5th: Matthew 26

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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A Morning’s Conversation at the City Gate

City Gate“Greetings, Methushael, and how are you and yours this fine summer’s morning?”

The sun shone brightly and gave an air of triumph to the beckoning day. The two old friends had stopped at the city gate, each to pay respect to the local elders.  It had been some time since their last meeting, and over the din of the nearby bustling market with hawkers and traders, the two continued their conversation:

“My spirit is well, Orbad, and yours?”

“I shall make no complaints today, for my sweet wife is in a fine temper; surely you know that our oldest daughter Zillah is uniting with Arphax’s son Accad in marriage in one week’s time.” Orbad’s broad smile matched his joyous news.

“I had heard, and a hearty congratulations to you, brother! Can it be that your precocious little daughter has grown so quickly? I can hardly comprehend the passing of these years! Yes, but she is a beauty, and all praise to the gods, Accad will surely make her a fine husband.”

“You are too kind, old friend, and while all our household is delighted and much in favor of this union, I must admit that privately, even with the bride price, the cost of all this pageantry is taking me down to my last unit.”

“Ah, yes,” Methushael countered, “But when you hear the tromping of the tiny feet of your grandchildren in your home, you will sigh that your poverty has been worth it.”

“I don’t doubt it, sir, and alas, you do speak as the expert in these matters.  How is your growing brood?”

“We are all well, to be sure, and truly expanding, for next month my daughter-in-law Obal will be presenting our sixth grandchild.”  Methushael boasted.

“Then you are to be envied again and again, dear friend.” Orbad said. “Please wish such good fortune on my household in days to come.”

“Oh, I will.  I surely will.  But, you must grant me leave, now friend.  I have to travel to Eber for trade today, and you know the route to the trading center has lately been obstructed by that monstrous project of that man…what was his name?  The fool, you know, don’t you?”

“He goes by the name Noah, as I remember. And he is creating quite an eyesore with this fantasy project of his. He says the world is coming to an end.”

“Hah!  Truly a fool.  How could the world be ending? There is too much business to attend to!  Moreover, you have a wedding to celebrate, and I…I have my lovely grandchildren to tend to.”

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:37-39 (ESV)

 

On Wednesday, February 4: Matthew 25

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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8 Ways the Pharisees Blew It (With Commentary)

Matthew 23 is Jesus’ scathing indictment of the Scribes and Pharisees.  What exactly was He so upset with them about?

1. They preached, but did not practice. (vs. 3) As a regular preacher of God’s word, I can say with authority that this is a great temptation, and that in small ways or large, preacher or no preacher, we are all guilty.

2. They did all their deeds to be seen by others. (vs. 5) Short-term payoff, long term foolishness. You gain man’s approval and lose God’s.  That strikes me as a bad trade-off (see Matthew 6:1).

3. They were full of pride. (vss. 6- 10) I introduced myself to a pastor in town once (he has since moved away) saying, “Hi, I’m Roger Knowlton, pastor at Edgewood Church.” And he said with a bit of superiority, “I’m Reverend (Last Name).” I wanted to say, “Hey, it’s okay – we’re all in the pastor’s club.” But I kept my mouth shut. Anyway, I think it’s fine to be called “Pastor,” though “Rog” is absolutely great too.  And my kids are still getting my attention with “Hey Dad!”  I’m pretty sure it’s not wrong to use titles; rather, I think Jesus’ point is the spirit in which the title is used.

4. They kept people from going to heaven. (vss. 13 – 15) Anti-love your neighbor as yourself.  Consider – could we do anything worse to a fellow human being?

5. They created extra laws to obey which were not from God. (vss. 16 – 22) We call this legalism. The owner’s manual says change your oil every 3,000 miles, but the Pharisees said, “Hey, if you really love God, you’ll do it every 1,000…and rotate your tires while you’re at it.”  Thus they made the people tired…and broke.

6. They disobeyed God. (vss. 23, 24) This tends to be the outcome of legalism. You create extra laws and in so doing, fail to perform the important ones.  You can’t say it better than Jesus: “Strain out a gnat – swallow a camel.”

7. They gave attention to outward appearance, and ignored the state of their insides, their souls. (vss. 25 – 28) From Tim Keller’s new book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God: “If we give priority to the outer life, our inner life will be dark and scary…our lives will lack integrity. Outwardly, we will need to project confidence, spiritual and emotional health and wholeness, while inwardly we may be filled with self-doubts, anxieties, self-pity, and old grudges…In short, unless we put a priority on the inner life, we turn ourselves into hypocrites.” The application is undoubtedly a deep life of secret prayer.

8. They rejected the Prophet(s). (vss. 29 – 36) Look at the previous seven. I imagine we’ve all played the Pharisee at one time or another.  So go ahead, put on your phylacteries and fringes, but if you miss #8, there are no second chances.  For in shedding the blood of the Prophet Jesus, the Scribes and Pharisees failed to see that He had shed His blood for them.

 

Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 3rd: Matthew 24

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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