P1030617A movement is underway in the United States to tear down statues that many find offensive. Without getting into the pros and cons of these events, I would like to ask but one question: Who has lived a life without committing offenses?

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2009-02-22_1343_BangaloreRestaurant

I tip my hat to the prophet Jeremiah. It will be interesting meeting such a man in God’s heavenly dwelling places. I wonder what that will be like. Of course, we have no way of knowing. But Jeremiah was so—strong. He is such a model—as all the prophets are—of dedication to the Lord God Almighty and the truth of His word.

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2009-02-23_1031_ministrywall

Can Christians be conquered?

As is so often true, the answer is—

Yes.

And no.

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fist

Jesus likes to stir up trouble.

Yes, you may say, He said He would bring a sword, not peace.

However, please allow me to make this a bit more graphic.

He likes to punch people right in the face—spiritually speaking, of course.

Let’s look at an example.

Jesus had been baptized by John, tempted in the wilderness, and then returned, doing mighty works of healing and deliverance. Luke isn’t specific about what those miracles were and wrote only, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all” (Luke 4:14–15). 1 You will find those specifics in Matthew and Mark.

In Luke, we see Him in the synagogue in Nazareth, His hometown. He stood up. He was handed a scroll of Scripture. He found Isaiah 61 (as we now refer to it) and read:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19).

Jesus then sat down and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

Was anyone angered by His bold statement? No, not at all. Entirely the opposite.

“And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’” (Luke 4:22).

I don’t know about you, but I’d be very happy at this point. And especially since I’m a pastor and have a weakness for wanting to be friends with people and avoid trouble, I would have been rejoicing. I had told the truth. I had make a bold statement about the coming of the Messiah, the year of the Lord’s favor.

But Jesus didn’t leave it there.

He said, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself. What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well’” (Luke 4:23).

I take that to mean that, since He had done mighty works elsewhere, they would expect Him to do them in Nazareth, too.

Then came the face-punching part.

“Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:24–27).

Suddenly all that happy, peaches-and-cream wonderfulness disappeared like smoke from a quenched candle. Now, these same folks wanted to murder Him.

“When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away” (Luke 4:28–30).

Here’s what is odd and wonderful and beautiful about what Jesus said. Jesus did not go to the Gentiles. (He did have two encounters that were outside that boundary. One was with a half-Jew, a Samaritan woman, and the other with a Canaanite woman in the area of Tyre and Sidon. But clearly, reaching out to Gentiles was not His mission. He even told His disciples not to do that.) So, He was talking about something that would not occur until after His ascension; and even then, not immediately afterwards. (The first time the gospel was preached to the Gentiles was in Acts 10.) However, He linked that going-to-the-Gentiles ministry to the coming of the Messiah, to the arrival of the year of the Lord’s favor, liberty to the captives and liberty to the oppressed (The Jews thought this was for them alone.). This was unacceptable. This was traitorous. This was worthy of death.

But Jesus said it, right out of the blue, right out there in the open—straight, blunt truth. He didn’t have to do this. He could have kept it rainbows and fluffy clouds.

He did not.

This is our Savior.

Welcome to life with God.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

blindfolded

It was a bit of a soul-shaking experience, when, last week as I put the blog article together, I was struck cold-dead center with God’s truth. I am not happy with myself. I was guilty—again—of reading over a text without thinking; without applying it to me. I should title this article Reading Over Scriptures and Assuming They Apply to Everyone Else but Me.

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unhappy in closet

Christian believers will, in some way, some day in the future after Jesus’ return, reign, not in a secular, worldly kingdom but in God’s heavenly kingdom—on the earth.

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unhappy in closet

I don’t know if this article should be entitled, “Misunderstood Scriptures,” or “Ignored Scriptures. I think it falls into the “ignored” category.

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unhappy in closet

For the last four weeks, we have been looking at misunderstood scriptures concerning the kingdom of God. Our focus thus far has been on two areas: the necessity of salvation to enter that kingdom, as well as the necessity of humility and a rejection of those things which the world values so highly: position, wealth, status, influence, and fame. These issues trouble me because I am so influenced by the culture of the West. However, I have little doubt that all of us, regardless of culture, are negatively influenced to value these things, which God clearly rejects.

In this article, we are sure to be troubled once more. Troubled, because Jesus introduces kingdom matters which have to do with our readiness to inherit His kingdom. All of them are dealt with in the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of Matthew. Without posting these chapters entire, please allow me to offer this brief overview and feel free to investigate these chapter yourself.

In the twenty-fourth chapter, Jesus introduces the topic of His second coming and gives rough details about what will precede it. This is where the Church focuses a lot of its attention. At the end of that chapter, however, He warns us that we should always be ready for His return. He is coming at an hour we do not expect (verse 44).

Because of His unexpected return, Jesus tells us what to do in preparation for that event:

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” (Matthew 24:45–46).1

He then informs us about the result of that preparation: “Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions” (Matthew 24:47).

In contrast, Jesus warns, “But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:48–51).

Please note the characteristics of the wicked servant:

  • He does not feed his fellow servants but beats them. Jesus does not tell us the reason for this behavior, but when people injure others, it is because they, obviously, are treating them as inferiors. One cannot successfully assault another and be inferior to him. (Keep in mind here the previous teachings where we discussed the necessity of humility and powerlessness in order to enter God’s kingdom.) The wicked servant is not loving his fellow servants and clearly not “feeding” them.
  • He eats and drinks with drunkards. He gives up. His master’s return—at which time he will be judged for his work—becomes meaningless to him. The hardness of his heart results in an inebriated, adventurous escapism, and fellowship with those worldly individuals who have given up as well.
  • He will be put “with the hypocrites,” those who act and talk like they are genuine servants but are not. It is not necessary here to prove that talk is one thing and actions another.

This warning then flows over into Chapter Twenty-five, where Jesus offers two parables, the one of the “foolish” virgins—I think we would call them bridesmaids today—who were not ready for the bridegroom’s return, and the “wicked and slothful” servant who did nothing with the “talent” the master had given him. It is notable that the one who was given only one “talent,” who may have considered himself insignificant in comparison to those who had been given more, did nothing at all. This should cause us to consider, again, the truths about “significance” and “insignificance” in God’s kingdom.

The consequences of the foolish bridesmaids’ inattention: They could not go in to the marriage feast and heard these chilling words: “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you” (Matthew 25:12).

The consequences of the wicked and slothful servant’s inaction:

  • What he had been given was taken from him (Matthew 25:28).
  • The worthless servant was cast “into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 25:30).

Perhaps we have read these chapters and not applied them to ourselves. This inattentiveness is not wise. Why do we think we may not be one of these “foolish,” “worthless,” “wicked,” “slothful,” people? Because we are Christians? No. These warnings were addressed to servants of their Master and those who had been invited to the wedding feast of the Bridegroom.

Is that you?

 

1All Scripture quotations are from Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

unhappy in closet

Last week, we looked at misunderstood scriptures concerning the kingdom of God. We started with a teaching from Matthew 13:44-46, where Jesus told His disciples that the kingdom of God is like a man who found a treasure in a field and then sold all he possessed in order to buy it. In the next verse, He offered a similarly short parable about a man who sold all he possessed the buy a pearl of great value. In other words, possessing the kingdom of God has so much value that one should be willing to give up everything to obtain it.

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