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On Our Accomplishments Being God’s Gifts To Us

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Of course, most of us have an easier time believing that God created the universe in the past than that he has provided us with everything we have in the present. This is especially true when we think of personal paychecks and college diplomas, which God tends to give us after periods of hard work and personal exertion.

The Bible teaches that it is never easier to forget about God than after he has richly blessed us.

Affluence can produce a spiritual amnesia. While our society teaches us to keep careful catalogues of all our accomplishments, the Bible reminds us that everything on our personal resume belongs to God, for the power of productivity itself comes from him:

“You may say to yourself, ‘ My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deut. 8:17-18; cf. 1 Cor. 4:7).

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you believe God gives you all that you have or that you work for it on your own?

Resources

Kelly Kapic, God So Loved, He Gave, 24.

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The Uneasiness of Change

Change

Change, it is not easy. It is not something we usually want. It, however, is necessary. It was necessary for those in Jesus’ day, and it is necessary for us today.

The Day Jesus Changed Things in Jerusalem

In Matthew 21, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey with a procession essentially shouting He is the Messiah. Given the commotion, the shouts of the people, it is clear this man is claiming some sort of Jewish kingship. Rome ruled the Jews at this time. Rome wouldn’t take this man’s claim lightly. They didn’t in the past. If you remember, in Matthew 2 when the Wise Men came into the city asking for the king, Herod had all the first born babies killed.

The people are worried. They don’t know what is going to happen. They don’t know how Rome would react. Threatened by this man’s presence, they want to know who He is. At the end of verse 10, they ask just that. They ask:

Who is this?” (Mt. 21:10b)

The crowd responds by telling them:

This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” (Mt. 21:11)

While there is debate over this point, I believe they mean He is the prophet like Moses prophesied about in Deuteronomy 18. There the text says,

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is him you shall listen -…And whoever will not listen to my words that He shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” (Deut. 18:15, 19).

So the crowd, observing all that Jesus has done and said, determines He is the prophet like Moses that God has sent. He is the One who has come to lead God’s people. With that pronouncement Jesus is not only set against Rome but also against the religious leaders of the day.

Hearing the crowds answer, the citizens of Jerusalem knew their comfortable peaceful life was being disrupted. Their life as they knew it was being threatened.

Jesus Disrupts Our Life

Isn’t that what Jesus does? He comes into our life and shakes things up. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us don’t want Jesus messing with things in our life. Disrupting what we have going for us.

We don’t want Jesus to change things because we like our sin. We like being in control. We like what’s comfortable. We don’t want anything to change. Jesus, however, wants things to change in our life. He not only wants things to change, He changes things. He comes into our life and changes things just like He did in Jerusalem.

Jesus Doesn’t Change Things To Hurt Us

Instead, He changes things because that is what is best for us. He does it to set things right in our life so we will live according to God’s will, which is what we were created to do. So Jesus doesn’t change things to hurt us, He changes things because it is what is best for us. He changes things so that we will better accomplish our God given purpose.

Question for Reflection

  1. What is Jesus changing in your life right now?

Resources

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Embrace Your Mission

Army Plane

When Jesus enters Jerusalem in what is known as the Triumphal Entry, He doesn’t come in quietly. Matthew 21:8-9 says:

Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt 21:8–9)

So Jesus’ didn’t ride in quietly. Instead He was given the royal treatment. A makeshift red carpet was rolled out for Him, and a large crowd went in front and back of Him shouting words of praise reserved only for the Messiah.

No Mystery

So there is no mystery who Jesus is as He rides into Jerusalem. He is the One the prophets prophesied about. He is the humble and peaceful king. He is the long awaited Messiah. He is not hiding it anymore. He is not telling anyone to keep quiet.

Embracing His Mission

Instead He comes barreling into Jerusalem during the Passover. A time when the city was filled to the brim, when its population grew by the 1000’s. Jesus comes into the city surrounded by a huge crowd proclaiming He is the Messiah, so He is not hiding it anymore. He puts His claims out their for all to see.

In doing so, Jesus is embracing His mission. He is embracing His ultimate fate. He is embracing the cross.

Embrace Your Mission

Seeing Jesus embrace the mission for which He was sent, should cause us to embrace our God given mission – to grow together as disciples and be disciple makers.

Growing as disciples and being disciples makers should be something for which all Christians are known. It shouldn’t be something we hide. Instead we should embrace it and do all we can to grow together as disciples and be disciple makers.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you embrace your mission?
  2. Are you seeking to grow together as disciples and be disciple makers?
  3. Does Jesus embracing His mission encourage you to embrace yours?
  4. How can we grow together as disciples?

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Temple Cleansing and Leadership Failure

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In Mathew 21, Jesus enters Jerusalem, sees the temple is being defiled by money changers, animal salesmen and their customers, and He drives them out. He cleanses the temple. While He explicitly confronted these three groups, He is also confronting a fourth group – The religious leaders in Jerusalem.

The Leaders Failure

You see, the money changers and animal salesmen were only in the temple because the leaders allowed it. So through His actions, Jesus is both revealing and confronting the leaders failure to lead the people properly.

Instead of shepherding the Israelites, they let them do whatever they desire. Instead of leading them to honor and glorify God, they allowed them to dishonor Him and seek their own glory.

What Does This Have To Do With Us?

While their actions are negative, they reveal to us what godly leaders should do, and that is lead those in their care to honor and glorify God.

This goes for any form of leadership. From Pastors, to Husbands and Fathers, to Mothers, we are all to lead those under our care.

PASTORS

It’s the Pastors responsibility to lead His people to honor God, just as it is the husbands responsibility to lead their wives to do the same.

HUSBANDS

As husbands, we have been given this role by God. We are to wash and sanctify our wives, so that they honor and glorify God. This involves ministering to them in times of need. As well as encouraging and counsel them from God’s Word. If you don’t know God’s Word well enough to accomplish your God given task, then you better get started learning it.

PARENTS

Parents, just like Pastors and Husbands are to do the same. They are to lead their kids to honor and glorify God.

Challenge

So through the negative example of the Jerusalem leaders, we learn how we are to function as leaders. May we take our role seriously and do what God calls us to do. May we lead those whom God has placed under our care to honor and glorify Him.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Godly leaders are supposed to lead their church, family, and children to honor, glorify, and obey God. How can each group practically do that?
  2. How are you doing at leading the flock God has put you over?

Resources

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A Right View of God’s Grace

Wash

Are we able to clean ourselves up enough so that God would say,

“I see you have put some effort in. You have cleaned yourself up a bit. Since you have worked so hard, I will now extend my grace and mercy to you.”

The Crowd and the Blind Men

In Matthew 20:29-34, Jesus is walking by two blind men, who call out for healing. The crowd, not thinking they were deserving, tells them to be quiet, to quit calling out to Jesus. They did this because they wrongly understood God’s grace and mercy.

What They Thought

They thought God only extended His grace and mercy to those who were deserving. Since they saw these two men as unholy sinners who were being punished by God, they didn’t think they deserved God’s grace or mercy.

Many Think That Way Today

Many people today think they they have to clean themselves up before they come to Jesus. Or they believe they don’t deserve God’s grace and mercy because of who they are or what they have done in the past. That, however, is simply not true.

No One is Deserving

According to the Bible no one is deserving. No one deserves God’s mercy and grace. Paul tells us in Romans 3:23:

We all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.”

So according to Paul, no one is worthy of God’s mercy. No one deserves His grace, which is why it is called grace – it is a gift God gives to us. Since God’s grace is a gift, it is something we don’t earn or deserve.

A Gift Open To All People’s

Even more, it is a gift open to all peoples. It doesn’t matter what you have done in the past, or who you are right now. God’s grace is open to you.

A Return To Our Initial Question

Returning to our initial question, the answer is that we can’t clean ourselves up enough for God to extend His mercy and grace to us. No, God’s grace and mercy is extended while we are still unholy sinners deserving of His wrath. So then, it is God who cleans us up, not the other way around.

Question for Reflection

  1. Why do people often think they have to make themselves presentable to God?

Resources

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Post adapted from my most recent sermon: How should we think about and act toward the disabled?

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Are you a Disciple or a Consumer?

Disciple or Consumer

In Matthew 20:34 we are told that the blind men Jesus just healed “followed him.” These men didn’t just use Jesus for their own personal gain. They didn’t think of Him as a genie in a bottle who comes out to heal them before disappearing back into the bottle. No, after their sight was restored, after they were healed by Jesus, they got up and followed Him.

Disciples

While some may argue that they just followed Jesus into Jerusalem for the Passover, I believe Matthew is getting at something more. I believe he is telling us they became one of His disciples.

What Their Actions Teach Us

Their actions then teach us that we shouldn’t use Jesus for our personal gain. Instead Jesus’ work in our life, either miraculous or through the church, should cause us to follow Him.

While that is true, I think a lot of people don’t do that. People suffer illnesses or injuries all the time, are healed in miraculous ways and may even credit that to Jesus, but they don’t follow Him.

Crediting Jesus with Something and Following Him are Two Different Things

Following Jesus requires us to allow Him to call the shots in our life, to direct the way we live. Many people don’t want that. Sure, they want Jesus to give. They want His healing touch. They want Him to work everything out in their lives, but they don’t want to follow Him.

For Who He Is

And you know, we are going to continue to use Jesus until we see Him the way these men did in our story, as the Son of David, as our King, as the one who has the right to direct our lives. Until we recognize who Jesus is, we won’t follow Him. All we will do is take from Him, consume, and treat Him and His church as a genie in a bottle. Someone we run to when we are in trouble, but nothing more than that.

So do you see Jesus through the eyes of these two men, as your King? Or do you see Him as just another way to get a handout?

What Jesus Wants

Jesus doesn’t want us to take from Him. Instead, He wants us to give ourselves to Him, to see Him as our King, to follow Him. Jesus wants these things from us. In other words,

He wants disciples not consumers.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you a disciple, or are you a consumer?

Resource

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Respectable Sins: Anger | Part 7

Angry Birds

In the last post in this series, I looked at the long-term results of anger. In this last and final part on anger, I  talk about how to deal with our anger so it doesn’t escalate

How do we keep our anger from escalating?

Often anger left to brew will manifest itself in different ways. It may start as resentment, move to bitterness, then enmity and hostility, and on to a grudge before turning into strife. We, however, have to stop anger from running this path. We can do that by remembering and reflecting on a few things:

(1) Remember God is Sovereign 

God allows situations to occur in our life that have the potential to make us angry. Instead of allowing anger to take over and run its course, we should remember God has a purpose for everything. When we find ourselves in a situation where we are tempted to become angry, we should ask ourselves what purpose could this situation have in my life?

Admittedly, the question is an easy one to ask. The answer, however, doesn’t always come so easy. Think about Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was imprisoned in Egypt because Potiphar’s wife couldn’t have her way with him. He was forgotten by the cup bearer and left in prison to rot.

During that time, I am sure Joseph wondered what purpose all this had. Why God allowed this to occur in his life. For years, he didn’t know why. Eventually though, he discovered its purpose. It was to make a way for God’s chosen people – Israel – to survive a severe famine. A famine that couldn’t be foreseen or predicted.

God has a plan for everything that occurs in our life. We may never know the answer to the question why, but we can rest in the fact that God is sovereign and in control. Knowing that should help us deal with our anger before it escalates.

(2) Pray God would allow us to grow in our love for others, even those who have wronged us.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:5 that:

Love is not…rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”

The NIV translates “resentful” as “keeps no record of wrongs” and “it is not irritable” as “is not easily angered.”

You can see why it is important we pray for love. It helps us forget and wipe the slate clean, as well as it keeps us from being easily angered.

So if you find yourself angry at another, pray that your love for them would increase. It is a sure fire way to kill your anger and keep it from escalating.

(3) Forgive as God has forgiven us

The parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35 teaches us that our forgiveness of others is based on God’s forgiveness of us.

If we are having a hard time forgiving someone who has wronged us, we need to turn to the gospel. As we do, we need to remember God forgave us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8).What a great truth! God forgave us why we were still sinners.

While we would admit what God has done is awesome, I believe we often miss the greatness of this verse. I believe that for two reasons.First, because it is a verse we have read and quoted so many times. Second, because we don’t realize the true nature of sin.

Sin is more than missing the mark. It is more than breaking a few commandments. Sin is an all out attack on God’s right to rule. Our sin can be compared to a band of rebels storming the castle with the intent of removing the king from his throne in order to set their own king in his place. When we sin, that is what we are doing. We are storming God’s throne room with the intent of setting our own selves in His place as the ruler of our lives.

Paul tells us that while we were sinners – rebels – God forgave us of our sins by dying in our place. If God can extend forgiveness to rebels who are attempting to overthrow Him, certainly we can find a way to extend forgiveness to others who have sinned against us.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What else can help to keep anger from escalating?

Resources

Post adapted from Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, 121-28

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