Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Tears of Jesus

Luke 19:41-44 tells of Jesus entering Jerusalem where he would be crucified in less than a week. As he enters he starts crying… not for himself but for the citizens of Jerusalem. As he entered he saw children playing, mothers tending their children, old men sitting at the city gates, and people busily engaged with living their lives.
But Jesus saw something else, he saw about 40 years into the future and saw what the Roman soldiers would do to these very same people… besieging the city, starving the people, slaughtering the men, raping the women, bashing in the heads of the young children, and carrying the few survivors into captivity.
The prophetic vision of this horrible calamity caused Jesus to cry but also caused him to want him to help them. His help started with offering faith to them. Faith that he was the son of God. To those who believed in him he gave ample warning of when to get out of town and leave Jerusalem and save their lives.
He also sent his Apostles for 40 years after he died to work miracles and teach. The reality is that when the Roman soldiers surrounded Jerusalem to destroy it, the only people left in the city were those who totally rejected him.
God sent the Roman armies to punish Jerusalem and the Jewish system for crucifying his only Son. It was a well deserved punishment and yet Jesus, as he viewed the happy people of Jerusalem, cried for them.
I have to believe that as Jesus looks at us today he still cries for those who are going to end up in the fires of Hell. Ample warning has been given and the punishment will be well deserved but he still sheds tears for those condemned souls… as should we.
Let’s do the best we can to reach Heaven but let’s also, like Jesus, care so much about others that we do whatever we can do to persuade them.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Naaman and Baptism

During the reign of Joram King of Israel (2 Kings 5) the rival King of Aram had as Commander of his armies a valiant warrior named Naaman. Naaman didn’t know it but God had blessed him and through him made the King of Aram very successful. However, for all of Naaman’s (God given) success and riches and honor he was humbled with the disease of Leprosy. No matter what he achieved he was still Naaman the Leper.
Through the advice of a young Hebrew slave girl he traveled to Israel to be cured by the great Hebrew prophet Elisha.
Naaman with his entourage and fabulous wealth traveled to Jerusalem and came to the door of Elisha’s home to be cured.
Elisha did not even answer the door, instead he sent a messenger telling Naaman to dip seven times in the Jordan River and he would be cured. Naaman was furious at this treatment and said,
“I thought that he (Elisha) would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy”.
One of his servants talked him down from his great anger and Naaman calmed down, went to the Jordan River, dipped in it seven times and was cured. And said,
“Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”
Naaman’s experience reminds me of how man’s sins are washed away in the waters of baptism. Naaman had no faith in the power of Elisha he just came out of curiosity and great hope. Elisha didn’t manage Naaman’s expectations. Naaman expected some big deal to happen for him. After all he was very important and had an incurable disease. But a servant reasoned with him and just enough faith grew in Naaman to cause him to follow God’s instructions. When he saw the results his faith grew.
The same thing happens for humanity today. We are inflicted with a horrible, incurable disease… our own sins. The great cure is the blood of Jesus Christ available to us in the waters of Baptism. It doesn’t require great faith to be a Christian, just enough to lead us to that first step. As with Naaman the great blessings that come with being a child of God causes our confidence and faith to grow
.
What if Naaman had said, bring me a pitcher of water from the Jordan River and sprinkle it on me seven times? What if he had dipped six times instead of seven? What if he had chosen a different river?
The answer is he would still have leprosy because faith requires obedience to God’s instruction. So too Baptism for he remission of sins.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Satan, Judas and Peter

In Luke 22:1-34, we read of Satan’s activity with two of Jesus’ disciples
- Satan entered Judas. Note that Satan did not have to ask permission to enter Judas… he just did. Presumably because Judas’ heart was not right to begin with. Judas immediately began scheming with the Chief Priests on how to hand over Jesus.
- Satan asked permission to tempt Peter… he could not just enter Peter the way he had Judas. Why? Presumably because Peter’s heart was right and he belonged to Jesus.
- Jesus warned Peter about Satan but did not warn Judas. Why? Because Judas had sold himself to Satan. Jesus warned Peter to prepare him. Peter would become stronger because of this experience and would use it to strengthen his fellow Christians.
- Jesus prayed to God the Father that Peter’s faith would not fail. Make no mistake… it failed at the early going but it rebounded and became even stronger. Just because you fail once doesn’t mean the game is over.
- Jesus did not pray that Judas’ faith would become stronger because Judas had no faith. He rejected Jesus and sold him.
- Why did Jesus allow Satan to test Peter? I don’t know for sure but I suspect it may be due to the arguing the disciples were having about who was the greatest. I have a feeling that Peter thought he was the greatest, after all Jesus had given him the keys to open the door to the Kingdom and he had taken him up on the mountain for the Transfiguration, etc. I suspect that Peter needed to be tempted and fail to make him more humble so that he could have more compassion for spiritually weaker Christians and be dedicated to never failing again.
- Jesus called out Peter before the other 10 disciples but he didn’t name Judas as the one who betrayed him. Why? Perhaps because Jesus didn’t want the other disciples to try to stop Judas. He named Peter because Peter was the boldest and if it could happen to Peter it could happen to any of them. All Satan had to do was ask.
- Why did Satan specify Peter? Perhaps because he thought if he could spiritually cripple Peter (who was arguably their leader) the others would scatter.
What lessons can we get out of this? Satan’s powers over us are limited. He has to ask permission to test Christ’s faithful people. If Jesus allows the test he also offers his strong encouragement to us and prays that our faith not fail.
Don’t entertain sin in your hearts. It may take root and grow like a cancer until you don’t have a heart left and you do things you never thought you would and Jesus quits praying for you.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Forgiveness

In Mt. 18:15, Jesus began a discourse on forgiveness. He illustrated a procedure for what to do when your “brother” sins against you. In short you address it privately with him and then if needed take 2 or 3 others with you and then if needed inform the whole congregation. If the individual won’t repent or ask for forgiveness then you are to sever all social relations with him.
Peter then asks the question, “how often shall I forgive my brother (who asks for forgiveness)… seven times? Jesus responds… seventy times seven times, which means that every time forgiveness is asked for… you give it.
Jesus then tells a story to illustrate the concept. A great King called a servant in who owed him 10,000 Talents. The servant couldn’t pay so the King ordered for him, his wife and his children and all that he owned be sold to pay the debt. The servant begged that the King have patience and he would pay it all. The King was moved by this and forgave the whole debt… the whole amount.
Nice story but it doesn’t end there. This recently forgiven fellow looked up a fellow-servant who owed a lot less… 100 Shillings and took him by the throat and demanded payment. This servant also begged for patience and he would repay it but no patience was granted and he was thrown into debtor’s prison.
When the King heard of this he took the first servant who was forgiven a great amount and delivered him to the Tormentors. Jesus summarizes the whole thing when he tells Peter… so shall my father do to you if you don’t forgive from your heart.
Get this… forgiveness is not an option for a Christian. A Christian must MUST give forgiveness if he is asked for it. And it can’t be pretend forgiveness it has to be from the heart. Here’s what people do sometimes when they “forgive” people…
- They may say OK I forgive you but this is your last chance
- They may say OK I forgive you but socially it’s changed. The relationship is changed and for all intents and purposes you are forgiven in name only.
- They may say OK I forgive you but then they go around telling everyone what you did.
Folks who forgive that way are in danger of burning in Hell for eternity.
It’s not easy “forgiving from the heart”. Maybe it would be easier though if we considered the great debt that Jesus paid for with his life perhaps a debt worth millions of dollars or however much we value our lives. If we thought like that maybe it would be easier to truly forgive one of a hundred dollar debt.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Healthy Immune Systems

We see a lot of Parvo virus in young dogs, frequently, every single day. Distraught owners will come in with pathetic little puppies ravaged by vomiting and diarrhea. I explain to our clients that I don’t have any medications that will kill the virus that our treatment is a supportive treatment to build the puppy up so its own immune system can fight off the virus. Hospitalized puppies who survive can be sick for seven days. Even with those meds and bills that can be over $1000 we can’t save them all.
Puppies are very susceptible because they have weak and developing immune systems. I’ve had families crying their eyes out over their sick pets. The sad thing about this illness is it can easily be prevented through relatively inexpensive vaccination.
I’m a keen observer of why people visit churches they’ve never darkened the door to. I’ve seen people come in who have a sick child with a poor prognosis. All of a sudden it’s time to find God and invoke his healing power.
I have also seen folks whose lives are a mess… marital problems, parental problems, etc. Again it’s time to find Jesus.
Many times when the problem goes away or calms down, so do peoples spiritual interest. They quickly revert back to the way they were living until the “problem” resurfaces again.
Folks, who are responsible purchase a new puppy, control their internal and external parasites, put them on a good plane of nutrition and don’t let that developing puppy hang out with other dogs until they are fully vaccinated. Those puppies rarely get sick.
Folks, who want to have good lives look for God early and develop a relationship with Him and with his people. They go to Bible classes and feed themselves spiritually, they limit their associations with people who might be bad influentially and they live according to biblical principles and generally they don’t get spiritually sick. Oh, Christians are going to suffer the same physical illnesses that everyone else does and there are going to be family problems too. But they have vaccinated themselves against Satan and their spiritual immune systems are strong enough to survive the fiercest attack. They have built a relationship with God who is carefully listening and eagerly waiting to answer the prayers of his true children.
Don’t be like that young puppy that may have only a 60% chance of survival. Be like that fully vaccinated and well cared for puppy that can live life to the fullest and bring many years of joy to its family.
Seek God early and often… he won’t fail you.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Healthy Choices

In Daniel chapter one, we read of four young Jewish men who were slaves to the Babylonian Empire. They were to be trained to serve the empire for three years and during that training period were supposed to be fed a diet that by Babylonian standards was the best and choicest food they had.
The problem for these four Jewish young men was that the Babylonian diet violated the food laws that God had set forth. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah knew that God’s food laws were given not just to be arbitrary but were given to promote good health… and so a trial was set forth, God’s diet vs. the Babylonian diet. Of course after a ten day period Daniel and his friends looked healthier in every measurable way. God wins.
Here’s the thing, even though we don’t live under the Mosaic Law and have food laws, God still wants his people to be healthy. God wants healthy (not handicapped) soldiers in his army to wage battle against Satan.
We no longer live under a law that regulates every aspect of our lives (including food) we live under a law that is full of liberty and freedom and choices. Christians are responsible for making healthy choices so that we can be better servants to God.
I know of two former members who were diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and have since passed. I would go to the cafeteria with them after Sunday morning services and watch them load their plates with Chicken Fried Steak, mashed potatoes slathered in gravy and macaroni and cheese. Of course I would comment to them… don’t you have CHF? And they would say, “yes but we want to eat the way we want to eat”.
They both left widows, children and grand-children and in my opinion short changed God in their responsibilities to Him both in their poor health and in their shortened lives. All, those years of wisdom that could have been shared shortened by poor choices and rejecting the advice of their doctors.
We can’t control everything in our lives in regards to our health but there are plenty of things we can control. Do your best in regards to your spiritual health and your physical health so we can be better servants to God.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Of Riches, Camels and Needles

Two rich men are introduced in Luke chapters 18 & 19. One was a Ruler of the Jews who lived according to the 10 commandments and as such was well liked and well received in Jewish society. The other was a Jew who collected taxes for the Roman Government. He, on the other hand, was hated because he worked for the enemy. In essence, he was stigmatized and ostracized by his fellow Jews.
The Ruler was living a righteous life and even Jesus recognized that. However, Jesus knew something that the Ruler may not have even known about himself… he loved his money and possessions too much. When Jesus told him to sell it all and distribute the proceeds to the poor the conversation ended and the Ruler walked away with great sadness. He loved his money too much.
The Tax Collector, like the Ruler, had heard of Jesus and when he heard Jesus was in town he climbed a tree just so he could catch a glimpse of Jesus. He wasn’t blind or crippled or in need of any miraculous healing from Jesus he just wanted to see him. And then Jesus did something that violated all the social norms of Jewish society… he noticed the Tax Collector and stayed in his home. You see the Tax Collector suffered from a non-physical malady he suffered from a love deficiency. He had all the money he could want but no one cared for him.
At Jesus expression of love the Tax Collector, Zacchaeus, was over whelmed and offered something the Jewish Ruler wouldn’t give… he offered to give 50% of his possessions to the poor and offered a four fold restitution to anyone who he might have over charged for taxes.
Jesus’ response? “Salvation is come to this house.”
The Jewish Ruler asked what he needed to do to be saved. Zacchaeus already knew the answer and with great enthusiasm offered the price.
How does a rich man enter the kingdom of God and how does a camel go through the eye of a needle? By understanding the true value of wealth and using it properly.