Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Lost Sheep

Some of us have children who have left the safety of faith in Jesus. Their choices grieve us and we find ourselves caught between self condemnation and depression. Where did we go wrong? What could we have done better?

The truth is there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Everyone one of us has done or said things that could be used as an excuse to forsake the faith. But thank God our children’s salvation is not dependent on us. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10; Mt 18:11).

He will not stop seeking out your children.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lost Lamb

If you were a new sheep farmer and had taken a second mortgage out on your house to purchase 100 sheep, you would take great care of those sheep. Imagine a family came to visit whom you had not seen since they had children. You marvel at how beautiful they are, how much they have grown and how fast time flies. Near dinner time you call the children in from playing around the farm. One of your children casually mentions the one of the visitors had opened the gate and one of the sheep had fun away. I wonder how long it would take you to leave the kitchen and head out to hunt for that sheep.

• Jesus said if a farmer has one hundred sheep and one is lost, the shepherd leaves the 99 and hunts for the missing sheep. He likened the shepherd to his Father searching for lost sheep. Jesus said, “For the Son of man is come to save the lost,…Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Mathew 18:11-14).

• Jesus came to seek you out so that he could make you his child.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Angels on Assignment

Jesus said, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven, for the Son of Man has come to save that which is lost” (Mt 18:10-11).

Jesus connects the fact that angels are assigned to individuals with the fact that he has come to seek and save the lost. I am reminded of Hebrews 1:14 which explains that angels are ministering spirits sent to those who will inherit salvation, and Romans 8:28-29 and Ephesians 1:11 which assures us that God works all things for our good. I also think of 1 Corinthians 4:9 and 11:10, and 1 Peter 3:22, and 1 Tim 5:21 which all mention the observation of angels in things pertaining to salvation.

In other words, God uses angels in our lives to maneuver things according to his will. There are many more things going on than we can see or imagine. All of which are for our benefit. We do indeed have much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

All God's Children

In reading Jesus’ words about cutting off limbs rather than harming children, let’s not forget how the conversation started. The disciples had asked Jesus who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself, as a little child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 18:1-4).

That means when he is talking about harming children, he is not only speaking of chronological age, but all believers.

Jesus takes the purposeful act of harming any of his children very seriously. That should give us all pause in how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Plucking Out Eyes

In the middle of Jesus’ discourse about children, he apparently interrupts himself to say, “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire” (Mathew 18:8-9).

He immediately goes back to talking about children. Why did he change subjects so quickly, only to return to children in the next breath?

It is not as it appears. When he talked about cutting off arms and plucking out eyes, he was talking about the severity of his wrath against those who purposely harm children. Children are harmed when people place greater value on their own lusts or desires than on the welfare of children.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Child's God

We are God to our children because we are so much more powerful than they are and know so much more than they do. Their conception of who God is, is formed by how we relate to them. If we tell them by our actions that God is angry, unforgiving, unmerciful, unjust, harsh, critical, unloving, they will believe it and struggle to relate to God all of their lives.

If on the other hand we relate to them with firmness, love, forgiveness, justice, loving authority, gentleness, kindness, support, encouragement, they will see God in the same light. They will find it much easier to believe that God authentically cares for them.

We are not just forming a relationship with our children as they become adults, but we are forming their concept of God.

What does God look like to your children? (Mt 18:6-7)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Obsessed with Power

Our culture is obsessed with power, fame and wealth. It is the condition of human nature. If we meet someone who is an owner of a business or the CEO of fortune 500 company, do we show deference to them over the school janitor or the garbage man?

The disciples had the same flaw. Several times they asked Jesus who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Mathew 18:1; Mark 9:34; Luke 9:45). Jesus answered by picking up a small child and setting him on his lap. “…Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in my name receives me” (Mt 18:2-6).

Little children are loud. They cry. They laugh. They climb. They jump. They scream. They can be obnoxious. Did Jesus mean we should be immature like children?

No. He did mean we are to be authentic. Have you ever been in a room with two toddlers? If one falls the other cries with him. Neither one of them asks about the status of the other. They authentically care for each other.

Let’s check our motives.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Fish as a Piggy Bank

After Peter was confronted by those who collected taxes from the Temple, he wanted to ask Jesus about these kinds of taxes. Jesus anticipated his question and told him before he had a chance to speak, “What do you think, Simon? Whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?”

“From strangers.” Peter answered.

“Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for me and you” (Mathew 17:25-17).

There are things we are free not to do, but we do them, not because people command it, but simply because it will keep them from stumbling.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Jesus healed the diseased, raised the dead and performed innumerable signs and wonders. Yet the people who collected the temple tax were worried about whether he paid his taxes (Mathew 17:24). They probably thought with all the crowds following him, he must have been accumulating great wealth and they didn’t want to miss out on their portion.

Their focus was not on the kingdom of God, but on wealth. They had no idea that Jesus had no place to lay his head (Mt 8:20). Jesus was definitely not in ministry for the money.

We are no exception. Thinking that to pastor a church is an easy task, many people are quick to criticize or accuse. They have no concept of what it is like to have people continually misunderstand, assume things and generally expect perfection from you.

That brings to mind three principles. 1) We need to seek God on behalf of our leaders. 2) If we think we are called to lead,we need to take time to count the cost. 3) All of us, leaders and followers alike, need to make sure we take time to be alone with God to rejuvenate our spirits and allow him to give us right attitudes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Shock to the Disciples

Jesus came healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, feeding thousands of people in one sitting and generally manifesting the power of God. I can imagine the excitement that was building up in his followers as they witnessed this unbelievable power. Their minds couldn’t help but be filled with excitement at the thought of the destruction of the Roman Empire and the setting up of the peaceable kingdom of God.

No wonder scripture tells us sorrow filled the hearts of the disciples when they heard Jesus say, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him.” They were so overwrought with his first words that they missed entirely the rest of his message, “and the third day he will be raised up” (Mathew 17:22-23).

When we face sorrow we also tend to forget that God will also raise us up out of our troubles. Paul wrote, “If the Spirit of him who raise Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then that same spirit who raised Christ from the dead is able to give life to your mortal bodies through his spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8;11). This is not only talking about physical life after death, but spiritual life now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Formula to Destroy Doubt

A father came to Jesus desperate for help. His son’s body often succumbed to violent epileptic fits, causing him to fall into fire or into the water. Every waking moment was dedicated to protecting his child from injury. There were no pills to take, no acupuncture, no process that could bring relief. God was this child’s only hope.

At first the father had brought his son to the disciples. He had heard of this band of men whom miracles surrounded everywhere they went. And the disciples did pray for the son, but to no avail. The poor boy immediately went into yet another disfiguring convulsion. Looking up the father saw Jesus walking down the side of the hill with three of his men (Peter, James and John). Immediately he ran to him.

“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely… I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”

Jesus said, “Bring him to me.” And he healed the child (Mathew 17:14-18)”. The disciples asked Jesus why they had not been able to heal the boy. Jesus told them it was because of their unbelief. “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Mathew 17:21).

Many interpret Jesus’ words as meaning the boy could not have been healed except the disciples first prayed and fasted. However, there is another way to look at what Jesus said. His words could be telling us that doubting will leave as we pray and fast.

Spending time in God’s presence certainly does relieve us of the weight of doubt.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mystery of Elijah

After Peter, James and John had seen Jesus in his glory, they realized who he was but were confused about what they had learned before Jesus’ coming. They asked Jesus, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (Mathew 17:10).

Jesus answered, “’Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has com already and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands’ (John 17:11-12). Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist.”

Things usually do not happen the way we think they will. We are wise to place our trust in God alone and not in our understanding of how the world works. When God reveals things to us, it is usually in small bits of information. His thoughts and ways are far too complicated for us to understand fully. He reveals just enough so that when something comes to pass, we recognize it as belonging to God.

Peace comes when we trust him alone, not our understanding (Isaiah 55:8-12).

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Spiritual Place

Jesus told his disciples, “Assuredly I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Mathew 16:28), yet everyone of the disciples died. So what did he mean?

Six days after saying this Jesus took Peter, James and John up a mountain. There he was changed in front of their eyes. His face was as brilliant as the sun and his clothes radiate light from them. They were seeing Jesus in his kingdom glory.

Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Imagine the overwhelming emotions that swept over these three disciples! Is it really so shocking that Peter responded, “Let us build three tabernacles; one for you, one for Moses sand one for Elijah”? He wasn’t thinking clearly.

We also need to be careful. There are huge churches built on plots of land because people have experienced an unusual sense of God’s presence. Great crowds have followed certain men and women because God has used these ministers to perform miracles. But it is not the plot of land nor the man or woman who did the miracle. God did it.

We must be careful never to worship or give glory (credit) to anyone but God.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Self Appointed Cross

There are people who enjoy suffering. They are the ones who can talk of nothing else. Every day is marked by some hardship, some disappointment or some injustice. Their minds are self-focused so their conversation runs in the same vein. This is not the kind of suffering Jesus is talking about when he tells us to pick up our cross daily.

When we must choose God’s ways over ours that is a cross that brings God glory. When all we talk about is what we suffer, we are attempting to bring ourselves glory.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

a Good Reason for Suffering

Immediately after rebuking Peter for telling him he did not have to suffer, Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mathew 16:23-26).

If we focus on the negative things of this world we can become depressed. Our hearts can turn toward fear, envy, bitterness or anger. These are emotions that indicate our treasures are on earth.

If we focus on God’s love for us, his power to accomplish marvelous things through our life, even in our suffering, our hearts can be filled with joy and peace in believing. The writer of Hebrews admonishes us, “Look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Because we know that God is working in us his eternal purposes, we can enjoy the life he has given us without fear, envy, bitterness or anger.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Careful Now!

When Jesus explained to the disciples the things he would have to suffer, Peter reacted indignantly. The Bible says he took Jesus aside to speak with him. I can almost see the tension on Peter's face and hear the surprise in his voice to think that Jesus could be so mistaken. “Never, Lord!” This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus immediately rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Mathew 16:21-23).

Peter thought Jesus should be king but certainly not be crucified. It didn’t make sense to him. But Jesus had to suffer so that he could save all of us, including Peter.

We need to be careful in saying no one needs to suffer. It is true there is only one Savior who suffers for our salvation. But we do not know specifically what God accomplishes through our suffering. It may be that is the road he has chosen for certain of his children so that his name will be magnified through them.

We know whether we suffer or not, Jesus will always be with us (Romans 8:17; Hebrews 18:5-6).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Another Mystery

Some of the things Jesus said will undoubtedly remain a mystery until we get to heaven and see how all things fit together by his will. One of the mysteries that many have attempted to explain is found in Mathew 16:19. “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Whether we understand the full significance of his statement or not, one thing is clear. Our actions on earth have an eternal significance.

That should give us pause.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Foundation Rock

Jesus told Peter, “Blessed at you Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Mathew 16:17-18).

What is the rock upon which God will build his church? The rock is this, “Thou art the Christ the Son of the Living God.” The body of Christ, the universal church can be built on no one less than Christ himself.

Notice Jesus said he will build the church. We say what we need to say, when we need to say it, to whom we need to say it. That is all. The Holy Spirit does the work.

If our ministry is small in our own eyes, we need to remember it is God at work in us. What we see may appear small, but the eternal outcome is beyond our ability to see (John 3:27; Philipians 2:13).