Monday, January 31, 2011

Rabbi - Teacher

None of us like to be corrected. So our tendency may be to skip quickly over words of warning. If we rush through such exhortations we not only miss correcting our errors but don’t see wonderful treasures of truth hidden in those words.

For instance, look at Jesus rebuke of the Scribes and Pharisees in Mathew 23:8-10. We learn that Christ is our Rabbi, Father and Teacher.

Rabbi also means teacher so it is curious why Jesus said he was our Teacher, our Father and our Teacher. At first it appears redundant. But a Rabbi, is a religious teacher. This means Christ teaches us scripture (our Rabbi) and teaches us how to behave in the secular world (our teacher). Scriptures also says Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, (our Father) (Heb 12:2).

Do you have a question? Ask Jesus.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fair Exchange

There are two reasons to get an educational degree. One is to learn more so you can be helpful to others or advance in your career. Another is to gain admiration from others. Jesus warned the disciples against the second.

Speaking of the Pharisees and Sadducees he said, “They love the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the market places and to be called by men, Rabi, Rabi. But you, do not be called Rabbi; for One is your teacher ,the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth you father; for One is you Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is you Teacher, the Christ (Mathew 23:6-10).

Jesus has given his children spiritual gifts to minister to one another, but a gift never exalts one above another. It is like one brother lending another his jacket in exchange for borrowing the other’s shirt. It is a fair and even exchange.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Do as I Say not as I Do

Our culture is fixed around pleasing ourselves. If we disagree with someone in leadership, we are prone to jump ship. But the leaders in Jesus time were deceptive, self seeking and generally unjust. Yet Jesus told his disciples “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe…” (Mathew 23:1-3).

But he also warned them not to become like the leaders, “For they bind heavy burdens hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men” (Mt 23:4-5).

Jesus warned us not to lay burdens on others we are not willing to bear ourselves. This applies to all our relationships, jobs, friends, children or spouses. As scripture says always showing preference to one another (Romans 12:10)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Begins at God's House

We come to a lengthy teaching of Christ to his disciples. He begins with warning his disciples, switches to warning religious leaders, then gives a warning to the world at large (Mathew 23).

Peter tells us that judgment begins with the house of God, “and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (2 Peter 4:17).

The Psalmist wrote “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling (Psalm 2:11). Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:12-13).

Taking our faith seriously will result in a changed life.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Lord to My Lord

Jesus asked the Sadducees and Pharisees about the Christ (the Messiah). “Whose Son is He?”

The men had no choice but to answer what they themselves had taught, “The Son of David.” Jesus responded, “How then does David in the Spirit call him ‘Lord,” saying: The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? If David then calls him ‘Lord’, how is he his son?”

That is like a father calling his son Daddy, or his daughter Mommy. It would be considered at least foolish and at best unheard of.

The Messiah, though he was born of David, was David’s Messiah, Master, Lord. In other words something supernatural was occurring and could not fit into cultural norms. The political leaders dared not ask him any more questions lest they look more like fools than they already did (Mt 22”47-46).

The time comes when our questions are no longer honest but thinly veiled excuses for not serving God with our whole hearts.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Political Competition

The Sadducees and Pharisees were political enemies. Much like political parties today, when the Pharisees heard that the Sadducees had failed to trap Jesus in his words, they tried their hand at it. They sent someone who was proficient in getting someone tangled in their own words. They sent a lawyer.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” The attorney was sure he had crafted the best of question. Whichever command Jesus chose, the questioner could point out the significance of another one.

Jesus left the Pharisees dumbfounded when he said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great command. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and Prophets” (Mt 22:3-40). There was nothing the attorney could protest. These two commandments indeed covered all commandments.

If all our interactions with others are based on these two statements, we cannot help but please God.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Marriage and Grains of Sand

To some happily married people, the information that we will not be married in heaven is disappointing (Mt 22:29-30). But to others, well let’s just say they are looking forward to that time.

Whichever side of that issue we find ourselves, we need not fret about it, because we won’t care about marriage as we know it today. It will have served its purpose and will be done away with. It is like a child and his favorite toy. He cannot imagine ever being without it. But as he matures as an adult he may recall playing with the toy as a fond memory, but he does not yearn to play with it again.

We will be married to the Lamb of God. We are the church, the bride of Christ (Eph 5:27; Rev 19:7; Rev 22). We will be so full of the amazing glory of God that all of earth’s treasure will be like sand on the sea shore. It is beautiful as a whole but each grain is insignificant. Our activities will reflect the wisdom and glory of God as we see how he was at work in every facet of our lives, but we will have no desire to return.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ancient Widow Law

In the Old Testament, when a married man died, if he had no children, his brother was expected to marry the widow. The first child born to that second union was named after the first husband so that man’s family name would not disappear (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). It was to this law the Sadducees were referring in Mathew 22:23-28).

Jesus told them they had missed the purpose of the law. The purpose of maintaining family names was to keep the blood-lines distinct. The Messiah was to come from Judah. If records were lost, how would the people know a prophecy had been fulfilled? In other words, the law had only to do with the fulfillment on earth, not of how things function in heaven.

The concept of brother-in-law marrying a widowed sister-in-law is foreign to us, but we also tend to interpret scripture according to our culture and times. It is important that we understand the full word of God and not attempt to put heavenly meanings to earthly things (i.e. wealth, success).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tax Free Future

We as believers are always looking forward to Christ’s return. We long for the days when God’s will, will be fully realized on earth as it is in heaven. We rejoice over the thought of a world free from war, sickness, pain, suffering and taxes. How glorious it will be to be able to enter the New Jerusalem and behold God on his throne (Rev 21:1-5).

But that time is not yet. As Jesus instructed us, we pay our taxes, obey the governing authorities and live according to the laws of our land (Mt 22:21; Romans 13:1-7). But that does not mean our life is mundane. On the contrary, it is filled with the glorious works of Christ which God is accomplishing through us on a daily basis (Eph 1:16-21; 2:10; 3:10),

Watch for how God is working through you today.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The Pharisees and Sadducees were political enemies but they joined forces in an attempt to trap Jesus in his words. They began with flattery essentually saying "we know you speak the truth regardless of who is listening." Then they presented him with a question that they had calculated to place him between a rock and a hard place. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

They rationalized if Jesus advocated not paying taxes he could legitimately be arrested for insurrection. On the other hand, they reasoned, if he said to pay taxes he would be supporting a corrupt government. It was a win, win question for them, but a lose, lose for him.

But Jesus answered, “Give to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and to God the things that belong to God” (Mt 22:15-21). Now they were in a catch 22. To even attempt to argue any further would place them in direct conflict with Caesar or God. They “left with their tails between their legs.”

When you sense someone is attempting to trap you, silently pray for wisdom and God will give you the words you need to silence your enemies, or give you strength to withstand their persecution (Lk 12:11-12).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Wedding Invitations

Jesus told a parable about the wedding of an extremely wealthy man. The influence of the groom was known far and wide. But the invited guests did not RSVP. Because the time of the wedding was getting close, the man sent out servants to make personal invitations. The guests made excuses. Some said the work on the farm was too much so that they had no time to spend coming to a feast. Others said they were simply too busy to spend time eating a fancy meal. Still others simply mocked the messengers and some of the more wicked ones actually murdered the messengers (Mt 22:1-10).

The wealthy man, sick of the responses of the original guests told his servants to go into the streets and invite both bad and good people. He also gave to each guest new clothes appropriate for a wedding. At last the banquet hall was filled with guests.

The groom came into the vast room and surveyed his guests. In the middle of the crowd he noticed a man dressed in rags, filthy from head to foot. He headed directly to this unkempt guest. “Where are the wedding garments I supplied you?” he demanded. The guest was silent. What was there to say? What reason could possibly be good enough to explain to this generous host why he had decided to disrespect him in such a rude thankless way? Immediately the man was thrown out of the wedding. (Mt 22:1-11).

Jesus ended the story by saying, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” The invitation has been sent to you. Which guest will you be?

Thursday, January 13, 2011


There are times we are rejected by people we have known for a long time. These are some of the most painful experiences. Our memories are filled with those moments of laughter, the times we ate together, the celebration events, the weddings and the funerals. At those times life seems filled with despair and hardly worth living.

But there is one who knows exactly how that feels. We are taken by surprise when it happens to us, but he knew the entire length of his relationship with his friends that they were all going to turn their backs on him. He also knew it was not without purpose. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Mt 21:42; Ps 118:22).

You most likely do not see it now, but God will work even this out for your spiritual benefit. Do not lose heart. God has a purpose even in this.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Crushing Stone

Jesus told the chief priests and Pharisees plainly, “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Mt 21:33-43). Those who prided themselves on having authority to destroy whomever they thought unworthy, were themselves unworthy.

When we come to God, he breaks our self-righteous pride. It is painful, but much more desirable than the alternative. Our Lord put it this way, “whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls it will grind him to powder” (Mt 21:44).

The author of Hebrews wrote, “No chastening at the present time seems joyful, but rather painful. Nevertheless it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness by those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

If you have recently been embarrassed by your behavior or come to a new understanding of how your choices have negatively affected others, grieve, but do not despair. See it for what it is, God both chastening you and teaching you how rich and abundant is his mercy. He still loves you deeply.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Our Service

Last week we were reading about the two sons; one did his father’s work, the other did not (Mt 21:28-31). The church rulers were incensed at Jesus’ story because he made it clear that the repented tax collectors (people they despised) and the repented prostitutes (people they abhorred) would enter the kingdom of God but they would not (Mt 21:45-46).

How could Jesus say such things against them? They were the ones who performed the animal sacrifices which God himself had required. They were the ones appointed to represent God to the people and the people to God. They believed, if anyone was holy, it was them.

They had forgotten what Samuel said to Saul, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22).

God does not look at our service. He looks at our heart (1 Samuel 16:7)

Friday, January 7, 2011

When Words Don't Count

After the trick questions were exchanged between Jesus and the church rulers, he told them a parable about a man with two sons. One said he would not work in the field, but changed his mind and did the work. The other said he would work, but didn’t. Jesus made it clear that the one who did the work, did the will of his father.

It is not what we vow, but what we do that God honors.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What Shall We Say

The rulers of the church wanted to know by what authority Jesus cleaned out the temple. When Jesus answered the chief priests and elders’ question with a question, He put the ball back in their court. “The baptism of John-where was it from? From heaven or from men?” (Mt 21:23-25).

They reasoned with one another, “If we say, ‘from heaven, He will say to us, ‘Why then do you not believe?” But if we say ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet”(Mt 21:26).

They were caught between a rock and a hard place. They would be condemned by either Jesus or the multitude and they wanted to look good at any price.

When we put what people think above truth, we are in eternal danger of rejecting God himself.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Honest Inquiry

Jesus did not answer every question presented to him. He discerned whether the enquirer was honestly seeking truth or if they were merely attempting to make a point or trap him. Mathew (21:23-27).

We are wise to use the same criteria when someone is pointedly asking us a question. We do not need to feel obligated to give an answer to dishonest inquiry.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Speaking to Mountains

If we do not keep on our guard, life becomes either monotonous our sorrowful. Neither one of these are pleasing to God. Jesus told the disciples, “Assuredly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Mathew 21:21-22).

God allows us to face mountains that need to be removed to build our faith, to build our trust in him, and to teach us to rely on him. Speak to your mountain and watch how God removes it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Cursed Fig Tree

Have you ever been so hungry that you felt sick to your stomach? I imagine that was the kind of hunger Jesus was feeling in Matthew 21:17-18. Jesus mouth watered when he saw a fig tree full of leaves. But arriving at its base he found it barren. “You will never grow fruit again,” he said, irritated.

Mark tells us Jesus cursed the fig tree on their way into Jerusalem, it was on their way the next morning that the disciples noticed the fig tree was withered (Mark 11:20). What happened between Jesus cursing the tree and the disciples seeing it withered is important to understanding the curse.

First, Jesus cursed the tree. Second he went into the temple and drove out the marketers. Third the disciples saw the tree was withered. The cursing of the tree reflects the deadness of the Jewish worship at the time. They had the trappings of worship, but the leaders were far from God - The fig tree had leaves but no fruit. When Jesus said the tree would never again produce fruit, he was also declaring the fruitlessness of any further sacrificing of animals.

Jesus would be the only source of bearing spiritual fruit from that point forward.

A Trip to the Country

Jesus knew the time was drawing near for his crucifixion. He recognized his need to get alone and prepare for the coming agony. “Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with his disciples” (John 11:53-54).

If the Son of God needed to get away to prepare for the sorrow he was facing, why do we think we must push through no matter what is happening? Being a Christ follower means we are honest with ourselves about what we are facing and respond accordingly.