Monthly Archives: October 2016

October 31 – A Ticket To Heaven

Matthew 19, Mark 10

The rich young man wanted to be sure he was going to heaven. So he asked Jesus to tell him how. Jesus answered:

Don’t murder anyone. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal or lie. Don’t defraud anyone, and honor your parents.

Check. Check. And check.

“Got that covered,” the young man said. “Anything else?”

I love how Mark 10:21 puts it. Jesus felt a love for this guy. He didn’t condemn him or correct his view of himself, even though Jesus could see right into this young man’s heart and see his sin. Jesus threw out the ultimate test for him: sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and follow Me.

Some might look at Jesus’ response as being in support of a works-based salvation. Please don’t base your faith on one passage of Scripture.

The other day, as I read Luke 14 about the cost of being a disciple of Jesus, it became plain to me that following Jesus costs everything. And, being that Jesus Himself said He is the only way to the Father, going to heaven involves going through Him, which means surrounding everything to Him.

I believe when Jesus gave the young man that checklist of requirements for gaining heaven, He wanted the young man to see that he had already forfeited his ticket. He may have not murdered anyone. But can anyone honestly say they have NEVER lied, or that they ALWAYS honor their parents? (Come on. I was a teenager once, and so were you). I believe Jesus wanted the young man to see his need of the Savior.

But he didn’t. Instead, he felt pretty self-righteous. Jesus said it’s hard for people like that, those who are rich in the things of this world, those who are self-sufficient, to enter heaven, because either they don’t see the need to ask forgiveness, or they hold out on God. They don’t surrender themselves completely to Him.

And that’s what He requires. Don’t mistake this passage for a honey-do list. There is no way to earn your salvation which will result in eternal life with the Father in heaven. You are a sinner. You need the Savior.

Jesus has already paid the price of admission for you. He went to the cross so that He could forgive you when you ask Him to. He is ready and eager to hand you the ticket to heaven that He bought for you. Because, as He said:

All things are possible with God.

Even saving the likes of you and me.

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October 30 – The Mission

Luke 17:11-18:14

Jesus hadn’t completed His earthly mission yet, and He was talking about His second one. His focus went beyond the cross right into eternity. He would die on that cross, but what would follow was going to be incredible.

Some day Jesus is going to come back, and life on this earth will be over. We who know Him will leave these broken bodies behind, our cares and worries, our hardships and sorrows will all be forgotten when we hear that shout and see our Savior coming down from heaven.

We won’t even wait for Him to land. We’ll be caught up and meet Him in the sky. Can you even imagine?

I believe that was the day Jesus spoke about here in Luke. The cross, as determined as He was to get there to pay sin’s debt once and for all, was the means to attain the ultimate goal – eternity with me in His Presence. Forever with all of us who loved Him and accepted His grace while in this life.

Jesus is coming again. He’ll gather up those of us who repented of our sin, who allowed Him to cover us with His precious blood. We’ll see Him face to face!

Oh, glorious day.

October 29 – Not My Messiah

Luke 11

The Man just raised someone who had been dead four days. In the last three years He had made blind people see, lame people walk, cast out demons, healed leprosy, fed thousands, and controlled the weather. He even said He was the One the prophets had told them about, and He taught them with more authority than they had ever heard before.

But the Pharisees rejected Him anyway. All the evidence pointed to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, but Jesus was not who they pictured in that role. Jesus wasn’t rallying an army to defeat the Romans, He wasn’t taking steps to make Himself king. Not only that, He never once patted the Pharisees on the back for their knowledge of the Law, or their leadership skills.

Their response to Jesus’ raising Lazarus was to say: We’ve got to shut Him down. If He keeps doing those things people are going to follow Him and we might lose our place in society. The people will like Him better than they like us, and where will that leave us?

The Pharisees had a picture in mind of what their messiah would look like. He’d be a commanding leader who would appoint them to positions of power in a kingdom without Roman rule. He’d be one of them. He’d at least be from a good home.

Let’s not make the same mistake the Pharisees made. Let’s not reject Jesus because we are going through a battle with cancer, and we think our messiah ought to heal us. Let’s not reject Him because we are struggling with a dead-end job, and we think our messiah ought to make us successful. Let’s not reject Him because people who have wronged us are living the high-life, and we think our messiah would just burn down their houses because they were mean to us. Let’s not reject Him because we’ve decided our messiah would be tolerant of multiple ways to heaven, would not object to homosexuality, would pat us on our backs for being good people.

I don’t know what you’ve pictured your messiah to be. But I can say with confidence that the person of Jesus is so much better than you can dream up. The truth is, Jesus IS the Messiah. He IS God’s Son. He IS God in the flesh. And He died because you are a sinner.

Jesus’ goal was not to make you happy or healthy or wealthy. Get that picture out of your mind once and for all. Jesus’ goal was to save your soul so that you could live with him forever. Jesus’ goal was to forgive you so He could walk with you in this life, in every circumstance.

Jesus is my Messiah. Jesus is THE Messiah.

 

 

October 28 – In Praise of a Dishonest Steward

Luke 16-17:10

The first part of chapter 16 is subtitled, “The Unrighteous Steward” in my NASB. At first glance it might appear that God is congratulating the dishonest man for his ingenuity, then telling us to be more like him. (8-9) Is God really saying it’s ok to cheat people if our intentions are good?

I read several commentaries this morning trying to get a handle on this parable, and the interpretations are widely varied. So I’ve sat here for a few minutes considering all the opinions, and asking God to show me what He wants me to know today. This is my take-away:

God has entrusted His people with the riches of His glory. He gave us His only Son, gave us access to the Throne Room, and has opened the doors of Paradise to us. He has given us Himself. The riches we hold cannot even be counted.

But we, like the dishonest steward, have squandered God’s riches. We continue to sin. We don’t always obey Him or share Him with unsaved friends and loved ones. We don’t always represent Him well in the workplace or at the ballgame. We take our salvation for granted, even though we know what it cost Jesus to give it to us.

I think God would have us consider the fact that, whenever we squander an opportunity to use the riches of His glory, we have lost that opportunity forever. We will never get yesterday back.

The steward in the parable didn’t continue to squander the master’s riches. In fact, he made opportunities to serve his master. The steward didn’t wait for the people to come to him. He sought them out.

And that’s my take-away. I stand here before you a dishonest steward. I have to admit that there have been way too many times I have not protected or used that which God has entrusted to me.

I stand before God and ask Him to forgive me, to show me opportunities to serve Him. I don’t want to sit in my recliner today when there are people I know and love who need to see Him in me. Maybe I need to have lunch with one of them this afternoon, or pick up the phone to reconnect with another.

I hold in my heart the riches of God’s glory. Am I going to waste it, or use it for His sake? I can beat myself up about lost opportunities, or I can forget what is behind and press on toward the goal of being a good steward of God’s riches.

I know that there is more to this parable than what I’ve shared today. There are more lessons to learn from these verses. But that dishonest steward has convicted me today. If he can get on the ball and work for his master, I have so many more reasons to get out there and work for mine.

 

October 27 – Counting The Cost

Luke 14&15

Have you ever agreed to do something before your really checked it out? Or bought something before you read the fine print? Started a project you weren’t sure what to expect? Or even accepted an invitation without knowing the details? How did that work out? Yeah, bummer.

Luke shared that Jesus wanted His disciples to know what they were getting into, because it’s not easy being a disciple of Jesus. It wasn’t when Jesus was walking this earth in bodily form, and it’s not easy today. Jesus wanted all of us to know this. So He spelled it out so we’d know exactly what following Him costs.

In 14:26 He said the first requirement of being a disciple is to love Him more than anything or anyone. He went as far as to say that, in comparison, our feelings for our family should look like hate. Now, Jesus wasn’t advocating we turn on our loved ones. We need to remember to read every verse in light of all of Scripture, and Scripture talks an awfully lot about how we should love one another. But Jesus wants me to ask myself if my love for Him is so complete, so intense, so exclusive, that all other relationships pale in comparison? That if I put it on a scale of 1-10, other relationships would be at zero, while my love for Him is at an 11.

In verse 28, Jesus asks us to consider the cost of discipleship. Can following Jesus strain our pocketbooks? He might call you to pastor a tiny church instead of being CEO of some big company. He might ask you to give sacrificially to His work to the point where you are unable to drive a new and fancy car. You might be overlooked for a promotion at work because of your stand for the Savior. So, yes. Being a disciple of Jesus might effect your finances.

And it might cost you in other ways, too. Relationships, certain parties or social events, not being able to join in the conversation in the break room when people are talking about the latest episode of Modern Family or Dating Naked. Being a disciple of Jesus might cost you your social standing.

Jesus also asks us to consider the fact that His disciples have battles to face (verse 31). This is war. There will be times when He asks us to stand and fight, others when seeking peace is the answer. Are we ready to follow His lead in both cases?

Then, in verse 33 Jesus says this:

So then none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

That’s the fine print we need to read. Being a disciple is not a part time job. It’s not Sunday thing. It’s everything.

Are you a disciple of Jesus? It’s not easy. It’s not even politically correct these days. But if you are His disciple, I imagine we both can agree it’s worth it. I know for myself, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but right there with the One who loves me more than even I can understand. I count everything else a loss except for knowing Him.

October 26 – I Never Knew You

Luke 12-13

Will God really send good people to hell? Certainly there won’t be preachers and Sunday School teachers there, right? Won’t people who volunteer at the homeless shelters, those who never lie or cheat, people who are kind and thoughtful, get a free pass?

I can promise you, according to Scripture, that God will not send one holy person to hell. There will not be one sinless person in that fire. Zero.

But Jesus said that some of the people who were following Him, who heard His teachings, will knock on the door of heaven only to hear God say, “You can’t come in. I never knew you.”

The World Series started last night. My brother-in-law and nephew were there, amid thousands of people wearing their Indians’ shirts and hats, and waving their red towels to cheer on the home team. Thousands of people stood at the same exciting moments, chanted the same words, praised the same players, complained about the same umps, and most of them had 100% of their attention on that field.

But I only know two of the thousands of people who were at that game. Many people dressed like my loved ones. Many acted like them, even said the same things my loved ones said. But if all of those baseball fans knocked on my door, I’d only let two of them in.

Now some of the opposition were easily detected. They were the ones in the light blue shirts. They were not Indian fans. Their clothes were different and they cheered at different times in the game. They neither looked nor acted like my loved ones. So if they came to my door, I could weed them out easily.

But it’s the rest of them, the ones who looked and acted like my loved ones that aren’t so easily detected. But not knowing them, I wouldn’t let them in, either, even if they looked the part.

Looking like a Christian, learning to talk like a Christian, doing Christian things, doesn’t mean God knows you. Jesus tells us the only way the Father can know any of us is if we go through Him. His blood. His forgiveness. His Way.

And only those whom God knows will be welcomed into eternity with Him.

Does He know You?

October 25 – Why Me?

Luke 10-11; Jon 10:22-42

I’ve shared with you that I had to evacuate my home during Hurricane Matthew recently. It was an odd feeling, backing out of my drive, watching the garage door close, and not knowing what I’d find when I returned. I paused before driving away and looked at the house I’d bought only a month before. Would it even be there two days from now?

I sat there for a moment and thought of my piano, pictures of loved ones, things with value only to me for their sentimental importance. I prayed, “It’s all Yours anyway, Lord. Take care of Your stuff.” And He did.

The next Sunday my church family greeted each other with praise on our lips. The island had been spared from devastation. Many trees miraculously fell between houses instead of on them. Flooding was minimal. We were all sharing our stories of how God had intervened on our behalf.

But one woman, a dear lady who is usually quick to praise the Lord, didn’t join in. I asked her how her house fared and she said, “Not so good.” The trees in her yard had not missed her house. She had major damage from the same storm I and others had escaped.

That morning our pastor spoke to us about that very thing. The knowledge that our island was spared from the worst of the storm should drive us to our knees in humility. The people of Haiti had a different outcome. The Carolina coast was devastated by that storm. Lives were lost. Homes destroyed. Families uprooted.

Did all those people forget to pray? Did God answer our prayers because we are so special? Was this God’s punishment toward everybody else, including my friend?

I am not ashamed to praise God for sparing my home. He did that. I rejoice in that. But I didn’t deserve it. The goodness of God was shown in the fact that all of us were’t wiped out in the storm. I don’t want to miss that example of God’s goodness. Even my friend, who is in the process of putting her house back together, is able to thank God. She rejoices in how He is working in her life through this ordeal.

The question when bad things happen isn’t “Why me?” We are sinful people. We have rejected God, and even those of us who have accepted God’s grace continue to fail Him. We shouldn’t expect good things to happen to us, if we think we ought to get what we deserve.

The question should be, “Why NOT me?” And the answer is God. We don’t deserve God’s mercy. But He is merciful anyway. We don’t deserve His protection, but He still protects us. We deserve His wrath, but He forgives us when we ask.

Dear God, I want to be able to recognize Your goodness in all things. I want to see Your hand as You answer prayer, as You work miraculously in my life, as You are faithful in all circumstances. I am humbled by Your care. I feel like Paul who called himself a wretched man, chief of sinners. Why me, Lord? Why are You so good to me? I want to live a grateful life. I want to serve You just because You love me so much. Help me to see Your love in everything that happens to me today. And may I live today with praise on my lips.