Sunday, April 23, 2017

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." -- Matthew 21:28-31
I had a friend some years ago that would argue to great lengths to explain why he wouldn't or couldn't do some task requested of him. It was a curiosity though, that on just about every occasion he came around and quietly did the work. On the other hand, there have been a vast number of committee members in every circle of my life that have failed to fulfill their assigned tasks after accepting them. Which of the two were truly devoted?
Living for the Kingdom of God is far more than saying the right thing. Jesus pointed out that one needs to walk the talk, not just talk the walk. The walk does not provide entrance into the kingdom; it only verifies that one has been truly changed from within by the Spirit of God. Saying you've been changed and showing you've been changed are two different things. Which of the two are truly devoted?
You may have grown up in a church and may know the right lingo. But, has your heart been changed by Jesus? And if your heart is new in Christ, does your obedient walk evidence this fact? Some church goers have passive "religious" ties and some have active "relational" ties. Which of the two are truly devoted?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. "Lord," they answered, "we want our sight." Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him." -- Matthew 20:29-34
When I was a little guy, the Ice Cream truck would come around our neighborhood every day during the summer. I would be given money to buy something, but I was told not to yell for the truck; I was to be polite and call out in a normal tone of voice. Needless to say, I missed out on ice cream more often than not. Sometimes you just have to speak a little louder.
Along with all the teachings our Lord gave about prayer, we find a perfect example on this occasion. Two blind men would not give up, nor would they tone it down. They wanted to see and Jesus was able to do the job. They shouted and the crowd was irritated, but the Lord had compassion. He honors those who pray without ceasing and give it all they have. Sometimes you just have to speak a little louder.
Has the ice cream truck passed you by too many times? Do you wonder if your prayer life is what is should be? Pray, and don't give up. Pray, and open you your heart to the full. Keep on asking, seeking and knocking; for the Lord will have compassion when the world would have you give up. Sometimes you just have to speak a little louder.

Friday, April 21, 2017

"Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last." - Matthew 20:15-16
Some years ago I entered a fast food restaurant with my family and thought that I was at the back of a line. When the next register was open I began to move up when I heard the loudest outcry that I ever experienced in a public place. "Hey, that's not FAIR!!" Apparently I had failed to notice this person lingering in the back and didn't realize that they were waiting to be served. I quickly stepped aside because I would never want to be "unfair".
What exactly is "fair" in this life? And on what basis do we believe that everything should be "fair"? The account that Jesus relates in this passage clearly reveals the freedom that God has to deal with his servants as he chooses. He is generous beyond belief and yet there are those who will always complain that the Good Lord is somehow "unfair". The Lord's call is to be faithful and his promise is to provide for our needs. While "the last will be first, and the first last" may seem "unfair", in everything the Lord is always generous.
Who knows our needs better than the Lord who created us and shows us his care? The Scripture says it best in Romans 8:32, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" Be careful when you accuse the Lord of not being "fair" my friend. He loves you and pours out his grace every day with divine generosity.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” -- Mark 10:33-36
Have you ever listened to a political interview? The reporter asks a particular question and the candidate responds with an entirely different answer. His mind was on the subject matter that he wanted to discuss and he ignored the reporter. He wasn't paying attention.
Jesus spoke of a series of dramatic events that would fall into place in a short time. These moments would be painful, challenging and life changing for everyone. Yet, in the very midst of this revelation James and John were focused on their own selfish desires. As a result, they totally missed the Lord's message. They weren't paying attention.
Do you ever come away from your devotions, Bible study or worship having missed the Lord's message my friend? Is it possible that He was speaking quite clearly, but you were preoccupied with your own selfish desires? In the spiritual school of life, great truths are only heard by those who pay close attention.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "'How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!'" - Mark 10:23
It has been said that you can't buy happiness. It is also true that you can't buy heaven. The simple truth is money can't buy everything. It can't buy relationships, love, or peace of mind. The important things in life are just not for sale.
The possession of wealth is not as much the problem as the dependence on that wealth. While some critics have suggested that Christianity is just a crutch for the weak, I believe that wealth is far more a crutch for the worldly. Such people expect security, stability and tranquility but find no hope for eternity.
Choose your source of dependence wisely my friend. The words of Solomon In Proverbs 23:4-5 tell the tale well... "Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven." But, put your trust in the Lord alone and you will find that... "all things are possible with God".

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." - Mark 10:15
Statistics tell us that conversions to Christ are fewer in number during the latter years of life. One might think that the older a person the wiser they would become and therefore more prone to believe. But, too often age brings pride and self-sufficiency. On the other hand, children generally know nothing of either deficiency.
Yes, I speak of pride and self-sufficiency as deficiencies. Anything that inhibits an individual from receiving the kingdom of God is most definitely a deficiency. All too often, the more that we know, the greater our arrogance. The more we achieve, the greater our independence. Jesus came right to the point... keep it simple like a child, or you'll never get the picture of faith.
When was the last time you turned down the helping hand of someone my friend? Do you wonder why you did that? Was it really because you didn't want to impose? Or was it a deeper issue of personal pride and self-sufficiency? Accepting the helping hand of the Lord and embracing his grace demands nothing more and nothing less than a child-like faith.

Monday, April 17, 2017

"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." -- Matthew 19:29-30
During the difficult days of economic tailspin, stories of greed were rampant. We read about officers of large companies that continued to receive rather large annual salaries without making any sacrifice for the greater cause. When asked if they were worthy of such exorbitant remuneration, we were told that their value exceeded the average worker exponentially. Will the "first" of today still be "first" in eternity?
Jesus spoke the above words after a provoking exchange with a young man of great wealth who was unwilling to give it up to follow Jesus. The disciples were in question about the life that sacrifices all for the Lord. Does God ultimately honor those who honor him? Jesus made it clear that when we give up temporal pleasures for the kingdom, eternal pleasures will be ours in abundance. The "last" of today will be the "first" in eternity.
God is all about the bigger picture, are you? Wisdom should lead us to focus on eternity and willingly sacrifice for the kingdom of God. The wealth of today will soon be gone, or certainly be left behind as we move on to our eternal future. Though you may be considered "last" in this life, when you follow Jesus with all your heart, you will be "first" in heaven.